29th April 2023
Read (Matthew 18v1-4)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Once upon a time there was a hugely popular American pastor who had become the hero of many in the evangelical world. He preached with power, his fellowship grew, his books were devoured and his reputation only seemed to grow and grow. Tragically he ended up falling into disgrace and his one time admirers started to ask "how did this happen"? I'll not bore you with the whole story or my opinions on the matter, I'll just simply say that the pastor had started to believe his own hype. It is rumoured that he once told one of his entourage "I'm a pretty big deal."
Today we'll not point the finger at this man in self-righteous condemnation but I do hope we'll learn from him. I know my heart, you know yours and sadly we all sometimes think that we're a pretty big deal. The human heart is endlessly susceptible to all manner of sin, arrogance and pride and somewhere in the darkest corridors of the human soul we tell ourselves of our own greatness.
The disciples were not immune from such troubles and they asked Jesus one day “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (v1). There was nothing harmless in this question. Mark tells us that the disciples fell silent when challenged by Jesus because they were fighting over who was the greatest (Mark 9v33-37). They knew their sin and were embarrassed by it. We can only imagine their discussion as each disciple explained to the others his achievements and accomplishments and greatness.
But the road to true greatness is not paved by the accomplishments of sinful men. Jesus called a little child who came and stood in the midst of the disciples (v2), then Jesus said “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (v3-4)
Cast your mind back to your childhood days. When I was a youngster I had no concerns about what people thought about me. I wasn't the least bit worried about my standing in the community. I couldn't have cared less about my professional progress. Children are no sinless but quite often they are humble. In the same manner Jesus urged His disciples to become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven for the humble believer is truly great in the kingdom of God.
Humility is not our natural setting, we have grown accustomed to climbing the social ladder and everyday there are awful opportunities for us to make more "progress" by climbing over others to achieve our goals. But Jesus calls us to another road where our own "greatness" is of no concern and instead we seek to excel in humility. The Gospel road teaches us that it doesn't matter if we get a pat on the back nor does anyone need to praise our efforts or "ministry". Certainly encouragement should abound in any church but the Christian should not seek to have his/her ego to be massaged constantly.
Brothers and sisters, may we serve the Lord with ever fibre of our being, using all of the gifts at our disposal. But then with our mouths may we say "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory." (Psalm 115v1). The Lord meets the proud with opposition but to those humbled by the Gospel He gives His grace (James 4v6). We are not "big deals" but "big sinners" - may the Lord have mercy and humble our arrogant hearts.
Q33 What is justification? Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.