Ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ
προσῆλθον οἱ μαθηταὶ τῷ Ἰησοῦ λέγοντες•
τίς ἄρα μείζων ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν;
καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος παιδίον
ἔστησεν αὐτὸ ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν
ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν μὴ στραφῆτε καὶ γένησθε ὡς τὰ παιδία,
οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν.
ὅστις οὖν ταπεινώσει ἑαυτὸν ὡς τὸ παιδίον τοῦτο,
οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ μείζων ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν.
καὶ ὃς ἐὰν δέξηται ἓν παιδίον τοιοῦτο ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου,
Ὃς δʼ ἂν σκανδαλίσῃ ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων τῶν πιστευόντων εἰς ἐμέ,
συμφέρει αὐτῷ ἵνα κρεμασθῇ μύλος ὀνικὸς περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ
καὶ καταποντισθῇ ἐν τῷ πελάγει τῆς θαλάσσης.
Οὐαὶ τῷ κόσμῳ ἀπὸ τῶν σκανδάλων•
ἀνάγκη γὰρ ἐλθεῖν τὰ σκάνδαλα,
πλὴν οὐαὶ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ διʼ οὗ τὸ σκάνδαλον ἔρχεται.
Εἰ δὲ ἡ χείρ σου ἢ ὁ πούς σου σκανδαλίζει σε,
καὶ βάλε ἀπὸ σοῦ•
καλόν σοί ἐστιν εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν ζωὴν κυλλὸν ἢ χωλὸν
ἢ δύο χεῖρας ἢ δύο πόδας ἔχοντα βληθῆναι εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον.
καὶ εἰ ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου σκανδαλίζει σε,
καὶ βάλε ἀπὸ σοῦ•
καλόν σοί ἐστιν μονόφθαλμον εἰς τὴν ζωὴν εἰσελθεῖν
ἢ δύο ὀφθαλμοὺς ἔχοντα βληθῆναι εἰς τὴν γέενναν τοῦ πυρός.
Ὁρᾶτε μὴ καταφρονήσητε ἑνὸς τῶν μικρῶν τούτων•
λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι οἱ ἄγγελοι αὐτῶν ἐν οὐρανοῖς διὰ παντὸς βλέπουσιν τὸ πρόσωπον τοῦ πατρός μου
τοῦ ἐν οὐρανοῖς.
Τί ὑμῖν δοκεῖ;
ἐὰν γένηταί τινι ἀνθρώπῳ ἑκατὸν πρόβατα
καὶ πλανηθῇ ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν,
οὐχὶ ἀφήσει τὰ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη
καὶ πορευθεὶς ζητεῖ τὸ πλανώμενον;
καὶ ἐὰν γένηται εὑρεῖν αὐτό,
ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι χαίρει ἐπʼ αὐτῷ μᾶλλον ἢ ἐπὶ τοῖς ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα τοῖς μὴ πεπλανημένοις.
οὕτως οὐκ ἔστιν θέλημα ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν
τοῦ ἐν οὐρανοῖς
ἵνα ἀπόληται ἓν τῶν μικρῶν τούτων.
Supporting piece: God's concern and love for every child.
Supporting piece: The drastic measures one must take in order to enter God's kingdom.
