Sermon: How to Treat God’s People Matthew 18:5-9

Introduction

Last time we looked at greatness in the Kingdom of God as the disciples argued among themselves as to who the greatest was.  We learned from Jesus that greatness in the Kingdom of God goes the other direction from the world’s version of greatness.  Jesus taught us that God’s view of greatness is much different.
We learned that humility is greater than authority, serving others is greater than being served, and dependance on God is greater than self-reliance.

They’re arguing among themselves had another side to it.  Not only were they confused as to what real greatness is but their arguing was causing other disciples to be tempted to sin with them.  

Our Lord begins teaching a very important lesson to His followers.  We must be very careful how we treat other fellow believers.  Jesus has just raised the bar.  Our sin is not all there is.  We must also be concerned with other’s and how our lives impact theirs.  Our sin not only affects our relationship with God but our sin can also affect someone else’s relationship with God.  Our actions can have a negative impact on others.  In much the same way also our encouragement and love can help other believers draw closer to God.  

How is your life impacting believers around you?  By your life are you encouraging their faith?  As a husband or wife are you living in a way that is an encouragement to your spouse’s faith?  As a father or mother are you living to lead your children closer to Christ?  As a son or daughter are you living to encourage your siblings, parents, and grandparents to live to God’s glory.  We could go down through the list but realize everyone in this room is responsible before God and is living Coram Deo (before the face of God).  

Matthew 18:1–9 (ESV) 

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and 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. 

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! 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. 

1.  Receiving or Rejecting a “Little One”  

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 

Jesus is not speaking of infants here but referring to any believer who is seeking to live with childlike faith, trust, humility, dependence, and service.  He will use this term “little ones” to refer to Christians.    

Whoever receives or welcomes such a believer welcomes Jesus.  Regardless how insignificant a believer may seem they are all extremely precious to the Father.  We must take great care of them and over them.  Jesus tells us plainly that when we welcome one of His “little ones” which I pray we all are, we welcome Him.
This is a great truth.  It is impossible to separate us from Jesus.  All believers are connected eternally to Christ.  So, to receive one in His name is to receive Jesus.
How you treat God’s people is how you treat Jesus Christ. Very important truth. That’s the basic principle. However lowly, however you may affirm that believer to be the least, the kindness, the care, the protection that you give to that believer to keep him from stumbling and from sinning is exactly how you treat Jesus Christ. That’s the principle.
How you treat God’s people is how you treat Jesus.

Matthew 10:40 (ESV) 

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 

Matthew 25:34–46 (ESV) 

34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” 

John 13:20 (ESV) 

20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” 

Acts 9:1–5 (ESV) 

9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 

How you treat God’s people is how you treat Jesus.
We say we love Christ and we have convinced ourselves of this.  Now, Jesus reveals the true nature of our relationship to Him by how we treat others who are His “little ones”

Are you welcoming to fellow believers?  Are you living your life with others in mind?  What if Jesus were disguised as an ordinary person who entered our fellowship would you go and welcome Him?  Do you welcome others who come or are already here?  Do you know everyone’s name here?

2.  Woe to Those Who Tempt a Little One to Sin  

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

Those who tempt others to sin and do not repent of this evil show that they do not belong to the Kingdom of God but to the world…those alienated from God. 
The woe curse is a curse of death and destruction.  One commentator tells us it’s the opposite of a blessing or the Beatitudes.  These on whom this woe is pronounce are to be seen as outside of God’s Kingdom and are His enemies.
All people, even Jesus’ disciples, must be cautious not to assume a relationship with Christ.  We must always be examining ourselves using biblical tools to make the examination.  Here is such a tool… How you treat God’s people is how you treat Jesus.  How you treat God’s people shows whether your salvation is real or not.

As the disciples were arguing about greatness, they were moving very close to this danger.  Could their fighting cause someone to sin? 
Jesus explains that in this world there will always be temptations to sin.  If you think about it, they are everywhere.  Sin is everywhere.  We live in a sinful world and we too are sinners.  We cannot put an end to sin.  Jesus tells us… For it is necessary that temptations come.  We cannot remove all temptations to sin.  We can, however, not take part in them.  We can avoid being the tempter. 
Jesus warns all of His people, woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

According to Jesus it is a terrible sin to entice others to sin.  

Luke 22:22 (ESV) 

22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 

3. We Must Guard Ourselves from Sin Because Our Sin Can Tempt Others to Sin

8 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. 9 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.

By God’s grace we can overcome temptations in our life. Here, in these last two verses Jesus switches His focus from our responsibility toward others and

not tempting them to sin to what we must do to eliminate temptations in our own lives. Our Lord’s point is this: Drastic action is necessary to overcome personal temptations to sin. Here in this section Jesus is using pointed shocking language to get our attention. He wants us to see how important it is that we eliminate certain temptations within our own lives.

Here’s where people who are so caught up with literal Bible interpretation go wrong. For one thing if this is literal, we should all be amputees. The reasoning of literal interpretation is even flawed. I’m not going to speak for you but I could still sin just fine with one eye, one hand, or one foot.

The true interpretation is achieved when we ask what did Jesus intend for us to understand and do here? His point is that as cutting off your hand is a drastic move we must take drastic measures to short circuit temptation because there is so much at risk. Jesus is not advocating amputation or gouging out your eye. However, He is saying that if, in fact, that would do it it would be worth it in order to enter the Kingdom.

I think we can gather some very useful weapons here to fight against temptation in our own lives.

So, little ones let’s get to work in fighting against temptations.

It is a principle he first gave in Matthew 5:29 and 30, and we studied it there. In its context there, it was related to unbelievers. And what Jesus was saying there to unbelievers is

simply this: “Whatever it takes for you to deal drastically with your sin, do it.” It’s better than entering into what? Hell. Better to live your life maimed than to go to hell forever. Now that’s hyperbole. I mean he’s not literally telling them to chop off all their limbs, but he is saying take drastic measures with sin or you’ll go to hell.

Notice, in our passage today our Lord is saying this to His disciples and to us. Deal drastically with your own sin. Put a watch over your eyes. Guard your hands and your feet, where they go and what they do. Be careful what you see. Take drastic measures, because you’ll never be able to keep from causing someone else to sin unless you are not sinning yourself, you understand that? Because if you’re in sin, the pattern is there being demonstrated to others. It’s a simple principle: Take drastic action when getting rid of whatever causes you to sin. Take drastic action; don’t flirt with it. Get rid of it. Whatever causes you to be tempted to sin, get rid of it.

Take drastic measures!

Are you involved with pornography? Take drastic measures! Get rid of whatever it is you view it on. If it’s your computer then throw it away. You’ll say well I can’t do that I need it for work. If you view it on your phone, get rid of it. You’ll say well I need to be able to stay in touch with whomever. Jesus says get drastic! Maybe your sin is coveting. You have to buy everything you see and you spend far too much money on stuff. Things for the house, gadgets, things to decorate with etc. How do you do some drastic amputation? Stop taking your credit card with you when you go places. Just take a set amount of money and no more. Make rules to follow, like I’m not going to window shop but if I see something I think I want, I’ll wait a week then If I still think I need it then I’ll buy it.

There are hundreds of other sins we may struggle with but the point is, be drastic. Whatever it takes for you to deal drastically with your sin, do it.

Deal drastically with the sinful desires you have so that you will not be lured into sin. The evil desires we have are what lures us into sin.

Conclusion

Temptation and Sin
James 1:12–15 (ESV) 

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 

%d bloggers like this: