Matthew 18 verse 1 – At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Let’s pray.
Father, through Your word and through the authoritative teaching of Jesus Christ, we pray that You give us ample motivation to pray without ceasing. We want to become like little children who are the greatest in the kingdom of God, who not only enter but who are considered the greatest. We give You this time. Speak, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Everyone remembers our verses that we began this year with. Can we recite them or altogether? 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Among those three commandments, which one is the greatest or the most important? Would you say? Anybody? Giving thanks? Giving thanks? Okay. Not the one I would choose. Anybody else have another choice? Pray continually.
Which one should we choose: to pray continually or rejoice always? What do you think? I believe to pray continually is the better choice because rejoicing always is a prayer. We must give thanks in all circumstances, and in doing so we are praying continually. That is the main thing that we must learn as Christians who are striving to become like little children.
Let’s look in Matthew 16:12 to see what Jesus said. When they read this, they understood that Jesus was not referring to the leaven of bread but instead to the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
This teaching can still be seen today–some are like the Sadducees, who only believe in the scriptures of the Old Testament and do not believe in anything supernatural. Others are like the Pharisees, who follow a lot of rules, rituals, and religion. People come to church feeling tired, burdened, guilty, and condemned, and leave feeling the same way–this is the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. We must focus on the authoritative teaching of Jesus Christ and strive to pray without ceasing.
Matthew 16 verse 13 introduces us to the region of Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus is asked by his disciples who some men say that he is. Jesus responds by asking the disciples who they say he is, to which Simon Peter answers that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus then blesses Simon Bar-Jona, saying that flesh and blood has not revealed this to him, but his Father who is in heaven. Jesus then tells Simon that he will be known as Peter and that upon his confession he will build his church, and that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
Jesus promises to give Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever he binds on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever he looses on earth will be loosed in heaven.
The interpretation of these verses can lead to either more freedom in Christ or more bondage to the doctrines of man. If Peter is interpreted as the rock being Peter the person, then he is seen as the first pope, and therefore infallible in his interpretation.
On the other hand, if Peter is seen as a fallible man, then Jesus is building his church upon his confession that he is the Christ. In the very next chapter, Jesus gives an example of this supernatural binding and loosing. When a man comes to Jesus pleading for mercy for his son, Jesus responds by healing the son, showing that whatever is bound on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven.
It is clear that Matthew is trying to communicate something about Jesus Christ through these verses, and it is up to us to interpret it in a way that brings us more freedom or bondage.
He was an epileptic, suffering severely. He would often fall into the fire and water, so his family brought him to the disciples of Jesus, hoping they could cure him. But they could not.
Jesus answered them saying, “Oh, faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to me.” Then Jesus rebuked the demon, causing it to come out of him and the child was cured from that very hour.
The disciples then came to Jesus privately and asked why they could not cast it out. He answered them, saying, “Because of your unbelief. For assuredly I say to you, If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there and it will move and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Jesus was warning them that the doctrines of men cannot solve all problems. Some of us might not even believe that this kind of thing is possible in our day and age. But it was possible for Jesus and the apostles in the first century, and it is possible for believers in our modern era too. We have things like epilepsy that we don’t know the cause of, but we just give it a pill. That’s the best we can do. There is no cure for this. You’re going to have to live with it. This is modern medicine. This is the doctrines of man.
Jesus shows us what He means by binding and loosening through His ministry. He says that if we have faith as a mustard seed, we will experience such binding and loosening. But why do we pray without ceasing? We pray without ceasing as an expression of our faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot do this on our own authority, so we must rely on the power and authority of Jesus to do so.
It is through our confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and our faith in Him, that allows us to see mountains move, unclean spirits cast out, and men and women loosened in Jesus’ name. Our praying without ceasing is an expression of faith, as we choose to believe that nothing is impossible for the one who believes.
I choose to trust in Jesus. This mountain shall move in Jesus’ name. So why do we pray without ceasing? It is an expression of our faith.
Matthew 18 verse 15 states that if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
Jesus then continues to say, “Surely I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” He further states that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything they ask, it will be done for them. By my Father in heaven, for where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.
You might wonder why on most Sundays at the end of the service, I invite people to come forward and become members of the church. The reason why is because of Matthew 18. Anybody can show up on a Sunday, but for you to submit under the authority of the leadership of this church as shepherds who are accountable for certain people, you have to voluntarily come into agreement that, yes, I want to be accountable to you, brother and sister. I want to become a member of this church because I am prone to get lost. I am prone to be blind. I need help. I need someone to look over after my soul because I want to make it to heaven.
For that reason, we invite people to become members of this church so that you voluntarily say, I want to be accountable to God through the leadership of this church so that when I am blind, I can be called out on it. When I am unrepentant, I can be called out on it.