Supporting piece: Gain child-like humility to gain Christ and the Kingdom
Good morning to all of you. Please turn to Matthew chapter 18 in your Bibles. If you do not have a Bible, please raise your hand and we will gladly give one to you. I believe that this passage will have an incredible power for God to speak to the youngest of the children in this room to the oldest teens attending this youth conference. God can and will speak to you today if you pay attention and believe the truth. I'm speaking to everyone in here. If you are in elementary, middle or high school; pay attention because you are on God's mind today. He planned for you to be here and he himself brought you here. Not only that but he also made you. While you were inside your mother, before you were born, God gave you a soul and formed your body . Even right now he is holding you together. He cares about you more than you know and he is here to give you truth that I pray will change your life forever. I pray that God will cause many of you to receive eternal life. And for those of you who already have eternal life, I pray that this message would be used to strengthen your faith. Let us pray together. Please follow along with me as I read Matthew 18:1-14. " 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. See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." The Greatest Being has the Greatest Love for You The greatness of God is beyond your imagination. You can catch only a glimpse of God's infinite power and royalty when you gaze at the never-ending distance between you and the stars in the night sky, or when you stand at the shore and feel the weight of the deep vastness of the ocean. T he planets and millions of galaxies literally look like the size of a pinky finger in comparison to God's infinite greatness. And the immense environment of the world's oceans, which will never possible for people to fully explore, all of this gigantic ocean world put together, is a cup of water compared to God's greatness. By his command, God spoke and the sun was created and it still shines in the sky today. No one and nothing can ever come close to being great like God. The disciples asked Jesus "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Based on the truths I have just communicated, the answer is "God". Clearly, God is the greatest being in the kingdom of heaven. But the disciples are not including God in their question because of Jesus’s response. they already affirm God's infinite superiority in heaven. In Matthew 5:34 Jesus taught them that heaven is God's throne; in heaven he is the greatest because he sits on the throne as the all-powerful King. So when the disciples ask " Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" they are asking which regular human being will be the greatest in heaven. In other words, which human will be the most important, the one who will receive the most praise, the most honor and have the most influence? The disciples are thinking in terms of position and rank. In a similar occasion, two chapters ahead in Matthew chapter 20, the mother of the disciples James and John ask Jesus if he can make both of her sons sit on both sides of Jesus in the future heavenly kingdom. Jesus replied that this decision belongs to God the Father. Jesus immediately adds "But whoever would be great among you must be your servant ". So the greatest person is someone who acts like a servant rather than like a master. A good servant is preoccupied with advancing his master's business and reputation, and attends to the things his master cares for. And if God is our master, then we should seek to discover what he cares for, which is the very reason why God has brought me here to share this message with you children and teenagers. God cares for you more than anyone; more than your parents, any of your family members; and any of your friends. In the passage we read today, God shows his great love for you in three different ways: Way #1 - God made it simple to understand how to enter heaven; Way #2 - God opens your heart to value him more than yourself; Way #3 - God sent Jesus Christ to find you, specifically. God made it simple to understand how to enter heaven Let me explain way #1 which is "God shows his greatness and perfect love to you by making it simple to understand how to enter heaven ". Let us reread Jesus's' own words from chapter 18 verse 1 to verse 4. " 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." The message is simple. In order to enter heaven a person must turn and become like a child. In this context, to turn means, not physically turning your body, but to turn means to experience a change of heart and mind so that you now agree with God about your natural condition, that you love people or things more than God. In the book of Isaiah chapter 6 verse 10 we read God's judgment on the Jews who are not able to "turn" because their eyes, ears and hearts are hard toward God. In Isaiah chapter 6 verses 9-10 God commands Isaiah to declare to the people , " Yes, go, and say to this people, ‘Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.’ Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.” To turn and become like a child you need a new heart which has open eyes to see God as more desirable than anything, meaning you want him more than anyone or anything else. You need new ears which are attentive and eager to hear the words of life coming from the Bible more than hearing the words of your friends who are guiding you away from God. Thank God that this concept is simple to understand, even to the youngest of you in this place. God does not bring everyone into his beautiful kingdom, but only those people who have a new heart that is able to say to God "I want you and love you so much more than anyone or anything in this world. I want to be your child forever, here in this beautiful and great heaven, and the only reason it is great is because you love me like no one else can; you are the perfect Father!" Whoever does not have this love for God will never enter into God's kingdom. All of this captures what it means to turn. Give thanks to God that he gave us a message that does not require formal education, a high reading level, or any other kind of expert-level knowledge. Back to verse 3 , to become like a child is explained further in verse 4 . Jesus said, " Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." To humble yourself is to have your heart lay flat at God's throne, amazed by his greatness and justice and goodness, crying out, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" (Luke 18:13). This message is simple. Be amazed at God's love for you through Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for us even though we were rebels against God by loving created things, including people, rather than him. do not deserve his love. Rather we deserve being punished forever because we love to be in control and to act like we know better than God when it comes to life and moral choices. A humble child however is willing to follow guidance and is normally submissive to an older person's directions in most circumstances. I said 'most circumstances' because there are several kinds of situations when Jesus wants you to not follow an adult's directions, such as when a stranger is asking you for help instead of asking your parents, or when an adult, even a relative asks you to go alone somewhere, or when your best friend's parent wants you to do something you know is not right but you'll do it in order to make your best friend happy. Look at verses 5-7, " 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!" You children and young teens in this room will either be received or deceived. You will either be honored or humiliated. There may be some of you here who have been mistreated in ways we dare not discuss. May you know that you are beautifully and wonderfully made by the infinitely beautiful and wonderful God who rules the universe in awesome power and wisdom. If you were preyed upon by a monstrous individual, and you suffered under their evil deeds, God knows it all and will soon bring perfect justice on your behalf! You must forgive the adult, or older child, who wronged you. For some of you this wrong has been committed several or even many times already. God will deal with that person at the right time, so don't you think that they are getting away with anything. After this message, if you would like to speak to our conference volunteers, they will be standing in front of the stage in pairs, if any of you boys would like to speak to any of the male volunteers and if any of you girls would like to speak to any of the female volunteers. These volunteers have made a commitment to keep the information you share confidential. We will also be providing a phone number on the screen where you can send a text without giving us your name and you can submit a question about any issue you are going through. Jesus said "Woe to the world" because he knew perfectly well that there is still a terrible and deserving outpouring of God's anger upon all evil. But anger and hate will only poison your soul and may even cause you to become the same kind of person who did you wrong. Jesus said, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15). By God's grace there are people who have humbled themselves like children and have turned to Jesus for forgiveness of sins and new life. I pray that these believers will receive you into their humble lives and God-honoring families and Bible-focused churches. You will not find the love and affection you’re looking for by being around friends who can’t give it to you because they don’t have this love in them. They are probably in the same situation you are in! If you’re experiencing emotional neglect, then a friend who lacks a hunger for God and the Bible, and who does not care about their direction in life, this friend has nothing helpful to offer you, no matter how relatable they appear to be. There may be some of you in this place who have a dad that spends countless hours watching TV, or is always working, or with his friends, or with his new family. Or this could describe your mom. This will probably leave you hungry for love, affection and companionship. But you must not think that any kind of friend is better than no friends. Do not seek to be received by a person or group of people who do not clearly have a love for Jesus and a strong desire to read and do what the Bible says. Rather you would be much better off by being welcomed into a group of people who really do care about your pain, who have been given a supernatural gift by Jesus which is the gift of compassion. Many of you who have been neglected or abused may believe that this is all your fault. You did hear what Jesus said in verse 7; “ woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! " Woe means devastating consequences. So this is not woe to you, but woe to the one who hurt you. Do not believe the lie which says you’re the guilty one in this situation. God opens your heart to value him more than yourself Now on to the second way this passage shows God's great love for you. God shows his greatness and perfect love to you by opening your heart to value him more than yourself . I am going to reread chapter 18:8-9 . " 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." Now once again Jesus shows his love to us by speaking the truth. He is basically saying 'Remember what I just told you what horrible punishment will come upon the person who corrupts a child.... Well you will experience a similar fate if you allow your sin to corrupt you.' So you need to know that danger can come from yourself , your own heart, and not only from someone else, although in a moment I will speak directly to the adults who can endanger you. The prophet Jeremiah said the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately si ck (Jeremiah 17:9) and Jesus said " ... out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander." One of the reasons I do not think that Jesus commands us to physically cut off our hands and pull out our eyes is because the heart is ultimately the thing which is responsible for causing the hand and the foot to sin. Therefore, not only will you need to cut off your hand and your foot but also your heart! Jesus does not want you to harm, or cut yourself. He wants you to cut off anything in your life that gets in the way of your relationship with him! Is there a boy or a girl in your life which is going to pull you away from God? Is there a secret activity you're engaging in that you know is wrong... that's why you do it in secret! Jesus wants you to stop that, cut it off! If you don't the sin will destroy you and you will be tormented forever! God alone has the power to help you stop a relationship or friendship which will lead into darkness and scars. So ask him for help. God is gracious and loving to hear your cry for help. Ask him, "God please open my heart to value you more than this person or addiction. It's like you're asking me to cut off my hand because of how attached I feel to this person. God help me please. Help me to believe that Jesus died to lead me away from this trap that my body is telling me is not really going to end up killing me." Now a word to those adults whom God has given the great responsibility to care for you children and teenagers. If you are an adult in this room, you have the power to either safeguard the innocence and purity of a child or to cause their downfall. These children and young teens in this room are so much better off under the supervision of a ridiculed, blind, hand-less, yet humble and sin-hating man than with a respectable, resourceful, impressive man who tolerates the sin of others, is seldom convicted of his own sin and who remains unchanged. Do you really believe this? You must! My child is under better care with a man who has gouged out his right eye so that he may gain the better eyes to see God with a pure heart (that is Matthew 5:8). This is the kind of youth pastor and youth leader I want my child to be supervised by when I'm not present. These children have child-like trust, and every person will give an account to God in how we handled their trust. Does our parenting or our church youth ministry look like it will receive heavenly reward or fiery condemnation? Jesus is the one posing this serious question to you. That's what I am seeing when I dwell on verses 5 to 9. God sent Jesus Christ to find you, specifically Finally I will tell you the third way that this passage reveals God's great love for you. God sent Jesus Christ to find you, specifically. Even though you are one person out of 7 billion people on this planet, God knows you better than you know yourself. Go back to your Bible and let us reread Matthew 18:10-14. " See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." Look back at verse 10, "See that you do not despise one of these little ones." I want you to pay attention to what I am about to say. If there is a person who has looked down on you, so much so that you can imagine them thinking "my life would be better without this child", then you must know that this is nothing like what God thinks about you! Your life is precious in God's sight! Whichever man or woman may be crushing your heart, that person is a tiny speck of dust compared to almighty God. God is looking at that unloving person and I can imagine him saying "you are the one whom I oppose. But as for this child... they have angels acting on their behalf in my throne room! Who do you think you are to reject him or her?" Jesus came to this world to seek, to find and to save the lost. No one comes into this world with inner knowledge that Jesus is the only way to God and the only way into heaven. So that means we all are straying away from God from the start. If you desire anyone or anything more than God, then you are can be sure that you are lost. If you say that you honor God, but you do not love people, then you are just as lost. But there is only one hope. His name is Jesus. He is the only one who has the true light to rescue you from the darkest place. He is the only one with the deepest reach to pull you up out of the lowest depression. Do you think Jesus only wants to be around the supposedly good people who are perfect and have it all together? No. He leaves ninety-nine people in order to find you ! Instead of thinking losing one out of one hundred is not a big deal, to him, your life is a big deal. And it is so important to understand that God is looking for you not because he needs you to be happy. He does not need any of us to be happy because he is perfectly and infinitely happy in the Trinity. This is what makes his love for us even more amazing. Even though he is perfectly happy without people, he still wants us. He still loves us so much so that he sent his only Son, Jesus, to die by being tortured on a Roman cross, for you, so that Jesus would pay for our sins, by suffering the wrath that we deserve. It is not God's will that any of you should perish, and be in pain and suffering forever in hell. However, if you truly believe in your that Jesus died for you and rose back to life three days later, and you speak about your rescue story to others, then you can know that God has rejoiced over you! He is incredibly happy to welcome you into his kingdom, so that you may see the glory of Jesus shining brighter than the sun. You were made to worship King Jesus to the glory of God the Father. This is the only happy ending that exists. There is no other happy ending when this world is gone. Where are you in this story. Are you already rescued and found? Then go and tell everyone about him and his words. Or are you still lost? Did you think that you were found but after hearing this message you have realized that you are not really one of God's children? Then you must believe and put your hope only in the Lord Jesus Christ, who will find you and love you like no else ever can. Let us pray together.