I want to give you some encouragement as you seek to know God. I pray you understand when I say that the Gospel message-the good news-is simple to understand.
It is so simple that many wise men of this world do not see it. Jesus warned us that those of intellect & wealth would have a hard time accepting him and gaining eternal life. Don’t be like the foolish Pharisees who were very educated; Extremely educated in scripture, the world, and in all things. It was these learned individuals who were blind to the fact that the savior stood before them and they crucified him. Who doesn’t want to be smart? It’s natural to want to be respected, honored, and thought of as educated. I don’t know many people who naturally desire to be simple-minded. Yet that is exactly what is required to understand our relationship with our God.
About the time Jesus was in Capernaum, not too long before he was to be crucified, his disciples came to him and were concerning themselves with who would be the greatest in heaven. Understanding the religious system from which they came based on works, we get an idea as to their reasoning for this question. Jesus shut down this process of thought.
For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.
Matthew 18:2-5 The Message Translation.
Understand that this is exactly what the religious leaders were doing. They were prideful in their learning and looked down on others who were trusting in Jesus. They saw them as ignorant animals and they worked tirelessly to lead them astray with their position & “wisdom”. Basically, they were good lawyers and could quickly come up with intellectual arguments to confuse people and add false doctrine to their thinking, causing them to doubt that Jesus was indeed the savior. They did everything they could to diminish the message of Christ and destroy His reputation.
In an encounter we read of in the gospel according to Matthew, we learn of some Pharisees and Sadducees that were following and harassing Jesus; pressing Him to prove himself to them. He told them, “You have a saying that goes, ‘Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning.’ You find it easy enough to forecast the weather—why can’t you read the signs of the times? An evil and reckless generation is always wanting signs and wonders. The only sign you’ll get is the Jonah sign.” Then he turned and walked away. On their way to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring along bread. Jesus said to them, “Keep a sharp eye out for the yeast of the Pharisees & Sadducees.
They thought he was scolding them for forgetting bread and they discussed in whispers what to do. Jesus knew what they were doing and said, “Why all these worried whispers about forgetting the bread? Weak believers! Haven’t you caught on yet? Don’t you remember the five loaves of bread and the five thousand people, and how many baskets of fragments you picked up? Or the seven loaves that fed four thousand, and how many baskets of leftovers you collected? Haven’t you realized yet that bread isn’t the problem? The problem is yeast, Pharisee-Sadducee yeast.” Then they got it: that he wasn’t concerned about eating, but teaching—the Pharisee-Sadducee kind of teaching.
Earlier Matthew had recorded that Jesus called the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized, “You poisonous snakes! Who showed you how to flee from God’s coming anger?” Jesus knew they did not believe! They wanted to deceive as many as they could. Jesus also said in Matthew 5:20 “I can guarantee that unless you live a life that has God’s approval and do it more faithfully than the experts in Moses’ Teachings and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus was making it clear that works were not going to get you into heaven! The Pharisees did live the law through works, but their hearts were far from God. The Pharisees are living proof that the written law does man no good pertaining to entering heaven. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus is the gateway and all we need to do to enter the gate is to return to square one and start over like children, trusting Jesus and His words only. Trusting fully without reservation like a young child trusts his parents and depends fully on them for safety, food, clothing, and all needs! Jesus wants and requires us to humble ourselves to start over at square one, trusting him for everything and casting our worries upon him so he can care for us, his children. You do this and you will live a blessed and light-filled life, filled with joy given to you through God’s spirit living in you.
The world will see you as foolish to believe such things. The religiously educated, self-proclaiming “Christians” will also see you as foolish because of your simplicity in Christ. They, too, are blinded with the rest of the world by pride and the naturally evil human heart. They say there is more to it. They have “higher understanding” and because of that they will earn a greater reward. Unfortunately for them, they are deceived and are being robbed and kept hidden from eternal life by their own intellectual pride in useless knowledge.
1st Corinthians 1 verse 27 ESV But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
Even as the Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus, the world plots to destroy followers of Jesus, but we know and have a promise that ultimately not even the gates of hell will prevail against us. There is great power in Jesus, our redeemer! To tap in to this power, we must return to square one and start over like children; Trusting fully and living a life full of faith!
Matthew 14-16 One day Jesus and his disciples were met by a crowd of waiting people. As they approached, a man came out of the crowd and fell to his knees begging, “Master, have mercy on my son. He goes out of his mind and suffers terribly, falling into seizures. Frequently he is pitched into the fire, other times into the river. I brought him to your disciples, but they could do nothing for him.”
17-18 Jesus said, “What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring the boy here.” He ordered the afflicting demon out—and it was out, gone. From that moment on the boy was well.
19 When the disciples had Jesus off to themselves, they asked, “Why couldn’t we throw it out?”
20 “Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a mustard seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.”
I’m calling for you today to hear these words and take encouragement in the truth that our God is great! He called the world into existence! He made all things. He loves you and made a sacrifice for you! Please understand the simplicity of what is required and come into the outstretched arms of our savior! God is calling you, His children, to him. Let us have big faith! Let us have the faith of a child, for I know that there is nothing we would not be able to accomplish for the kingdom of Christ!
With love and the good news of Christ, I desire nothing more than God’s will on earth as it is in Heaven.
Joseph R. Stansel, Contributed Writer