The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven

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.’”

It is not the people of nobility and prestige and great earthly wisdom who are greatest in the kingdom of heaven. It is the humble, the pure of heart, those who trust Jesus implicitly with their lives, who are surrendered to him to do his will, and who are walking humbly before their God in true walks of obedience to the Lord. Much like innocent children trust so easily and believe so easily are the ones who follow Jesus Christ unashamedly.

And to become like this involves turning away from (repenting of) our sins and bowing the knee to Jesus Christ as Lord (Owner-Master) and walking now in obedience to his commands. We once walked in darkness but now we are children of light who are living holy lives, pleasing to the Lord. Now we trust Jesus Christ to lead us in the way that we should go, and so we follow him wherever he leads us.

If we don’t turn from our sins to follow Jesus Christ with our lives in humble obedience to his commands, but we continue in deliberate and habitual sin, then we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. For we must now walk (in conduct, in practice) according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. Our minds are to be set on things above and not on the earth. And our desire is to be for Jesus to do his will and not for the sinful pleasures of the flesh that are part of this world.

[Matt 7:21-23; Matt 24:9-14; Lu 9:23-26; Rom 1:18-32; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14,24; Rom 12:1-2; Rom 13:11; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; 1 Co 1:18; 1 Co 15:1-2; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 1:5; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 2:8-10; Eph 4:17-32; Eph 5:3-6; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-17; 1 Pet 2:24; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6,24-25; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Heb 3:6,14-15; Heb 10:23-31; Heb 12:1-2; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]

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.”

Now, since this first section speaks of how we need to turn (to change) and to become like innocent children in trusting the Lord Jesus with our lives, this here is not speaking solely of literal children. For it says here that whoever humbles himself like a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And then it says, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” So I take “one such child” to refer to those who humble themselves like children, though it could also include the literal children.

And continuing with that thought, I don’t believe he is speaking here just of causing children to sin, but it is speaking of causing those to sin who are humble before the Lord, and who do trust him with their lives, and who have turned away from sin to follow Jesus in obedience. If we receive believers such as this, in the name of Jesus, we receive Jesus Christ. But if we do something to cause a humble servant of the Lord to sin, the Lord does not take kindly to that and we can see his viewpoint on the matter here.

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.”

We live in a fallen world. Sin is running rampant everywhere, even within the gatherings of what is called “church.” And we live in flesh bodies, so even if we have been delivered from our slavery to sin, by God’s grace, we still have a propensity to sin against God, and we will still be tempted to sin against our Lord because we live in a fallen world and Satan’s influence is all over the place. So as long as evil still exists, we can still be tempted to do what is evil and to not do what is right.

But woe to the one by whom the temptation comes, which refers back to the previous verses where it talks of those who cause a humble servant of the Lord to sin. Now, no one can make us sin. We choose to sin or not. But there are people in this world, and even within the gatherings of the church, who lure others into sin. They will literally lay out temptations for others to sin hoping that they will indeed fall into sin, much like Satan does. And it can be because they are steeped in sin themselves and they want company.

And then with regard to ourselves, there are some instructions given here which I believe are to be taken more symbolically rather than literally. Whatever causes us to sin, and sin is really a heart issue, but whatever we are sinning with, if we are not able to cease to sin, because our hearts don’t want to cease to sin, then we are to get rid of whatever is leading us to sin.

And a modern-day example of this might be the smart phone, which is really a minicomputer with full access to a world of evil at our fingertips in the privacy of a corner in a crowded room. Most people in America have them, and they are leading many people down a hell hole. For one, they can be very addictive, and they also have temptations thrown at us all over the place on the internet. So those who are weak and are easily led into temptation to sin are very likely to be led into sin by them.

I know that statistics are very high for Christian men for porn use, maybe as high as 75% (+/-). And statistics have pastors at about 35% (+/-). And boys, too. And women and girls are involved in porn viewing, although the numbers are not nearly as high for females as it is for males. And this is the “elephant in the room” that most people want to ignore and they don’t want to talk about, but we know it is there. So, if the smart phone is what is leading you to fall into sin, then you shouldn’t have a smart phone.

But the whole point of this is that, if we truly want to live pure lives, we have to take serious steps to insure that we are not reopening doors for us to fall back into sin. We need to cut out of our lives anything that is tempting us to sin, and the smart phone is a big culprit. But again, sin is a heart issue, and if we don’t really want to give up our sin, if we cut out one thing we might just go to something else to do the same thing. So, what people who are in this situation need is a heart change.

The Prayer

Written by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager,
Alberto Testa and Tony Renis

I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know

Let this be our prayer
When we lose our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe.

I pray we’ll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When the stars go out each night
Remind us where you are.

Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe.

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P.S. This is not an endorsement of the singers other than as musicians

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