(Translated version, original article written in Chinese by Pastor Mickey Hsiao)
By singing praises and hymns, awake your soul, open your heart to the Lord, and prepare yourself to welcome the presence of God and receive the Word of God that will be given to you.
Petition with thanksgiving to God for a wonderful day and pray sincerely for a focused Scripture reading time! (Do not rush into reading the Bible without starting with prayers!) (e.g., you may start with a simple prayer like this: “Dear Lord, what will you be speaking to me today?)
Get the following items ready in advance: your devotional notebook, paper, pen, and/or electronic devotional articles so that you can easily write down the Bible verses, questions, and thoughts you have noticed! You are encouraged to open your Bible and vocally read out the scriptures (Try to practice this reading method daily or once a week)!
Scripture Reading: Matthew Ch. 18 (ESV)
Take a moment to quietly reflect on today’s Scriptures. Through such exercises, let God’s Word be gradually written into our hearts and be inscribed to our mind.
Read the devotional articles prepared by CBCLWA (*Read the Bible first before reading any devotional materials.)
(vv. 1-14) Why did the disciples ask Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” What response did they expect to hear? What is their perception of heaven? Usually when we ask “Who’s the boss here?”, we seem to want to know “who has the final say here?” And often times we want to think we are the one who has the final say. When the disciples asked this question, Jesus instead called over a child – the least powerful or the least capable among them, and said “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
To better understand what Jesus meant, let’s look at this from two different angles. First, children are simple and humble. Secondly, the Kingdom of Heaven is the Kingdom of God, where God rules. We have to change ourselves to be humble like a child so that God can rule in our heart. In other words, people who are conceited cannot see their own sins. They cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven, nor even for them to enter its doorsteps!
Jesus went on to emphasize that no one shall stumble or despise any of the little ones who believes in Him. Remember what Jesu said, “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Dear brothers and sisters, there are some more characteristics in children that adults might not have. For instance, children are teachable, willing to submit to authority and they are often enthusiastic about many things. Let us always remind ourselves to be more childlike and to humble ourselves, submitting ourselves to God’s sovereignty. Let us simply entrust our hearts to be shaped and molded by God and be a disciple of the Lord. Do not compete for fame and recognition, and do not divide ourselves into groups based on perceived status. Do not look down on others because of your pride, and do not cause others to stumble.
(vv. 15-20) Jesus continued his teaching, saying: “If your brother offends you (or “sins against you)”, how should you deal with it? There are specific steps to solve this and the objective in all situations is always to gain your brother back, whether the case is personal or whether it involves a group of two or three people or a larger group such as the whole church. If it gets serious enough, the church must act as a whole to shun the one who sins, just as it is written in verse 17 “And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile.” Dear brothers and sisters, God’s will for his church is to be holy and pure. Though it is difficult to deal with our sins, rest assured that our Heavenly Father will lead us to protect and restore our brother, only if we are to gather in the name of Jesus Christ before God, put aside all of our personal opinions or prejudices, and then be united wholeheartedly in the presence of the Lord.
(vv. 21-35) This passage gives us clarity when it comes to learning the lesson of forgiveness. Many times, we act just like that wicked servant without mercy for others. Why is that? Here we can see at least two reasons:
First, sometimes we are not trying to forgive them from the bottom of our hearts. There is a difference between the “seven times” of forgiveness suggested by Apostle Peter and the “seventy-seven times” demanded by Jesus! Secondly, we often forget how we ourselves were forgiven by the Lord first!
Have you learned any lesson of forgiveness lately? Remember what Jesus said:
(Mt. 18:35) “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
(Mt. 6:14-15) “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Give thanks to God for His enabling us to read the Scriptures and for our response for living out the Word of God today! (e.g., You may start with a simple prayer like this: “Dear Lord, what/where are you going to lead me to today?”)