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Matthew 18:1-10 by Robert Dean
“Aw shucks! I’m not much!” Is this what humility sounds like? Listen to this lesson to learn that being humble does not mean being a doormat but means submission to authority. Find out that Jesus was trying to teach His disciples not to strive for status but become like little children who were not treated as anything special in that culture. If the disciples wanted to have full participation in the coming kingdom, they must give up their own agenda of being important and do the will of God. Today believers have the same choice to make. Is it our way or God’s way?
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:44 mins 37 secs

Becoming Like a Child
Matthew 18:1–10
Matthew Series #100
November 8, 2015
www.deanbibleministries.org

Opening Prayer

“Father, You have revealed Yourself to us in Your Word. You have revealed Your plan to us. You have revealed to us that we are creatures created in Your image and likeness designed for a purpose to emulate You to the world. But because we have been corrupted by sin, we need to have a change.

That change comes due to Your grace. You provided a perfect salvation for us based on Christ’s work on the Cross, as we’ve just observed in the Lord’s Table, and that You have provided a perfect spiritual life for us that we might grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that after salvation it doesn’t stop there, but we are to press on to grow from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity—what our Lord often referred to as being a disciple, a learner, a follower of Him.

Father, challenge us with the importance of this as we study today. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”

Slide 2

Open your Bibles with me this morning to Matthew 18. We’re going to look again at these opening verses, although we’ll probably just do Matthew 18:1–4 again, focusing on what it means to become like a child.

Now during the last couple of weeks it seems like you all have had a nice heavy dose of teaching on humility. I covered that two weeks ago, and then Dr. Klingler last week built upon that. And today I want to review a little bit and then go on into the passage.

I hope y’all enjoyed him last week. I certainly learned a few things in Deuteronomy 10, and I liked the correlation he made with horses and stiff neck and rebellious, and some of the insights he brought from horse training. It was very, very interesting.

Now what I did last time was focus on what becomes a focal point here in this particular chapter in verse 4 when Jesus says, “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child,” and addressing this issue of what is humility, because for many people, the idea of humility or meekness—sometimes that word is used in the English—is somewhat confusing.

People have the idea that humility is weakness, is just letting people romp and stomp all over us, just becoming some kind of a doormat for everybody else. There are a lot of distorted ideas that our culture brings to the idea of humility. That was just as true in the ancient world as I pointed out last time.

Slide 3

The classic example for me for understanding humility is Philippians 2. You may want to turn with me there briefly as we review, just in case you want to make a couple of notes.

I focused last time on Philippians 2:8.

Philippians 2 is a great passage. I love to teach it. It focuses on the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ and the incarnation, something we never quite grasp any more than we grasp the omnipresence of God or the omniscience of God. It’s just beyond our finite abilities to get that, but Philippians 2:5–10 really focuses on the incarnation in God’s plan for Christ and who Christ is.

Last time we had this same word “humble,” the verb here in Philippians 2:8 that Christ was “found in appearance as a man.” That is referring to the incarnation when He entered into human history and added humanity to His deity, “He humbled Himself,” and what does that mean?

As I said, a lot of people get the idea that humility is somehow this idea that we just let everybody walk all over us, and that’s not what Christ did—this idea of Jesus meek and lowly that is often portrayed.

It’s just not the picture that we see in Scripture. He is a man who has controlled strength and power and authority.

In fact, that is mentioned in every Gospel—that the people were amazed because He spoke with authority. He had a dynamism to His humanity that was energized by His relationship with God, and His understanding of the truth of God’s Word, and His passion for His ministry.

So I point out that humility here, His humbling Himself, is further qualified by this participle that follows it by becoming something. “Something” is emphasized there. He becomes obedient to the point of death.

That’s what humility is: recognizing who’s in authority over you, who’s in charge of your life. It may be your parents if you’re kids. It may be a husband if you’re a wife. It may be the Lord. It may be your employer. It may be somebody who’s a superior in the military or a teacher in the classroom.

But humility is submitting ourselves no matter what the cost to the authority because that’s what the Word of God says to do.

It is submitting ourselves to the authorities that God places over us, even when by doing so it may cost us everything. And that’s what the picture is of Jesus Christ here in Philippians 2:8. That’s one aspect of humility.

The other aspect, which I want to bring out a little more this morning, comes out of the previous verse. The previous verse is what emphasizes for us His deity.

