We are going to read from Matthew chapter 18 verses 1 to 14 and then Tom Smith is gonna come and preach the word of god to us.
So this is Matthew 18. This is a series. If you're new, this evening that we've been doing in the parables, that Jesus told. So this is the word of the lord to us this evening. At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said, truly, I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever takes the lowly position of this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever welcomes 1 such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes 1 of these little ones, those who believe in me, to stumble. It would be better for them to have a large millstone hung round their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
Woe to the world because of things that cause people to stumble. Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come. If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have 2 hands or 2 feet. And be thrown into eternal fire.
And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away It is better for you to enter life with 1 eye than to have 2 eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. See that you do not despise 1 of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father in heaven. What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep and 1 of them wanders away, Will he not leave the 99 on the hills and go to look for the 1 that wandered off?
And if he finds it, Truly, I tell you he is happier about that 1 sheep than about the 99 that did not wander off. In the same way, Your father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. Thank you, Tom, and, good evening. Welcome For me, my name's Tom. I'm a member here.
It's a wonderful privilege to be here, to be open up the word of god. Together, but we need his help. Don't misunderstand. So let's pray and let's ask him for it. Heavenly father, we thank you so much just as we've been singing and thinking about, you have compassion for the week.
And you will supply our every need. And we thank you for your wonderful word. We thank you for the precious truths that we see in it and find in it, and we pray that you would help us by your spirit to see more of who Jesus is help us to love him more for we asking his name. Our men. So we're gonna be, looking at, Matthew 18 and specifically 10 to 14.
So do have that passage open. And it was it's just really helpful for that further context of Matthew 18 to be read to us. So thanks Tom. And I wanna start this evening by asking you Have you have you ever heard of agent Sonia? Have you ever heard of agent Sonia?
In the 19 forties, agent Sonia, her real name being Colonel Ursula Kachinsky, was 1 of the most effective spies in the world. She was a decorate decorated Soviet military intelligence officer and highly trained spy. In World War 2, she was very successful in spying against the Nazis. In 19 45, at the start of the new cold war, she moved to the quaint English village of great role rights to spy on Britain. Agent Sonja was really 1 of the first professional female spies.
1 of the very first females to run their own operations, she was a great spy. She was very highly valued by the Soviet Union. She rose higher than any woman in any intelligence service in the whole of the twentieth century, and she understood that her gender worked to her own advantage. She knew that by acting as missus Burton, an ordinary domesticated mother of 3 children with her husband, baking scones, out of her a stone farmhouse in a tiny village in the Cotswolds made her a very unlikely suspect as a Soviet super spy. When m I 5 eventually realized something was going on, and they came to investigate the suspicious radio signals coming from the the end of our garden.
2 m I 5 officers knocked on the door. Asked if they could come in, she said yes, of course, you must be here to see my husband. I'm just baking a birthday cake. Despite m I 5 intelligence, suggesting that Ursula was part of a Soviet intelligence network, despite them intercepting radio transmissions from her garden despite her clearly being a very competent woman and at least capable of being a spy, this was the conclusion of m I 5 in the officer's report of that meeting. It can't possibly be missus Burton because she's far too involved in her domestic duties to be involved in espionage.
It can't possibly be missus Burton. It could never be a woman. It can't possibly be hair. Let's not waste time. Let's move on.
Let's go to the next 1. The m I 5 officers had their own idea of what a great Soviet spy looked like. They couldn't see past this woman baking to consider who she actually was. That she was so greatly valued by the Soviet Union she was so greatly decorated, so skilled, so influential. In fact, she would redefine the spy in many ways.
But she didn't fit the mold. She wasn't what they expected, and they dismissed her. They dismissed her. In Matthew 18, the disciples had their own idea of who the greatest in the kingdom of heaven was. That's what they want to know.
Did you pick that up in the start of the the reading? Who's the goat? Who's the greatest of all time? It's got to be Moses. Come on.
It's gotta be a live jet, or is it Peter? If we were to draw a starting 11, you know, a fantasy league of the greatest people in the greatest kingdom. If we were to play top trumps, who would be that card? Who would it be? I can't possibly be him.
Are we seeing how badly behaved these kids are? I think he reads the NLP. I'm not actually sure he's saved. It can't possibly be him. It can't possibly be her.
