This is my nephew, James. He’s one cute kid. Jesus said in the scriptures say that we need to become like this little guy. What’s that about?
Matthew 18 starts with an argument and the disciples ask how to be great in God’s kingdom. It didn’t play out how they expected.
Question: “How do I be great in the Kingdom of Heaven”
Answer: “Unless you change, you’re not getting into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
As it turns out, the criteria for greatness is the criteria for entrance: utter dependence on God’s grace.
In other words, be like my little Nephew James here. He’s totally dependant.
When Jesus took a small child from the crowd and said “be like them”, He wasn’t talking about innocence. If he were, that would be horrible news because we disqualify ourselves from innocence daily – in thought, word and deed.
We’re not born in a neutral state where we don’t need Jesus and then at some point in our terrible two’s, or threes, or fours, or fives, we become cognitive of sin and THEN we need Jesus. That’s nowhere in scripture. The problem isn’t outside us (fallen world) it’s inside us (fallen nature).
All of us kiddos were born needing Jesus.
This is what salvation by grace alone infers. We’re totally dependant on grace. We don’t reach up of our own accord and pull grace down on top of us like a toddler pulling a bowl off a countertop, baptizing himself in Cheerios.
The fact that Jesus was talking about dependance is really good news because no matter who you are or what you’ve done – you can depend and trust in God’s grace for both entrance and greatness.
“Greatness” then, is not actually something in us but a gracious gift that’s handed to us. We stand in a borrowed holiness. Alien righteousness. We’re the kiddos. Utterly dependant.
The Gospel is the great equalizer because in Christ we’re all clean and without Him we’re all dead.
The disciples could’t do something to be great, they had to become something to be great. This is hard for our humanity to swallow because we want a program to achieve greatness , but Jesus insisted on giving us a posture to receive greatness.
The posture of dependancy on grace flows through the rest of Matthew 18 as the initial question about greatness at the beginning of the chapter moves into a teaching about forgiveness for the rest of the chapter. Thus, before Jesus instructs anyone to forgive, He takes a small child from the crowd to show everyone where their power to forgive will come from – utter dependancy on God’s grace.
The Father forgave us through the Son and remembering His grace empowers us to forgive others by His Spirit.
Greatness in God’s kingdom, entrance into God’s kingdom and the forgiveness of God’s kingdom all stem from the same thing – utter dependancy on Him.
It’s God’s grace that propels our desire to live to His glory, which in the case of Matthew 18, looks like walking in forgiveness with one another. That’s why we remember, rest and depend on God’s grace, kiddos.
You can listen to how this teaching by Jesus plays out in Matthew 18 HERE.