Matthew 18:1-9 Part 5

In verses eight and nine, Jesus speaks in terms of cutting off parts of the body, in order to stress the importance of the reborn life in Him.  And that’s where we want to spend most of our time this morning.  And then we can go on to verses ten through fourteen.

Jesus has told His disciples that the standard for entrance into His Kingdom is no less than this:  “You must be changed.”  Your old self must be annihilated and brought down to the dust in repentance.  The old man in Adam has to be cut off and plucked out, and there must be a new babe created in the new humanity of Christ!  The old man, in Adam, is cursed and dead due to his autonomous rebellion against His creator; and, therefore, he must have a perfect, substitute humanity in order to regain communion and fellowship with God.  And our Lord came, in our flesh, in order to be that substitute.  It is through rebirth into Him that we are created anew – in His humanity.  In Adam we die; but in Christ we are made alive!

Having been made alive, we begin to loathe the old body of sin – turning away from it and putting it to death.

But there are entrapments in the world (it is inevitable), and we must learn how to deal with them; for if we continue to be trapped into sin and compromise and apostasy, we risk the eternal perdition of our souls.  (He who says he’s a believer and continues to sin is a liar, says John.)

Now in former sermons, we’ve spoken of many of the traps and snares of the world order – all of which our Lord faced on His way to being our sacrificial atonement:

1)    “tests” of faith and duty and obedience,

2)    the philosophies of the world, and the flowery language of deceivers as they entice with words,

3)    the pain and emotional distress of physical persecution,

4)    the shame of ridicule and separation and humiliation

And Scripture says that we, as newborn babes in Him, will share His suffering.

Having been rebirthed into His New Humanity, there is inevitable conflict with the cursed world order, which is the source of these entrapments to unbelief and apostasy.  And, as we said last Lord’s Day, we are to take an aggressive stance toward them – the primary task being the mortification of the “old man,” our own sin!  And I want to speak at length to this issue – at a different level from that which we’ve done so far.

But, before I do that, there is on additional item in our outward opposition to these snares which needs mentioning.  (It hardly is mentioned any more, it seems.)

But Christ and the apostles warn us about putting ourselves into situations in which we may be entrapped to sin!  The inevitability of entrapments due to conflict with the world order ought to be sufficient for any of us, without making trouble for ourselves!  We are warned about testing God; but that’s exactly what happens when you and I, either willingly or without thought, step right into a trap which springs shut on us!

But a newborn babe in Christ ought to hate his sin to such a degree, and know the old man so well, that his prayer to God is, “Lead me not into temptation”; and his senses ought always to be on the look-out for dangerous situations!  He who lives without prayer and worship, and who flirts with the world order, is a “monster” in the Kingdom!

Remember, the “old man” is an anarchist who wishes to live out-from-under the reign and rule of Christ.  And when you put yourself in a snare to sin, instead of repudiating and humiliating yourself, you’ve licensed the old man to break out in sin and rebellion!  Why?  Give me one good reason why any of us, having turned away in repentance from the old, dead man, and having been reborn into life in Christ, should again have a “flirtatious” relationship with that deadness!  God cursed that old rebellious humanity, and He sacrificed His Own Son that it might be destroyed.  Should we, then, put ourselves in positions in which it might reassert itself?

As subjects of God’s grace and love in Christ Jesus, His Empire demands that you assume an aggressive posture toward entrapments to sin, rather than flirting with it.  With the Sword of the Spirit you are to avoid environments which are detrimental to your well-being in Christ.  That means destroying the opportunity to sin!

When faced with testing, Jesus went directly to the Word of God.  He is the “fullness” of that Word; and in His Body is the power to overcome.  He is greater than our sin.  We also know, by faith, that this grotesque and loathsome ugliness (called our sin nature) will take over at any given opportunity should we not repent and turn away!

So, knowing the extreme attractiveness of sin (and loathing it); and being on the lookout for those occasions in which we might be trapped; and understanding where the Power is to overcome it – what do we then do when faced with the choices day by day?

