Text: Matthew 18:1-20
Jesus was confronted by His disciples who wanted to know what sort of disciple was the greatest in the Kingdom of God. Jesus replied in a manner which led to vital truths concerning the entire concept of the Kingdom of Heaven. It helps us understand why there is a kingdom and what our roles in this kingdom are -- what the Kingdom is all about.
We do know that God's will and the Kingdom are to be in earth as they are in Heaven. This was the first point noted in the Lord's prayer in the form of a "prayer request." And it is connected with His will. We read "Thy will be done" and "Thy Kingdom come." God's Kingdom in earth is a very important concept that we need to be fully familiar with. In fact, its the entire reason we are here today in Church. God has a will and a purpose. Above all others, this purpose is so important, but yet so little understood. God help us to grasp it truth!
Jesus responded to their question of greatness in a manner the disciples did not expect. He said that except they were "converted," or "turned" (to be literal as to the intent of the term "converted"), they could not even enter the Kingdom. He was telling them they had better concern themselves more, at the moment, over entering the kingdom rather than over who is greatest in that kingdom.
He said the same thing to Peter when He informed Peter that he would deny him three times before the cock crowed the next morning. He said, "When thou art converted, strengthen the brethren."
To be "converted" means to "turn." Here we see the true reason
for the need of repentance, for repentance means to turn. Mankind
has been on a pathway away from God since Adam fell. Man is on a
pathway that is contrary to the will of God and to the kingdom of God.
We learn this when we consider the fact that God's purpose is to influence
this entire world with His Spirit. This takes us back to
the beginning of mankind and the first couple, Adam and Eve.
The purpose of the Kingdom and the means it will expand in the earth
is actually grander and greater than the purpose that is already fulfilled
in Heaven. He reigns in Heaven. But He desires to rule in earth
now. And the manner in which he will rule in earth is quite
a bit more involved, deeper and more grand than the manner in which He
rules in Heaven. In earth He chose to make "bottles"
for His form all over the world. And He desired to fill those bottles
with His Spirit through which He would influence the material realm with
His Spirit and thus rule in the physical domain.
Since then, Satan was cast from Heaven, and God's Kingdom in Heaven is maintained. But now there is the issue of Satan having been cast into the earth that concerns us greatly. He still wants to rule -- somewhere. He knows he cannot rule heaven so he is trying to rule in earth now. We have amongst us a creature that wants to rule this place. But as God's will is done in heaven it must also be done in earth. In other words, Satan will not rule here any more than he did in heaven. He will be cast out of the earth as he was cast out of heaven. God will see to it. It is written!
However, God's will and kingdom will be fulfilled in earth by a different
means than they were in Heaven. His "will" is going to be done in
earth as it is in heaven, but it will be done through a different "means".
The means is the issue.
Adam became filled with a different filling than that which God desired.
Instead of God's nature and very Spirit, Adam became filled with Satan's
nature of skin-for-skin (Job 2:4), or self-for-self.
Satan managed to plug up the bottles and leave no room for God's Spirit
to be able to indwell His image. In this manner Satan thwarted God's
Kingdom from existing in the earth at that time. However, God's will
was not foiled. Again, it is as insane to think that Satan can rule
in the earth and exclude God from doing so as it was for him to think that
he could rule in Heaven and get away with the attempts to do so.
What a profound thought! Think of the implications Jesus was bringing up here. To think that one desired to be great in another's kingdom is like desiring one's own kingdom in the middle of another's kingdom! The entire point is missed! Jesus said that the greatest in His kingdom is to actually not seek for distinction whatsoever! The one who humbles himself, and doesn't exalt himself, will be greatest. This sounds contradictory in man's thinking because man thinks he must go through an elevation if he wants to be "up there." To be great means to have distinction in the world. And that makes full sense. But to say that one must instead be as far away from distinction as can be, by not making oneself known, by humbling oneself, sounds nonsensical. But we will find it makes perfect sense.
The entire purpose of God is to fill us and then manifest Himself through
us into the world. Most of us Apostolics have the first part down
pat. It is the second part that is the stickler. And this is
why Jesus spoke as He did in Matthew 18. Anything that hinders God's
manifestation through us and into the world hinders the entire progress
of His Kingdom's purpose. He wants to
influence the world. And when a person seeks to have
one's self influence, be made known and visible, that much "space"
for God to influence and be made visible is taken up. God loses as
much "space" to let people see Him in this world as we use to let people
see us in this world. Therefore the most beneficial
vessels used for the purpose of His Kingdom are the vessels that are humble.
