Sermon Notes + Quotes:
Well, grace and peace to you friends. We study through books of the Bible here at the Village Chapel, and what a joy and privilege it is to do that with you this morning. If you’d like a paper copy, we have some folks that are passing them out. Just lift up your hand so you can follow along in the text. Of course, if you have it on a device, you can follow along there. You’ll also notice, this is new for us, on the screen a QR code, and along with the wifi password, the QR code, will take you to a page on our website that our team updates every single week with all the sermon notes, all the quotes, all the songs and the lyrics of those songs, the creedal statements, the classic prayers, and the call to worship. All of that can be found every week at that QR code, and I hope you can take advantage of that.
We already prayed for the AV team, but can we thank the AV team this morning for all that they do to help us with things like this? AV teams often are only noticed when things go wrong, and I think it’s good to remind ourselves of so much that they do for us. I also want to welcome all those who are worshipping with us online. So grateful you can be here with us and for the Lord and His provision of things, like technology, that allow us to worship together with our brothers and sisters who can’t be with us this morning. And that includes, I think, my Mom and Dad who are celebrating their 40th anniversary today. (applause) Mom and Dad! Yeah, I think that’s worthy!
Alright, so for just a moment this morning, I want to pose a question to the room. What comes to mind when I say the phrase greatest of all time (or, if you’re under 30, #GOAT)? What comes to mind…greatest of all time? For some in this room, I think the greatest basketball player of all time probably comes to mind, and I think we should all say that together. It is… “LeBron/ murmurs/others” … [laughter} Wow, church split already. Some of you guys just said LeBron James because you’re at church and King James sounded like the right answer.
Greatest of all time…some of you might have thought of great military leaders from history like Winston Churchill or Abraham Lincoln or Charlemagne. Still, others might think of great entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs or Clara Barton or Thomas Edison, prolific novelists, painters, writers, da Vinci, Christina Rossetti, JRR Tolkien. I think it’s a natural extension of our God-given capacity to reflect on beauty, on form, on order and creativity and the like that allows us to stand in awe at the exceptional and the extraordinary. It’s a gift to humanity. It’s part of our Imago Dei, the image of God that’s been placed on us, that we can stand at the rim of the Grand Canyon in wonder. That’s a gift.
Of course, that same capacity can be twisted in all sorts of ways and lead each of us to strive individually after greatness in perhaps unhealthy and sinful ways, whatever we imagine greatness might be in our lives. Envy, jealousy, lust for power, prestige, pleasure, those things come to mind. There’s nothing inherently wrong with greatness, but how you define greatness is vital to our understanding of what it means to live as followers of Jesus.
Mere human greatness is ephemeral. One of my favorite books, it’s a business book, is called, Good to Great, by Jim Collins. Anybody ever read Good to Great? It’s a really good book. I’d recommend it to anybody. I was reminded this week though of that book, Good to Great. It does a brilliant job of describing various businesses that have literally had exceptional success. They’ve become, or they’ve gone rather, from good to great. But many of those companies in that book have shut their doors. No longer even exist. That book was written in 2001. Human greatness on its own is ephemeral.
This morning, as we open up the scriptures and we listen together to the voice of Jesus, He has something to say to us that is just as fresh today as it was in 1st Century Galilee and I hope you know that’s true every time we come to God and His Word. If you’ve been studying along with us, in the Gospel of Matthew for the past few months, you know that Jesus has been preaching and teaching about His kingdom. That’s what we’ve titled this series, The King and His Kingdom. It’s a way of living and relating to God and to others that’s radically different than the kingdoms of this world. And, I’m going to go out on a limb that none of us came in here with a bunch of optimism about the kingdoms of this world, at least not today. In fact, I might even go a step further and assume that there are some in here today who have read the latest news, listened to the latest podcast about another great Christian leader, pastor, politician who has abused, manipulated, bullied, stolen. And you’re left wondering, scratching your head this morning and wondering does any of this even matter?
