Stuck by Pride (Matthew 18:1-14)

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There were two fathers – one a lawyer and the other a farmer. The lawyer spoke to the farmer, “Farmers do not make good fathers. Every day your hands and clothes are dirty. Not me. Every day I work in a giant office building wearing a clean suit and shiny shoes. Lawyers make better fathers than farmers.” The famer spoke to the lawyer, “Look at my wheat field and you’ll see two types of wheat. One type of wheat is standing straight up with its head held high. The problem is that head of wheat is empty, that’s why it is standing so high. The other type of wheat is bent over way low to the ground. The reason is because the head is full of wheat.”

µ      Some fathers have heads held high appearing as if everything is perfect but in reality they are empty.

µ      Other fathers have heads bowed low with heaviness and humility.

µ      Today’s message will discuss the value of bowed heads so that are not stuck by pride in our life.stuck sermon logo 2

 

EXAMINE       Matthew 18:1-14            Title: Stuck By Pride      3 ways to get unstuck by pride

We can get unstuck by pride when we change perspective. (18:1-3a)
The disciples were human. These were incomplete, immature, and imperfect individuals. At times the disciples were selfish and childish. In this passage it says they came to Jesus asking “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of God?” From other Gospel passages (Mk 9:35; Lk 9:46; 22:24) we see that the disciples had this debate amongst themselves as if one of them were the greatest.

As most men do, we compare and compete against each other in most anything. I can remember being in college competing against other guys who had the best p/u lines… and as we competed all the girls left the room. As a YP I saw teen boys compete to see who could drink the most milk and in a matter of minutes see them puke (As any YP, I could share multiple other things I saw teen boys compete in but 90% of them shouldn’t be repeated in public). Men do foolish things out of pride.

Jesus’ disciples were not much different. They wanted to be great. They sought fame, fortune and influence. They were not asking for greater faith. Nor were they asking for fortitude to endure persecution and suffering with Jesus, whom predicted such just moments ago (17:22-23 “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men and they will kill him…”). In their pride-dominated hearts they saw Jesus merely as a means to their success – they wanted Jesus to follow them rather than truly become one of Jesus’ followers. They needed a change of perspective and Jesus did that by calling them to face a child.

Jesus’ response was surprising in saying that they must change and become like children. If there is no change there is no conversion. The language is significant:

–          “turn” is a change of direction. This past week PZ rode up with me to Baltimore a couple days. Eventually he noted that I had my GPS programmed but generally ignored it in the city. Several times she would speak to saying “Recalculating”. Recalculating and turning directions means you must first STOP then REORIENT then FOLLOW a new path.

–          Double negative is used to emphasize the need for turning or the results will not be in your favor: “no not ever enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Certainly, pride can be positive. It is fitting to be proud for a wedding anniversary or a child’s graduation. But pride can be damaging too.

–          Pride in a marriage can create demands for a spouse who can never measure up to expectations.

–          Pride in a family can create isolation where individuals push away rather than pull together.

–          Pride in jobs/school appears a measure of success when in reality it can seduce away from priorities.

Selfish pride can hide. We must be alert to needed changes of humility in our heart every day. We do this by focusing on the gospel – that in Christ I do not need to draw my identify from anything other than Christ’s perfect life; that I am humbled that my pride and others sins murdered Jesus on the cross; and that repentance, change, forgiveness, restoration and hope are possible because Christ’s death was satisfactory to God and He was resurrected. When we keep the gospel in proper perspective our pride should deflate instead of inflate. 

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

We can get unstuck by pride when we cultivate dependence. (18:3-4)

Jesus called the disciples to change and become like children. He was saying they must become child-like not childish. Below is the difference:

Childish Faith:

–          Immature: Childish Christians argue and annoy each other because of their selfish immaturity. Childish faith whines and throws tantrums to get their way rather than speaking to others with truth in love.

1Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” 

–          Ignorant: Childish Christians refuse to study Bible on own or in groups to refute responsibility. Awareness will bring accountability. Childish faith often asks why, why, why but never listens to the answers or reasons provided because they just want to hear themselves talk. 1Corinthians 14:20 “do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil but in your thinking be mature.” Ephesians 4:14 “children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

–          Indulgent: Childish Christians satisfy their lusts with worldly pleasure. Childish faith wants a junk food diet but without the consequences of poor health. 2Timothy 2:22 “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace and with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” children_1

 

Childlike Faith

–          Affectionate: Childlike Christians love to spend time with their Heavenly Father. Childlike faith makes bold requests in prayer trusting God’s amazing promises and abundant provision. Galatians 4:6-7 “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’. So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

–          Hungry: Childlike Christians desire to grow by constant eating of spiritual food. Childlike faith cannot get enough of God’s presence and inviting others to share in the experience. Their life depends upon God. 1Peter 2:2 “like newborn infants long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation”

