Posts Tagged ‘Greatness’

Wall of China and Great Pyramid7.jpg

Matthew 18:1-4 – “THE GREATEST” QUALITIES

Matthew 18:1-4 is an invitation to find your true identity but it will mean some rewiring of assumptions about what is great. Greatness is not a wall designed to keep people out. It is not a pyramid to keep people in. The qualities of “the greatest” will include…

SERVANTHOOD

Jesus doesn’t deny authority in the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is coming under authority that is important. Luke 22:26-30 (NLT) Jesus says “But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as One who serves. “You have stayed with  Me in My time of trial. And just as My Father has granted Me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  

It is not a sense of entitlement but seeking out the best in others that is powerful. No-one can exercise authority without coming under authority. Servanthood is true greatness. He invites us into another person’s world.

HUMILITY AND OBEDIENCE

“Jesus called a little child to Him and put the child among them. Then He said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven’” (Matthew 18:2-4 NLT).

Humble enough to turn aside, come and obey when Jesus calls. Greatness involves humble obedience. Humility admits our dependence on Christ and enables us to realise our potential in Him. To enter into Christ’s kingdom realm demands that we become like a child for it is only in doing so that we can become a child of the king.

RECEPTIVE AND TRUSTING

The child responded to the call of Christ. “Turn…” Turn like the child turning to listen to Him and come to Him. Become like a little child. Compliant to the things of God in our lives, it will involve being vulnerable enough to trust.

RISK TAKING AND FAITH

With faith, there will always be an element of risk. Children are not conscious of inherent dangers and a child may like showing off, but to come into a group of adults at the request of Jesus shows courage, risk-taking, and faith.

FOCUS ON CHRIST

Focus demands not being distracted by a false sense of entitlement but fixing our attention on what Christ is asking of us. It means a deliberate disassociation with self-centredness. The child made Jesus the centre of his or her attention and in doing so came under His authority.

And the invitation is to come as a Child comes, at the sound of Jesus’ voice, with all our gifts, motivations, abilities, potential, personality, and limited experience, to Jesus. Position depends on responding to His calling. God’s purposes replacing worldly ambition is a powerful influence.

SUBMISSION AND FAITH

Position, power, prestige, fame, wealth and ambition come into perspective under the authority of Christ. Am I motivated by pride or by a desire to submit myself to Christ? The motivation is all important.

Was it pride and covetousness that made them ask this question about who is the greatest? Self-importance and envy get in the way of our calling and position in Christ. It seems they were being contentious about who would lead them, who would be greatest and have the most authority.

Perhaps they were jealous of Peter or John or James. Perhaps it is just political wrangling over the best candidate. Whatever motivated the question, it was not indicative of a childlike faith.

The invitation is clear for those who would find their true identity and purpose.

“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.(Matthew 18:4 NLT)

Entitlement2.jpg

Matthew 18:1-4 – A FALSE SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT

“Then His disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest.” (Luke 9:46, see also Matthew 18:1 and Mark 9:34)

Perhaps they never grew up. Perhaps as children, they demanded their way and threw tantrums if they didn’t get what they wanted when they wanted it. Now they are still in constant competition and expect “special treatment” because they think they deserve it.

They have tasted that sense of being unique and have been involved in the amazing miracles of Jesus, after all. But their narcissistic sense of entitlement begins to shorten their focus to a few centimetres as they stumble over one another with arrogant disregard. It’s all about me! I am the greatest!

Lord, You decide. They don’t realise that their question to Jesus is selfish and demanding. Somehow the world revolves around them and others must meet their needs.

They try to impose their unrealistic expectations upon Jesus with overdramatic flair, willing to bully their way into the kingdom with their manipulative and egotistical mindset. “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” they ask Him, vying for His attention and approval at the expense of each other (Matthew 18:1 NLT).

Their voices are raised, and their question is aggressive and demands self-serving endorsement. They will go to any lengths to prove which one is better than the rest. Surely Jesus will pick me and take away the threat of competition.

Each of them expects it will be them, especially Judas, James and John and none of them really expects to have to negotiate or compromise. They each have priority and will be very upset if Jesus doesn’t recognise their greatness. They crave his admiration and want to assert their dominance over the others.

Jesus helps them become less self-absorbed and more self-aware. He challenges their false beliefs in themselves and their false sense of entitlement. He gets them to take their eyes off themselves and include others in their world. He gives them a whole new paradigm by getting them to be open to new ways of thinking.