What are we to do when the lures of the world order tantalize our appetites?  Do we fantasize about it?  Do we flirt with it as if our fascination is magnetized by it?  Do we “change sides” just for a little bit – from being a new-born babe in Christ – just so we can “enjoy” the momentary titillation?

Or are we to flee, immediately, to the Body of Christ – the Word of God (made flesh) – where exists the Power to overcome the entrapments of the world?  I tell you the truth that the “babe” in the Kingdom has immediate entrance to the Throne-room of God the Father – the tabernacle Which dwells with men.  We have protection under the wings of the Cherubim – at the Mercy-seat of God.  And you only have to access that place, through faith, in order to humiliate the “old man” and avoid the entrapment!

Our Lord here says that one who is rebirthed so hates his old body of sin that he cuts it off and plucks it out!  He aggressively avoids the entrapments, and he degrades and humiliates the self, in order that he might not sin!

Now, again, it is not my purpose here to register a directory of examples and circumstances for you to follow.  It is for you to receive the preaching of the Truth of God and, as a new-born babe, to do it.  We don’t “apply” God’s Word – the Word IS the application!  We live it!  We don’t “add” examples of faithfulness to our lives – we are new creations in His life!

But here are a few questions and circumstances for you to ponder:  as a new-born creation in Christ – fully involved in shaming and degrading the old man of sin – commanded by God to aggressively avoid putting yourselves in situations in which you might be entrapped to sin and compromise – what does this say, for example, to your agreements and contracts?  Do you make them with specific performance?  Or do you purposely leave them vague enough so that, if you run into trouble or change your mind, you can “reinterpret” them?  That, my friends, is a personal invitation to sin!  It is an entrapment of your own doing.  That’s why I’m always after you abut your contracts – what do they say?  With whom are they made?  To what specific performance are you obligated?  The Scriptures say that the Godly man “swears to his own hurt.”  In other words, whatever he obligates himself to, he performs.  He doesn’t try to manipulate the “vagueness’ of the agreement to his benefit if he gets in trouble – that’s the “old man”, not a new creation in Christ!

And, also, what of the entrapments or our wide-open, sin-degraded culture?  Enticements to sin pound against our human senses daily; but Christ commands us to aggressively defend against them – refusing to put ourselves in snares of our own making.  The New Creation baby doesn’t pick it up; doesn’t read it; won’t go to see it; eliminates the channels from his TV; won’t buy the ticket; refuses to fantasize about it; and flees to the Holy of Holies for his protection!  The enticements are very attractive, but they are traps and snares to sin and apostasy and perdition!

And how curious and scintillating and attractive it is for young, unmarried babes in Christ to experiment with their sexuality.  Knowing that these exquisite delights are reserved, by the Command of God, to the bond of marriage, he must flee to the Body of Christ in defense against the snares of sexual stimulation!  The “old man” will justify a little experimentation in every conceivable way, but the New Life in Christ will hate it and humiliate it.  It is an entrapment to sin and unbelief and apostasy and rebellion against God!

Now, so much for examples.  I said earlier that we are to take an aggressive stance toward entrapments to sin and apostasy.  And I mentioned that our primary task is the mortification (humiliation) of the old man.  I want to speak, now, to this issue on a different and deeper level.

It was said last Lord’s Day that there is no greater “snare” to our faith than the inevitable public denouncements, humiliations and persecutions of Christ and His Church which come from every sector of society – family, friends, Church, government.  Add to that – tragedies of a personal nature:  illness, death, loss of a child, etc. – the list is lengthy due to the human condition.

Jesus said, “Woe to the one through whom the entrapments come,” but come they will; they are inevitable.  Many are devastating – crushing.  And the entrapment is that the “old Adamic nature” will gain the ascendancy – in bitterness, sorrow, anger, defiance, rebellion, sin and apostasy!

What is to be the aggressive defense against these entrapments by the New Creature in Christ?  To sin against God is an abomination to us; drugs and psychotherapy are, at the outset, admissions of failure and defeat; “turning off” the mind is neither pious nor effective; “support groups” deal with the problems by building self-esteem – the exact antithesis of the new babies’ humiliation of the old “self”.

Where is the defense?  Where does the “little one” go for comfort and love and confidence and sheltering?  Where does he go to avoid the entrapment to sin and unbelief?

