Unless You Turn and Become Like Children

Matthew 18:1-4 ESV

“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.’”

There is a big difference between being childlike and childish. The first is a good quality. The second is not. The first has to do with purity of heart, innocence, being trusting, and full of faith. The second has to do with being foolish, immature, irresponsible, self-indulgent, selfish and pleasure-seeking. The first one, if accompanied with true repentance, and it continues, it ends in eternal life with God. The second, if not repented of, lands one in hell.

Matthew 18:5-6 ESV

“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.”

Those who are true followers of Jesus Christ are being pictured here as children, but in a spiritual sense, not a natural sense. We are those who, by God-given faith in Jesus Christ, have turned (repented of and forsaken our sins), have humbled ourselves, and who have become full of faith, trusting in the Lord, by God’s grace, in his strength and power, and who are now walking according to the Spirit and no longer in sin (according to the flesh).

But not everyone is following that teaching anymore because they have been convinced by flim-flam artists that they don’t have to. For these con artists are going around twisting truth and telling lies and talking Christians (or potential Christians) into compromising the gospel and into sinning against God while they convince them that God approves of their sinful lifestyles, for all he is looking for, they say, is for them to “believe.”

The Lord gave me this illustration of a man trying to convince a woman to have illicit relationships with him overnight. He questions her apprehensions, and he reasons with her that they are “sincerely in love,” so how can that be sinful? And then he tries to convince her that there is no good in her leaving, and again he tries to pressure her to spend the night with him with the same reasoning that they are “sincerely in love,” so how can that be sinful?

Well, these charlatans (the flim-flam artists) are using the same type of manipulative tactics to convince professing Christians that they just have to “believe” in Jesus and all their sins are forgiven (past, present, and future), and so their sins no longer count against them, and so they are free now to continue living in sin, only now guilt-free. And if they begin to feel guilty about their sin, they tell them to just “claim who you are in Christ.”

Therefore, they are indeed causing to sin both those of genuine faith in Jesus, and those who profess faith in Jesus, by giving them permission to keep living in sin and by convincing them that this is what God’s grace provides, the freedom to sin without punishment so they don’t have to feel guilty anymore for sinning against the Lord. And then they call it “love.” And then they tell them they don’t have to repent nor obey nor submit to Christ.

Matthew 18:7-9 ESV

“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.”

The true gospel, the one taught by Jesus and by his New Testament apostles does not give permission to keep living in habitual and deliberate sin against God. It acknowledges that we might sin, but that sin is to no longer be our master so that we obey its lustful desires. But Christ is to be our Master, and we are to follow him in obedience to his commands in purity of devotion to him, for he died that we might die with him to sin and live to righteousness.

Jesus Christ made the way out for us from under temptation to sin when he put our sins to death on that cross and he rose from the dead so that we might be delivered from our slavery to sin and so we might now be slaves of God and of his righteousness. By his grace, and in his power, we are set free from the control of sin over our lives and we are empowered of God’s Spirit to say “No” to sin and “Yes” to God and to live holy and godly lives.

Now, the counsel in this passage of Scripture might appear to be rather outlandish, and I do tend to take it more figuratively rather than literally, but in all truth, it would be better to be missing an arm than to have both arms and end up in hell. For the meaning here is clear, I believe. Anything that is causing us to sin must be gotten rid of so that we don’t end up in hell, because the Bible teaches if we continue in sin, hell is our destiny.

And a lot of people who are still living in addiction to sin while claiming Jesus as their Savior and Lord need to take this to heart. And they need to get radical about sin. And they need to take drastic measures to get rid of their sinful practices and to walk in freedom from bondage to sin. And it involves cleaning out of our hearts, minds, and lives everything that is leading us to continue to walk in sin and to give in to temptations to sin.

For example, if your sin addiction is to porn, which seems to be the primary one most Christian males and some females are dealing with these days, then get rid of all free (from accountability) access to the internet. Lock down your smart phones and your computers so that you can’t get to porn sites, and don’t go looking for back doors, either. And don’t be on the internet unless your computer is visible to others.

But these will only work if you first have a change of heart. For, in reality, you could cut off an arm and still sin against the Lord if your heart was inclined to sin against God. For all these sinful things come from what is stored up in the heart, and sometimes what is stored up is pride, hatred, unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, lust and greed. So these things need to be cut out of the heart through true repentance.

And then we must fully surrender our lives to Jesus Christ as Lord. We were living under sin’s control. Now we must live under Holy Spirit control. And we must know that God’s grace trains us to say “No” to ungodliness and fleshly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives while we wait for our Lord’s return. For Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (see Titus 2:11-14).

[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Jas 1:22-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Matt 7:21-23; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Col 1:21-23]

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer

Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

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