Welcome to Tuesday’s Podcast. Thanks again for joining us as we seek to hear from God through his word, and live in response to that.
Today’s passage is Matthew 18:1-14 but we’re going to focus on verse 8 and 9:
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 two hands or two 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 one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
So, a nice, comfortable passage to start the day with, yes? The more and more I read the Gospels, the more I realise how challenging they are. Jesus really knew how to lay down the challenge – not just to those who were against him, but those who were for him. Yet we also know with Jesus, there is always the invitation – the invitation to be part of God’s story. The invitation is always there. Revelation 3:20 – Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
When we invite God into our lives, his promise is this – I will be with you…but the challenge is this…if you want me in your house…there’s going to be some changes!
As we saw yesterday, Jesus is trying to teach the disciples about life in the kingdom of God. Yesterday, we began by thinking about faith – the gift God gives us which enables us to enter his kingdom. To allow God’s influence to extend in our lives. To shape and transform us into person God created us to be.
But as we’ve already alluded to, inviting God into our lives means giving him permission to challenge some of things we do so that we might be more like Jesus.
I lead our fantastic youth church here at STC. Recently, we were sharing our testimonies, our faith stories with a group of teenagers and I was trying to answer the question: How has following Jesus shaped my life? And I thought it about it for the moment…and said, ‘If I had to sum it up, it’s this. I live differently.’
The point is this…when we invite Jesus into our lives, and let him shape our lives – we begin to live differently and living differently means that sometimes we have to make some tough choices. Some things have to change.
In today’s passage, Jesus is talking to his disciples about the seriousness of sin, the things we do which damage our relationship with God, and with others. The seriousness of it is this. Jesus talks about hell. Just the word alone puts people on edge. It’s the source of much debate amongst Christians and non-Christians alike.
Is Hell an actual place, or a kind of end state, or an absence of any sort of relationship with God – we don’t really know and we haven’t really got time to explore that in this short podcast. But what Jesus is saying here is that there is a consequence to us sinning. What we do with our life, what sort of choices we make, what we look at, what we say, what we do – it matters.
If you invite me into your life, Jesus says, you’re going to find yourself making some tough decisions. If your hand is causing you to sin – cut it off! If your eye is causing you to sin – gouge it out. Of course, we know that the message isn’t go and maim ourselves, but to get serious about the stuff that damages our relationship with God and to do something about that.
God calls us to live differently. Life in God’s kingdom, under God’s influence is different. And we know, through the gift of faith as we looked at yesterday, that the life we were made for, its life in all its fullness – and it’s not just something we can experience now, it’s something we’ll know fully in time, for all eternity. That’s God grace to us. It’s his gift to us. Because he loves us.
The challenge is living in response to that grace. The challenge is looking at what I think, say, do, view, where I go and asking ourselves: is this drawing me closer to God, or is it taking me further away? And it’s in those moments, where we need to – as Jesus himself puts it earlier in the passage – change and become like little children. Where we need to repent, turn back to God and ask him by his Spirit to do what we don’t have the strength to do on our own – to make the tough choices, to choose to live differently.
Jesus, search our hearts today. See if there is any offensive way in us. God, may we receive your forgiveness for the things we do which harm our relationship with you. We look to you as Father, and as guide to help us live the kingdom life out in a world that doesn’t yet recognise that. Lead us, Lord, in your ways everlasting. Amen.
READING: Matthew 18:1-14
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 one such child in my name welcomes me.
‘If anyone causes one 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 the 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 two hands or two 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 one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
‘See that you do not despise one 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 one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.