They have been excessively preoccupied with personal power and prestige and their pride is in danger of destructive mindsets and behaviour. They have a grandiose fantasy of their own success, brilliance and ability. Jesus gives them back their true identity.

Perhaps the disciples and I need to repent of a false sense of entitlement in our thinking. There are lots of nuances to repentance, but this kind of Kingdom demands that we turn around and trust in Christ (Matthew 4:17) because a spiritual kingdom involves coming under the authority of Christ. Our greatness is derived from our response to Him, and not based on our misguided sense of being deserving.

“Jesus called a little child to Him and put the child among them. Then He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4 NLT).

Judas obviously didn’t take Christ’s teaching on board (John 12:4-6). He did not repent and become a child of God but became one whose thinking aligned more with the devil (John 6:70-71).

I am not entitled to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t deserve it. The invitation Jesus gives me is not about entitlement but about being converted from distorted ways of thinking about greatness, and also to be converted to a new way of life in Christ. The principles for entering the Christian life are the same as those for living it. Repent from your sins and become like little children.

Pastor Ross

Adult and child.jpg

Matthew 18 – TOO ADULT

GRAHAM (an entrepreneur and 2IC of a company): “I know they learn quickly, they’re creative and they are curious and interested in life. They remember things easily and are fun loving people who have retained an imagination. I think it is wonderful that they don’t believe in limits.

I know that they find a way into your hearts so that you end up loving them, excusing them, defending them, laughing and playing with them and you can’t do without them. But what’s the deal with relating them to people in authority, people who are great? You have got to be kidding? 

They are distracted so easily from a task, loud most of the time, demand attention and interrupt all the time. When they get tired, they get cranky. They want to eat all the time, and want others to get it for them.”

JESUS: “I called a little child to Me.” 

GRAHAM: “But Lord, how is a child related to greatness. I would understand if you said you have to be less self-serving and less self-centred, or listen more. But how is the calling of a child related to greatness?

In fact, why call a child at all. Children throw tantrums in shopping centres and are uncooperative when you want them to do something. They hit their brothers and sisters, disrupt a good conversation, and are bored easily. They are careless with their toys, changeable in their moods, and cling to their mothers.”

JESUS: “I called this child and the child came to Me, and I placed them in the midst of My disciples to teach them about greatness.”

GRAHAM: “So let me get this straight. This is a picture, right? You CALL the child then PLACE the child. There is a CHOICE made by the child to come. So, at least, this child is OBEDIENT. Are you saying that Your calling looks for a response of OBEDIENCE? But isn’t it the person who gives the direction the one who is great. You are the One who has the authority, especially since You managed to get a child to obey You?

And by the way, what about stranger danger? What were the mum and dad thinking? Were the parents around? Did the child know You?” 

JESUS: “I called the child and the child came.”

GRAHAM: “I guess the parents must have known You. Everybody knew You and, come to think of it, I seem to remember parents bringing their children to You so You could lay Your hands on them and pray for them. 

Didn’t that bother You? Having parents forcing their kids on You?”

JESUS: “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Matthew 19:13-14 NLT)

GRAHAM: “Oh, please, You can’t be serious. Children lie if it suits them, they are impatient with getting somewhere in the car, lack manners at the table, are irresponsible with tasks unless paid, covetous of their friends toys, possessive of their own, untidy and lazy about cleaning up, and so obstinate about knowing things they have got wrong.” 

JESUS: “When I called, the child came and I placed the child among My disciples.”

GRAHAM: “You said that before but what are You saying, Lord? Are You saying that You PLACED this child where you wanted him or her to be because OBEDIENCE comes before someone can be POSITIONED? But it’s still You giving the direction. Are you saying that greatness is being in the position You place us, the place where we can be used for Your purposes? Is this what you mean by greatness?

I still can’t accept it that a child can be great. Children in Your time on earth had no rights. They can’t be great. Children are so dependent on adults and yet insist on being independent. They are always asking questions, never want to go to bed early, embarrassingly make fun of others, hate homework and structured learning. When they are small they demand to be picked up. When they are big they refuse to give you a hug. How is that great?”

JESUS: “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

GRAHAM: “But Lord, children have no responsibilities, stand in front of the TV, invade your personal space, cough without covering their mouths, pick their noses, play in the dirt, pass on colds and flu and nits and ringworm and worse diseases. They have high pitched screams, have no idea of danger, and have far too much energy to keep up with. They break toys, and if they can’t get what they want, they ‘cry’.”

JESUS: “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming Me.” 