All of us, at any point, can become blind. As soon as we stop praying, cease in prayer, let go of Jesus, or stop trusting in Him, we are vulnerable to attack from Satan, like a roaring lion. We need the protection of other brothers and sisters who know us, so that we can be held accountable. We cannot go to a large church where nobody knows us, as we won’t have any accountability. Instead, we need to be known, and come in agreement that we are accountable before God. We need help and accountability, so that when we are blind, someone can call us out; and if we are unrepentant, two or three witnesses can bring us to repentance.
Going to a large church and not being known is a man-centered way of doing church. We should not just look at people as numbers, and get puffed up because of an increasing attendance number; but instead, we should genuinely care for each and every person.
You don’t care about me. We have nothing to do with each other. You’re on your own, and I’m on my own. Good luck. I hope you make it to heaven. That’s one way to do church.
Another way to do church is everybody here knows you, and everybody knows you. We are accountable for one another, and we will be accountable, especially the leadership, before God for every person that was sent by God. And we take it seriously.
When one of us, it could be me, it could be you, if any of us is blind to sin, then we bring a charge to that brother. Maybe they sinned against us, or maybe they are drinking or getting drunk, or maybe they are abusive at home or something is happening in that person’s life. And as the body of Christ watching over each other’s souls, we notice it and we go privately to that person.
And we ask them about it. We don’t presume anything. We’re not judging them, but we just ask them about it. And then things come out. But the reaction of the person is, well, first of all, who are you to tell me that I’m in sin? This is not a sin. I’m not sinning. And so we’re trying to help the person. The person doesn’t want to be helped. The person puts up a wall.
And so what does the first person who’s bringing up a concern to that brother or sister, they bring a second person. And that second person also agrees with the first person. Yes, there’s something here. That’s a problem. We maybe bring a third person. The person is still unrepentant. What do you do?
In a church, we are filled with Christians, non-Christian seekers, committed people, elders, committed church members. It’s a mixture of people. So when we can’t kick anybody out of the church, anybody is free to come here. But if you call yourself a brother or sister, if you’ve submitted under authority of this church and said, I’m a member of this church, and you are in blatant sin, and you are unrepentant, then it is a job of the church, two or three people. We come forward to that person, say, okay, you can keep attending this church because we want you to repent.”
We want you to come to faith in Christ and be saved. But we do not consider you a brother or sister who is a member of this church in good standing because you’re unrepentant of your obvious sin. That’s why I invite people to become a member of this church or any church. You need to be accountable before God with other people. You’re not a solo person; although in the end we are alone before God, until that point, God has blessed us with a church family so that we can care for one another’s souls. That’s the reason why I invite us, whoever is not a member of this church, to become a member.
Notice he says again, this is an issue of binding and loosing. You can be bound by an unclean spirit, you can be bound and epileptic and thrown into the water and the fire. You can be bound by something outside of you or you can be bound because of your own sin and your refusal to repent. Here, a binding is the sin binds the person, and we are leaving that person in their sin as an act of judgment, saying we warned you once, we warned you twice, we warned you three times. You do not repent, you’re bound in your sins.
We’re not giving you a false sense that you’re okay and can keep fellowshiping with us as if nothing is wrong and you’re still a member in good standing. We’re saying we draw a line here; you can come to the church, but when we look at you, we look at you as an unbeliever. Hopefully, that strikes fear of God in the person. Then two or three brothers express their concern, asking ‘Am I blind? Am I bound? Am I in sin?’
“Am I unrepentant?” This is a question that many of us ask ourselves, and it is the job of the church to look after one another’s souls. That is why we pray without ceasing – to stay close to God and to repent often. If we look at Peter as the first pope, it is a Catholic position that he is infallible when he interprets scripture as a pope. However, we also see that Peter has a moment of amazing confession – “Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” – and Jesus commends Peter for this. Jesus says “I can build my church”.
The question is then asked, is the church built on Peter or on his confession? In the following verse, Jesus begins to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and be raised on the third day. It is then that Peter takes them aside and begins to rebuke Jesus, saying “Far be it from you, Lord, that this shall not happen to you”. But Jesus turns and says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan, you are an offense to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God but the things of men”.
Peter is clearly fallible, one moment praised by Jesus and the very next moment he is rebuked. This shows us that all of us are fallible, and that is why we don’t put our trust in any person. Even if a pastor has a million YouTube followers, even if they have the largest church, or even if they have written many books, we don’t trust in them because people are fallible. We must always make sure that we don’t follow the doctrines of men if we cannot find what they are saying in the Bible.
Have you ever heard it kind of sounds like it’s in the Bible? It’s like a mixture of things here and there versus taking out of context. It’s just a doctrine of men in many cases. That’s why we don’t trust what people say.
