Matthew 18b

Matthew 18B: Life in the Kingdom

In today’s lesson we will look at how seriously sin is regarded by the Lord among believers. He speaks figuratively of ‘ cutting yourself off’ from that sin which so easily entangles one. The Lord then prescribes, step by step, the proper way to handle church discipline of a believer who   has sinned against you.  And then we want to look at the power of prayer and the promises and potential of intercessory prayer as Jesus promises to be in our midst whenever two or more are gathered in His name.

“ If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better you enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown in to eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell”.  ( Matthew 18: 8,9)

James writes in James 1-“ When tempted, no one should say God is tempting me. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” Matthew Henry says- “ …many prevailing temptations to sin come from within ourselves.”  Jesus is saying we must not consider anything too dear to part with- if it causes us to be tempted to sin.

It is interesting when we read Paul’s account of the process of salvation we  also read of the ongoing  struggle with sin and the old nature.  We are crucified with Christ. Our old nature, the flesh is nailed to the cross. So why isn’t my old nature dead? We must be reminded- crucifixion was by  design- a slow, torturous death. Rarely, did one die immediately. So our death is sure- but prolonged.  However, we have been removed from the dominion of sin- it is no longer our master and we now have the ability to resist.  Our old nature is dead- but the sentence to death by crucifixion takes time and occurs in phases or stages. Just as we are new creatures- we are coming alive in phases. All things are new and becoming new- as old things are dying.  That is why Paul would also write:  ‘ I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live…” ( Galatians 2: 20)

So then goes the death of the old nature in stages—the hand that used to reach for the pocket that held the cigarette is cut off.  The feet that used to carry one to the bar or night club for drinking and all that went with it- are cut off. And the eye which once beheld sights it should not – has been gouged out.  You see in one situation we walked after the flesh and lusts of the flesh. Our eyes were always looking for the opportunity to sin and be tempted.  Now our eyes are on things above and we walk not after the flesh- but the Spirit.

Now having warned us about not sinning and causing offense to others, Jesus tells us the steps to take when a fellow believer has sinned against us.   “ If a brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. “ Notice first- we are to go to the one who has offended us, not visa versa. Second notice it  just between the two of you.  No need to get on the phone and tell others what they did to you- no need to tell it to your colleagues at work. What do you think they are going to do?  They will tell one or two of their friends what has happened.  We know how these conversations start:  ‘ did you hear about…?’  or this opening is guaranteed to get an attentive audience- ‘ don’t tell anybody about this , but….’  It is  gossip, sometimes disguised as prayer requests or sharing our problems.

– “ If he listens to you, you have won our brother over.” This is the purpose of these steps to win your brother over- to see them restored through repentance. However, they may not listen and that leads to this second step:  “ Take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or tax collector.”   This means they are to be reproved for their good- to have their eyes opened to their sin and offense, and repent and be restored.

I believe everything should be based upon the Word of God. Their wrong actions, sin, trespasses must be shown to them in light of God’s Word.   Remember the Word of God is profitable for reproof and correction.

When Jesus says tell it to the church- what does that mean?  I believe after the second step has failed, the situation is presented to church leadership. The details of the offense can be brought into this small group so the offense is clearly and scripturally defined.  The church leadership can then present the situation to the church at large without going into the details of the offense, except to say – we are just in having this person treated this way- for the purpose not of revenge but repentance and restoration.  The very essence of tough love- turn them out on their own.

Again we here the statement : “ Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you have loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Jesus is saying if you follow my rules, my law for governing my church- then whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven if it is according to my  rules for the body of Christ.  What if the church makes a mistake? In John 9, the man born blind and healed by Jesus is thrown out of the temple by the leaders. This was wrong. What did Jesus do?  “ Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him..”  ( John 9: 34,35)  He made things right- when one has been wronged by the religious authorities.

Jesus then added: “ Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you  by my Father, in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.”  Notice the prayer that is answered is always the one asks in His Name- meaning in His will.  But here there is specific encouragement for joint-prayer- for intercessory prayer.

Here is one of my favorite promises regarding prayer:  “ Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God that  transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. “( Philippians 4: 6-7)

Life is full of difficulties, for ourselves and for our loved ones. God never intended for life on this earth to be easy- and one of the reasons for that is so we would long for a better place. A place where we reside with Him, Our Father. This is where He longs for us to be- now and forever. In the meanwhile, and it does get ‘mean’ down here- we have prayer. Prayer that allows us to pour out our hearts to the One who created us, loves us and died for us. He has promised to listen and hears our cries for help.  And regardless of how He works things out- and He will work them out- He has promised us peace that passes all understanding.

“ Hear my prayer, O Lord! Listen to my cry for mercy! In the day of trouble I will call out to you, for you will answer me.” ( Psalm 86:6&7)

He is always there. He always listens. He always cares. He will never leave you or desert you.

During my treatment for cancer- I reached a low point with a very nasty blood infection. Somehow in my sickness I could not empathize with what Gina was going through-she was fearful I would die and what would she do. I now realize if the situation was reversed, how fearful I would be if I thought she was going to die.   We were going to fly to Houston, to MD Anderson to see what if anything had been happening to my cancer.  She was crying out to the Lord to help her get through this time.  Gina is not a fearless flyer- she does not like being up in the air. And on this particular day, we were flying in a storm. So she had even more reasons to be worried. But as the plane took off and the pilot guided us above the clouds, the storm and the turbulence, we broke through the clouds to a bright sunny blue sky and Gina knew we were going to make it.

