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The Changing Church - Part Two

Let us look at Matthew 18:1-7, which says; "At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?  (2) Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, (3) and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  (4)  Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  (5) Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.  (6)  But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.  (7) Woe to the world because of offenses!  For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!"  However, before we get to these verses, let me emphasize,

The church will become more like a unified body working within itself and its parts for the betterment of the church and the world.

God is going to reestablish the ministries of all the administrative gifts found in Ephesians 4:11 just as they were in Biblical times.  He will especially establish the full ministries of the Apostles and Prophets and will cause them to have a place in the church as a whole and in government.  These called men of God will shake the church and the world to its very foundation.  Many of us, will not like what they will say and do and we will be offended by them, because the cancer of; "who's the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven," is still running through the Church of Jesus Christ today.  You see; many believe that they are in charge of their own ministries.  However, when God starts to make these changes these unwitting ministers will be removed if they do not change and allow God to operate in His own way.  For they will discover that, what they believe is theirs is in fact God's and He is a jealous God and will reclaim that which is His.  He will either change or replace these unwitting ministers with real men and women of God, those He finds are after His own heart.  These prophets and apostles will not be men of renown but men who are simple and humble in heart.  Their only thought will be of Christ and the establishment of His kingdom on earth before His coming (Ref. 1st Samuel 13:1-14).

Look at Matthew 18.  In verse one the disciples asked a very interesting question.  "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"  This question is still alive and well in the church today!  Look at Jesus' response.  Jesus asks a child to be brought to Him and then He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven."  A little child does not think of how he fits into the world, or how great he is, or how much he has done for those around him.  A child does not worry about how he is clothed or what color his skin is.  A child is not concerned about the number of people that hear him, when he brings forth his message; he is only concerned that someone responds to what he is saying.

All a child needs is to be fed, changed and loved.  As Christians, we need the same thing.  We need to be fed with the Word of God, changed into God's image and likeness and to be loved with an everlasting love.  When a child receives feeding, changing and loving, they are completely satisfied.  This is what Christ offers His children.  Notice what Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 18:3.  "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."  Should we not start noticing the actions of children with more scrutiny, and then applying the appropriate actions in our lives?

Let us notice the last part of Jesus' response to the question of who is the greatest in the kingdom of God.  "Woe to the world because of offenses!  For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes" (verse 7)!  This issue of bringing up offenses is not new to the people of God.  Let me show you how far back it goes!

Example 1 - Genesis 4:3-8; Cain's offering was not accepted by God where Abel's was.  No matter what the reason was for the offering not being accepted, the fact of the matter was that Cain's offering was not accepted.  Cain became angry with his brother Able, because God accepted his offering.  Cain's competitive nature caused him to kill Able.

Example 2 - Genesis 37:1-11; Joseph's eleven brothers were angry with Joseph because of the favor that Jacob showed Joseph, and the dreams that God had given Joseph, which he was sharing with his family.  As a result many of Joseph's brothers wanted to kill Joseph.  Nevertheless, Joseph was sold into slavery.

The competition between God's children is very evident in this story.  Please notice who gave Joseph the dreams.  God did!  Jacob and his other sons were upset with Joseph because of something that God had given Joseph.  They should have considered what Joseph said, and then acted.  As children of God so should we when a man speaks the things of God!  First, we must recognize who gives us a ministry.  We should not be jealous or envious of other ministers because their ministries are larger, or because it seems to be more blessed.  We should "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself" (Philippians 2:3). 

We should not be jealous, envious or concerned about our ministry if someone associated with it is being raised up, or being mightily used of God.  We are told to go and make disciples!  That is the way the church multiplies and grows.  We are told to go and make disciples by training them.  Ordain them by the laying on of hands, and then send them out into a lost and dying world as sheep among wolves?  God gives His ministry to us!  God determines how large or small, or how long a ministry will last.  How many lives it will touch, or in what direction it will go.  It is not ours; it is God's ministry through us!  Who are we but clay in the hands of the master potter?  What gives us the right to tell God anything, or to be jealous or envious of a brother or sister who God has called!  Do you not know that this is not a new problem?  Jesus confronted it also. 

Example 3 - Mark 9:38-41; "Now John answered Him, saying, Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us."  What was Jesus' response to the jealousy and envy that was shown by His disciple.  "But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side.  For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward." 

