Authority, Prayer and His Presence

Text: Matthew 18:18-20 {NASB}

18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

INTRODUCTION

Matthew 18 begins with the disciples question concerning…”Who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?” and Jesus called a little child and put him before them as an object lesson and says, “Anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.” From here Jesus precedes to warn again offending a child and then He speak of offences in general within the church. He moved from there into Church discipline and the restoration of those who have made a mistake. In verse 18, it gets more difficult to interpret. There are two school of thought: the binding and loosening has to do with the church’s decision on the rebellious member that refuses to adhere to the authority of the church. This is the Catholic point of view and thus you have their history of excommunication. They believe the holy Catholic church has the power to forgive sin or withhold forgiveness. There are some who believe this was a promise made to the Apostles but not to all believers.

Eugene Peterson says it like this in the Message… Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”

No matter what translation you read, you can see Jesus moving to the subject of PRAYER in verse 19…“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. I will say this, verse 18 in very similar to Matthew 16:19, “And I will give you the keys to the kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” Matthew 16:19 is addressed to Peter where Matthew 18:18 is addressed to all the apostles. Let me confess that I am in over my head, I can not find the bottom in this text which is really nothing new so allow me to talk about what I do understand.

In verse 17 Jesus mentions the ekklēsia [the church] and the disciples make up the embryo of the church, the body of Christ. Not only is the church the body of Christ is this dimension or realm {world} but Christ is its Head. There are two realms at play here: the earthly and the heavenly, the physical and the spiritual and these two realms are functioning  simultaneously: earth is in time and heaven is in the eternal realm but they are both active at this time.

I. SO THE FIRST PRINCIPLE I SEE HERE IS AUTHORITY

The church not only has the authority to discipline, we have the authority to direct heaven, the spiritual realm. Do not jump to the faulty conclusion that I am speaking of men dictating their will to God are earth commanding heaven from a carnal point of view. We are talking about the Church of which Christ is the Head and a CHURCH that is in perfect harmony with it’s HEAD {Christ}. I don’t pretend to understand it but it seems that God’s plan is prayer. James said, “You have not because you ask not.” Either James was wrong or there are things available to us that we will never have unless we ask for them. The Law of Prayer is to ASK. Jesus said, “Ask and keep on asking.” There are some rules that we have to abide by if we are to exercise this tremendous authority we have in prayer. Our request must be in accordance to the will and wishes of the Head who is Christ. The prayer we pray has to have His stamp of approval or His signature. This is the first safe measure but there is another: we have to be in agreement. The word for ‘agree’ in verse 19 is symphōneō. It is the word that we get symphony from, it is an agreement is sound, voice. It is more than standing together, it is singing the same song, hitting the same note, it is perfect harmony. Finding the will of Christ in any given matter may not be so hard because we have His word to guide us but getting the members of the church in harmony is a miracle that can only be achieved by the power of the Holy Spirit. We need not fear the abuse of authority granted by Christ in Matthew 18:18. Our authority is bound up in our praying in harmony with His will and the church and this is talking about the church, not an individual.

II. THERE IS THE PRINCIPLE OF POWER

I think we are all in agreement that electricity is a mystifying and powerful energy. We do phenomenal things through the power of electricity. We have learned over the years that there are physical laws that regulate this amazing power and we have to respect these laws are the power of electricity can be destructive. You don’t handle a wire that is carrying 440 volts. You don’t stand in water and handle 110 volts. You can but you’ll only do it once. Electricity is an amazing power but it must be used in the proper way are it becomes deadly. Jesus used the wind as an illustration of the spiritual realm but electricity works as well: we can not draw electricity on paper, we don’t know what it looks like because it is invisible to us but we do know it is real. I have felt it lately while changing bulbs in the gym. I was on an electric lift some 20 plus feet in the air. I ask one of the workers to switch the lights off but she hit the wrong switch and I got a charge. A good shock gets my adrininal going but I prefer being on the ground when it happens. I know beyond a doubt that electricity is real. I am sitting under an electric light right now. I would be a fool to deny the power of electricity. Prayer is like electricity in that it is of an invisible realm, a spiritual realm. When I look outside, I don’t see prayers going up to heaven but that doesn’t mean that prayer is not in the atmosphere. I don’t see electricity in the atmosphere either but I know it is there.

I am not a scientist or an electrician but as I understand it, electrical power is the result of electrons forming a current and jumping from atom to atom. Scientist have learned how to charge the electrons and get them moving in the same direction. When you get electrons moving in the same direction, you have current. The current needs a conductor and the most common one is wire. The power comes from the electrons moving in the same direction. Here is an image to help you get the concept in your mind…

electrons2

 Electrons can be made to move from one atom to another. When those electrons move between the atoms, a current of electricity is created. The electrons move from one atom to another in a “flow.” Notice the electrons {red dots} are all moving in same direction and this creates current. The power of prayer works on the same principle: where two of you on earth agree on anything you ask. Remember the word ‘agree’ is symphony. When the church gets in harmony, the power of prayer increases dramatically. We just have to get all the arrows moving in the same direction. The power is in our unity.