–          Ambitious: Childlike Christians are motivated to joyfully obey because of their love relationship. They supersede expectations by going beyond their own abilities and relying upon others to help accomplish goals. Childlike faith is not satisfied with average but adventures to explore unchartered territory for the glory of God. 1Timothy 4:12 let no one look down on youth but set example in speech, conduct, love, faith, purity”

µ     Becoming childlike occurs as we cultivate our dependence upon our Heavenly Father.

o       Daily relationship with God: prayer talking to God, scripture is God talking to us…

  • Why did the biblical author include this passage?
  • What does this passage tell me about God and the world?
  • How should I apply this passage?

o       Regular relationship with believers: inviting accountability (~brothers/sisters keeper~)

  • Bible Groups: cannot grow apart from biblical community
  • Christian Friendships

Each of my wife’s pregnancies had several sonograms due to her first miscarriage and also to a fibroid in her body. Towards the delivery of each birth the doctor would check to see if the child’s head was in the right position. The easiest way for a baby to be born is for the child’s head to be facing down and not up. At full term and once the head faces in the downward position then the joy and celebration of the child’s entrance into the world is near. However, if the head is turned up there will be extended complexity and pain in the delivery process.

A lot of people have extended complexity and pain in their life because their heads are in the wrong position and turned up in pride. Far too often we are puffed up with pride, raising our heads thinking more highly of ourselves than we should; comparing personal significance more valuable than others and therefore looking down upon others and sometimes stepping on people in the process. This is arrogance… and it’s an attack against God.

 

Is there anything you hate in this world? Hate is a strong word, much more than dislike…

I dislike dallas cowboys but I hate child abuse.

I dislike bieber but I hate abortion.

I dislike steak cooked med rare but I hate racism.

 

God hates pride.

“Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” (Proverbs 8:13)

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6; 1Peter 5:5).

 

µ     We cultivate dependence when we guard against arrogance and grow in humility.

 

We can get unstuck by pride when we care for the least of these (18:5-14)

Following Jesus’ call for a change of perspective and cultivating dependence, He gives them an application principle. Whoever receives a child receives Jesus.

A child was the lowest social status of the biblical culture. They were viewed as a burden to care for rather than a benefit to adults. Men especially would leave the nurturing of children to women alone. Today many people still view children as unwanted so they terminate a pregnancy or viewed as unimportant so we isolate children away from everyone. The ladder of success cannot possibly be climbed by spending time with children or the lowly…

Yet, Jesus elevates the status of children. All people are to receive (δέχομαι = welcome, show hospitality) children as they would receive Jesus himself. All people matter because all people are created in the image of God. Further, if someone causes the least of these to sin/stumble then it will be a great judgment. Jesus says it would be better to have a millstone[1] fastened around your neck and drowned into the sea than to face eternity having caused a child to sin.

In vv.7-9, Jesus elevates the seriousness of living out our faith by casting aside sinful temptations. It is better to lose on earth in order to gain and win in eternity. If our hands are reaching for worldly pleasure or being raised in anger causing us to sin, then we must remove our hands. If our feet lead us to temptation or take us away from serving God then should we not retrain our feet’s travels? If our eyes lust after power, possessions and pleasure then we must close our eyes forever in order to rightly see the priorities for eternity.

Not caring for the least of these is to not reflect the compassion of Jesus.

–          Jesus sends angels to watch over His children (cf. Ps. 91:11; Heb 1:14).

–          Jesus cares for the lonely and lost sheep.

 

APPLY/THINK

–          Love God: Change perspective; Cultivate Dependence – being childlike not childish

o       In your sinfulness you have lived as an orphan without a Heavenly Father.

o       God loves you and you can be reconciled & restored to Him by grace through faith.

–          Love Others: Care for the least of these, Care for children

o       In your search for success you may inadvertently stepped over or on lowly or on children.

o       In our church’s search for renewal we have a pastor, we have some numerical growth, we have relational unity…

  • But Are we caring for the least? (Baltimore?)
  • But Are we caring for neighbors? (Evangelism?)
  • But Are we caring for children? (CM/YM?)

o       God’s compassion becomes ours when we put down our pride and humbly place ourselves before the Lord and His purposes.

–          Lead Generations: Connect faith with my family circle & family church; & with my neighborhood & the nations

o       Men/Fathers & Women – lead your children and other children to Jesus through your life. God desires that no one would perish eternally.

  • Seek to disciple the children in your home, church, neighborhood, nations.

o       Give generously with your time, talents, treasures for the sake of gospel to international missions.

 

[1] great millstone indicated one pulled by donkey and therefore likely weighing several hundred pounds.

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