They are the vessels that fully allow Him to manifest through them.
And the vessels that contain His Spirit, but seek to make themselves
visible, are the ones of least use in His kingdom. The more
we seek to be great in this kingdom the more we are useless to His Kingdom.
So the greatest is actually the one who humbles himself and gets himself
out of the way the most.
He would have been totally defeated if Eve turned around to him and
said, "I see what you are trying to do. You want me to take
my eyes off the fruit of life, the purpose of God making me that He might
fill me and manifest His Spirit through me, making Him God of Heaven and
earth, and look to myself and put my eyes upon what can benefit the promotion
of me. You want to hinder God flowing through me by having me close
completely to his will and desire instead to see me spread through as much
of the earth as possible."
I read the story of a rock singer who was voted the best singer-songwriter of a certain year. He sold more albums than anybody else that year. And he wanted to maintain that status and, in fact, become more famous. He made a feature length film and desired it to become a blockbuster at the theaters across America. And when it was hardly noticed, he immediately fired the manager mercilessly, who schemed and devised for the singer's name to get to where it was in that profitable year.
The singer has all the money he will every need. Why does he seek
to go further? He does not need the money. Why get more famous?
The reason is that he has a lust in his heart that Satan managed to get
into Eve's heart: To promote herself rather than God.
God desires to influence all creation with His Spirit. And he chose to
use us as a vessel in a manner never before done in heaven. And Satan
wishes to stop that and put his influence into mankind and see it fill
all the world. That singer is only a puppet and a bottle filled with
the putrid filth of Satan's nature. Ultimately Satan gets the glory.
Satan rules where chaos dwells. When everyone wants to be king and
none are willing to serve another, there is chaos. And where there
is chaos, Satan's nature rules.
He only seeks to allow his influence to rule. Nobody may consciously be aware of his presence, but that is not so much his goal. He thinks that if he can simply influence people to do their own thing instead of God's will, then his will has won out over God's will. God seeks to influence the world in order to bless it with His goodness. It pleases Him when we are happy. Satan, too, wants to influence. He cares not to add to our existence, as God desires to add, but only to say that he has motivated us. He wants to say that he has urged us to do, and we have done. That is all that his desire is. He is mad for credit. He simply wants to say, "At least, God, I made them do something rather than your will." And he will then think he rules here.
You see, whoever influences the most, rules.
Thank God that Satan is actually a tool to perfect God's church through the mad desire to destroy God's work by way of persecution. It only makes our pure desire to serve God's Kingdom more pure and more refined.
Satan dwells in darkness and if light comes to exist in the same place as darkness, he knows what will win out. So he must influence.
It is interesting to realize that Jesus said we must let our light shine before men. And I stress the word let. The light is in us. But we must allow and concede for that light to come forth. Its in our power whether we let it out or not, otherwise He would not have said let your light shine. In fact it is like saying, "Not my will, but thine be done. Thy will be done. Thy kingdom come in earth as it is in heaven." You must choose to see this happen. The light is in you. But it is under a bushel and covered over if you have the Life the Holy Ghost, but yet seek to let people hear about "you".
And this can even be accomplished so that the devil laughs in glee when we think like this: "I want to do something for God. I want to be in as many churches as I can and preach to as many people as I can and feel so good when all the people in all of our churches know my name."
Do we want to be used powerfully by God so that people will know about us? Do we want to serve Him, but at the same time be great in His kingdom by being a Jesus-name Christian, and yet being famous at it?
It must be, "I must decrease and He must increase." It
must be that we seek to get out of the way and stop using
up "space" in this material sphere that He can use, by ceasing our efforts
to have people notice "us" instead of giving it to Him to use. So
when we can stop letting so much of us come forth from our
lives for people to see, we actually remove a bushel that stops Him within
from coming forth. And we begin to experience what we were created
to experience -- we experience a flowing forth of light from inside
of us that totally drives away the darkness in this world. Its up
to us! Let your light so shine!
Tying a millstone around your neck and throwing you into the sea is
the closest thing in this world to throwing Satan out of Heaven as lightning.