There is an interesting verse in the O.T. about Israel fleeing in the face of the enemy, How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had given them up? I admit that this is talking about Israel being put to flight but did you see the geometric principle here: one man puts 1,000 to flight, two men puts 10,000 to flight. This means that if two work together, they can accomplish 5 times what they could accomplish alone. Henry Ford grasped this principle and formed the assembly line with is a lot like electrical current, one man adding something and then passing to another. I visited a car assembly plant several years ago and they produces 360 cars per day by working together on the assembly line. If you divided them up and let each worker build a car it cut production drastically. There is power in unity, in harmony, in moving in the same direction.

III. THE THIRD PRINCIPLE IS THE PROMISE OF HIS PRESENCE

 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. The visible manifestation of Christ to the world is seen through His body, the Church, not through individual members. A lot of folks are unhappy with God’s decision but He has arranged things in such a way that we need each other. Christianity is not something you can do alone. My index finger can do a lot but only if it stays connected to the hand. My hand which is five fingers working together can accomplish even more but only if it stays connected to the arm. The LORD never intended for you to do your own thing. Was the LORD not with David when he was running from Saul? Yes, but David was not forsaking the assembly. He wanted to be in church. He was running for his life. In 1974 while pastoring a small church in rural Mississippi, I met a sweet lady by the name of Gladys Milner. She lived in a nursing home and spent her time between a bed and wheel chair. Rheumatoid arthritis had twisted her little body and she was in constant pain but she never complained. She was a firm believer in Christ and her room was like a sanctuary. It was a very small church and I visited her on a weekly basis and I never went into that room that I did not feel the mystical presence of Christ as if I were at church. It was amazing. God in His grace makes exceptions for the afflicted, the persecuted and those in prison like John the Baptist but if you and I want the Lord’s blessings and to feel His presence, we are going to have to come together. Yes, I do enjoy my Q.T. and my alone time but I am dependent on you for the real blessing of His presence. Ten of the Disciples experienced the wonderful presence of Christ on the first Sunday night after the resurrection but one did not: he stayed away. I do not know where he was but he was not with the others, he forsake the assembly and he did not feel the presence of Christ. Try having your own personal communion service and see what happens.

We need one another: God made it this way. When we come together in harmony and one accord, Jesus is going to show up and show out. If we don’t get our act together, our world is not going to see Jesus because when and if they do, they will see Him in His body the church.

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Confrontation

 

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 18:15-20

“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. 18 “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid[ on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven. 19 “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. 20 For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”

INTRODUCTION

When we think of confrontation, we generally think of a clash between opposing ideas or forces. The word has a negative connotation I suppose but there is another definition of confrontation and it is simply a face to face meeting. It takes courage to confront and there in lies the major problem but in any relationship, if it is to be healthy and enduring, there has to be some confrontation. Our text tonight deals with confrontation within the body of Christ.

I’ll be the first to say, it is not pleasant and not something that we should enjoy. Unfortunately in the life, we must deal with the unpleasant and the pleasant. In this world there are swimming pools in one part of the yard and septic tanks in another but both in the same yard. 

Jesus said, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense.Most of us are very reluctant at this point because we are self-conscious about our own sins and in this instance, the offense is against you personally which brings up the issue of pride. In the text tonight we see some guidelines for confronting.

I. WHEN WE CONFRONT, WE MUST DO IT WITH DEEP HUMILITY.

Even when we confront in humility, we have no guarantee of success but without humility, failure is a certainty. Pride will make the problem worse, much worse. I would never be quick to confront someone about their sin. There needs to be a contrition and brokenness in the life of the confronter concerning the sin in question. Warren Wiersbe sees the “Hidden faults” that David alludes to  in Psalm 19 as [1] Faults that you are hiding from the public [2] Faults that are actually hidden from you. Other see them but you don’t. Sometimes humble confrontation will help a person see a sin that they have not been seeing.

II. WHEN WE CONFRONT, WE MUST KEEP IT PRIVATE

The best form, only acceptable form of confrontation is a face to face private meeting. William Barclay said, “More trouble has been caused by the writing of letters than by almost anything else.” If he were living today, he would say, “More trouble has been caused by texting than anything else.” I am having a difficult time getting this across to folks in my own family, you do not confront on the phone and especially, not with a text. This is a cowardly way to confront.

III. WHEN WE CONFRONT, WE MUST HAVE THE OTHER PERSONS WELFARE IN MIND: OUR OBJECTIVE IS TO RESTORE NOT PUNISH.

If you confront to hurt, insult or get even: you are in error. Generally speaking, I hate confrontation. It is the most unpleasant part of being a pastor. You can rest assured that I have given it a lot of thought and prayer before I confront. Confrontation is not my first choice, it is my last resort. Secondly, if I confront you, it is because I love you. Right or wrong and I’m probably wrong, I do not confront people whom I do not have deep affection for. Now I am talking about confronting a person for some sin or destructive habit. I have confronted people for injustice, gossip, slander and in defense of others and some of these people I was not crazy about so let me be honest: all my confrontations have not been loving. If I come to you and talk to you about a destructive habit, you can rest assured, I am doing it out of love. I confront very few church members over anything. I try desperately to mind my own business and we Bailey’s have our own problems. In the few cases that I have confronted, it was because I felt confident that the person I was confronting knew that I loved them.