Slide 4

In verse 6, “who, being in the form of God,” and that refers to His essence, His eternal essence as undiminished deity for all eternity. He co-existed with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He wasn’t a creature that was created at some point in eternity past.

That was known in the early church as the Arian Heresy, for Arius who was an elder or presbyter of a church in Egypt, and who taught this false teaching.

He had a little Christian chorus that everybody sang. (That’s the problem with Christian choruses: they can communicate a lot of shallow truth.) He was a musician, and all around the empire they were singing, “There was a time when Christ was not.”

But Christ is eternal. Jesus is eternal. He always existed.

But musical ditties communicate good as well as bad, and Arius wrote these choruses, this music, that was very popular. And many in the early church were swayed away from biblical truth and biblical orthodoxy.

Now we’re not going to get to this part this morning, but part of this section as we look at Matthew 18 is focusing on a warning to the disciples in terms of leadership, and leadership in relation to little children.

The term there starts with the little child that Jesus uses as a visual training aid right there in front of them, but it quickly moves to where Jesus is talking about what this little child represents spiritually, that is, believers, disciples who are willing to become like the little child. We’ll get into that.

But as we get into this, Jesus warns of the danger of causing these little ones to stumble.

Now you probably have a version, if you’ve got a NASB version or a couple of others, NKJV has it, that says, “Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin.”

That’s not what it says in the original. It says “to stumble,” and it’s not the idea of just creating an environment where they might sin, but causing them to do almost irreparable damage to their spiritual growth.

There are warnings all through the New Testament about the dangers of false teaching. I’ll come back and talk about that, but this is what was happening with Arius, teaching this idea that Jesus wasn’t eternally God.

So this is emphasized here in Philippians 2:6—that Jesus was eternally God and IS eternally God.

Slide 5

It uses this word HUPARCHO in the Greek which means to exist, and it’s one of two or three different verbs you have in Greek that emphasizes being and the nature of being.

It’s emphasizing as a present participle the continuous nature of this—that He always is and always will be in the form of God and existing in the form of God. We could translate it this way, “who existing eternally in the form of God.”

Slide 6

The next word is that phrase “did not consider.” This is a word we’ve studied many times. It’s used in passages like James 2, “Count it all joy;” and other passages where it’s related to imputation.

It’s the verb HEGEOMAI, which means to reason, or to think something through, or to consider something, to count something, to regard something.

So it’s a mental term, and it’s saying that it’s Jesus’ mental attitude, Jesus did not think.

Then in the NKJV—I didn’t consult the KJV, but it sounds pretty similar to the old KJV, “did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.”

Slide 7

For most of us we’re reading, “what does it mean to rob God? What does that mean?” And actually that really is a distraction for us in not understanding the text.

The Greek word there is a word HARPAGMOS. That’s a noun form of the verb HARPAZO.

The verb HARPAZO is one that we think about every time we think about the Rapture because the word “rapture” comes from the Latin translation of HARPAZO in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, that the Lord will return, and we’ll be caught up together with Him. It means to be snatched or to grasp or to be seized.

That’s the idea there, that Jesus existed in the form of the essence of God, but He did not think that that was something to be grasped after or to be seized upon.

The NASB translates it that “He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” That’s a good translation of this idea here, and it emphasizes another dimension to humility: that humility is not consistent with seeking status, seeking a position of power, seeking recognition.

This is one of the things that often happens in churches. You have people that come to church because they want to be part of a group, and they want to be stroked by a lot of people, and they want to be recognized, and they want to do something, but they want to have their approbation lust stroked.

You’ll go to a lot of churches, my first church was like this. You’d walk through the church and you would see a little plaque on this pew or a plaque in that Sunday School class room or something recognizing some gift or some contribution that somebody had given at some time in the past.

That may be fine and good if you’re donating to Methodist Hospital or St. Luke’s Hospital or some other charity, but in Scripture in the church, we don’t give like that. We don’t serve the Lord for personal recognition. We’re not giving for status.

This isn’t like high school where we’re trying to wear the right clothes and have all the right emblems and do all the right things, and be part of the right group so that we will have status. That’s just not what Scripture talks about.

Slide 8

That is exactly the kind of idea that’s present in this word for humility, as I pointed out last time. The literal meaning was to be low lying or brought low, and it came to mean someone of low degree, low estate, weak, insignificant; or somebody that doesn’t have any status in the eyes of the world. That’s exactly what’s going on here in this context.