This what prayer can accomplish. Prayer can take you above the storm and the turbulence of life to a place with God that is safe and sunny.  In fact before we went to have the tests done that would reveal what had happened to  the cancer, Gina and I got down on our knees and Gina thanked the Lord for everything that had happened and was going to happen, no matter what. For we are to make our requests known with thanksgiving.

We become the most serious about prayer when we are suffering or our loved ones are suffering. We become serious about prayer when we are fearful.  Remember 9/11?  The churches looked like Easter Sunday even on Wednesday night.  No one felt like watching mindless, tasteless television and its situation comedies.  David Lettermen did not feel like being his usual quirky, smirking clever self. Dan Rather broke down and  cried on television. Billy Graham was praying in the name of Jesus on national television and the ACLU was not  threatening to sue.

Let’s see if we believe these truths:

  1. Sometimes difficult things happen to us so that the glory and power of God can be revealed in and through us in our difficulties.  Case in point:  the man born blind in John 9.  Jesus said he was born that way that the works of God might be revealed in him.
  2. Sometimes God uses difficulties to purify us. “ Therefore since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” ( I Peter 4:1)  We are told those whom God loves- He disciplines. Suffering, discipline, ‘ never seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” ( Hebrews 12)  Not pleasant- but painful. Pain is part of the process necessary for the harvest to be produced. So our suffering may be a result of God’s discipline.   It is actually training.   And remember what Paul said about the Word of God it is profitable for training in righteousness that the man of God might be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ( 2 Timothy 3)
  3. Sometimes we just get caught in the web of other’s sins and the work of the enemy. But again remember- God is Sovereign. He is in control – nothing comes into your life that He has not caused or allowed. And He is able to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His Purpose ( Romans 8:28)

Here is what we want to do:  *Pray for wisdom.  *Pray for the Holy Spirit’s help. *Remember the Holy Spirit prays for us, as does the Lord Jesus our High Priest. *Pray for the mind of Christ. Search His Word for every promise and principle that applies to your situation. *Remember when you are weak- He is strong. *Pray you will not allow the circumstances to defeat and discourage you.

Then get one or two other-  the more the better- to pray with you. Some may  bring insight and truths to the situation that you had not seen.

It is in some ways a very simple process:

You ask- for the purpose of receiving.

You seek for the aim of seeking is to find.

You knock and keep on knocking because you want to arouse attention- so you can get in. And the Lord Jesus said- ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.

E.M.Bounds in his book ‘ On Prayer” says:  “ He who wants to pray well- must first study God’s Word and store it in their memory.”  The Word of God is the fulcrum on which the lever of prayer is placed.  This means our prayers are based on the Word of God.  And who is the Word of God- the Lord  Jesus. In this way- we can press down the lever of prayer with faith based on the Word of God. For faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.( Romans 10:17)

We also know we have the Holy Spirit groaning for us, the Lord Jesus interceding for us and our brothers and sisters joining in also praying in His Name, the Name of Jesus. What does that mean to pray in His Name?  It means this is what He would ask for.  And this is the ‘ confidence we have in approaching God; that if we asks anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us , whatever we ask- we know that we have what we asked of Him.” ( I John 5: 14,15)    This does not mean we know how He will work this out or what His time schedule is- but we can wait patiently and do good.

Notice most of all- what Jesus said would happen when’ two or three are gathered  together in my name- there am I in the midst of them.’

Jesus said:  “ It is written , My House shall be called a House of Prayer.”  Jesus makes the case that prayer is preeminent above all else in the house of God.  He did not say this about preaching or teaching- though they are a part of it.  But in some ways- if these are not prepared  and bathed in prayer-we wonder how effective they are. The house of God is for mutual, united prayer. The life, power and the glory of the church is prayer.

Think about it- the Shekinah glory of God dwelled in the tabernacle, that portable tent.  The presence of God is secured and retained by prayer. Without prayer- a church is dead and powerless.  Jesus is promising us- if two or three gather together in His name- he will be present.   When a church is a praying church it becomes a Holy Sanctuary- without it- it is building of brick , mortar, wood and glass.   The Lord is saying when you leave home and come here to meet in my name, prayer is what is expected for it is a House of Prayer.  Prayer should underlie everything that is done.

Listen to what Paul wrote to the church in Corinth.  “ On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us , as you help us by your prayers.!”

Charles Spurgeon wrote:  “ Every promise of Scripture is a writing of God, which may be pleaded before Him with this reasonable request: ‘ do as thou has said .’

“ The Lord has promised good to me- His Word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.” ( Amazing Grace)

John Newton discovered- what I have discovered and discovering- the Word of God my hope secures. And if we are live above the difficult circumstances of this world- we must have hope.

Why is this happening to me, Lord? To my family?  I hurt Lord. Don’t you care?   I claim your promises- I pray until I cry and can pray no more.    Sometimes I get answers- sometimes I don’t get answers- but I get something better- I get Him. And that is all I need.

What a haunting refrain this is from a hymn that draws me closer to my Lord Jesus:

“ Man of sorrows,….what a name for the Son of God who came, ruined sinners to reclaim,Hallelujah, What a Savior!!  ( Did you know Hallelujah is pronounced the same in every language)

I was a ruined sinner- and He came to claim me off a ledge. I was without God and therefore without hope- and hopeless is a place you do not want to go- it is a ledge of despair.

Halllelujah!  What a Savior!

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14