When my son played basketball, the coach would hollow at him and more than he did with the others. I kind of felt like he was being unfair to my son until one of my very wise friends came up to me and said, “Bro. Jack, he doesn’t hollow at those who have no potential. He hollows at your son because he knows he can do better.” Wow! What wisdom. I did pay attention from that point on and my friend was right. If I confront you, it is because I think you have potential and I am trying in my weak way to make you better; the last thing I want to do is make you bitter. Everyone has an Achilles heel, a weakness, a thorn in the flesh: I have more than one. My mother was one of my mentors and she had no reservations about pointing out my faults. Most people don’t have one friend that will be honest with them. Several years ago at Baccalaureate, one of the Seniors ask to sing and of course she was not denied but she couldn’t sing. As she struggled through her solo, I over heard one lady say to another, “That girl has no friends.” A good friend would not want to see another made fun of and mocked and so they would tell the truth in love. I kid folks by saying, “My mother loved me unconditionally but she never told me I could sing.” Good friends don’t lie, they tell us the truth, even when it hurts.” I am blessed to have several good friends.

IV. WHEN WE CONFRONT: WE MUST DO IT AS AN ACT OF OBEDIENCE

There are several things that need to be in harmony before we confront: [1] What does the word of God say about this particular situation or sin. [2] How much have we prayed about it and is our spirit bearing witness with the word of God. [3] If possible, talk to other concerned people and get their advice: wise people seek good counsel. [4] Go only when you do not have peace about not going. Let the Spirit compel you. Remember you success may not be imminent. You may never see any results but it is a risk you have to take to be obedient.

I would love to say that I have had marvelous results in confronting but that would not be true. From my human point of view, my success seems to be minimal at best. I think some of the folks I have confronted respect me and some perhaps have great affection for me but I have not seen many changes due to my confrontation. I confronted a woman several years ago who was about to leave her husband. She listened to a point, out of respect I suppose but she told me before I left that her mind was made up and nothing I said made any difference. I confronted a young man once about his giving habits: he changed momentarily but went right back to his old ways. I would not confront anyone about giving unless they were leaders. If you are an up front visible leader, you need to at least tithe. I have to agree with my son at this point: “Giving [money] is the easiest part of being a Christian, so why do people struggle with giving?” It is an enigma, I don’t get it but it is a real problem especially in the area of music.

One thing about it: if we confront, we need to do it humbly, privately, with restoration in mind and as an act of obedience to Christ. I will not tell you that the results are always good but you will get a peace from being obedient. We me personally, I have had more failures than successes but we don’t go to be successful, we go in obedience to Christ.

 

 

Jesus Loves The Little Children

 

Jesus with children

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 18: 1-10

About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” 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. “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. “What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting. So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.  10Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.

Introduction

It doesn’t matter what translation you read, Jesus lays down some stern warning to those who despise, hinder, reject or take advantage of the innocence of a child. Jesus loves the little children is more than a song, it is a fact and He will judge you according to your attitude toward children.

I want to begin the message with a confession: I love little children but sometimes they get on my nerves. I hate to get on a plane and be seated beside or even near a family with little children. If parents had any control over little children it would be different but the last thing I want to do is being cooped up in a hollow metal tube with a crying baby. Some I have some guilt when it comes to this passage.

On the other hand, I am a child’s advocate. I have nine grandchildren and at least five of them are still in a state of innocence. I do remember what it was like being a child. I know what it feels like to see other kids eating candy bars and drinking drinks when I had to money. I started working for the Newby’s when I was in 7th grade and one of the great things about working for them was: if they got a coke, you got a coke. If I take your kids or grandkids with me and we stop at McDonald’s, everyone will eat or no one will eat. For the past 35 years, DBC has been a church that put heavy emphasis on children. It is costly to run a weekly childcare program but that was one of my dreams. VBS, AWANA, Block Party, Trunk-A-Treat, Easter Egg hunt are all major children’s events. Don’t get me wrong, I am not tooting my horn: in spite of all we do, I feel extremely guilty about what we do not do. If I could find a great story-teller, I would hire him/her to come to the Wee Care daily and tell a bible story.

With this said, there are four things that we dare not do when it comes to children:

I. WE DARE NOT REJECT THEM OR MAKE THEM FEEL REJECTED

Rejection is a tough emotion to deal with. We adults face it but we are seasoned vets. If it hurts us, imagine how much it hurts a child. I believe that rejection scars a child emotionally. They can sense when they are not wanted. Millions of children are growing up in surroundings where love and affection are absent and they are never given the basic assurances that all children need. Be careful not to give a child a sense of rejection. To give you some idea about how huge this problem has become; lets look at some facts about foster care in America.

  • On any given day, there are approximately 400,000 children in the foster care system
  • The average age of these children is 10…52% are boys and 48% are girls.
  • The majority, 65%  are cared for in foster homes and 15% or in institutional homes.
  • Parental rights have been terminated on 14.5 % of these children.
  • Over 50% of these children have medical problems…in most cases from lack of care.
  • Over 80% have serious emotional problems. [I think rejection is the main contributor to this problem…my opinion]
  • The first goal of the foster care program is to reunite the child with their biological family and this happens 52% of the time.
  • The second goal is adoption. Let’s look at a breakdown of 100 children in foster care…
    • 52 are reunited with family
    • 8 are placed with relative
    • 20 are adopted
    • 11 become independent
    • 6 go into the guardianship program
    • 2 are transferred to other agencies
    • 1 runs away [in America, that would translate to 4,000 kids running away each year]

Can you imagine the rejection a child feels when their biological parents do not want them and refuse to give them proper love and care. I am not a fan of DHR or any government agency but you have to be pretty sorry for them to take your children. The last thing you want to do, is make a child feel rejected. Jesus said, And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.”

II. YOU DARE NOT CAUSE ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES TO SIN [v.6-9] But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. “What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting.

  1. First of all, you do not want to be the cause of the child falling into sin. This not only includes placing stumbling blocks but the removal of stumbling blocks. In other words, we are responsible to PROTECT the child. If we see any thing in the child’s path that might cause them to stumble, we are to remove it at all cost. Your neglect could be the primary cause a child falls into sin. I heard a story when I was boy about some teenagers celebrating their high school graduation. Their parents went to a club with other parents and one the kids went by the house and got some liquor out of his daddy’s private stash. The kids got intoxicated and had a high-speed accident and it killed everyone in the car. It so happened that the father whose son borrowed his liquor and car arrived at the scene of the accident. He was devastated by grief but when the officers showed him the liquor in the car, he vowed on the spot to kill them man who sold them the liquor. When he got home and went to get a drink, he saw the note his son had left: “It’s a big night for us dad, we didn’t think you would care if we borrowed some of your whiskey.”
  2. Secondly, we are not to tempt a child to sin. A double woe on those who entice little children to sin. Here we get into an even more troubling subject than foster care and that is child abuse. There are many forms of abuse but I want to focus on sexual because it is a problem and it leaves intense emotional scaring.
    • Despite what you have heard or may think, 90% of sexual abuse comes from parents, sibling, relatives or friends of the family [someone the child trust]. Only 10% comes from complete strangers.
    • Studies show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18. This means there are more than 44 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S. [If you were abuse, you are not alone]
    • Secrecy is a big issue: 73% of child victims do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year. 45% of victims do not tell anyone for at least 5 years. Over 25% never tell anyone.
    • Perpetrators report that they look for passive, quiet, troubled, lonely children from single parent or broken homes.
    • Most abusers are male [90%] and the victims are the females 80%. [When Jesus says it would be better for a mill stone to be tied around your next and you cast into the depths of the sea, you know you’ve done some horrible. If you destroy a child’s innocence, you have committed a horrible sin]
  3. When Jesus says it would be better for a mill stone to be tied around your next and you cast into the depths of the sea, you know you’ve done some horrible. If you destroy a child’s innocence, you have committed a horrible sin.
  4. Jesus also made in clear that unhealthy relationship should be severed. People who tempt you to sin or not your friends. A big part of our responsibility as parents, teachers and leaders is to protect innocent children from predators. Jesus said, So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet.And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. I saw a situation just a few weeks ago, a woman had allowed a man to move it with her and she had a 13-year-old daughter. Predators prey on passive, lonely children that come from broken homes. I saw them together for less than an hour and I can tell you there are problems and this women will be responsible. It is a relationship that is not healthy and it needs to be severed immediately.

III. YOU DARE NOT DESPISE ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES [V. 10]  10Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.

Jesus valued children. He loved them. He states the affection His father has for a child. Their guardian angels are always in His presence. It is almost as if children have preference. I have been in many cultures and I am telling you that this fallen world is out of touch with the FATHER. What do not value what He values. When I went to Africa in 1986, I saw grown adults take candy away from children. I saw them push and even use whips to drive them back. The most humbling thing I’ve experienced was on that trip. At night, as my driver would ease through the crowd, I kept my window down and my arm extended with open hand, the kids one by one would touch my hand. Most of them had never seen a white man until I came to their village. There I was, a Baptist preacher who was actually homesick and I done a pitiful job as a missionary that week but they were enamored just to touch my hand. I wept each night as I left: some much need and I was so impotent, just a piece of red clay sitting in the back of a taxi. I did feel small and it made me very conscience of the fact that only Christ can meet man’s needs.

Jesus loved children and He fully intends for us to love them too, to love them for His sake and to minister to them in His name. Getting someone to teach adults in no big deal. Some folks have left churches because they could not get an adult class but finding Children’s teachers is like finding hen’s teeth. The younger you go, the harder it gets.