Do you know what kind of music she listens to? Are we seeing who she hangs out with? Pretty sure she's got some dodgy tattoos as well. Can't possibly be here. Jesus completely redefines greatness.
To be those who don't fit them all. To those who are not who the disciples expected, Those who they thought weren't great, who they would have previously dismissed brushed over. It can't possibly be them. We've been seeing more and more of what the kingdom of heaven looks like as we've been going through the parables of Jesus in Matthew's Gospel. And as he establishes the kingdom of heaven, He starts by destroying pride.
He destroys pride. Look what he says in verse 3. Unless you change Unless you change, unless you become like little children, you'll never enter the kingdom of heaven. Unless you take the lowly position of a child, unless you humble yourself You won't even enter the kingdom of heaven. Just as a child looks up to their parents and puts their trust in them to provide, to guide, to love, to care, so true disciples of Christ, hold on to nothing of their own strength.
But only by faith in Christ the saved. And we've been seeing that we're all headed to this certain moments of history of judgment in history of judgment, and we must be ready for it. That's what we've been seeing in the parables. The harvest time when the weeds will be burned and the wheat will be gathered. The net of fish where the good fish will be se separated and the bad thrown away, where evil will be distinguished from the righteous.
The good news is that we're all welcome in the kingdom of heaven. That's what we've been seeing, isn't it? As long as we come like little children. We come with childlike trust in Christ in his death and resurrection that they enough They are enough to deal with my sin and bring me into communion with god. Only by becoming nothing, can we become great?
Only by becoming a nobody, can we become a somebody in the kingdom of heaven? Jesus is saying in my kingdom, you Grow men. You have to swap your idea for greatness and success and honor and be like 1 of these little ones. Be like 1 of these little children dependent on me on yourselves. The man who feels like his kids are out of control and his life feels like a mess, but longs for the day when he sees Christ as savior face to face.
The girl who's recently converted loves rock music, her body's covered with tattoos, but she surrendered her life to Christ. And wants their friends to know the 1 who's done so much for her. That's who's in the kingdom of heaven. And having established the requirements of the kingdom, the requirements of entering this kingdom of heaven, Jesus instructors on on how to live. As citizens of the kingdom of heaven, how to live as his people, the church, and we see that in this first command, in in this command in verse 10, how to relate to 1 another.
Verse 10 says, see that you do not despise 1 of these little ones. See that or see to it, be intentional about this. Are you listening? Wake up? Watch out.
Some translations say that. Watch out that you do not despise 1 of these little ones. And this word despise literally means to think lower on others. It's not like we use the word despise like hate like I despise the fact that those road works are still going on at the roundabout. It's it's the spies in the sense of think less on someone And it's not just anyone, it's believers think less of these little ones.
Jesus clarifies who these little ones are in verse 6. He underlines it. He says, if anyone causes 1 of these little ones, and then what does he say? Those who believe in me, so He's talking about believers. Make sure you don't look down on any of your brothers and sisters.
That's what that's the command of what living as the kingdom of heaven is. Don't write anyone off because they don't look like you. Don't write anyone off because they don't speak like you. Or they don't fit the mold of what you believe to be a disciple of Christ. Stop trying to stop messing around trying to pick the a team.
Do you even know what the kingdom of heaven is like? Each member of the kingdom is so valuable to Christ so loved by him that greatness greatness in the kingdom is loving as he does. That is distinctive living. Loving others as we have been loved. Publicly displaying my love of Christ, my savior, by loving his people.
And that looks like you being my priority and me being your priority When we get this, seeing to it that we don't despise a little 1, loving others, when we get this, The church looks so attractive, doesn't it? So remarkably different to anything else in the world. What community is there like this? How we treat 1 another? And I'm gonna say it's more important than we ever might have imagined.
And so here we see Jesus give us 4 motivations, 4 reasons for loving 1 another. 4 reasons not to despise 1 of these little ones. And the first 1 is their position of humility. Verse 10, see that you do not despise 1 of these little ones. We've seen that the mark of the citizen of heaven of the of the kingdom of heaven is humility That is the distinctive mark of the believer when we in humility become little ones, only then do we realize that we cannot look down on others.
We cannot be proud and think of ourselves as greater than anyone else if we've become little ones. Otherwise, have we even become little ones? The gospel homeless us, doesn't it? We realize that we've got nothing to bring of ourselves. We realize how loved we are and it's all external, all outside of us.
That's why we can't hear the gospel enough. We can't be reminded enough of who we once were and who we are now. As we saw in colossians 1 this morning, we were once once wazers and but now And we need to be reminded of that, don't we? We need to be reminded to become nobodies. I wonder if those m I 5 officers who visited Ursula Kachinsky, I wonder if they didn't suspect there to be a spy because they weren't spies themselves.
They were intelligence officers. They weren't trained spies. And I wonder if they were spies or if they became spies. They would have seen through They would have realized the radio signals. They would have seen the unsuspected setup is actually the perfect setup.
And so they wouldn't have dismissed Ursula, would they? They wouldn't have looked down on her for being a woman. They would have said, wow. She's so valuable. She's so effective.
Look look at who she actually is. When we take that lowly position and surrender to Christ, only then can we view others and see who they truly are. And say, wow you are so valuable, mate. Wow. Christ has left heaven for you.
Wow. You are so loved. That's the first motivation. The position of humility. The second 1 is their entourage of angels.
The second motivation for not looking down on others Is there an entourage of angels? Did you get that when we read it? See that you do not despise on these little ones? Okay, Jesus. Yeah.
Got it. For I tell you that in heaven, their angels always see the face of my father in heaven. What? Angels? Angel, they're angels, plural, not just the guardian angel that we might think we might have.
But an army of angels who are in the presence of god, who are theirs. I I know this is really hard to understand. Trust me. I, I I preached on this passage about 6 weeks ago. I've been thinking about it for a long while.
I still really don't get this. But this is saying that every Christian, no matter who they are, has angels in heaven, glorious angels, holy beings who stand in the most privileged position in the universe before the face of god, they see god Every little 1 has them. Every believer has them. Every believer has this present reality and privilege. They're so valued.
I work in King's Cross, and recently I was walking by the station and, just a normal day, but then I was stopped in my tracks and, by a huge, huge force of police, security guards, motorbikes, whistles, vans, guns, all the rest of it. Like, seriously, it was what is happening here. And then, yeah, all all because this car was being ushered into the side of King's cross station, and so obviously I had a little nose, saw who it was. It's Rishi Sunak. And he had an incredibly impressive entourage of people around him.
And it made me realize wow, this guy's actually quite important. It's it's it's got this guy's really valuable. What? Look at this position. Look at how look how protected he is, but even Rishi sooner, 1 of the most influential people in Britain And his over the top entourage pales in comparison to what Christ's little ones have.
Can you get your other armor? Christ's little ones are so important, so loved, so precious, that Jesus has given them angels. We're not giving much information here about what that actually means and looks like, but elsewhere in the Bible in Hebrews chapter 1 verse 14, it says this. Are not all angels, ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. It's saying the role and the purpose of angels everywhere in the world at all times is specifically to serve believers, to strengthen god's people.
They are ministering spirits Caring for the little ones, assisting the most insignificant. Don't we know how? But we know these angels are our ambassadors in the very throne room of heaven. It's amazing how valued Christ Little ones are. So don't look down on the unimpressive childlike disciple of Christ.
Look at this angelic entourage. And may it remind us of who each and everyone in Christ is and how valuable they are to him? That's the second motivation. The third 1 is the love of their shepherd. Verse 12 and 13.
What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep and 1 of them wanders away, Will he not leave the 99 on the hills and go to look for the 1 that wandered off? And if he finds it truly, I tell you, He is happier about that 1 sheep than about the 99 that did not wander off. Picture for a moment, a shepherd. Leaning on his staff.
It's golden hour, been a lovely hot summer's day and the shepherd's just standing there enjoying watching a sheep play. He's giggling at their antics, and he decides it's probably about time to go to go home, go find some shelter. So he makes a quick count of the flock, and then he makes another count of the flock. And then he clenches his jaw because he realizes there's 1 missing. Takes a deep breath and he calls the sheep to settle under the sycamore trees over here.
And while meanwhile, he's scanning the area to see if that 1 lost sheep is gonna come behind them, and he doesn't. And at the same time, the shepherd notices something, He doesn't have to see or hear to sense the birds of prey making wide circles above. Years of living in the wilderness has taught them to sense danger. And he knows there's lions in these hills. There's no time to waste.
So staff in hand, he makes his way over to the rocks, and he weaves through the brambles. And as he's going, he's thinking, I know which 1 it is. I know which stubborn, hard sheep I'm looking for. But he doesn't despise it. He doesn't write it off.
He heads to the same dangerous ledge he found another sheep there last week. And there he sees her. He spots it, stuck in a thorn bush, and he frees it. He lifts the sheep and says to it, don't you know where you belong? You belong with the flock.
Not out here on your own. You're just gonna die out here. Come on. And that chief, which, after wandering, is found. And that chief gives the shepherd more immediate joy in his heart than the rest.
Because of the concern that it caused him, he was forced to rescue it. It cost him more, and therefore he rejoices over that sheep. More over that 1 sheep than the 99 who did not go astray. He doesn't just stop at the 99. No.
There's 1 lost sheep. 1 lost sheep. He has an active care for the 1 6 times in these few verses Jesus says that word, 1 the 1. The 1. The 1.
The 1. The 1. Every sheep, every little 1 matters immeasurably to god. And he sees that no harm is done to them. Christ will carry each of his own through, defend them through every difficulty.
Lead them gently. I read this by, 1 commentator, and I just loved it. The youngest, weakest, sickliest of his flock is as dear to him as the strongest. They shall never perish, none shall ever pluck them out of his hand. Isn't that lovely?
That's how loved Christ's little ones are. What an encouragement this is for all believers We are so superbly loved by god. Our lord Jesus is a shepherd, so committed to each 1 of his own each individual. It's him who keeps us from stumbling. Who sustains us to the end, who has begun a good work in us and will complete it.
And the way that we imitate his love for others is seen in the way that we pursue the wanderer. In seeking after the drifter, the outsider, the 1 in the periphery on the periphery, And that's really clear. I think when we see how Jesus uses this parable here, which is a familiar parable, isn't it? And we compare it to how it's recorded in Luke alongside the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost son. It's a different setting.
It's a different audience. It's a different application. In Luke, Luke 15, the parable of the lost sheep is a picture to explain to the scribes and pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, why Jesus is spending time with sinners, why Jesus is spending time with unclean people and that's because sinners, unclean people, is exactly who he has come for. He is the 1 who has come to seek and to save the lost. Wow.
And here in Matthew, The parable of the wandering sheep is a picture to explain not to the scribes and pharisees, not to the religious leaders. But who who's who's the audience? 18 verse 1. At that time, the disciples came to Jesus. Jesus is explaining to the disciples to Jesus' followers, how god's children are treated, and therefore, how they ought to treat 1 another.
Jesus not only shows himself as the 1 who brings back the lost as in Luke 15. But desires a community in which everyone lives in that way. Sometimes the lost sheep doesn't know it's wandered off. Sometimes sometimes it's drifting away. You know, if you think about your own prayer life maybe or your own time in the word, you know, bays my turn into weeks, weeks my turn into months, months, my turn into years.
Sometimes The loss sheet doesn't know it's wandered off. But other times, they do Other times, the lost sheep has intentionally marched off. It's been stubborn It's decided to sin. The good shepherd does not despise the little 1. But goes to find it at great cost.
Recently, childhood friends who have known all my life, told me he has decided to leave his wife his 2 kids for another woman. He's worked out on the lord, and I was devastated hearing this. And at the time, I couldn't help but think that when I last saw him probably 9 months ago, and asked how he was doing. The warning signs were there. How are you getting on?
Yeah. Yeah. Getting there. How's church? Oh, yeah.
We're not really going. What are you reading at the moment? No, yeah, nothing really, but, you know, trying. Why didn't I prioritizing? That hurts, doesn't it?
When we recognize the wanderer, It's gonna cost me. Why didn't it say, oh, it's better for me not to do that on Friday night? Let me just give you a call instead. Why don't we why don't we pray? Why don't we read?
Why don't we encourage each other? Why don't we challenge each other? That's what seeking the wandering sheep looks like. That's not despite it despising 1 of these little ones. How loved we are that we've been sought and we have been found by our good shepherd.