We trust in Jesus. We trust in Jesus’ word. His word is authoritative. We pray without ceasing because we are fallible. We need to repent often. So I imagine Peter, after he’s rebuked, he might have felt good about himself. A moment earlier, but right after Jesus rebuked him, I’m sure Peter repented. We need to repent often. We must remember to pray without ceasing, and to repent often. Even Peter, after being rebuked by Jesus, likely repented and put his trust in the Lord.
We should always put our trust in Jesus because His words are authoritative.
What if Jesus listened to Peter’s advice. You don’t need to die. Do not talk about dying. Why don’t you just stay here a long time? Why don’t you stay here 50 plus years? Why don’t we start this mega church?’
Matt 16:24 – Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
What if Jesus followed Peter’s advice and they did it that way? Peter would’ve been an apostle of this gigantic church and he would be lifted high. Everybody looks at him and they just bow their head because he is the first in line after Jesus. If that was allowed to happen, then Peter would be in danger of losing his soul. Because that’s the whole point here; you deny yourself, you take up a cross, you follow Jesus. You don’t do life, you don’t do church the way the world does church and life, because if you do it that way, you have a great danger of losing your soul.
This whole passage, his warning is, don’t lose your soul. You might start with Jesus and then you go off and do your ministry, you could possibly lose your soul. You could even wake up early in the morning like many Koreans, five in the morning, early morning prayer. It’s commendable, but do they pray without ceasing after that morning prayer?
Or do they live like an utter pagan after 5.30, 6 a.m.? The prayer is over, you live like a pagan. It’s important to pray without ceasing so that we do not lose our soul; it can happen in a moment where you lose your soul. And you can lose your soul and think you’re fine, and then in judgment day, you’re surprised that Jesus says, I don’t know you.
Matthew 18, verse 6, whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses, for offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offenses come.
Jesus’ words are so serious and drastic when he tells us that if our hand, foot, or eye causes us to sin, we should cut it off and cast it from us. It is better for us to enter into life lame, maimed, or with one eye rather than having two hands, two feet, or two eyes and being cast into the everlasting fire.
What Jesus is saying is that we need to struggle against our sin and not just accept it as okay. In order to protect ourselves, Jesus has given us the body of Christ. He encourages us to help one another and to make sure that we do not lose our soul as we live this life.
One of the best ways to do this is by praying without ceasing and continually repenting. It is surprising how quickly sins can pile up if we do not take the necessary steps to prevent it.
Just like weeds can take over a lawn in a short period of time, so can sin take over our hearts if we are not careful. We may think we are fine on the outside, but the rain and trials can bring forth the weeds in our hearts. We must be vigilant to keep our hearts from becoming hardened and make sure we are not losing our souls.
Praying without ceasing is an essential part of following Jesus. We must take sin seriously and understand that it has deep roots that can easily be missed. When we pray without ceasing and are convicted of one sin, more sins can be revealed. We must be prepared to repent all day long.
The Holy Spirit can soften our hearts and make it easier for God to help us pull out the weeds. The Father can reach in and pull out the root with ease if the heart is softened. So I encourage you to spend time in God’s presence, listening to the Word of God, and let the water of the Word wash over you. This will bring a softening effect that will make it easier to pull out the sin’s roots.
Praying without ceasing is a powerful way to understand the depths of God’s love for us. It’s not a way to feel condemned, it’s a way to turn to the Lord, repent, ask for forgiveness, and be forgiven.
We can keep giving up, keep getting forgiven, and be amazed at how much God loves us, even though we may not deserve it. Jesus himself said in Matthew 18:21, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” This is a powerful example of God’s love for us. Even when we have sinned against Him, He wants us to forgive and to be forgiven, and to settle our accounts with Him. This is a reminder of how great and gracious God’s love is for us.
The servant, upon being asked to pay back the debt he owed, fell down before his master and begged for patience. The master, moved by his words, released him and forgave the debt. However, the servant did not show the same compassion when he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He laid hands on him and demanded payment. The fellow servant begged for patience, but he refused and threw him into prison until the debt was paid. Upon hearing of this, the master was furious. He called the servant and said, “You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Could you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” He then delivered the servant to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. In the same way, our Heavenly Father will do to us if we do not forgive our brothers their trespasses from our hearts.
Ten thousand talents is like 200,000 years of working – that’s a huge amount of money. In comparison, a hundred denarii is only one hundred days of wages – a much smaller sum. We are the first people who have been forgiven 200,000 years of wages – the debt that bound us. But in a moment, Jesus sets us free, loosing us from that debt, that sin.
And yet, we have such trouble forgiving. We get so annoyed and judge and criticize easily because we do not truly understand the depths of sin we have been forgiven from and how much God loves us. We often forget that we have been forgiven a lot, and so should be more forgiving and understanding of others. We must remember that God loves us so much and that is why we must pray without ceasing, so that we can understand God’s love for us and forgive sins, even if it is the same person wronging us over and over.