I imagine in a room like this, there are some folks that might be asking that question. His Word that we’ll be studying today has something to say about what greatness looks like in His kingdom. A kind of greatness that springs from, that flows out of humility, godliness or holiness, if you will, Christ-likeness. And it’s full of joy. It’s the kind of greatness we see in the Bible. So I don’t know exactly where you are today. I know where a few of you are, but I don’t know where everyone is. But I believe, and I hope you do too, that the Spirit has led you to this place today, or wherever you might be watching online. He’s led us to hear from Him this morning and as we open up His Word, I pray that He would move among us, that He’d correct us; that He’d shape us where we need to be shaped and fill us with that joy.
I invite you to turn to Matthew 17, and we’ll start at verse 24 in just a moment. Let me pray for us and we’ll get started:
“Living God, help us to so hear your holy word that we may truly understand, and that in understanding we may believe, and then in believing we may follow in all faithfulness and obedience, and in following you, Lord, may we come to know you with such an intimacy that our ears are attuned to your voice, the voice of our shepherd. May your Holy Spirit empower us to seek your glory in all that we do. In Jesus’ name, we all say amen.
Before I start reading, by way of reminder, if you recall in the previous section of Matthew, Jesus has gone up a mountain with Peter, James and John and those disciples along with Moses and Elijah saw Jesus in all of his greatness and His glory. And then they come down and Jesus then heals a demon possessed boy that the other disciples couldn’t heal. And, Jesus provides another teaching on the nature of faith, on healing, on prayer and fasting. Then the text tells us that they gathered in the region of Galilee, so the camera is shrinking a little bit. Now we’re in the region of Galilee and Jesus points them again to the cross that is to come for Him to bear. In fact, this is the third time in this section of teaching that Jesus has told them about the cross where he will be delivered to men. He’ll lay down his life and be resurrected on the third day.
And then, what we’re going to read today, the setting gets a little bit more specific and Jesus and his disciples are in Capernaum. They’re back in Capernaum, the small little fishing village that has been the hub of Jesus and the disciples’ ministry. It’s also the hometown of Peter, and likely Matthew, and the hometown of Jesus himself.
So, 24, let’s read. “And when they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two- drachmae tax went up to Peter and said, ‘Does your teacher not pay the tax?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’” Some of your translations will put it a little bit differently but essentially what these tax collectors – and this is not a Roman tax, this is not a government tax – this is a temple tax. In fact, likely a local tax for the local synagogue in Capernaum. And many of us have actually visited that site in Israel. It’s there today. So these folks come up and they ask Peter, they say essentially, “Is your teacher Jesus, and are you both going to pay the temple tax -the local tax to the synagogue?”
Again, this is their hometown. This is their local synagogue. Peter says, “Yes” before even asking Jesus. “When he came into the house, we’ll continue reading, Jesus spoke to him first, saying…”. So before Peter can even get a word in, Jesus knows what’s going on. He tells Peter, he says, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take poll or tax, From their sons or from others?” So, Jesus is using a king metaphor here in verse 26. “And when he said, “From others’ Jesus said to him, ‘Then the sons are free.’”
So, I think what Jesus is doing here essentially is reminding Peter, Peter, do you remember for us just a few chapters back, Peter you confessed me as the son of God, as the Messiah, as the King. You saw me on the mountain of Transfiguration. I am the King, and by extension, I think what Jesus is saying here, “So, you are also part of this kingdom. You are a son of the King and we’re under no obligation to pay this particular toll or tax.” It’s a reiteration of Jesus and his nature, who he is as the Son of God, as the King of kings.
Verse 27, “Though, however not to give offense to them,” or it could be translated not to make them stumble, and these are these tax collectors, or these toll collectors,”…not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up. And when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel”. Some of your translations will say a stater or a tetradrachm. “Take that shekel and give it to them from me and for yourself.”
So, what a fascinating miracle and account that Matthew has recorded for us here. This toll, or tax here, this temple tax, has its roots all the way back in the instructions Moses gave in Exodus for Israel and for the men of Israel for the upkeep of the tabernacle. So this isn’t just some random thing, this is something that’s rooted in their Old Testament, in our Old Testament.
