The Key to Greatness

Matthew 18:1-4; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48

The disciples ask the Lord Jesus who will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Man in his flesh desires to be admired and lifted up. He has a natural tendency to exalt himself and to think more highly of himself than he ought to think. The mind so quickly can be lifted up with pride. Jesus teaches His disciples that the key to greatness is humility.

There must be Conversion: There must come a change. Man is naturally proud, too proud to acknowledge even his own sinfulness and unworthiness. Pride is the exception that will exclude many from entering into the Kingdom of Heaven.

There must be Childlike Humility: As a child we must not assume ourselves to be worthy of anything. We must come to Christ in simplicity. Children are not too proud to ask for help. They are not worried about their self-image or how they will be perceived if they acknowledge their need.

There must be Condescension: The responsibility of every person is to humble themselves before the Lord and fellow man. It is only the humble who will receive the grace of God.

There must be Christlikeness: The Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect and supreme example of humility. He left the glory of Heaven and laid aside the outward form of God to be made in the likeness of sinful flesh. He went to the cross as an obedient servant. He stands in stark contrast to the devil who was lifted up with pride.

Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phi 2:2-11)

The Lord Jesus Christ humbled Himself and thus God highly exalts Him. One day every knee will bow before Him. The Key to greatness is humility.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)

The Apostle Paul also in an example of a Christ like servant. He is considered great in his ministry for Christ. A key to his greatness was his humility:

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (I Timothy 1:15)

For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (I Corinthians 15:9)

Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; (Ephesians 3:7-8)

There can be Condemnation: For all who will refuse conversion, child-like humility, condescension, and Christlikeness they will ultimately fall into the same condemnation as the devil. He being lifted up with pride fell from the very throne room of God (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28). It matters not the height of our spiritual position, all are vulnerable to the trap of pride. Those who resist the Kingdom of God in pride will not enter into the Kingdom but will suffer utter destruction without.

Pride will always be brought low:

But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: (Daniel 5:20)

And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. (Luke 10:15)

Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly. (Pro 3:34)

The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate. (Pro 8:13)

When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom. (Pro 11:2)

The LORD will destroy the house of the proud: but he will establish the border of the widow. (Pro 15:25)

Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished. (Pro 16:5)

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. (Pro 16:18)

Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility. (Pro 18:12)

By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life. (Pro 22:4)

It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory. (Pro 25:27)

A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit. (Pro 29:23)

Pride will bring a man low and the lowest it can bring a man is into the depths of hell; the bottomless pit. Even believers in Christ can be lifted up with pride and fall into the condemnation of the devil. The novice in the pastorate must watch out for this temptation (I Timothy 3).

The disciples of Jesus Christ often struggled with the key to greatness. Jesus had to remind them that the way up is down and the way down is up.

Luke 22:24-26 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

Mark 10:35-45 …And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Matthew 23:11-12 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

Luke 14:11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Luke 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

(Proud people compare themselves with others while those who are humble with God and God’s Word. Proud people are thankful for how good they are while humble see how sinful they are)

Matthew 20:20-28 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Let us not compare ourselves with others but rather to Christ. Only then will we see the pride of our hearts that must be crucified. We are all unworthy at the foot of the cross. We are all undeserving to be in the Kingdom of God let alone to sit upon the left or right hand of Jesus Christ in glory. Unworthiness is at the heart of the key of Greatness.

II Corinthians 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

I Peter 5:5-6 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

(We must not be tempted to expect immediate exaltation if we humble ourselves. While we exercise humility we must also exhibit submission to the will and timing of God. He will exalt in due time.)

James 4:6, 10 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

Isaiah 57:15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.