Christians remember the words of David when Abishai asked him if he wanted him to kill Saul.  David said:  "Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord's anointed, and be guiltless" (1st Samuel 26:9).  Even if the Lord's anointed is coming out from under our wing, should we not give thanks to God for that blessing and encourage him?

Example 4 - Luke 10:38-42; in these verses we see Mary and Martha entertaining Jesus at their home.  Martha is doing all the preparation and serving.  She stops clasps her arms, and stands next to Jesus and in disgust says: (verse 40) "How come I am doing all the work and my sister Mary is just sitting there.  Lord, tell her to get up and help me!  It is not right that I am doing all the work and she is just sitting there, if she would only help me all the work could be done by now and we could both be sitting down listening to you" (please excuse this writers adaptation of this verse).  What did Jesus say to her?  "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  (42) But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10: 41-42). 

Martha's competitive nature brought an offense to the situation.  Jesus had to rebuke and instruct her as to what was the better portion.  Martha's heart was not pure and undefiled, she felt as if she was due something special because of all the work she was doing for Him.  Brethren we must realize God is not after nor is He impressed with our works, God is only after our hearts!  Works will then follow once our hearts are right.  Works alone get you nothing!  David realizing this, said:  "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me...  For you do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart‑‑These, O God, You will not despise" (Psalm 51:10-11, 16-17).  Unfortunately, for the most part today, all Jesus is getting is a scandalous selfish church filled with jealousy and envy.  This must and will change in the upcoming years or the churches demonstrating these sins will be left or destroyed. 

Take special notice of Matthew 18:7; "offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes."  What this means is, offenses (scandalon, in the Greek) are an integral part of the church and its growth.  The body of Christ, no matter how holy or right it is cannot escape offenses.  They MUST come!  It is only through these scandals, or traps, that the church will truly see how and by what substances she is made.  This revelation will then cause purifying.  Purifying will take place in two ways:

1.     The church body and the offender will repent and do away with the offense, but only after the impurity and sin is reveled.

2.     The offender will be removed along with the offense, which will in turn further purify the body.  Remember what the verse 7b says:  "woe to that man by whom the offense comes."  In other words, “grief will be upon the one that brought the offense.”  Sin must be confronted by the body of Christ and every Christian not ignored, or the body of Christ will suffer.  To see how sin, when brought into the body, was confronted by God read about Miriam and Aaron in Numbers 12, Korah in Numbers 16, Achan in Joshua 7, or Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5.  Sin must be removed from the body at any cost or the body is not fit for the Lord!  Remember He is coming for "a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle [meaning sin] or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish" (Ref. Ephesians 5:27).

Jesus gave us a pattern to follow in order to take care of any offender who brings sin into the body.  Let us look at Matthew 18:15-17; "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he hears you, you have gained your brother.  But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.'  And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.  But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."

The term "let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector" means the offender has come under judicial notice, reproof, and censure of the church.  The church is to look upon him as the Jews did as "a worthless friend."  Or as a Gentile neighbor, with whom the Jews had neither religious nor civil conversation; nor a "publican", or as Munster's Hebrew Gospel reads it, "a notorious sinner."  Simply put, their company is to be shunned, and intimate friendship with them to be avoided.        

          The pattern is simple:

  1. Talk to the brother alone.  If no change

  2. Talk to him with others.  If no change

  3. Reveal the offense to the body.  If there is still no change

  4. To disassociate oneself, to stay far from him.  To remove the cancer from the body.

Our human nature is the hardest thing to die to, but we must!  We must become as a little child to be great in the kingdom of God, or even to see the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:1-7).       But how do we die to self, and become as a little child!  Jesus explained this in John 15:4-10: "Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  (5) I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.  (6) If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.  (7) If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.  (8) By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.  (9) As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  (10) If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love."  In other words; abide – men'o” - a primary verb; meaning to "stay" (in a given place, state, relation) to abide or dwell.

Next month in part three of this message we will examine the development and growth of a unified fighting force which unified a divided nation, conquered many enemies, and established peace and prosperity in the world around it.  This fighting force was under the rule of one very young man.  You see this ruler was a young teenager when he was called to rule.

May "the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace."

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