GRAHAM: “OK, Lord. Let me try to get my head around this. The Child was called, so she or he was old enough to understand, turn to You, exercise trust and obey. He or she makes a choice, a positive choice towards You.

I think You are trying to tell me that I need to think of greatness in the simplest of terms. It’s not the flaws of children that you want to emphasise but the simplicity of faith. This child, in this situation, is a picture of what it means to have dependence on You and trust in You.

I guess you are not saying that I am to be childish, but childlike, and have a simple openness in being directed in my life by You. To be great is to find my purpose and position in life lining up with Your purposes and where You want me to be. OK, I get it. Save me from being too adult.”

Pastor Ross

Part 3 – Matthew 11:7-11 – THE GREATEST ROADWORKER WHO EVER LIVED!

The Greatest Roadworker

My sister and her husband Pete are on a holiday working their way through OUTBACK PLACES in Australia. Unfortunately they can’t travel on the dirt roads at the moment because of an unexpected rainy season. They have to stick to the highways because if they get off the track they will sink in the mud and never get out.

A policeman friend of mine told me how he did just that. He said he was driving along one minute and the next he was sinking into the road. He was stuck in the middle of nowhere out in western Queensland. There were no trees to hitch a winch to, just scrub. About 5 or 6 other vehicles got stuck trying to get him out. In the end it took a crane from a nearby mine to get them all out of the mud. By that time the mud was half way up the doors. Not good to be engulfed by the road you are trying to drive on. The only way to survive the wet season in the outback is to drive on the SEALED ROADS.

There’s even a sealed highway through the middle of the Nullarbor Desert in Australia. But what intrigues me is WHO ACTUALLY MAKES HIGHWAYS IN THE DESERT? I imagine road workers and crews from the outback to be no-nonsense hard-working men with skin like leather. The only people they would see for miles would be the tourists. Of course road workers are the best people to ask questions about the way ahead and their SURVIVAL TECHNIQUES would be invaluable.

Matthew 11:9 describes such a man. He was a ROAD WORKER AND A PROPHET. He knew the road ahead. Jesus described him as “MORE THAN A PROPHET”. What is he getting at? He goes on to describe him in effect as a council ROAD WORKER, PREPARING THE ROAD for Jesus to come.

Out in the middle of nowhere surrounded only by tourists who were trying to make their way through a wasteland created by their own sinfulness and self centred living, John the Baptiser was telling a HARDHITTING NO-NONSENSE STORY of how to survive such a wilderness and how to get back on the road that leads to you to God.

He certainly wasn’t trying to draw attention to himself, even though seeing a man walking around dressed in camel skin and eating locusts and wild honey is a little disconcerting. He was trying to draw attention to JESUS. In Matthew 11:10 (NLT) Jesus says “John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will PREPARE YOUR WAY before You.'”  

He is referring Isaiah 40:3 (NLT) written years before which says that John was not just a road maintenance man; he was a HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION ENGINEER, making a HIGHWAY IN THE WILDERNESS for the Lord. “Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! MAKE A STRAIGHT HIGHWAY THROUGH THE WASTELAND for our God!” The wilderness is just a wasteland without a highway that leads you to the Lord. I don’t want my life to be a wasteland.

John was a rough and ready looking character with a straight talking preaching style that would leave you wanting to jump in the water and be baptised just to avoid the heat of His fiery rhetoric.

Jesus gave him high praise. In Matthew 11:11 “I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist….” Jesus always has a way of bestowing ROYALTY ON A ROADWORKER. Preparing the road for Christ and actually seeing Jesus walk on that road makes you the greatest person who ever lived. No other prophet had experienced seeing the Messiah. There was a road train of resources coming down the road John has prepared and Jesus is at the wheel. We now have access not just to a MESSAGE OF REPENTANCE and baptism, but the MESSAGE OF ETERNAL LIFE IN CHRIST. Anyone who accepts Christ and comes under His authority is even greater than John. He says, “…even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is!” (Matthew 11:11)

In the eyes of Jesus, John was the GREATEST ROADWORKER WHO EVER LIVED. Even before his birth Luke 1:15 (NLT) says “for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.” He wasn’t a rock star or a wealthy businessman. He didn’t have a whole lot of fame and power. He was just a SIMPLE ROAD WORKER who believed in Jesus as the Messiah and who totally committed his life to that belief.

God bless you Church as you take the road less travelled. That straight and narrow highway that gives you access to God through believing in Christ. It’s a road that leads you to the Cross, to repentance, to faith in Christ, to obedience and to eternal life. It is the greatest journey you will ever take. 

Pastor Ross