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Measuring Greatness


"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, 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. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."
Matthew 18:1-6

Good Morning my beloved, 

We welcome you to worship in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. What an honor and a privilege is to come together with you today for the study God's Word. I thank God for those of you who have been so moved by His Spirit to support us in the ministry, whether by sharing the ministry website, and social media platforms with your family and friends, or financially. God has continued to bless your efforts in reaching the lost and the deceived. We are reaching people and places as never before imagined, bringing more people to Christ. I ask you will continue to join us in praying, asking God to continue to bless this ministry in reaching the lost, the broken and the hopeless. May He use each and every of us mightily to reach the lost, that they come to know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

As many of you know, I am the father of four wonderful children, two older and two younger sons, whom I dearly love. As a pastor, I am committed to their spiritual growth and well being, as well as a tremendous parental responsibility for their safety and protecting them from harm, especially when someone comes along and tries to lead them astray. Not to mention the overwhelming evil influences on this corrupt and fallen world. I believe it is the responsibility of every parent to try to fight those things, especially a Christian. I can tell you this, the way someone treats my children, is going to have a significant impact on their relationship with me. If you contribute to my children's spiritual well being, properly influencing them the ways of God, encouraging them to obey God, you and I are going to get along fine. And, I assure you, if the opposite is true, if you try to influence my children for evil, we're going to have a problem. I believe any responsible, loving parent can identify with that.

If I as a imperfect human parent feels this way, I can imagine how a Holy and perfect God, feels about His children. Especially when a child of God seeks to undermine the spiritual life of another one of His children. It is the heart of God that his children be protected and well cared for. I believe that is why Scripture teaches that if you really love the Lord, you would also love His children. How you treat God's children has always been a great concern to God. What must God feel when His beloved children are arguing, debating and provoking one another, and causing each other to sin.  

If you are a pastor, a teacher of the Word of God, quite frankly, it doesn't matter what that verse in Scripture means to you! What people desperately need to know is what God intends that passage, that verse to mean. What did God intend for that verse to mean before you existed?
What I want you to understand is there is a meaning in the text that is completely separate, totally independent, of the person who is reading or interpreting the Scripture. The Scripture had a meaning that was fixed by God, when the author wrote those words, long before you or I existed.
When we're reading Scripture and trying to understand it, people are not interested in what you or I "think." And when it comes time to apply the implications of that meaning, I believe we need to understand what the author means and not put ourselves, our opinions, our feelings, front and center in that process. That's part of the process of coming under the authority of the text, of humbling ourselves before God, instead of arrogantly putting ourselves at the center.
I believe it is crucial to understand, that God inspired the author to write the exact words that he wrote, before you or I existed. God is the author and the authority of the biblical text, all who preach and teach need to respect that.
What the true meaning of God's Word says, uninfluenced by our feelings, our personal opinions is what is important. Not to impose ourselves on the meaning of that text with ridiculous ideas, that in reality, have no spiritual bearing. I believe that is essential for any true man of God.
Confusion and misinterpretation was never what God intended with His Word for those who are genuinely seeking the Truth. That comes when someone arrogantly attempts to interpret the Word of God, because they don't want to do the work that's involved to understand God's Word.

From the very beginning, how one treats God's children is a determiner as to whether there is the blessing or cursing of God on that life. In Genesis 12, "Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go forth from your country,
and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."

Context helps you understand what is being said in the author’s purpose statement, which may be found in key words that he repeats over and over. When someone keeps repeating something, you can tell what’s on their mind. Rather than twisting it to make it say something that is unnatural to the words and the grammar that he used. We want to understand the author’s intent, not by imposing our “feelings.” That’s the principle by which Scripture must be interpreted.

You need to understand, that God was inspiring not only that one author but the same one God with the same omniscient mind was inspiring the other authors of the 66 books in Scripture to speak the same consistent truth. That’s why Scripture never contradicts Scripture. There are historical parts of Scripture that are designed to recount history and to give an accurate account of what actually happened. Where as didactic material is designed specifically to prescribe for us how we are to believe and to behave.

In reading and understanding Scripture, you must be mindful of those distinctions lest you make a very, very serious mistake. This is very important in understanding whether it’s prescribing things for you to do or not. Cain killing his brother Abel is a historical account, it's not didactic, telling you to go and do the same! 