Slide 9

So Philippians emphasizes two things. Jesus didn’t think that His status as the Son of God was something to be held on to.

He is the Second Person of the Trinity. He’s the future Messiah. He is the Son of God, but He’s not going to emphasize that and hold on to that and grab after that. He’s not seeking to hold His status over the heads of His creation.

So He humbled Himself, submitted to God’s authority.

Slide 10

So these two are aspects of humility. Humility is first of all submission to authority, and then secondly, humility is not asserting your own rights, even though that’s legitimate.

It was certainly legitimate for Jesus to say, “Look, I’m the Son of God. You’re not going to crucify Me today, tomorrow, or ever!” But that didn’t fit the plan.

So humility is not asserting your own rights, or seeking personal status or position for its own sake.

Slide 11

Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,” see that would be emphasizing His status, “but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Slide 12

Luke 14:11 emphasizes this same point where Jesus said, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

So self-exaltation, which is the core focus of the sin nature (remember I pointed out many times the basic orientation of the sin nature), is all about me. It’s not about you. You just think it’s about you.

You get two people who get married, and they both think it’s all about each one, and that’s a recipe for disaster, and that’s why we have such a high divorce rate.

We don’t have any kind of external set of standards or code of conduct that helps us overcome basic arrogance. The only thing that can do that is humility, and only genuine humility from the Word of God can really overcome the sin nature.

So we can’t be self-assertive, and we can’t be self-absorbed in order to gain a position in the Kingdom. But this is exactly the situation that Jesus discovers among the disciples.

Slide 13

He has been away with Peter, James, and John up on the mountain where the transfiguration took place. When He came back, He found that all the disciples except for the three with Him were involved in a confrontation with the Pharisees. They had been attempting without faith to cast out a demon, and they were miserable failures.

He comes back and obviously something significant happened with James, John, and Peter, and they’ve had special privileges.

Then Peter himself seems to be singled out in reference to the episode of paying the temple tax right there at the end of Matthew 17.

So there’s some jealousy. There’s this approbation lust at work and power lust at work among the disciples, saying, “Who’s going to be the greatest in the kingdom?”

Now that really becomes the frame for these first four verses because the question is asked in verse 1, and the idea is repeated in verse 4 when Jesus said, “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” This is important to understand because as we get into this particular topic, we need to contextualize.

Remember, so many times I’ve emphasized that when we study the Bible we have to understand the context. As I’ve grown over the years, I’ve realized it’s important, it’s indispensable to know the original languages.

You just have to know the original languages because you see so many things in the original languages that don’t come across in an English translation.

But even if you don’t have the original languages, you can figure out a lot of things in Scripture just by paying attention to context. Under a lot of things that are myths because especially today we live in a world where more and more churches are opting for topical messages, you get these really short three-, four-, five-lesson series on how to have a happy and wonderful marriage or how to stay out of bankruptcy or how to have real joy in your life or whatever it is, but you don’t get people going through verse-by-verse exposition.

One of the values of going by verse-by-verse exposition is that sooner or later you touch on every topic. You touch on the topic you want to touch on. You touch on the topics you don’t want to touch on. You touch on the topics that are going to convict the people you want to convict in the church because you know they’re having a problem with it.

But you also get to those passages that step on the pastor’s toes as well, and so you hit everything. And that way, the whole counsel of God is taught.

So going through passages topically, you often don’t catch the broad context. Last time I pointed out that there’s one verse in here, I’ll mention it in a minute, that is one of the most frequently used verses taken out of context. But I want us to understand the context just a little bit as we look at Matthew 18.

First thing we ought to note is Matthew 18 is one continuous discourse. It’s like the Sermon on the Mount. This is one long talk; and therefore, it revolves around one central theme. It is not Jesus just talking about answering questions.

1 Corinthians is built around the series of questions that the believers in Corinth have asked the Apostle Paul. It goes from topic to topic to topic, even though he relates them together very well.

In Matthew 18, Jesus is talking about basically the same thing, and it revolves around training His disciples to be better leaders after He ascends to the Father. Now He doesn’t get into all of that here, but we know that’s what’s going to happen.

We’re only four or five months away from the Cross, and after the Cross, we have the resurrection, and then 40 days later the ascension. So He’s preparing them for what will come.

Since Matthew 13, He has been training The Twelve for future ministry. There are fewer public events. Those that do occur that are public are just incidental to His training of The Twelve. People hear that He’s someplace, and they come and surround Him.

But His real focus is on training The Twelve for their future ministry.

At the end of Chapter 16, He started adding to that in preparation for His death, and as part of this training, He’s preparing them for the ministry that will come when they become leaders, when they become apostles in the coming church.

In fact, in this chapter, we only have the second use of the word EKKLESIA, the church. In the Gospels it was used in Matthew 16 once. It is used twice in this chapter, and that’s the only time in the four Gospels that the word EKKLESIA for church is used.

So the Gospels really focus on what was occurring in terms of Jesus’ present ministry at that time to Israel, and then towards the very end of that time, He begins to train the disciples.

He’s training them in this section really to understand something about being qualified to enter the Kingdom. So we’re going to have to address that phrase as we go forward, but He’s warning them.

He gives a serious warning indicated by the use of the phrase “woe” in verse 7 and also the strong nature. Twice He uses “woe” in verse 7 and the strong nature of His warning in verses 8 and 9.

So He is preparing His disciples to protect the flock, to protect the sheep. And the idea of stumbling that’s presented there isn’t the idea of just causing someone to commit a sin, but causing someone to do serious damage, to have a major blowout in their spiritual life and be sidetracked, to be off on the shoulder of the road for a lengthy period of time.

He’s warning them, really I think one emphasis is on warning them against false teaching and the dangers of false teaching because it’s false doctrine that sidetracks people. This is presented in several places.

Paul does it in Acts 20:28–31. As Paul was coming to the end of his third missionary journey, he returned to Ephesus. He didn’t have time to make the trek, which is about 15 to 20 miles from Miletus the port to Ephesus, and so he called to the leaders, the pastors of the churches in Ephesus to come and meet with him.

Listen to what he says in Acts 20:28–31. He says, “Therefore take heed ...” Then in verse 31 when He ends this section, He says, “Therefore watch …”

He’s telling them you have to pay attention to your ministry and what is going on in the flock that you are overseeing.

He said, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd”—that is to pastor, to feed, to lead—“the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you”—that would be unbelievers coming in from the outside attacking the flock—“not sparing the flock.”

Then secondly He says, “Also from among yourselves”—from among you very men who are squared away and straight right now, some of you are going to get sucked into false doctrine—“and from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” That’s putting a stumbling block in front of these disciples.

Then He concludes, “Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”

So Paul’s ministry wasn’t just teaching positively what the Bible says about the truth of God’s grace, but to warn them about the various errors and heresies and false teaching that would come up in the church. It’s both positive and negative.

I point that out because every now and then I have somebody say, “Well, you spend too much time pointing out the negative.” Well, that’s because I’m a pastor. I’m supposed to do that. I’ve got to teach people how to spot weeds and to stay out of the weeds and just eat the good stuff.

Slide 14

Peter does this is 2 Peter 2:1, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you”—false prophets is a reference back to the Old Testament—“even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.” This is what He will describe as putting a stumbling block before these little ones.

Verse 2 says, “And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.”

So what we see here is that there is this emphasis on this warning that comes up in the next section in Matthew 18:6–9.  

Slide 15

Then as we come to the next little section in verses 10–14, we see this section that is framed in verses 11–14 by these two verses:

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” Doesn’t that sound like a good verse, talking about the mission of Jesus to go to the Cross? “The Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.”

Then verse 14, “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Now a lot of people have taken this verse out of context, and they’ll talk about how Jesus loves the little children.

This isn’t talking about Jesus loving the little children.

He used a little child at the beginning as an object lesson that all of us, if we’re going to be a disciple, need to become—and we need to answer this question before we’re done this morning—become like a little child if we’re going to enter into the Kingdom.

But entering into the Kingdom, as I’ve taught before in Matthew, isn’t about justification or getting saved or having eternal life so you don’t go to the lake of fire when you die.

Entering the Kingdom has to do with entering into the fullness of participation in the Kingdom when it comes.

Just think about this. Who is Jesus talking to in this chapter? Is He talking to the crowds, the mixed multitudes? Or is Jesus talking to His twelve disciples?

He’s talking to His twelve disciples. Outside of Judas they’re already justified.

So He’s not telling them how they can get into Heaven and be eternally justified. He’s talking to them about how they are going to be able to fully experience the riches of their position and their role in the Kingdom when it comes. So it seems like He’s talking about spiritual life issues, not getting saved. As we say in the vernacular, “not getting justified.”

When we look at this, what we’re going to see is that the little ones are those disciples who have understood what it means to be like a little child. And they’re growing and maturing as believers, but the one who puts the stumbling block in front of them is going to threaten their spiritual life so that they could perish, not eternally, but just really foul up their spiritual life.

So He develops this in the next little section, in verses 10 through 14. He talks about a man who has a hundred sheep, which was about the average size of a flock in Israel at that time.

In verse 12, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?”

Let me ask you something. Does the man own the sheep already? Yes, he does. All 100 of them. So a sheep that is already his wonders off.

That’s not a picture of somebody getting lost. That is being unsaved. He already is owned by the shepherd. That’s a picture of salvation. But He is straying.

That fits back to the idea of the warning against putting a stumbling block in front of a little child. So it’s all talking about the dangers of someone falling away into apostasy, and the need for the shepherd leader to go rescue the one that is in danger of really messing up their spiritual life. So it’s the will of the Father that not one of these little ones who are saved that they should perish, that is mess up their spiritual life.

So as we go on to look at this section out of this discussion, and then about causing serious damage to a growing disciple, a question is asked in Matthew 18:15–20, “Well, what about the person that’s going to create this damage? What do you do about them?”

And we read in verse 15, “Moreover if your brother sins against you …” See that’s creating the stumbling block. So here you have this person who’s creating this stumbling block situation, and what do you do about him?

So out of that comes this discussion about the discipline from the church on the person who’s creating the stumbling block scenario, causing that one little sheep to go astray.

So after Jesus talks about the procedure there, then Peter who’s thinking about this goes, “Okay, somebody does this, and you take them through this process, and they get forgiven. Well, wait a minute, Lord, how many times do I have to forgive this guy?”

He uses the same language that Jesus uses in verse 15, “If your brother sins against you …”

Now Peter just relates it to himself and says in verse 21, “Well, Lord, how often do I have to forgive this guy if he sins against me? Up to seven times?

Verse 22, “And Jesus says, ‘No, seventy times seven.’ ” Jesus is going to illustrate this with a parable.

So this is the context. When we understand the totality of this message, what we see is there is this initial encouragement to become like a little child. And what that means is going to be evident in just a minute.

What that means is to not only put yourself under the authority of God in terms of being humble, but it also means you’re not going to seek status in the church or status in the Kingdom. You recognize it’s not about you, it’s about the Lord.

Slide 16

So Jesus says responding to this question, “Who’s the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” It’s a question related to status. It’s a question related to who’s the number one disciple?

So Jesus calls in this little child that’s obviously present, and it’s a small child. It’s not an infant. It’s a small child. You know, somebody who’s in their terrible twos or their awful threes, y’all know that? If you’ve been a parent you know that. I haven’t been a parent, but I still know that.

Jesus called the little child to Him, set him in the midst of them …” This is going to be the object lesson. He’s going to be the visual training aid. And Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom.”

Slide 17

So the first thing we need to address is this issue of what does it mean to enter the Kingdom?

Jesus uses this phrase several more times in Matthew, but so far in Matthew He’s used it in Matthew 5:20 and Matthew 7:21 in the Sermon on the Mount.

I spent a lot of time on that, and again in those verses in the Sermon on the Mount, who is Jesus addressing? Unbelievers or believers? He’s talking to His disciples. They’re already believers, so He’s not talking to them about how to get saved and avoid the Lake of Fire. He’s talking to them about spiritual growth and spiritual maturity, so they can experience the fullness of everything God has for them once the Kingdom comes, and that their righteousness there, talks about experiential righteousness, and the same thing is focused in Matthew 7:2.

That’s the focus here.

He’s talking about entering into the Kingdom. And He’s talking to believers, so He’s not talking about how to get justified. He’s talking about how a justified believer is going to enter into the fullness of the Kingdom. And what they’re supposed to do is to be converted.

Now what’s nice here is to understand that the context isn’t talking about how to get saved, but it’s talking about wrong thinking. It’s talking about the fact that they are arrogant. They’re in competition with one another as to who’s going to be the greatest in the Kingdom. The focus is on status and wrong behavior.

Slide 18

The verb that is used here is this word STREPHO, which simply means to turn or change course. And so the ESV, which is a fairly recent translation and the NET, correctly translates this as “unless you turn, unless you change course and become like children.”

See you’re already a believer, but you’re being disobedient. You’re giving in to your sin nature. You’re in arrogance, in competition, and you’re seeking personal power and approbation, and that’s all one.

If you don’t straighten yourself out and change course, then you’re not going to enter into the fullness of the Kingdom.

It’s not that they’ll lose their salvation. It’s just that they’ll lose rewards and privilege and position in the Kingdom. So Jesus says, “What you need to do is become like a little child.”

Now if you listen to a lot of pastors or you read a lot of discussions on this particular thing, there are a lot of people who will list a lot of different qualities about children: that young children, a very small child, is dependent upon their parents. And then they’ll list all these different qualities: they’re more obedient, they’re more innocent, they’re more dependent, and they’re not really going out there in a lot of rebellion.

Now I’m not going to have anybody show anything by raising hands, but if you’ve been a parent or even a grandparent or an aunt or uncle or just watch two- and three-year-old kids, you know that none of that’s true! I wonder, have these commentators and theologians ever been around little kids? They are self-assertive! They are self-absorbed! They come out of the womb that way!

That’s not what Jesus is talking about. Jesus is talking about, “You guys are self-assertive, you’re seeking status. You’ve got to become like a little child.”

Now you have to understand the culture. This is where historical context comes in. In that culture at that time, little children had no privileges. They had no rights. They were supposed to be as invisible as they possibly could be. They had no status. It’s not that they had little status. They had no status whatsoever, and that’s the contrast.

It’s the context that helps us to understand what Jesus is saying, He says you have to quit trying to be somebody. You’ve got to be like a little child and recognize that you’re a nobody.

Paul put it a little differently. Paul said we’re to become fools for Christ’s sake because we’re living in a world that says wisdom and intelligence and knowledge is based upon the wisdom of the world. But if you’re rejecting that, then you’re operating on what the world thinks is foolishness, and that’s Christianity.

So what Jesus is saying here is not how to—in modern terminology—be converted and go to Heaven, but to straighten up your life and to recognize that in the Christian life it’s not about who you are at all. It’s all about who Jesus Christ is and serving Him, and it’s not about personal recognition for anything that we do. Therefore, we humble ourselves like a little child. He has no status. As I said, part of the idea in the word there is to give up our privileges.

Jesus had the privilege of being the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, and He gave it up, and He didn’t assert it. He’s not asserting His personal rights at all in order to enter into human history and to be our Savior.

So Jesus is saying you’ve got to be Christlike. It’s not that you let people run over you. It’s that you’re not going to be making an issue out of it because it’s not about you. It’s about serving the Lord, and that’s the priority.

So then Jesus says in verse 5—this is just your lead-in to next week—He says, “Whoever receives one little child like this …” Is He talking about the kid in front of Him? No, He’s talking, when He says “a little child like this,” about the disciple who has humbled himself.

So now He’s transitioning to what a disciple is because a growing disciple is the one who will enter the Kingdom. Then He says, “Whoever receives”—another believer who’s a growing disciple—“in My name receives Me.”

That sets the stage, because when He goes on to talk in the next verses about whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble, He’s not talking about the little kid in front of Him. He’s not talking about child abuse; that’s clearly wrong. He’s not talking about that.

He’s talking about whoever causes a disciple who has become like a little child, not asserting their own rights, but is totally submissive to the authority of God. Whoever causes one of them to have a blowout on their spiritual life is going to be in serious trouble.

That’s what we’ll get to next time. With our heads bowed and our eyes closed.

Closing Prayer

“Father, we thank You that we know from Scripture that salvation is not based on doing anything. It’s not based on becoming like a little child. It’s not based on doing good works. It’s not based on being a member of a certain church. It’s based on belief in Jesus Christ alone. Ephesians 2:8–9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God not of works.” Salvation is a free gift.

What we’re talking about in this passage goes beyond that. It’s a challenge to being a disciple, to totally give up our agenda, asserting our rights, submitting to Your authority and moving forward with Your plan in our life.

Now Father, we pray that if there’s anyone listening today that’s never trusted in Christ as Savior, or they’re not sure or certain of their salvation, that they would recognize that the promise of Scripture is that You have provided for us completely through Jesus Christ, and that all that is necessary is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we will be saved.

Father, we pray that you would challenge us with what we studied today. In Christ’s name. Amen.”