Now this is really interesting. It’s interesting, Matthew, the one who’s writing this gospel, the tax collector, the accountant is the only one of the synoptic gospel writers to record this story for us. And I just wonder if he was delighted to put this story into the gospel of Matthew. And we don’t know this, I’m speculating, but again, this was Matthew’s hometown, or at least this is where he worked. This is where we found him, where Jesus found him. He might have known these toll collectors, these tax collectors. Jesus might have known them. It’s interesting to note. I think he was probably delighted. And then Jesus, before Peter even has a chance to say a word, Peter comes in the house He turns it into a teaching moment.
The Son of God, the King is not under obligation to pay this particular toll. And, perhaps you could say that Jesus was gently correcting Peter and the rest of the disciples reminding them again that they were sons of the kingdom as well. And out of apparent care, and I think that’s part of what’s going on here, care for these temple tax collectors because the word there is so not to make them stumble, not to get them in trouble perhaps, let’s pay that tax. Maybe Jesus even had in mind some other things like distracting from the mission. If we don’t pay this tax, then they’re going to call the folks, the big wigs from Jerusalem, the IRS, they’re going to come down. It’s a whole thing. I don’t know. I think Jesus is caring for these tax collectors, these toll collectors. So this is an extraordinary miracle and we could probably park on this for days.
This is the only reference to fishing with a hook in the New Testament. Every other time, it’s nets. This would’ve likely been a bottom feeding fish like a tilapia or a catfish, and can you imagine the precision of this miracle? Of course, God who created the universe can do anything, but I’m imagining the lone sailor, the one in the boat out there who drops some coins in the water, and the particular fish that comes and gets it and Peter casts a line in just the right spot and they’re able to find it. It’d be like going to Center Hill Lake and pulling up a fish, a catfish or whatever’s out there, and finding a wad of $500 bills. This is just extraordinary, extraordinary, complex and a beautiful miracle.
The King of kings who owns everything humbles himself. He’s gentle in his humility. He cares and he pays this temple tax, and this is a wonderful bridge into this next teaching block of Jesus. So let’s begin reading then at 18:1. “At that time, the disciples came to Jesus saying, ’Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’” Or it could be said a different way, who is greater among us? Verse two, “In calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly I say to you,…” and anytime Jesus says that, we got to listen up, “…truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Unless you turn, or you could say repent, or convert. Unless you turn around completely and become like children, you’ll never enter the kingdom of Heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus answers their question, not perhaps with specificity, “Peter, your number one. James, you’re number two.” He doesn’t do that. He puts a child in their midst. That’s a bold question. Who’s the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?
Can you imagine going to your boss with some of your coworkers and asking that kind of a question? However, I do think we can have a charitable view of the disciples here. I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have asked that same question. At this point in redemptive history, they didn’t see the cross yet or they didn’t quite understand it yet. The kingdoms of this world would be like that. If they knew that a king was about to be installed, then those in his closest circle would certainly want to ask that question. Where do I rank? Where is my position in this kingdom? But remember, Jesus has pointed; he’s pointed them at least three times in this little section of teaching, three times, to his mission to the cross.
And, they’re still concerned about issues of rank, of power, and position. But I’m not sure you or I wouldn’t have asked the same question. In the previous story, Jesus has reiterated who he is as King. The disciples have affirmed that he is King, that he’s the son of God, that he’s the Messiah, that his kingdom is here, but they still haven’t perceived yet the full nature of the kingdom, which requires humble recognition of need. I think we have to keep going back to the Sermon on the Mount. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who recognize their spiritual poverty for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. This is another way of Jesus saying the similar thing.
So Jesus, in his kindness, gives a seminar on greatness. And if you know me a little bit and my personality, if I would’ve been there, I would’ve had my notebook out and I would’ve had my Good to Great book open and I would’ve been ready to hear the seven habits of highly effective and great people. And perhaps, they had a similar expectation there. But Jesus, no, he invites a child into their midst. A child would’ve been someone in the 1st Century thought of as socially insignificant. No power, no position.
