““Ninja Warriors”
April 8, 2018 A.D.
by Pastor Ben Willis

April 19th, 2018 by mdevita

“Ninja Warriors”

MATTHEW 18:1-10 [NLTse]

About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”

2 Jesus called a little child to Him and put the child among them. 3 Then He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

5 “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on My behalf is welcoming Me. 6 But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in Me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.

7 “What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting. 8 So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

10 “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in Heaven their angels are always in the presence of My heavenly Father.


Anybody here an “American Ninja Warrior” fan? …

I’ve only watched the show a couple of times, but the contestants I’ve watched have impressed me with their focus on the bell they have to ring at the finish.

If you aren’t familiar with “American Ninja Warrior”, it features a variety of competitors attempting to complete a series of obstacle courses of increasing difficulty that are hosted in different cities around the country, trying to make it to the national finals and “Final Victory” in Las Vegas. Contestants are trying to climb up and jump over moving obstacles while avoiding other mechanisms that are trying to keep them down or knock them off. Fall or get knocked off and you lose. They have to hop across moats of water scattered with floating discs: Miss a disc or get your timing wrong and you lose.

As I mentioned, the competitors’ focus on the bell they have to ring at the finish has impressed me, because throughout the contest you have to keep moving. There are so many contraptions seeking to push you off or knock you down that, if you stay still – even for a moment – you’re gonna lose. So, even as they are working their way through and around, up and over this or that challenge – avoiding the hazards and the (literal) pitfalls – they are always on the move to the next challenge, the next hurdle, and the next mix of hazards and pitfalls on their way to the finish and ringing that bell!

The apostle Paul connects such rigors and intensity with the Christian life when he writes to the Christians living in Philippi, “I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me… I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

And I believe that’s what the Lord Jesus is pointing us to in this difficult teaching in Matthew’s gospel, as well. The Lord says, “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.” (Matthew 18:8)

Jesus doesn’t play with sin. Too many Christians, when a fellow Christian comes to them concerned about their sinfulness, have said, “It’s okay! We’re not saved by works. We’re saved by grace.” But the Lord Jesus doesn’t respond in such wimpy ways. He goes so far as to suggest that anything – even if it’s a part of our body – that causes us to sin needs to be removed!

“What?” we might think! Notice that He doesn’t recommend a self-help book or some “program”. No. The prize at the finish is all that matters. The Lord Jesus Christ calls us to a single-minded focus, a total amputation of any and all things that are causing us to sin and getting between us and “the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us”.

What is that “heavenly prize”? It has two parts. First, the Bible makes clear that God’s desire for us is that we would know intimacy with Him by the Holy Spirit through His Son. That is, God wants to be in “communion” with us – in close community, close fellowship, friendship… And He’s provided for that. Through the Lord Jesus’ death on the cross the Holy Spirit ministers God’s closeness to us: With us always; within us always. And God wants us to enjoy that closeness and keep living into it each day. So that’s part of God’s desire for us, to know intimacy with Him.

His second desire is that we would each be like His Son, Jesus.

Now “being like Jesus” doesn’t mean we all need to grow our hair long or dye it black or for us to start dressing in first century, Middle Eastern clothes. Being like Jesus is not about all of us becoming carpenters or mimicking all the Lord Jesus’ likes and dislikes. No.

Becoming like Jesus Christ means seeking first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, no matter what, like Jesus did. Whatever we are saying, whatever we are doing, whatever sports we enjoy, organizations we are a part of, work we do, studies we study: Everything about us is to be enjoying or

strengthening or expanding or “showing off to the world” the Kingdom of Heaven! The Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness are to be our focus and our life. And anything that gets in the way of that needs to be cast out, cut off, gouged out of our lives!

Yeah: God wants us to be close to Him; and, God wants us to be like Him, like His Son, Jesus.

Earlier in Matthew, the Lord Jesus said, basically, the same thing He said here in Chapter 18. He said, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into Hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into Hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30) Anything that keeps us from being close to God or becoming more and more like Jesus are to be gotten rid of: Whatever it is that is keeping us from the finish and from ringing that bell!

Now, some people gloss over this passage by rationalizing, “It’s just a metaphor. Jesus is just trying to make a point.” Well, of course He is! And what’s the point? Jesus had a serious view of sin. That’s His point! He taught it was better to maim yourself than it was to sin! In our culture we ask, “Is looking at porn or being sexual with someone who’s not (or not yet) my husband or my wife really all that bad? Is lying or cheating or stealing really so horrible? Is greed or pride or not using the gifts and abilities God has given me to bless and benefit others really such a crime? …

Yeah! Jesus teaches us that it is. It all is!

