Attitudes in the Kingdom

Review of Matthew 18 thus far.

Who is the greatest in the kingdom?

Unless you are converted and become as little children you cannot enter this kingdom.
You must humble yourselves as this little child to become the greatest.

Converted means to reverse and is based on a word having to do with revolution.

Discussion with Nicodemus about how to see and enter the kingdom.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3-8)

This is a description of the very Jesus who was speaking to these disciples. And these words are likewise spoken to all who want to enter His kingdom of love and enjoy eternal life knowing God.

What was happening inside the disciples?
They were consumed with desire to advance themselves and look out for their own interests.
They were taking offense at each other while they argued over who should be considered the greatest.
As they held onto these offenses there were a lot of hurt feelings and a lot of shame going around.

Jesus saw the underlying issue behind their external problems that was robbing them of peace. The thing that was preventing them from entering into the spirit of His kingdom and grasping what it was really about was because of unresolved, unaddressed offenses in their hearts.
The issue of offense is possibly the greatest obstacle preventing many from entering into the real kingdom of heaven. That is why this whole chapter revolves around this core issue that remains yet today the most difficult issue to deal with both in and out of the church. We still have failed to believe these teachings of Jesus that are meant to free us from the traps of Satan designed to keep us on the fringes of the kingdom. To live in the kingdom means to live with peace internally.

Offendskandalizo - from skandalon; to entrap, i.e. trip up (figuratively, stumble (transitively) or entice to sin, apostasy or displeasure):--(make to) offend.

Offenses - skandalon, skan'-dal-on – ("scandal;" probably from a derivative of kampto; a trap-stick (bent sapling), i.e. snare (figuratively, cause of displeasure or sin):--occasion to fall (of stumbling), offense, thing that offends, stumblingblock.
kampto, kamp'-to – apparently a primary verb; to bend:--bow.

What is the world's atmosphere that fosters offenses and keeps us entrapped?
It is shaped by hierarchy, domination, control, pride, subjugation of the weak to the strong and self-interest.
It is all about competition and because of this they expected Him to compete against the repressive power of the Roman Empire.
They wanted Him to use force to overcome their enemies and when they saw the power available to Him through the miracles He wrought they became very excited thinking about all the earthly applications these power could be used for in advancing their ideas of a kingdom.
Base on this scenario they were anxious to know where they fit into His plans to make the Jewish nation great again. They were eagerly looking forward to holding political positions of power and dominance in this new kingdom, but obviously they were clueless as to what Jesus had in mind when He spoke of the kingdom of heaven.

This is the word of the LORD... 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts. (Zechariah 4:6)

God's kingdom does not employ force, coercion, fear, deception or any of the other methods we are so familiar with on earth. The kingdom Jesus is introducing is completely upside down in nearly every respect to the sorts of kingdoms we are used to. Jesus states explicitly here that His kingdom is made up of people like the free-spirited little child He placed in their midst. And it is only in taking His words seriously will we ever begin to grasp the significance of this passage and know how to truly enter into this kingdom of openness, transparency, trust and love that little children so readily exhibit before they become muted by the world's brainwashing.

Sometimes a person who is offended turns around and passes it on by offending someone else or even the person who offended them to start with.

Illustration of father yelling, mother scolding, sister pestering, brother kicking the dog.

An unresolved offense often replicates itself creating multiplied offenses all around.

Offenses are very dangerous and volatile and should be avoided at all costs, both giving and taking.

Offenses damage our hearts and our relationships. In the end they can prove to be a fatal liability for us if we do not learn to become free of them, for the resistance that offenses build into our lives becomes the ingredient that makes God's fiery presence lethal to all who cling to such things.

As we shall see more clearly throughout the rest of this chapter, the primary purpose of everything we do in relation to offenses should be to produce an atmosphere of unity, harmony, love and reconciliation in the body of Christ.

If we are unwilling to face this issue of offenses then we will remain stuck like the disciples in this story and will be unable to enjoy the kind of kingdom Jesus wants us to experience.

What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish. (Matthew 18:12-14)

There is great danger in taking elements of this chapter out of context.

At first glance this may appear to have nothing to do with offenses or who is the greatest or being humble. But Jesus combines all of these stories together for a reason and as a direct answer to the question of the disciples so we need to see how they fit together and contribute to the original issues Jesus raised.

Jesus is primarily talking about attitudes in this chapter. He is also contrasting attitudes of those
who live in His kingdom with those who are confused about His kingdom and miss the point.

There are many insights to discover in this little story if we are willing to take the time and connect the dots from it to the other things in this chapter.

Discussion questions:
What might be implied here by a single sheep going astray? What might the context show us about this?
What questions come up in your mind when you read this little story that puzzle you or defy simplistic answers?
What other possible attitudes might the shepherd have toward the straying sheep different from what is described in this story? What can that reveal about the point Jesus may be trying to get across?
What does this passage reveal about the chances for success in the shepherd's endeavor?
List some emotion words that describe how the shepherd might feel at different points in the story.
Why does Jesus connect this story to God and how He feels?
What do you see in this story that may directly connect to the issue of offenses? Of being humble? Of living like a child?
What priorities can we see in this story and how do they relate to what Jesus said previously in this passage?

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. (Matthew 18:15)

This word translated sins has very interesting implications given the context in this chapter.

Hamartano - to miss the mark (and so not share in the prize), to err, to offend, sin, trespass.

Elegcho - to confute, admonish:--convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove.

So this text can equally be translated to say that is a brother or sister offends, go to them...

What does this text plainly show us should be our motive in our going to them?

If we go with any other motive and try to fulfill the letter of this passage but neglect to first enter into the spirit of what Jesus is saying here, we will not only discredit the teachings of Jesus but will destroy the very power available for us in these teachings to bring about true reconciliation, healing and unity.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NIV)

That is, that God was in Christ making peace between the world and himself, not putting their sins to their account, and having given to us the preaching of this news of peace. (2Corinthians 5:19 BBE)

Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5-6)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.

What is the will of God for us?
What does this chapter reveal to us about our relationship to God's will?

The phrase, one of these little ones, links God's will back to the same references previously seen in this chapter.

unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble...
See that you do not despise one of these little ones...for the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.

It seems clear that Jesus sees a direct connection between offenses and perishing. Offenses are Satan's traps to steal, kill and destroy our lives, to bring pain, dissonance and separation if we do not deal with them effectively the way Jesus instructs us to do. Offenses are heart-level problems and so must be related to heart to heart, not just intellectually.

By using the phrase little ones repeatedly, Jesus seems to be inferring that it is most often the weak and vulnerable or the immature that are most often the ones at risk of perishing through offenses.

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin (offense), you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1 NIV)

What is the will of God? Look at this list of verses and see how they relate to this.

Mt 7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
Mt 12:50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.
Mt 18:14 So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.
Joh 4:34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work."
Joh 6:39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
Joh 6:40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.
Ro 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
2Co 7:9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.
2Co 7:10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Eph 5:17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Eph 6:6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
1Th 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;
1Jo 2:17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

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