We have had a Child-Care program since 1987 and back in the late 80’s we had a little girl named Beth. She was about 8 and had one little brother about 3. These children are what we call full timers: they mom dropped them off at 6:00 am when we open and picked them up at 6:00 pm when we closed. Beth got to acting out and it got so back they the workers ask me to talk with her. In talking with this child, I soon discovered the source of the problem. Beth told me that she woke up one day and her dad was gone and she had not see or heard from him since, this was when her mom got pregnant with her brother so the dad had been gone for over 3 years. Her mom was young, fairly attractive and lonely and she let some good ole boy start spending the night and then just move in. We all know what he was there for and it was not the kids. The home environment was atrocious. The mother was putting boy friends needs before her children and there was constant fighting over the children who were not behaving well. Basically, this is what Beth told me, “My daddy left and I’ve never seen him since and now when I lay down at night, I am afraid my mother will leave me and my brother. I am afraid I will wake up and she will be gone and I want to see her again either.” There are a lot of Beth’s out there and it is because we parents are not doing our job. No child should be made to feel insecure.

Beth also told me that day: “I am not a good child and nobody loves me.” I may have fudged a little but I assured her that her mother loved her and was not going to abandon her and her brother but deep down inside I had the same fears as Beth. I did tell her that there was one person for sure that loved and His name was Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

Ministry Verses Ecstasy

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 17:14-21

14 At the foot of the mountain, a large crowd was waiting for them. A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.” 17 Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well. 19 Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?” 20 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.

This same story is told by both Mark and Luke and today, I would like to defer to Mark….

 When they returned to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them, and some teachers of religious law were arguing with them. 15 When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet him. 16 “What is all this arguing about?” Jesus asked. 17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.” 19 Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” 20 So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth. 21 “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” 23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” 24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” 25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!” 26 Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him. The boy appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd as people said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up. 28 Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?” 29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.”
 

INTRODUCTION

Tonight, I want to make three practical observations. This is not an attempt to exegete this passage or expound on every point but simply three insights that I think can help us.
 
I. JESUS COULD HAVE STAYED IN THE CLOUDS OF GLORY BUT HE CHOOSE TO COME BACK DOWN TO THE PAINS AND PROBLEMS OF EVERYDAY LIFE
 
I can only imagine what it was like on the mountain top: seeing Jesus transfigured, seeing the glory of His divinity come out; seeing Moses and Elijah…awesome…hearing the voice from the cloud…wow…being engulfed the shekinah glory cloud…what a glorious experience. Most of us, especially preachers, have been to conferences where the singing was awesome. Last year at the Iron Mans Conference in Birmingham, I heard 2,500 men singing with all their heart, what a blessing. When my voice is right I can out sing [in terms of sheer volume] the entire congregation. You cannot do that in a mountain top setting because everyone is singing. The first evangelism conference I attended was back in 1970. I got to hear Dr. Vance Havner and several more renowned speakers but what blew my doors off was the singing. I was like Peter, why don’t we just stay here in conference all the time? Some people live from conference to conference. They worship the mountain top. I like the mountain top experiences. If I had my way, I would have one every day but this is not reality. The only mountain top experience recorded in the life and ministry of Jesus is this story. I think He had others but their were no human witnesses. We all prefer glorious ecstasy over servant ministry, at least some forms of ministry. I do love helping people but sometimes the problems are overwhelming just as they were in this story for the nine disciples. Just this past month, I had to deal with two heartbreaking situations involving five innocent children. I know why God hates divorce. It hurts like hades. It is heart breaking to see families severed by divorce, especially when grown adults are acting like irresponsible teenagers. Yeah, I prefer a mountain top ecstatic experience over heartbreak any day. I am trying to give comfort and consolation to two stage four cancer patients right now and there seems to be at least one on my list all the time. So, I will take a mountain top over cancer. BUT Jesus choose not to stay on the mountain top. He made a conscious decision to come back down to the valley were there was suffering and people who needed His help.
 
You can’t help the hurting when you have your head stuck in the clouds. Life is not about the mountain top, it is about the valley. God gives us just enough mountain tops to keep us going but it is all about helping those who are hurting and you can’t do that on the mountain top. I don’t know about you but I am glad Jesus came down, not only to earth but from the shekinah glory of the mountain top.
 
II. SECONDLY: DID YOU NOTICE, EVERYONE IS THIS STORY HAS PROBLEMS EXCEPT JESUS
  • The teachers of the Religious law [Scribes and Pharisees] are arguing with the disciples. What were they arguing about? I don’t know but I’m sure if was not important. So what we have here is a group of self-righteous hypocrites who see everyone sins except their own.
  • Then you have the frustrated disciples who can’t do anything right. Jesus upbraids them for their lack of faith and they have failed publically to help the pleading father.
  • Then there is the father. He believes enough to approach Jesus but is filled with doubt.
  • Then there is the demon possessed son.
  • We are all flawed, no one has it all together other than Jesus. This sets HIM apart and makes HIM worthy of our worship and praise. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

III. LAST BUT NOT LEAST: JESUS RESPONDS TO IMPERFECT FAITH.

Notice the verbal exchange between Jesus and the father of the demon possessed boy“How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” 23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’? Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” 24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

Aren’t you glad that Jesus did not say…“Get out of my sight, you have offended Me with your doubt. I want nothing to do with you or your kind.” Instead Jesus healed the boy in an instant in spite of the father’s imperfect faith. I’ve been a Christian for 56 years and I still pray this prayer…”LORD I do believe but help me overcome my unbelief.” You have faith but you don’t have perfect faith and neither do I. How do I know? I know your faith is not perfect because you don’t move mountains.