And so we want to love others. We want to keep others. We want to look out for others. No matter what the cost is to us before it's too late. The fourth motivation, the fourth reason Jesus gives is the will of their father.
Verse 14, In the same way, your father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish In the same way your father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones shall perish. And this word perish Some translations have it as destroyed. It comes up in other parts of the new testament. Paul uses it in Romans 14 and there, when he and he used it again, when he confronts the corinthians for eating meat sacrificed to idols, He warns that their carelessness threatens to destroy, perish their brothers. So in this way, perish or destroy means to spiritually hinder to spiritually ruin.
Or wound rather than destroy eternally. I was reading Psalm 73 this week and it says Those who are far from you will perish. Those who are far from god will perish, but as for me, it is good to be near god. God's will for your life is for you to be in his presence. It is good for you to be near god.
That's where you were created to be. In communion with him, not to be apart from him, not to perish. And the father is so committed to each 1 of his own. He's not willing that they would go off and perish. He loves them so much that he will not leave them to the wolves and be spiritually wounded.
That's what it says. He's not willing. Even if saunas wandered off and hurt us, The challenge is not to despise them for that. It's to love them. Not to the not to neglect them.
And that hurts, that costs. It's not the father's will that they should perish instead. Of being angry with them. We're called to pray for them. Even though they've made us angry, Calvin says this that we're not that we are called to assess others, not according to their own virtues, but according to the grace of Christ, that's such a challenge, isn't it?
It's not going I'm not going to judge you for what you've done or what you look like. Or the things you do that, you know, rub me the wrong way, but I'm gonna judge you according to the grace of Christ. James says whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover a multitude of sins. So do not despise 1 of these little ones. Do you see god's concern for those who have gone astray?
How he rejoices when 1 sinner is brought back. And I think this is beautifully illustrated in the life of Peter. Peter, who was probably the person saying who's the greatest Am I the greatest? Come on. Just before this, actually, he's got out of paying taxes because Jesus has given a shekel and a fish.
So he's probably thinking, I am the goat. Peter, who a few chapters before boldly declared Jesus as the Christ. He was the 1 who did that. And Jesus says, on this rock, I'll build my church. Peter witnessed the transfiguration.
Yeah. Peter who denied Jesus 3 times. But the story doesn't end there, does it? We see that wonderful moment later of reconciliation where Jesus loves him and he calls in to care for his followers. Despite his past despite what he's done even when 1 point, he said he was a Christian, and he denied Jesus 3 times.
The Lord uses Peter to do great things for him. And Peter becomes a key figure in establishing the early church. Wow. What a beautiful story. It's what's your heart like for others?
For those who may hate us, or even for those who don't reply to you when you ask how they're doing. For those who may even sin against you, for those who may even deny Jesus 3 times, They can't possibly be great, can they? They can't possibly be great. If we don't want them back, do we even understand the kingdom of heaven? So just to finish then, what would it look like?
What would it look like to see that you do not despise 1 of these little ones in verse 10? See that you do not despise on these little ones. What would that look like for me in Cornerstone Church? Well, it would be encouraged having me to invite someone. You wouldn't normally have round for lunch.
Even though they're socially awkward, Even though it's gonna be draining. What about offering to meet up with someone? See how they're getting on? Because you haven't seen them around in a while. Even though it's gonna be inconvenience, even though you feel pretty busy already, What about seeking that person you don't normally speak to?
But they're normally on their own. What about asking them if there's any way you can pray for them? What about being merciful to and forgiving that person who's hurt you by what they've done and pleading with them to repent. Not assessing them according to what they've done, but according to the grace of Christ. That is what the community of the kingdom of heaven looks like.
How wonderful it is. You being my priority and me being your priority. Not looking down on another brother or sister, but loving them instead because they are so valuable in the father's eyes. They are so loved by Christ. They are so precious to god That's what greatness in the greatest kingdom looks like, and that's what we're called to be.
Let's pray. He heavenly father, thank you for your great love for us in giving us Christ. Christ who bought us with his blood who cares for every single 1 of his own. Help us, buy your spirit to love sacrificially, to love others as we have been loved. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.