According to Matthew 18:1, Jesus said that for us to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must become like little children, humble ourselves and receive Him. We should also be aware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees and their religion which is based on the idea that they are superior and have all the answers, while everyone else must listen to them.
“Keep coming to me, I have all the answers.” These are the words of someone who believes they should be worshiped and respected. They want to show what the Bible says and explain it to others, claiming that no one can understand it or know Jesus for themselves. They are offering to be a figure in someone’s life, like Jesus, and keep showing them the Bible for the next fifty years. They believe that they need to show the Bible to others because they cannot understand it or hear Jesus for themselves. This is seen as a tiered system, man’s religion.
A parent wants their child to grow up, become independent, and contribute to society. This same idea is also applicable to our spiritual life. Instead of praying without ceasing, it is believed that one should be a churchgoer.
For over 20 to 30 years, I’ve been living life with the mindset that I have all the answers and I know all the Bible so I don’t need to pray that much. I have all the advice and I have it all. We, instead of becoming like a little child, are growing up in our own eyes in the wrong way. We are puffed up in our pride and give ourselves titles, and this is all man’s religion.
It is not becoming like a little child. Praying without ceasing is a posture, a choice to humble yourself. I must admit that I don’t have all the answers. Yesterday might have been a great day, but today might be terrible. I might encounter a situation I cannot handle, and the sky may be falling and everything might be crumbling. I can’t do life, Lord.
With humility and a prayerful heart, we turn to Jesus for help. Becoming a little child and trusting in the Lord. I have a special memory of my father taking time to build a zoo with cars when I wasfour, or five years old. Despite the stress of his PhD and a full-time job, he spent time with me. This is a tender memory that God has gifted me with.
Another precious memory I have is of going to Baskin Robbins with my family. There was this dog that started barking. I was so jumpy back then. Still am. So I turned and I hit my eyelid right on the corner of a table, and it split open. Blood was pouring down my face, but my father put me on his back and ran to the doctor.
This moment reminds me of how God wants us to live our lives. He wants us to depend on Him, trust in His Son, listen to Him, and follow Him. Life is not meant to be figured out alone; we need to rely on our Father.
We’re supposed to be like a little child – dependent, humble, and needy – for this is what God says we need to become. Are we growing in this way or are we growing in the wrong way, with less prayer and more self-dependence and self-reliance?
Life is impossible without Jesus, without the shelter and protection of a Heavenly Father looking out for us. It is impossible, and that is why the greatest in the kingdom are the children gathered here: Joshua, Isaac, Hannah, Lydia. We can’t handle this Lord, but we can give our burdens to Jesus, for His burden is light.
We are to pray without ceasing, for this is the only way to listen for the voice of Jesus, our Shepherd.
Matthew 17 speaks of the Transfiguration, when Peter, James, and John saw Jesus transfigured, and Moses and Elijah.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Moses and Elijah disappear, leaving only Jesus. And the memory of the voice from heaven from the Father “This is my beloved Son. Hear him. Listen to him.”
So why do we pray without ceasing? We need to listen for the voice of our Shepherd, but it takes time and it is not easy to hear the Shepherd’s voice. We need to stay in His presence, giving Him our burdens and fixing our gaze upon Him. We can’t expect to hear Jesus’ voice if we rush off to work and just offer a quick prayer. We need to stop and be still, praying throughout the day to hear His voice.
I pray that the Lord has given you ample motivation to pray this year and every year without ceasing. Let’s pray.
Father, forgive us for not obeying one of the most basic commandments. Praying without ceasing is an act of faith in Christ. It is to abide in Him, for apart from Him we can do nothing.
So we ask for forgiveness for our confidence in ourselves rather than in Jesus. We are sorry for not praying more, only seeking out God when we want Him to confirm what we have already decided.
Lord, forgive us. We repent and surrender again and again. Help us to take sin seriously, knowing that our salvation today could easily be gone tomorrow if we let go of Jesus. Therefore, we choose to hold on to Him, seeking to know Him more and more with each passing day.
May our lives be forever characterized by unceasing prayer, for we need You. We can’t do life without you, Lord. May our entire approach to life change from this day forward. We thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Father, we just keep asking for your help to see what spiritual condition we’re in. Holy Spirit, we invite you to come and minister to us. Convict us of our sins, we’ve repented of some, we know there’s more, we pray that you pull back the layers.
We thank You, Lord, that Your Word is a double-edged sword that divides joint and marrow, soul and spirit, cutting us to the core and leaving us laid naked before You. We pray that You would do surgery on our hearts, meeting us, restoring us, and forgiving us. We want to learn why we need to pray without ceasing, and You have given us many reasons – one of them being so that we can continue to be forgiven of all of our sins, and there are many. We see just a glimpse of it, but we know there is so much more. Throughout this day, this week, and beyond, we ask You to meet us in Jesus’ Name. Amen.