You come to Jesus with the faith that you have. Don’t wait until you get perfect faith. Jesus helps us with our unbelief.

Charlotte Elliott was born March 18th, 1789. The first 32 years of her life were spent mostly at Clapham, England.  Then in 1823 she moved to Brighton where she lived the rest of her life. The first part of her life was rather stormy. Charlotte was a sickly child and was not able to join the activities of others her age. She spent most of her time inside. Her family was not poor and all her needs were provided but some how she became embittered and had a rather surly attitude. The family was friends with a Swiss evangelist and hymn writer Cesar Malan. On one of his visits, they were all around the supper table when Dr. Malan asked Charlotte if she was a believer, Charlotte  bristled. She acted so rudely that her family was embarrassed and removed themselves from her presence. She was lift at the table with the evangelist tried to smooth over the encounter with some apologetics. Charlotte did not seem to respond to his witness but it was actually the turning point of her life. She could not get his suggestion out of her head. Three weeks later, she met Malan again and told him that ever since he had spoken to her, she had been trying to find Jesus her Savior. How could she come to Him, she wondered. She saw gifts, talents, abilities in all the other family members but she felt that she had nothing of worth that God could use. Malan gently explained… “You have nothing of merit to bring to God. You must come just as you are.”  Long story short, Charlotte gave her heart to Christ and later wrote a poem for her brother to use as a fund raiser. The poem is the lyrics of the hymn “Just As I am” which Billy Graham used for decades in all his crusades. It is amazing what Jesus can do with a little faith.

Did you know that Jesus nicknamed His disciples “Little-faiths”. In the Greek, it is one wordoligopistos‘. We’ve made a sentence out of it but Jesus was actually calling them “Little-faiths” and look at what our magnificent LORD has done with those Little-faiths.

Sept. 22nd. 1871. She was born in a Christian family and they were connected to Dr. C. Malan of Geneva who paid the family a visit. Charlotte was a sickly child who showed little interest in anything or anyone. As she matured into womanhood, she became bitter in spirit. Her grandfather was a preacher and her brother was a preacher but Charlotte felt

The history of the writing of “Just as I am, without one plea”.— In the Record, Oct. 15th. 1897, Bishop H.C.G. Moule of Durham, the Principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge, gave a most interesting account of Miss Elliott, and the origin of this hymn. Dr. Moule, who is related to the family, derived his information from family sources. In an abbreviated form, this is the beautiful story — “Ill health still beset her. Besides its general trying influence on the spirit, it often caused her the peculiar pain of a seeming uselessness in her life, while the circle round her was full of unresting serviceableness for God. Such a time of trial marked the year 1834, when she was 45 years old and was living in Westfield Lodge, Brighton … Her brother, the Rev. H.V. Elliott, had not long before conceived the plan of St. Mary’s Hall at Brighton, a school designed to give at nominal cost, a high education to the daughters of clergymen; a noble work which is to this day carried on with admirable ability and large success. In aid to St.Mary’s Hall there was to be held a bazaar… Westfield Lodge was all astir; every member of the large circle was occupied morning and night in preparation with the one exception of the ailing sister Charlotte — as full of eager interest as any of them, but physically fit for nothing. The night before the bazaar she was kept wakeful by distressing thoughts of her apparent uselessness; and these thoughts passed by a transition easy to imagine into a spiritual conflict until she questioned the reality of her whole spiritual life, and wondered whether it was anything better after all than an illusion of the emotions, an illusion ready to be sorrowfully dispelled. The next day, the busy day of the bazaar …. the troubles of the night came back upon her with such force that she felt they must be met and conquered by the grace of God. She gathered up in her soul the grand certainties, not of her emotions, but of her salvation: her Lord; His power: His promise. And taking pen and paper from the table she deliberately set down in writing for her own comfort the formulae of her faith … so in verse she restated to herself the Gospel of pardon, peace and heaven…. there, then, always, not at some past moment, but “even now” she was accepted in the Beloved, “Just as I am”. As the day wore on, her sister-in-law, Mrs. H.V. Elliott, came in to see her and bring news of the work. She read the hymn and asked (she well might) for a copy. So it first stole out from that quiet room into the world, where for sixty years it has been sowing and reaping, until a multitude which only God can number has been blessed through the message”.