What I’m about to say to you now involves the deepest mysteries of the Providence of God.  It is the most difficult of all, for us as new-born babes, to receive and understand; and it is complete “anathema” to the world order.  It will come up time and time again – the closer we come to the suffering and humiliation of Christ in our text.  And it is best that we become grounded in the faith right now, so as better to understand it later.

Jesus has already said to His disciples that they had to be “changed” in order to enter in into the Kingdom of the Heavens.  Humiliation and denouncement and denial of “self”, in the humiliations and suffering of Christ, is the faithing response to becoming a New Creation in His humanity.

Therefore, under the traps and snares of persecution and affliction, a new babe will put himself under stern self-denial (not “things” ,but self), because it is in the midst of severe suffering that we are most tempted to give way to despair and blasphemy.

In “poverty of spirit” we are to approach God, in Christ, acknowledging that our suffering comes directly from His hand, and that the situation is completely and entirely under His control!  Since our Father orders all things by the counsel of His will, therefore, whatever we suffer, we suffer at His hand and according to His command.  Nothing happens by coincidence!  None of it happens except by His Will!  And all that He does, He does in perfect order.  The warning of Isaiah was that those who were under affliction would not look to the One Who was smiting them!

The “little one” who has been changed from Adam to Christ doesn’t respond to the entrapments of severe affliction by blaspheming God; neither does he attribute it to “blind chance and misfortune”!  The new-born in Christ discerns that it is God Who is afflicting him – he relates his suffering to God!  If persecution from the world – then it is the deliberate act of God.  If family and friends separate – it is the deliberate act of God.  If shame and humiliation; if sickness and death; if the loss of a child; if famine and plague – it is the deliberate act of God!  If it is by men, then woe to them; but it is from God!

And it is precisely under the circumstances of severe affliction that we are brought to complete acknowledgement of, and total dependance on, the One Who afflicts us.  Paul says, in Romans fourteen and verse eight:


“For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord.  Whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”


Calvin said of this passage:

“If, therefore, the flesh recoils (from God) in adversity, let us remember that he who is not free has no right over himself, and perverts law and order if he does not depend on the good pleasure of His Lord.”


So you see, since God is “Personal” in all our suffering, we are to yield submissive obedience to Him – in the suffering and crucifixion of His Son.  Since the “old man” must be nailed to the cross of Christ, he is humiliated and brought to poverty of Spirit by affliction from God.  In that way we actually share in the personal suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And not because He deserved it, but because we deserve it.  Are we better than He, that we should not, in Him, receive affliction from our Father?

And here’s more!  Since these things are the case, then the entrapments of severe suffering and persecution, rightly understood and acknowledged, are blessed events, for they provide us the occasion for laying hold of the love of God!

So, our aggressive defense against these severe entrapments to our faith, contrary to anything else anybody else says, is humble submission to God our Father as the very source of our affliction!  There is our comfort and shield and confidence and protection.  He shames and afflicts us in the shame and affliction of His Son; and, therefore, we can, even through the tears, be thankful for His love and mercy toward us.

Stern self-denial; poverty of spirit; acknowledgement to God that He is the source of our affliction; faithful resting in Him that He has complete control over it; thankfulness and joy from being included in the suffering of God the Son; confidence in His love and mercy.  It is God Who afflicts us – it is God to Whom we flee!

Now, as we close the preaching of the Word today, please listen to the Psalmist – the persecuted and suffering forerunner of Christ – as he goes before God in his affliction.  And hear the very things that were spoken from the voice of Christ for us this morning:  (Psalm thirty-eight)


1) O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. ?

2) For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore.

3) There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin.

4) For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me.

5) My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.

6) I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.

7) For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh.

8) I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart.

9) Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.

10) My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me.

11) My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore; and my kinsmen stand afar off.

12) They also that seek after my life lay snares for me: and they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things, and imagine deceits all the day long.

13) But I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth.

14) Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs.

15) For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.

16) For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me: when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me.

17) For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me.

18) For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.

19) But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.

20) They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that good is.

21) Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me.

22) Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.