Now, know that I specifically chose to preach and teach about this today because this is one of those teachings of Jesus that Christians like to ignore. These Sundays between Easter and Pentecost I’m going to be preaching and teaching about the parts in the Bible that people call “the hard teachings of Jesus”, “the things we wish Jesus had never said”, “the

most challenging”, “crazy hard” teachings of Jesus Christ. And this is one of them.

The Lord Jesus says that sin is so horrible – so horrible for us, so horrible for those around us, so horrible for the creation, and so horrible to God, that sin is so horrible – that the Lord Jesus Christ Who Himself was tortured and died horribly to pay the death-penalty we owe because of our sins teaches us that it is better for us to cut off a hand or gouge out our eye than to sin. And yet, because we know He didn’t really want us to be harming ourselves in any such ways, how do we live-out such things?

Well, men, guys: Do you have a little stash of pornography around your home, computer, tablet, phone, locker? Get rid of it! Now! Today! Gouge it out!

Ladies, gals: Do you look at those women’s magazines that make you feel ugly or out of shape or out of style or out of touch? Stop looking at them! Cancel your subscription today! Go to a different aisle in the grocery store if you can’t help taking a peek (even though that peek makes you feel frumpy). Cut it off!

If you like watching the news so you can be “in the know” – because you want to be able to talk with everybody at work who likes to talk about such things during breaks – and yet you know it’s causing you to worry more than you used to, and you’re finding yourself growing more and more frightened by what might happen on account of this danger or that threat that you’re listening and seeing in going on around us in the world. Then stop watching the news! Better to go through life ignorant of world events than to be losing sight of the peace and security Christ has for you because you’re letting yourself be distracted by the fear-mongering of all the news stations, instead.

What’s tempting you to sin? Is there food or drink around the house you need to get rid of? Are there some friends whose behaviors are tempting you away from God’s Kingdom and righteousness that

you need to confront and, maybe, stop hanging out with? Are there some websites or blog-spots you need to stop visiting because they get you thinking things are funny that are, in truth, just mean and cruel, or that get you thinking that ways of talking or behaving are normal when, really, those ways are hurtful, derogatory, and bring about death, at least in God’s eyes?

Many of you know that for years I’ve been a part of a Christian ministry called OneByOne. OneByOne ministers the love of Christ to those struggling with homosexual attraction and sexual sins of every kind. Through that ministry I came to know a guy who used to look at pornography a lot. (Many men and young men are tempted by porn, and the world lies to us telling us that it’s okay, even healthy, to do so.) And this man had grown up believing these lies, but the Lord had convicted him that it was sin. Well, this fella was a Ninja Warrior for the Lord! He began driving an hour out of his way when he would have to attend certain meetings so he wouldn’t pass the strip of stores where he knew he could get pornographic magazines. (This was back in “the day”.) An hour out of his way! He got filters for his computer, and this was in the day when filters were new and awkward and seemed to block anything and everything!

Over time, on account of his purity, he became a man in his church whom others would go to when they needed help in their struggles: Against pornography and other don’t-want-to-let-you-go sin habits. Folk around his church would ask him, “Brother, how did you get free?”

And he told me his response.

“How?” he would tell them. “I am free of such things because (by God’s grace)” which for him included a supportive wife, “for almost twenty-five years I have avoided every temptation and every situation and location and group of friends, family, or neighbors that might tempt me to sin! That’s why I’m free.” (See what I mean? A warrior!)

Of course, for us today, taking sin lightly is even more horrific than in the Lord Jesus’ day. As the Lord Jesus said, not taking sin seriously can lead to us taking sin lightly and so growing in sin instead of, by God’s grace, our sinning less and less and less. And such a slippery slope can lead us to a hardened heart concerning sin and so, to use the Lord Jesus’ words, “find ourselves in eternal fire, yet with both eyes, hands, and feet.”

Even so, I think it is even worse for us today because, my sin and your sin and the sins of the world caused the sin-less Son of God to die a horrible death on the cross! And when we sin, taking sin lightly, we are hammering nails into His hands and feet again and again and again!

My brothers and sisters and friends: I think I speak for all of us when I say, “I want to ring that finish bell! And I’m not going to let anything get in my way.

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