And it would be better to experience drowning in that manner than to experience
what will occur as reward for hindering God's perfect vessels! It
is an uprising against the kingdom of God and it will be dealt with in
the same measure that Satan was dealt with when he was cast down from heaven.
Jesus said that offenses will necessarily come because Satan is not going to sit back and let us manifest God's Spirit without a battle. But woe to the one through whom the offense comes! He implied that offenses often comes through brothers in Christ! And this is the dangerous element. A brother who offends another brother is fighting the increase of the Lord's Kingdom.
Oh, Lord, help us love one another!
Then Jesus said in verse 8 that if a man's hand offended him, having just stated that some in the Body of the Church offend those who are excellent vessels for God's purpose, he should cut off that hand. He speaks likewise of the foot and eye. The hand is a part of the body. And a brother or sister who is part of the body, and yet offends another part of the body, must be dealt with. He said that it is better for the body to enter into life with one hand missing than for the whole body to go to hell because of the offense of the one member.
Do we see what He is trying to say in light of the offense to the little ones? He has not changed issues and topics, but remained in the same topic as the little child who is greatest in the Kingdom and who is not to be offended.
Verse 10 says again, Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones. It seems like the entire issue of offending little ones contains within itself an explanation by way of illustration with the hand being cut off for offending the body. Neatly wrapped in between verse 10 (the despising of His little ones) and the first part of the chapter concerning offending little ones, we read this illustration of the cutting off of the hand. In other words, the hand that offends the body is the brother who offends a humble, suitable vessel of God, and seeks to hinder that excellent vessel. And that offending member must be cut off from the body of the church.
It is better to remove the poisoning hindrance than to allow it to remain
and see the entire body poisoned and defiled with selfishness. So
the Lord cuts such a one off from the body. That one may still attend
church and put on a front of worship, but God deems them cut off.
People may think them to be real believers, but it does not matter what
people think. It matters what God decrees. And God decrees
such a one cut off.
Verse 12 shows Jesus resorting to another illustration to get this point across next, as evidenced by his words, "How think ye...?" in light of the thoughts just noted by Him. To appeal to their reasoning as to His conclusions to this matter He asked them whether it made sense to leave the ninety nine sheep that are safe in the fold to go out and to find the one lost sheep that departed, in hopes that the lost may return found. In light of the context of offending a little one, He can only have meant one thing.
When a brother offends a little one, it is as though a hand were cut off from the body and as if one sheep left the fold. It is no longer in the fold. When the brother offends and works against another member of the body that was placed in the body, in order to manifest God's will, and that member offended is so excellent a vessel for God to flow through, that offending brother has worked against the greater purpose of the body. And therefore that brother is to be considered as a hand cut off. He is like a sheep who is no longer in the fold.
As soon as one offends another member of the body, that one is considered by God to be cut off and out of the sheepfold, lost. He is out there from where God first took him when He rescued him. God sought to save what was lost from his purpose. And his purpose was to influence the material world through human vessels. But when a vessel seeks its own influence, and works against another brother, that one has gone right back into the lost state from which God originally saved them in the start. That one has returned to the state of being apart from God's purpose to use mankind as vessels and influence the world through them.
If the shepherd finds the lost sheep, he rejoices. Then Jesus said explained what finding the lost sheep meant. "Moreover if thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault, and tell him alone. If he hears you, rejoice. You have gained your lost brother."
He explained that as soon as one trespasses against another, that one is like a lost sheep. And if the shepherd finds him it is because the believers of the Body have gone to that brother and he has repented of his trespass to us. He formerly trespassed, so he is considered out.
You might think we should just wait for him to return and repent.
But we not only need to see that we are fit vessels to flow
through, but we need enough desire to see God influence through the
entire body as much as possible that, when we see a brother leave,
we seek to restore him so God can flow through him, too. That is
real body-consciousness! Do not wait for him to return.
Go and realize the need for God to flow through vessels and seek to bring
After Jesus said we must consider such a one a heathen, he then said the reason we can do so is that we have the power to bind on earth and loose on earth, so as to have it be said that it is also bound in heaven and loosed in heaven.
Many people have a totally incorrect interpretation of this binding and loosing. The context of the passage is speaking about one who is not part of the body any longer. When we, the church body, consider a brother as a "heathen" because he will not admit and repent of his error in offense, then God is saying that you can count it as marked in heaven's books, too, that the individual is loosed from the Body. It is no longer your obligation to go and seek it to bring it back. You tried and did not succeed.
But if you find them repenting after you confronted them with their
offense, then you consider them part of the sheepfold and you can say they
are bound to the body in heaven as well. In other words,
God considers them once again part of the Body of Christ. If you
restore them and consdier them part of the Body, the God does, too.
Then Verse 19 reads that if any two or three of the Body agree
about a thing, then it is done by the Father. And as if to explain
it more clearly, Jesus said that wherever two or three of us are gathered
together, you can say that Jesus is there, too. And to, therefore,
have two or three in the Body loose a person from the Body because they
would not repent of their offense, is to say that Jesus Himself loosed
them, for we are His Body. He is there when two or three are there
in His Name.
Jesus told Peter to forgive them even if they do this seventy times seven! They see the value of the body. And if they are that conscious of the body, and the purpose, though they have many flaws, they are going to be excellent vessels in a little while. LET THEM IN! Bind them to the Body. Its more important to recognize the need to be part of the program of God than it is to be so perfect.
Did you read that carefully?!
Its more important to recognize the need to be part of the program of God than it is to be so perfect.
It must be, because Jesus said that a person who commits one offense is to be considered loosed from the Body and lost if that person does not repent when confronted by the Body. But the one who offends 490 times and yet seeks forgiveness after each offense, must be forgiven and bound to the Church Body.
To have a person, although filled with imperfections, but still conscious of the purpose God has in this world with His body, and conscious of how much the Body means to God, is to have a vessel that can be greatly used after the wrinkles are all ironed out. To have another potential vessel, that has His Spirit, though it be a little too plugged for much use, with offenses that occur now and then, that has a desire to be part of the program of God's will, is to have something more valuable than a person who makes only one mistake but never has enough concern for God's will to repent and reinstate himself back into the Body for God's purpose.
If the Lord expects this out of us, then we must realize that, should
we sin every day 490 sins (and no one does that in the church), He will
forgive us if we come to him that many times. (He is not so hard
as they told you he was!)
We need to forgive as we are forgiven. Here we have another reference
connection to the Lord's prayer again.
To forgive our brothers who seek it from us is so vital to the purpose of the kingdom. If we are unwilling to forgive it can only mean one thing. We are too concerned over ourselves and refuse to grant a person forgiveness for offending us, revealing too much self-for-self purposes in us. We are more concerned over self image than we are over seeing as many people as can be involved in the Kingdom to spread God's influence. That is why the parable showed the Master take the man, whom he forgave of his great debt, and cast him out into Jail. God will remove you from the Body if you manifest the self-for-self nature by not allowing an offender to be forgiven. You may have been forgiven of sins so as to be part of the kingdom purpose, but when you manifested ill will towards your brother who offended you, but who also sought forgiveness so as to remain in the body, you are cast from the Body due to your self centredness. Your self centredness will not be tolerated when it is to the extent of refusing souls who wish to re-enter the Body forgiveness and acceptance by you.
The reason people do not forgive those who offended them, but who also seek forgiveness for the offense, is due to the extreme self-centredness they possess. One feels so much concern for one's self that any one who offends one will never be forgiven, for offending "me" is the ultimate crime, one feels. Self is more important than anything else in such a person's life. Even more important than Jesus and the purpose of the Kingdom! God will not have it in the Kingdom. Such an attitude will only continue to manifest against others to such an extent that the Body will suffer greatly. So God says the Kingdom of Heaven is such a Kingdom in which God will remove those whom He once forgave, if they in turn refuse to forgive a brother who offends and then seek forgiveness for the offense.
We may not be perfect yet, and we may offend each other now and then, but if we will admit our wrong and have enough concern for the body to be willing to be humble by repenting, then that humility is what God can work with to make us into the excellent vessels that a little, childlike saint of God is, in order for the Kingdom to flow out from and into this dark world!
And whenever brothers and sisters offend us, we must not have the concern for self that drives us wild within for having experienced a hurt, making us ever vengeful and hateful towards those offenders, until we cannot forgive them even when they ask for it! That is too much self-for-self nature for God to let us remain in the Body. He sees the poison we possess and inflict, and He cast Satan out for the same poisonous venom.
May we appreciate one another in the Body and realize we need each other and God requires us to work together in love!