The hymn “Just as I am without one plea” was first published in the “Invalid’s Hymn Book, 1836” in 6 stanzas, headed with the text, “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out”. The hymn has been transferred to almost every hymnal published in English-speaking countries during the past fifty years. It has been translated into every European language, and into the languages of many distant lands. The testimony of Miss Elliott’s brother, (the Rev. H.V. Elliott, editor of Psalms and Hymns, 1835) to the great results arising from this one hymn is very touching. He says, “In the course of a long ministry I hope I have been permitted to see some fruit for my labours; but I feel far more has been done by a single hymn of my sister’s”. It ranks with the finest hymns in the English language. Its success has given rise to many imitations.

Under the date of Jan. 26th. 1872, the Rev. J. Babbington, brother-in-law to Miss Elliott, wrote to the late D. Sedgwick concerning Miss Elliott’s hymn “O Jesus, make Thyself to me”, “the lines you refer to (O Jesus make Thyself to me) are Miss Charlotte Elliott’s. They were for many years the private expression of her own daily prayers, and were so much a part of her own hidden life with her Saviour that they were rarely communicated by her to any one, and only to her most intimate friends. One of those had them printed on a card by Taylor (Edinburgh 1860) and at first she was rather disconcerted, till she was led to feel that this was her loved Saviour’s way of leading others to the participation in her own sacred inner life. The lines were:

Charlotte Elliott was a weakly child and spent most of her time inside. She was not raised in poverty but she did have physical problems that kept her from socializing with others. As she entered her adolescent years, she became bitter.

Wrong Question

Text: Matthew 18:1-6, NLT

About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” 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. 5 And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

INTRODUCTION

Before we begin with Chapter 18, let’s briefly recap chapter 17 which begins with a glorious, awesome mountain top experience. The we have the frustration and failure of the disciples to cast out a demon. Then Jesus upbraids them for their lack of faith which was fostered by a lack of prayer. Then Jesus talks to His disciples for the second time about His death and everything gets quiet as the disciples are filled with grief. Then we have a story that seems out of place, Jesus and Peter paying their Temple tax. Note: I said, “It seems out of place.” Then chapter 18 begins with the disciples asking a foolish question, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” It is the wrong question. Reminds me of a time some ten years ago when a new member, trying to impress me I suppose, came to me and ask: “Do I tithe the net or the gross?” I said, “You are asking the wrong question.” His foolish question was a dead give-a-way that revealed an uncommitted heart. He attended our church for six years and it all that time, he gave $25. The disciples asked the wrong question. Their question revealed a deep problem with their attitude, their way of thinking and Jesus is on it like white on rice.

Note what Jesus said to them….unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, Jesus is saying,  “You guys have put the cart before the horse. You don’t need to be concerned about greatness within the KINGDOM, you need to be concerned about getting into the KINGDOM. So, why don’t we talk about you getting in.” Jesus said to get in, you have to turn from your sins. The disciples were following Jesus in  appearance but not in attitude. They were making every step He made but they were not thinking the way He was thinking. In attitude and thought, they were in fact, going in the opposite direction. Jesus said, “Boys, you are going the wrong way with this question and your thinking, you are going to have to turn and go in my direction if you want to get into the kingdom of heaven.

I. FIRST OF ALL, THEIR QUESTION SUGGEST THEY WERE MOVING TOWARD PRIDE AND AWAY FROM HUMILITY–Jesus requires the opposite.

Pride is a subtle thing. It is the only malady that a man can have and everyone know it except himself. I see pride as a two faced coin-with a head and a tail. The head of pride is blatant arrogance, the opposite side [the tails] is self-pity but both are forms of pride and fully occupy your thinking with thoughts of yourself. The poor pitiful me syndrome that sells itself as humility is a subtle form of pride. Humility is not thinking little of yourself, it is not thinking about yourself at all. This question reveals that the disciples are preoccupied with thoughts about themselves.

Obviously, they knew that Jesus was the greatest but their concern was the pecking order under Jesus. Who was second to Jesus was their concern? So we have rivalry, jealously, strife which are all indications of pride. Warren Wiersbe says, “The selfishness and disunity of God’s people is a scandal to the Christian faith.” When we live primarily for ourselves and not for others, there is bound to be conflict and strife, so much so that even the unbelieving world picks up on it. Did not the pagan Pilate see envy in the religious Jews?

What are we to do about our selfishness and pride? I think the place to begin is to agree with God that it is a problem for all of us, some more than others and I would be a part of the some. As Isaiah said in chapter 53, “We, like sheep have all gone astray.” How so? “By turning to our own way.” By nature we are stubborn sheep, we are rebels who want to be celebrities rather than servants. Jesus served: the disciples wanted to be served–there is a huge difference. Would you agree with God today that you have a problem with pride and that you are constantly tempted to put yourself before others.

So, what if I acknowledge that I am proud, what can I do about it? Very little, but you can humble yourself at least to pray and confess your problem to God. Pride is as strong as the flesh itself and we are no match. When it comes to pride, we need a miracle of GRACE.