Let us pray

Heavenly Father,

Father, thank You for Your Word. It is precious to those of us that love You, we cherish Your Word, clear to those of us who seek to truly understand it. Thank You for this reminder, that we are not to sin, and we are not to cause someone to sin. How gracious You are Lord, for revealing it, making known it's true meaning to even the simplest, fallible minds among us, to serve and protect Your people in Truth and lead the lost to Christ, that they might receive the gift of salvation through Him. How sweet is Your affection toward Your people. May we not seek greatness but submissiveness to the Lordship of Christ, for Your glory alone.
In His name we ask and pray
Today's Message: Measuring Greatness
In this life, it is characteristic for people to want to be the greatest at something. For some, it's to become the greatest athlete, the greatest actor, singer or musician, or the greatest social media influencer. In our society, greatness is measured by high position, fame, money, and power. Perhaps you want to be the greatest parent or grandparent. Because we all have some barriers that keep us from that kind of greatness, it is something most of us will never attain, because in order to be greatest, you must be the best of all time. I often find, that in my own social circle, some want to be the greatest preacher, often talking about church and congregation size, the number of new converts coming to Christ and sermons. People who profess something they don’t live. 
Jesus urges us not follow the values of the world, because the problem is often how we define greatness. Greatness is measured much differently in the kingdom of God. Those who are the greatest in the Kingdom of God, will be measured by God's standards, not man's. Greatness is measured by how much one is willing to suffer for God, by how much the we serve others, obedience and how faithful we are in doing what God asks of us, not how popular we want to be ourselves, ruled by pride, self-seeking ambition, desire for prominence. Standards by which no child of God would qualify. 
In our text, we find the disciples had a problem with this, they wanted to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. In fact, it was a preoccupation of theirs, it was likely one of their familiar heated discussions. If you want to be greatest at something, you first have to know what it takes to be the greatest. You have to know what true greatness looks like, you have to know what it looks like to be the greatest in God’s eyes. 
Open our Bibles to the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 18:1-6. I invite you to follow along with me as I read them to you. Let us open our hearts and see what the Spirit of God has to say to each of us. I pray that the Lord would help us to hear and apply what He's saying to each of us today. Matthew 18:1-6.
"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, 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. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."
Let’s look at verse 1, "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"  
The word greatest, or greater, is the Greek comparative, "meizōn," meaning in the widest sense, all the more, more important.They wanted to know who would have the highest ranking, which of them will receive preeminence in the kingdom. Many of us would assume it would be Peter, because of his dominating personality, the strength of his leadership. He was a dominating force. All virtues of a healthy leader. After Jesus' rebuke of Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan," it would appear this position would be up for grabs. They knew Jesus was the Messiah, they wanted Him to bring the kingdom that was to come, they wanted prominence in it, as they defined it, by the kingdom the prophets of the Old Testament had spoken of. You couldn’t get a better demonstration of pride. This is a perfect time for Jesus to take them down and take them down hard, which He does. I dare say, this is also a vital lesson for all of us today.
Verse 2, "And He called a child to Himself and set him before them." Mark says that Jesus took this little child, an infant, and embraced him in His arms. This could well be at Peter’s house, since they are back in Capernaum and Peter is mentioned in the previous verse in chapter 17, but we can't be dogmatic because we don't know exactly. Either way, this little child becomes the object of His monumental lesson, dealing with pride, ambition, the love of prominence and what it means to be great in the kingdom of heaven. A lesson designed to change our perspective from competitiveness and elevation to humble service and humiliation. Jesus lays out several very important points.
First, in verse 3, He says "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." We enter the kingdom like children, as He's holding that little child in His arms. Obviously, they were well aware they had been having a debate about prominence the kingdom,  which was fed by pride. It would be difficult to believe that they didn't understand His strong opening statement was directed at them, there was no way of getting around it. You’re worried about who’s going to be great, well I'm telling you that "unless you are converted," unless you completely turn around and go in the direction of humility, you’re not even going to be in My kingdom! Because that attitude of pride and self-exaltation, is going to potentially exclude you from the kingdom.
Ever notice the older that we get, the less humble we are? A small child is humble, completely dependent upon his parents to meet his needs, he cannot survive on his own. That's why Jesus says, we have to become like children. We must recognize that we have nothing to offer Him, no achievement, no merit, there is no accomplishment that can earn our way into the kingdom. We are weak and completely dependent. Humility and meekness are synonymous with being a believer. We must fall to our knees before God, realizing we need His grace and His forgiveness. We are unable to hold on to our salvation, we need to be protected and provided for, like children.
Then, in verse 4, He reiterates the principles of the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," when He says "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." We are to treat each other like helpless children. He's identifying our relationships within the body of Christ, welcoming anyone who bears the name of Christ, with kindness, love and affection. In other words, if you mistreat one of My children, you're mistreating Me. The people of God are the apple of His eye, so when you love My children and you will have My love in return.
Our natural sinful, behavior is to think that we’ve got everything figured out, that we are somehow in charge. We tend to follow the course where sin leads us. Here, Jesus is saying, if we are to enter into His kingdom, we must change. Verse 5, "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me." Christ comes to us in every believer, how you treat that believer is how you are treating Christ Himself, that's the basic principle. This is foundational instruction for the church. Listen, there's a threshold that we dare not cross, a limit we best do not go beyond.
That brings us to verse 6, "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Jesus solemnly warns us, there is extreme judgment reserved for the person who causes a follower of His to stumble into sin. This can be done in any number of ways, you could lead someone to sin by lying, or speaking evil, by getting them to fraudulently sign a legal document, tempting someone into drunkenness, there's really no end. Do not entice people to sin, even indirectly. Because "If you cause another believer to stumble, you would be better off dead," that's certainly not exactly a seeker friendly message to preach on a given Sunday. We are to stimulate one another to love and good works, and there's really no middle ground here. Lead people toward righteousness, not away from it! This is why I caution believers in flaunting their liberty, causing somebody else to stumble. That’s a concern of great significance.
By the way, millstone is the word "mýlos," is a pair of large, flat round stones pulled around by mules, used for grinding grain, it was also a form of Roman capital punishment, used in executing people by drowning. There's no escaping from death if you had a 3,300 lb millstone hung around your neck and you were tossed into the sea, you're going down, all the way to the bottom. That would be a horrifying death. Yet, Jesus said that would be better for someone than the judgment reserved for someone who leads one of His followers astray. Since Satan rules this present world system, it is inevitable that stumbling blocks will come, and as children, we are susceptible to danger and can expect to stumble. If you cause another to stumble, you bear not only the weight of your own sin, but you bear the their sin as well. Jesus' illustration is to point out, that punishment is severe. Given how much God loves His children, it stands to reason that one of the worst things you can do.
In Closing..
We've got to remove the log out of our own eye first before we talk about the specks that are in other people's eyes. I dare say every one of us has been guilty of hypocrisy. It's time we become concerned about our own personal holiness, rather than that of the culture around us. It’s not enough to just acknowledge a mistake, we need to own it. It's time own the wrong that has been done in our own lives and ask forgiveness of those we've hurt.

May it be so..

And now 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.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

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The Brian Monzon Ministries



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