Archive for May 30th, 2017

Matthew 18

Matthew 18 is a chapter with a lot of important lessons, and promises.  Jesus begins with answering a deep question raised by His disciples. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”?  The answer they got was not what was expected.  Jesus tells them “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”.  He starts with the requirement to even enter heaven – to become like a child.  That means complete and full faith.  But Jesus adds some color to His answer:

  • humbles himself like this child is the  greatest in the kingdom of heaven
  • receives one such child in my name receives me
  • causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck
  • despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father”

Jesus is clear that it isn’t the biblical scholars who will be greatest in heaven.  It is those who truly put all their faith in Him.  Scripture points that out in Hebrews 11 with the faith hall of fame – it is those who put all their faith and trust in God that are called out as great.  But Jesus goes on to talk about the importance of a word our society doesn’t like to talk about today – sin.  “Woe to the world for temptations to sin”! Sin is a big deal in God’s eyes.  It isn’t some little mistake – sin is missing the mark – it is disobedience to a holy and righteous God.  And it comes with consequences. Jesus talks about those consequences this way:  “It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire”.

Sin matters to God. In fact, it is sin that will keep us from spending eternity with Him.  He can’t tolerate sin because of His nature of godliness, holiness and righteousness.  It will disqualify us from entering heaven.  Jesus came to this earth to address man’s greatest problem – the reality that every one of us is guilty of sin and will someday stand before a Holy and Righteous Judge who will have to deal with the sinful life we have all lived.  Standing before Him on our own, the outcome won’t go well.  We’ll be banished from heaven.  But if we’ve address the sin of our life – if we’ve received the gift of grace God provided through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross and confessed and repented as we believed and received – our sin will be covered and we’ll stand before Him as righteous and worthy.  That’s what is at stake here and what Jesus is talking about.  Sin is real – and it has eternal consequences.

Jesus addresses a key challenge we face in the church today – what do we do with sin?  “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector”.  Does sin matter?  Enough God tells us we have to deal with it and purge it from the church.  But the method here is critical and clear.  It doesn’t begin by telling your friends and neighbors about someone elses transgressions.  It has to begin one on one.  Then one to a couple.  And if after all those efforts, finally it comes to a broader group in the church.  Too often it gets done incorrectly and causes destruction and division.  Jesus gave us the formula to address sin.  Failing to do it this way is sin itself.

He gives us a promise about the power of prayer and His Spirit we need to claim and cling to.  “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask,  it will be done for them by my Father in heaven”.  What are the limitations to prayer?  There aren’t any.  There is power in community and the fellowship of believers.  We need to spend time together.  He goes on to say “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”.  It doesn’t say He might show up.  God is where His people are.  We need to remember that and not only relish His presence, but act like He’s there with us!

He ends by answering a question Peter asks about forgiveness and how many times we should forgive someone.  Peter suggested maybe seven times was the limit.  But Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven”.  Forgiveness knows no limits.  That’s a good thing or we’d be in deep trouble before a Holy God.  But because of Jesus shed blood and the forgiveness of sin that He has provided, we’re forgiven as many times as it takes.  And we need to do the same to those in our patch. In fact, Jesus makes that clear. “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart”.  If we fail to forgive as God has forgiven us through Christ, we will have to answer to God for those choices.  If we know Jesus we’ve been forgiven, so we are required to do the same to those in our patch!

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