As most of you know, I was addicted big time to diet cokes, especially diet Dr. Pepper. I tried several times to get myself off and I went once for two weeks but then fell off the wagon. I never thought of myself as being addicted to coffee but three years ago I would drink two pots a day in the winter and 2-3 cups a day in the summer. I cannot lie, actually I can but I am not this instant, my morning coffee was one of the things that inspired by Quiet Time. I went to bed excited about getting up at 4:30 and starting on that pot of coffee. Over a year ago, coffee began to make me sick and I have to give it up. Listen, I kept trying to drink it but it created such discomfort that I finally gave up. Generally I drink one cup per week now and sometimes not an entire cup. I drink no cokes: Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Coke. I can drink a Mountain Dew now and then or a root beer. I still try to drink a diet Dr. Pepper on Sunday morning but seldom to I take more than a couple of swallows. Now I could tell you that by my discipline and strong will, I got myself off of diet drinks but that would be a lie. God in His infinite wisdom, mercy and grace gave me six ulcers in my stomach and I could not drink cokes without paying a price. I have drank a lot of water, milk and tea this last year. Unfortunately, I cannot get excited about water or milk but I am loving the tea. If you had ask my wife or one of my secretaries three years ago or even two: “Will Bro. Jack ever stop guzzling those diet Dr. Peppers? [12-15 per day], They would have said, “No way!” In many ways, pride is like an addiction, it is deeply rooted in our flesh. I know that pride is more than I can handle and I beg God’s mercy and help to overcome this vain monster that lives inside me.

II. SECONDLY, THEIR QUESTION REVEALS THAT THEY ARE NOT GIVING PREFERENCE TO OTHERS.

When Paul was teaching the Philippians about having the mind of Christ, this is a part of what he said… Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

I know some question Mother Teresa’s theology and I have not studied to subject enough to have an opinion but personally, I was impressed with this Catholic Nun. First of all, she laid down her life to serve others and under the worse conditions in the world…Calcutta, India where she ministered to the dying. I also admire her courage: she called Clinton out at a National Prayer Breakfast [Televised] for his position on abortion. You do not expect to find hypocrites ministering to the dying or taking a stand for the unborn. Princess Diana was being buried on the same day that Mother Teresa died. All the news was about the Princess, Mother Teresa’s promotion got almost no air time: in some cases none. The Princess was what this world calls a VIP and Mother Teresa was a Missionary. Our world defines a Missionary as “a crazy person who throws their life away.” Remember, our world thinks the opposite of Jesus.

With Jesus, there were no VIP’s. He treated Pilate like a person but He treated everyone like a person. He treated beggars like persons. He treated women like persons. He treated little children like persons. We live in a culture that is kinder to women and children. Jesus was kind to them in a world that looked on them with contempt. Jesus is telling His disciples, “Guys, you are going to have to change the way you see people…you are not seeing them the way I do…and He sat a child in their midst and then extolled the virtues of childhood that we often lose when we become adults.

Don’t look down on others, everyone including children can make a contribution. You are not better than they, you are not smarter. If you have the attitude that you know more, you will learn less. Children are great teachers. Jesus did not despise others: the Pharisees did but not Jesus. To think the way Jesus thinks, you have to turn from your prideful despising ways and give preference to others.

Many of you remember John Mark Stallings. John Mark was born with Downs Syndrome. One of the most moving speeches I’ve heard is Coach Stalling talking about John Mark. He said, “John Mark taught us by his example what it is like to love unconditionally. John Mark hugged everyone, he did not discriminate. He had no capacity for hate, jealously or contempt for others.” It is amazing, is it not, we refer to these children as being retarded. Jesus was tell us we have it backwards, they are light years in front of us when it comes to the proper attitude toward others.

III. LAST BUT NOT LEAST, THE QUESTION REVEALS A DEEP ROOT OF PRIDE THAT BREEDS CONTEMPT FOR OTHERS

Robert Brown Parker was a novelist from Springfield, Massachusetts who wrote detective stories. He wrote nine novels about a Police Chief named Jesse Stone [played by Tom Selleck] Stone is fired from his police job as a homicide detective in L.A. and he finds employment in the fictitious town of Paradise, Massachusetts. The president of the town counsel, a man by the name of Hastings, is an organized crime lord and a big one. Even the crime lords in near by Boston answer to him. He masquerades as a dunce, wearing this goofy bow time which lights up. The kind of things my kid would die if they saw me wearing. Hasting is the ultimate con-artist because he looks like a dunce. He is the last person in town that you would identify with organized crime. Jesse Stone becomes his undoing. He not only figures Hasting out, he exposes him and puts him on the run. When my favorite character Luther “Suitcase” Simpson, asked Jesse why Hasting hired him. Jesse response is classic, “Because he thought he was smarter than I am and he gave me the appearance that I was much smarter than he.”

I want to ask you a question that we tell you where you are in your relationship with Jesus: do you think you are smarter than I am? What about your spouse? What about your children? What about your in-laws? Can you think of one person that you believe is more intelligent than you are? I don’t know what your answers where and it is not important that I know…you know and that is what matters. When we feel superior to others intellectually, socially or morally: it indicates a problem and we are definitely not thinking the ways Jesus thinks and we need to turn around and move toward His way of thinking.