And Jesus says, “Here’s the answer to your question. Turn around, repent, convert, humble yourself and become like a child.” Not childish – if Will Ferrell from Elf comes to mind when I say that. Not childish; nope, childlike. A child recognizes in some way their need, recognizes their vulnerability, their dependence on another.
True greatness in the way of Jesus, brothers and sisters, begins when we turn away from self-reliance, when we turn away from self-promotion, from self-dependence and we simply rest and trust. Do you see that this morning? I know a few of you parents of two year olds are struggling with this metaphor of child-likeness and its virtues. A metaphor always breaks down at some point, but Jesus … This is an important distinction. Jesus isn’t pointing at the innocence or lack of innocence of this child, but rather a child’s qualities of trust and dependence.
I think of the moments when my little niece, she’s five years old now, when she’s on the edge of the pool … you guys know this. She’s on the edge of the pool ready to jump in with abandon because she knows her daddy’s on the other side ready to catch her. She knows at some level, I think, there’s risk or this wouldn’t be fun to jump in the pool but her simple trust in her father and her complete confidence that he’ll catch her, that’s the trust and dependence I think Jesus is talking about here.
To recognize that we are not our own, that we are not ultimately self-reliant, that we are needy. Listen, this is the starting point, Blessed are the poor in spirit, but this is also every other point along the way in the Christian journey: recognition of our need and dependence. And contrary to the world’s approach, this kind of living, this dependent trust, it is the root which leads to the fruit of love and of joy, of peace, of patience, of kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Something all of us long for. We know from the totality of Jesus’s teaching, it is the Spirit of God that initiates the work of repentance, this turning, to become like a child. Listen, a child doesn’t conjure up neediness. They just are needy. They just are dependent. And this seminar on greatness, if you will, that Jesus gives, he gives an invitation to the disciples, and then for us this morning – an invitation to recognize our need and our dependence on him, and trust.
That brings us to our first point, kingdom living requires that we turn in childlike humility. That we turn. What would our churches and organizations, companies that you work for, or families look like if instead of jockeying for power, for position, prestige, we humbled ourselves in such a way that we trust with abandon, like my niece, in the goodness, the power and the ability of the King of kings to provide for our every need? What would our churches and our organizations and families look like? Albert Mohler says it this way:
“Not one of us comes to the kingdom because we are great. We come because our need is great.”–Albert Mohler
That’s so true. Let’s continue reading at verse five if you would. Set your eyes there with me.
18:5. “Now, whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones…” and you might underline that in your Bible. That’s going to be a theme throughout this text. “…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin….” or to be a stumbling block; you could translate it that way, “… it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned into the depths of the sea”. There’s a strong warning here.
So first of all, who are these little ones that Jesus is talking about here, and he’ll refer to a couple more times in this text? Well, it certainly doesn’t exclude children. He uses a child as an example, but it’s far more than that. Jesus himself described the disciples as little ones just a few chapters back. I think what Jesus has in mind here, because he’s calling adults to act as a child, in a childlike way, everyone who has come to Jesus in humility and faith, everyone who is a disciple of Jesus is a little one to our Lord.
Perhaps he has in mind, as well, those who are younger in the faith. Perhaps even children who are younger in the faith, the most vulnerable, and I think we’ll see that in this text here. But anytime you see the word little ones, at least in this text, anyone who in this place today considers themself a follower of Jesus has humbled himself or herself to follow him, you are a little one to Jesus. And so, he has a stern warning for those who would be a stumbling block, who would cause one of these little ones to sin. Before you can even sin, a millstone wrapped around your neck so you’re not even there to cause that person to stumble. This is really strong language. It’s a strong warning, and I think we should take heed. Perhaps those who have influence and those who are leaders in this place, the weight might even be a bit heavier for you. For me.
Verse seven, “Woe to the world for temptations to sin!” or stumbling blocks. Anytime we see the word woe, first of all, we really need to pay attention, especially when it comes from a prophet and Jesus himself. “Woe” can at least be two different things. A woe can be a lament, a sorrow. Woe is me. But it also can be a judgment, and that’s what we see here from Jesus; perhaps as even an eschatological look, woe to the world. There is a coming judgment because of the world and its deceptions, because of the world and its stumbling blocks for my little ones.
But Jesus, he’s giving us grace here and he’s revealing to us, which is sometimes obvious to us, that the world is tainted with sin. It is broken. My own heart is twisted by sin. Woe to the world for the temptations, for it is necessary that temptations come. And here we see the mystery of the sovereignty of God. He allows temptations. He doesn’t cause them, but he allows temptations into our life to sharpen us. But, woe to the one by whom the temptation comes; here’s another strong warning pointing back to that previous text.
“[Verses 8 & 9] “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.” These are strong warnings and we have to heed them. I think it’s helpful to see there are two categories of things Jesus is doing here. One, he’s saying be watchful that you aren’t a stumbling block to other believers, especially those who are most vulnerable, those who are young believers or those who are faltering or doubting. Watch yourself that you don’t become a stumbling block, brothers and sisters. So, that’s one category.
The other category is watch yourself so that you’re not a stumbling block to yourself. Did you see that? Watch your hand. What does a hand … a hand builds things, perhaps touches things that it shouldn’t touch, points to things that it shouldn’t point to. A foot, of course, takes us places and this is a pedestrian culture, and they would’ve been well acquainted with the danger of simply walking. Think about it. If you don’t have cars, when you take all of your belongings to another place, you have to carry that. And to have a stumbling block in a pedestrian culture could be very dangerous and life-threatening, so this is a real life application here that Jesus is making.
So watch yourself that you’re not a stumbling block to others. And I might say on the flip side, be stepping stones towards God and his goodness. So be watchful that you’re not a stumbling block to others, but be watchful that you aren’t a stumbling block to yourself. Watch your hands and what they touch, what they build, what they point to. Watch your feet and where they take you, and your eyes. Matthew uses the word eye at least 24 times in his gospel. What we consume, what we bring into our mind and into our hearts. The lamp of our soul, it said.
Verse 10, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones,” you can underline that. “for I tell you that in Heaven, their angels always see the face of my Father who is in Heaven.” We can spend a lot of time here, but essentially he’s saying all those who are in Christ are before my Father and are secure. In verse 12, he invites his disciples and us to consider this. “So, what do you think? If a man has 100 sheep and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the 99 on the mountains and go in search of the other one that went astray?” [Verses 13-14] “ And if he finds it, truly I say to you, so listen up, he rejoices over it more than over the 99 that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in Heaven that one of these little ones …” the third time ” … should perish.” Some of your translations will have verse 11 in brackets. It’s not in the earliest manuscripts, but it says, “For the Son of Man came to save that which was lost.” Jesus has much to teach his disciples, and to us, this morning. Here in this section, Jesus provides a deep … we’ll say it this way, a deep well of grace in at least two ways; warning and comfort.
Warning, don’t be a stumbling block. Watch your hands, your eyes your feet. And a promise, the Father rejoices when he finds the one who has wandered; warnings and comfort, a clear call to a wholehearted life of devotion and obedience, and the promise that he will hold us fast. Do we believe that? The great shepherd knows who belongs to him, which should bring us comfort. This is good news to all those who are prone to wander. He delights in bringing back to the fold those who have gone astray.
Did you catch the emphasis that Jesus placed at the end? If you set your eyes there at 13, and if he finds it, that’s the one who’s wandered away, truly I say to you he rejoices. He rejoices over it more than the 99 who never went astray. There’s another parable of lost sheep in the gospel of Luke, and it’s likely that Jesus used that metaphor at least twice. In the one in Luke, it’s mostly about evangelism, finding those who have not yet come to faith, and here, with the flow of the text, Jesus is talking about those who he knows belongs to him. The Father rejoices in finding the one who has wandered.
To hear that is good news this morning. This is gospel for us. For those who have humbled themselves and entered the kingdom of Christ, we have here in Jesus a teaching, a call to an old crusty word – holiness – that I think we should recover. It’s a faithfulness not perfection, a steadfast devotion to live by His Word and His ways, and why would we not want to? The one who created us created us to live in such a way that we would have a life of flourishing.
