Getting closer to Jesus: In the spiritual realm, the only solutions that really help us are those that draw us closer to the Lord. Early in the ministry of Jesus the 12 disciples began to compete with each other in order to get closer to Jesus. Like us, they believed that intimacy would give them the greatest life possible! James and John selfishly asked Him: “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in your glory” (Mark 10: 37 NAS).
Jesus wants us to have the Greatest Life Ever: Jesus did not criticize James and John for their request (Luke 9:46; Mark 9:33). Instead, He used their selfish motivation to show them and us how we all can be the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven!
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt.18: 1-4 NKJV)
God gave us the desire to be the best: He created in us both the desire and the potential to be the very best. God has called us to equip you to be the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven! Jesus did not leave His throne in heaven to come to this earth to build a Church of second-class citizens filled with losers. God wants the best for His people, and He paid an awesome price to create this potential. Now, we too must pay a price to have the Greatest Life Ever. Thankfully, Jesus has laid out the plan we must follow to become the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven and to do it NOW! Would you like to learn how you can be the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?
Jesus makes 7 important points with this illustration about children:
- The greatest life possible can only be experienced in the Kingdom of Heaven.
- A person must be converted to get into the Kingdom and have any relationship with Christ.
- Intimacy with Him equates to being the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
- Intimacy with Him only comes from self-humbling.
- It is possible for everyone who has been converted to achieve the ultimate intimacy with Him and thereby become the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
- We need to have the innocence of childhood to grasp the depth of self humbling that is required.
- We can do it now, because He said, “is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.”
Re-examining what Jesus meant: “unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2 NKJV).
“Converted”: The word translated “converted” is stréphō. It means to turn; (figuratively) it means to change direction or go the other way (an “about-face”); taking an opposite or divergent course. “All have sinned and fall short of God’s standard of righteousness.” (Romans 3:23). People who have NOT been converted want to be in charge of their own lives. They want to go in the direction that pleases themselves. They do not really care about what direction God wants them to go.
“Little children”: The word used here is “paidia.” It means a child under the age of 7. This means that they are dependent and have to be cared for by someone who is older and wiser than they are. This is the age they start school and learn the basics of life. They are teachable and they know they have a lot to learn.
“Enter the Kingdom of Heaven”: This is both a place and a relationship characterized by the fact that the King Himself is loved and obeyed by His subjects. Jesus Christ is the King and the Kingdom is both in heaven and within the persons living on this earth who have been converted and become as little children. The apostle John explained this conversion experience as being “born again” (John 3:3).
Therefore, this conversion experience must occur before entering the Kingdom of Heaven, not afterward. Some people have totally missed this important distinction. One of the most distressing things that Jesus taught is found in the Gospel of Matthew.
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV)
Who are the people Jesus never knew? It is a shuddering thought to think of the multitudes of professing Christians who may have attended church religiously and even had positions of leadership in churches and other Christian ministries who are part of this deceived group of misled servants. I do not think these people are hypocrites. They may think they are serving the Lord, and so they call Him Lord at the judgment. Sadly, He has to tell them that they missed the all important step of first being converted before trying to serve Him. That is why we have said that the Kingdom of Heaven is both a place and a relationship. Without a personal relationship with King Jesus, you cannot be a member of His Kingdom. Dear friend, may we ask you to carefully consider the following possibilities:
- Have you made the deep commitment to go in the direction God wants you to go, rather than just doing your own thing? If not, we pray you will make this decision.
- Are you certain you have a personal and intimate relationship with King Jesus? If not, we will be blessed to have an opportunity to discuss this incredible experience with you in a very open and confidential way.
- Are you trusting your good deeds to get you into the Kingdom of Heaven? If you are, you may end up hearing the same things heard by those sincerely mistaken people identified in Matthew 7:23 – “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Please contact us and we will be blessed to have an opportunity to discuss this critical issue with you.
A special word for those who cannot recall a conversion experience: If you are a person who grew up in a church where you cannot remember the exact time and place where you were converted, this does NOT mean that you are not converted. On the other hand, you should carefully consider the above questions. They apply to everyone who wants to be a member of the Kingdom of Heaven. If you have any questions about these issues either for yourself or for someone you know, please contact us and we will be blessed to pray with you and discuss these critical issues with you.
Now we can discuss what Jesus meant when He said “whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4 NKJV).
Whoever humbles himself will be great
What did Jesus mean when He said “whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”?
“Whoever”: The Greek word “ὅστις” or “hostis” means”whoever,” “anyone who” or “everyone.” Think of the implications! The disciples thought standing next to Jesus would make them more important than anyone else – and would be limited to just two persons. How little they understood His remarkable Kingdom where everyone can be “the greatest” – if they will do one simple thing. And, what is this thing?
“Humbles himself”: The word “ταπεινόω” or “tapeinoó” means “I humble, humiliate.” This does NOT mean we are to have a long face and drooping shoulders. The kind of humility Jesus wants in us happens when we are intentionally being fully dependent on the Lord – and NOT relying on ourselves.
This does not mean that we do not study and prepare or that we do not use various gifts and ministries and resources He has made available to us. It does mean that we look to Him for the strength and the guidance as to what He would have us do. And, most importantly, we are open to new ideas and new directions from Him.
“As this little child”: Jesus is referring to the little child that He called and placed in their midst as He began this illustration (Matthew 18:2). Even though this was a small child, he could have disobeyed Jesus. He was not forced by Jesus to come to Him. Then as today, following Jesus means we must be humble enough to admit that we do not know everything. We have to be teachable and obedient to Him and the Holy Spirit.
“Is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”: Because we previously explained the Kingdom of Heaven, we are now going to examine the phrase “Is the greatest.” The Greek word used for “is” = “estin.” This verb is in the present tense. That means that it is possible to be the “Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven” right now!
Meet the Mega Christian: The word translated “greatest” is “meizon,” which comes from “μέγας” which is transliterated as “megas” or “mega.” We use “mega” as a comparative to describe everything from hamburgers to churches. Jesus has placed within every human being the potential to become like Him. We might even say we have the potential to become ‘Mega Christians.” To be like Him is to be “The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven,” and that is vastly superior to being “The Greatest man or woman on earth.”
Here is how we can help you: If you will meet the requirements of Matthew 18:1-4, you will be in the Kingdom of Heaven and you will be open to new ideas. You will be humble and have a childlike willingness to learn new things, even though you may have a very prestigious position, advanced educational degrees or many years of experience. You will depend on Jesus to enable you to start considering new ideas that may not be popular or not the usual way of doing things. It may be that He will call you to be as radical today as He was in AD 30. You will especially be challenged to change some of the traditional ways of doing church, especially when those practices are not producing the disciples that Jesus mandated in the Great Commission.
If you are willing to follow this path, you will find that many of the resources we offer from our Coaching Division or our Consulting Division can radically improve your life and the ministries you may be involved with. It is possible to have the Greatest Life Ever right now. And, if you are involved in leadership, you can have the Greatest Church Ever or the Greatest Ministry Ever. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever!