Matthew 18:1-4 ESV
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Have you ever noticed how children tend to be so trusting? They so easily believe whatever they are told. They will jump into your arms with no fear that you might withdraw and that you might not catch them. Their prayers, too, are often so simple, so sincere, and so full of faith that what they pray for will take place. And, they seem to have a sensitivity to God that many adults don’t have, and so I believe God often speaks through children.
Well, this is the kind of faith that we are required to have in our Lord, and if we don’t, we won’t enter the kingdom of heaven. And, it begins with us turning and then becoming like children. We must turn away from our former way of living for sin and self, and we must become like God in true righteousness and holiness, by God’s grace, in his power. And, our faith must be the kind of faith that a small child has.
We need to believe God. We must believe his word, not just intellectually, but in all practicality as applied to our lives. And, what we do proves if we truly do believe him, like the child who jumps into his father’s arms fully trusting that his father will catch him, and that he will not fall. For, believing what God says results in doing what God says, too. It is faith, not just in words, but is faith proved genuine by our obedience.
So, this involves humility. This involves forsaking pride and selfishness, and willingly surrendering our lives to our Lord, allowing him to rule in our hearts. And, this involves being willing to be criticized by other humans, too, for our childlike faith, which trusts in God’s word, and which puts it into practice as a matter of our life course. And, it involves humbling ourselves in the sense of being willing to be thought odd because we believe God, too.
Matthew 18:5-6 ESV
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever 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 and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Here this is not talking about mere physical children. Here he is talking about those who did come to him like children, who did turn from their sins, and who did, by faith, follow him in obedience in all sincerity, fully trusting the Lord with their lives. They don’t just mouth words of faith, but they live what they say they believe as a matter of life course, in practice. They believe God, and therefore they do what he says – childlike faith.
So, if we are receiving those with this childlike (not childish) faith, it means we are accepting them, we are loving them, we are nurturing them, and we are helping them to grow to maturity in Christ. And, we are humbling ourselves in letting God speak to us through them, too.
It doesn’t mean we tolerate sin or that we don’t test what we hear, but we include them in the fellowship of believers, and we treat them as though they have value to the body of Christ and that they are needed. And, it means that we are not doing or saying what will lead them into sin.
Yet many Christians and many pastors today are leading people into sin by teaching them a cheap grace gospel which requires no repentance (no turning) and no obedience (no childlike faith), and which requires no submission to Christ as Lord. For, they are giving them free license to continue living in sin, only now without guilt, and while promising them heaven when they die, which is a lie.
And, they are trying to lead those with childlike faith astray by convincing them it is ok to sin against the Lord now that they are “saved,” for God loves them, they say, and he doesn’t judge them, and their sins are forgiven, so it doesn’t really matter if they sin, for God’s grace covers it all. But that is a lie. And it comes straight from hell. Yes, God loves us, but it is because he loves us that he died on a cross to deliver us out of our slavery to sin.
Matthew 18:7-9 ESV
“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. 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. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”
If we tell people that they can have their sins forgiven, and that they can be bound for heaven on a mere confession of faith in Jesus Christ, and we don’t tell them that they must turn away from their sins to follow Jesus in obedience, if they want to have eternal life with God, then we are tempting them to sin against God by telling them or by giving them the impression that they can be saved and still continue living in sin.
But some people who call themselves Christians will take this even further and they will literally tempt those with childlike faith to sin against God. They will tell them it is ok to entertain themselves or to pamper themselves with sin and that God will understand. They may even present them with the specific sin before them and encourage them to participate. And, they may even shame them into sinning by calling them legalistic if they don’t.
But these people are liars. Woe to them! For, Jesus died to deliver us from slavery to sin, not to give us permission to continue in sin without guilt. For, our Lord takes sin seriously, which is why he gave his life up for us on that cross. And, he wants us to take sin seriously, too, to the point to where we will cut it out of our lives by faith in him. And, to where we will also cut out of our lives anything which is leading us into sin, too.
For, if we walk in (conduct our lives in; practice) sin, we will die in our sins, not have eternal life with God. For, we are all going to reap what we sow (Gal. 5:16-21; Gal. 6:7-8; Rom. 2:6-8; Eph. 5:3-6).
Matthew 18:10 ESV
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
When we have childlike faith, and we believe God for who he is and for what he has said, and we act on that faith by doing what he says to do, we will be mocked, we will be rejected, we will be persecuted, and we will be slandered, too. And, much of this mistreatment will come from those within the gatherings of the church who call themselves our sisters and brothers.
So, why is this so? Well, who were Jesus’ persecutors? They were the religious leaders in the temple of God. And, they were even some of his family members. And, they were probably people in his community, too. But those who hounded him continually, and who tried to trip him up with his words so that they would have cause to accuse him were the religious leaders. And, they, too, were the ones who plotted and who carried out his death on a cross, although he had done no wrong.
And, why did they do this? For one, it was because their deeds were evil and his were righteous, and they were threatened by him, and they were jealous of him, and they were resentful of him because he didn’t do the things they did, and because he didn’t bow to their man-made rules and their traditions. And, he was an offense to them because he did things that they felt were not normal and because it made them look bad by comparison. And, they didn’t like him, too, because he confronted them with their sins.
So, if we are people of God with childlike faith who take God and his word seriously, and we live what we say we believe, as a matter of practice; and if we are out there on the front lines sharing the gospel in its fullness; and if we are confronting sin in sinful humans, and we are exposing lies and the fruitless deeds of darkness, and if we are warning of judgment, and we are calling for repentance, we are going to be hated as Jesus was.
But the encouragement here is that God and his angels are watching over us. This doesn’t mean that nothing bad will ever happen to us, but that our Lord is with us, and he will give us all we need to endure until the day he takes us home.
When I Go Home
By G. M. Eldridge
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes…” Revelation 21:4
In the moment He appears
And the light from heaven shines,
I’ll forget ev’ry fear,
Ev’ry pain I’ll leave behind.
Then I’ll see Him as He is
And I’ll know Him as I’m known.
Ev’ry tear wiped away when I go home.
Ever present is the tho’t
That a moment waits for me
When unworthy as I am,
His glory I will see.
I will empty all my praise
Before my Father’s throne.
Ev’ry tear wiped away when I go home.
If the trial I endure,
And your presence I can’t find,
Be near me, Lord, I pray,
Bring back unto my mind
That your promises are firm
And I’m never on my own.
Ev’ry tear wiped away when I go home.
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