This warning is done … and this is such good news … is done in the context of a loving Father and a shepherd, who seeks after those who are wandering. Both a warning and a promise, we need to hear both, friends. We need to be reminded of what we are saved from and what we are saved for, a life of joyful, repentant, glad obedience. Amen? Living in the light of who He is and what He’s done, and that takes us to our second point this morning.
Kingdom living requires that we walk in childlike obedience. So we turn in childlike humility and we walk in childlike obedience. Eugene Peterson says it this way:
“Repentance, the first word in Christian immigration, sets us on the way to traveling in the light. It is a rejection that is also an acceptance, a leaving that develops into an arriving, a no to the world that is a yes to God.”–Eugene Peterson, Long Obedience in the Same Direction
I love his language there because it’s not just a brake pedal; it’s also an accelerator. So, we can’t escape, and we shouldn’t want to escape the sharp edge of Jesus’s teaching here. He is ruthlessly opposed to sin; you have to hear that. I have to hear that this morning. He’s ruthlessly opposed to sin and its destructive power over His little ones, and that’s you and that’s me this morning.
Not because of an angry, uncontrolled wrath, no, because He designed us in such a way that can lead to flourishing for His glory and our good. Listen, His opposition to sin is out of His deep love for us. The call to a life of holiness is not just for the benefit of us as individuals. I hope you can see that in the text this morning. We have two warnings, a call to watchfulness that we aren’t a stumbling block to ourselves and that we aren’t stumbling blocks to others. BOTH. And, we say this quote often from a 19th Century pastor, Robert Murray M’Cheyne,
“The greatest need of my people …” he was a pastor “… is my own holiness.”–Robert Murray M’Cheyne
I kind of wish he would’ve said the second greatest need, because their first greatest need of course is the gospel. But, M’Cheyne’s point should be well-taken. Those who follow Jesus, we shouldn’t trifle or nibble or sample or dip our toes in living as one who belongs to the King. I’m afraid that my life looks like that sometimes. We should be about the business of fighting for our joy, fighting for faithfulness and holiness, which leads to joy for our own good and the flourishing of our children, like little Ari this morning, parents, like my parents celebrating 40 years today, my wife, perhaps your husband or friend, church. Your holiness is for your church, for your workplace, for your home group, for your neighbor.
So as Peterson alluded at in his quote there, a life of wholehearted obedience to Jesus isn’t just that brake pedal, getting rid of things, although it might include that (Now, we need to hear that from the text this morning; we can’t take that sharp edge off,) but it’s also a gas pedal. A “yes” to God as Peterson said. Living in his ways is being with His people, in His presence, intimacy with Him through His Word and The Spirit.
In a room of this size, and those who are watching online, it’s likely that some of us have come to this place entangled, despairing maybe because you’re entangled in some kind of sin, deception, perhaps addiction or a compulsion. To hear a clear word from Jesus like this, his grace, it’s a refreshing and a fresh invitation to freedom. I hope you hear that: freedom from the stumbling blocks that are tripping you up, and freedom towards life in his kingdom. Can I get an amen?
So I want to get real practical here for just a second. This is not prescriptive for everyone here, but what if for some who are struggling perhaps with gambling or shopping or pornography, what if you got rid of your smartphone? What if you got rid of your tablet? Even as those words come out of my mouth, it sounds absurd, but perhaps this is the thing that Jesus is talking about. Again, I’m not being prescriptive here, but I wanted to put some handles on what does this look like applied to today? Why does it sound absurd to cut off some things from my life that might be causing a stumbling block? And I don’t know that it is for you today, but I wanted to give some practical handles.
Perhaps on Monday morning and every day you go to work down this one hallway, and that long walk to your office allows you to gaze a little bit too long at someone or a corner office? Perhaps you need to take the stairs; I don’t know. Maybe in another way you need to get rid of a streaming tv service or maybe you need to carve out some time, give yourself some time for a home group. Or more time in the morning to be with the Lord in His Word. I mentioned these examples again to give us handles. What does a radical life of holiness … what could it look like in today’s world? What does it look like to cut off a hand that’s causing me to stumble or a foot?
Self-denial may cut deep. That’s the point Jesus is making and that I’m trying to give with some examples. However, this is an important counterpoint. I can do all the behavior modifications I want and sin still lurks in my heart – very important counterpoint. In the breadth of all of Jesus’ teaching, we know that distorted and misshapen desires, the sin that lurks, comes from within, comes from the heart and needs a change that only God can provide. So, we need to hear both. Sometimes doing the heart surgery, the renovation of the heart that Dallas Willard talked about. What Jesus is talking about here can seem like death, can feel like a limb severed, like an eye plucked. This is a metaphor he’s using. Friends, your personal holiness, your fight for faithfulness, your fight for joy in His kingdom is not just for you, it’s for all of us, as is mine.
And perhaps, this word of warning needs to bear, like I said earlier, with even more weight on those who have the privilege, and it is a privilege of any kind of leadership or influence. So let’s not be content with nibbling and sampling. Let’s dive in with whole hearts. Let’s push the accelerator towards more of God and what He has for us as we grow in grace.
That takes us to our third point: Kingdom living requires that we rest in childlike trust.
So we turn, and then we walk, then we rest. And, I hope you saw that in that last section, verse 10. Let me read, A.W. Tozer, says this so well.
“Do you find your own heart sensitive to the Lord’s presence, or are you among those who are ‘samplers’ and ‘nibblers?’” I did steal that from him… ” God help you if you are, for the child of the King isn’t a sampler and a nibbler. He’s a sheep who loves his shepherd and he stays close to his shepherd. That’s the only safe place for a sheep, at the shepherd’s side because the devil doesn’t fear sheep. He fears the shepherd.”–A.W. Tozer, The Counselor
When we are talking about the gospel of Jesus, we cannot simply say, “Here’s what you must do.” That’s incomplete. We must also hear this is what Christ has done. And, I hope you hear both this morning. We don’t try to polish off the edges of the woes and the warnings that Jesus gives. We should not do that. They are grace for us, and we need to hear it as such. But, we must situate those warnings within the whole counsel of His Word. He rejoices to bring to the fold those who have wandered.
His mission to the cross was the most humiliating and humble act in all of history. The Son of God laying down his life for sinners such as me, for rebels such as me. It’s the antithesis of worldly greatness. But in his resurrection and the pouring out of His
Spirit, his calling to you and to me this morning, to repent and to turn, his greatness … his righteousness would be the proper term … to you and me this morning. Hey, we sang it earlier; My Name is Graven on His Hands. Do you remember that? My name is written on His heart. I know that while in Heaven He stands, the good shepherd, no tongue could bid me thence depart. Nothing can take me. Look with me at 14. “So it is not the will of my Father who is in Heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
The spirit may be calling you to turn this morning. Friends, walk in that obedience. It’s liberating, it’s freedom, it’s life. A whole heart putting off everything that’s a stumbling block, and then resting in the care and the watchful eye of the Good Shepherd who knows your name, who leaves the 99 to go seek after the one who’s wandering. Then tomorrow morning, Monday morning, we do it all over again. We turn and we walk and we rest. .
Charles Spurgeon said this:
“Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you. It is Christ. It is not your joy in Christ that saves you – it is Christ; It is not your joy in Christ that saves you – it is Christ’s blood and merits… We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.”–Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Morning and Evening
That deserves an amen. Let’s pray:.
“Lord, we give you thanks this morning for your utter kindness to us. You didn’t have to come after rebels like me, but you did. Thank you for the deep well of grace of both warnings and promises. Holy Spirit, fall on us this morning in a fresh way. We pray for revival in this place, in my own heart, in our hearts and our minds awakened to what newness of life can look like with lives turned towards you. Empower us this morning to pursue a life of holiness for your glory and for our good. We thank you for your grace. In Jesus name, we all said amen.”
(Edited for Reading)