Pastor James J. Barker

Text: MATTHEW 18:1-14


  1. One of the most important doctrines in the Bible is the doctrine of salvation (cf. Matt.18:3).
  2. And yet it is also one of the most widely misunderstood. If you were to ask the average American when he had been converted, he would reply that he has always been a Christian.
  3. Most people think that only Jews and Hindus or Muslims must be converted to Christ, but this is not what our Lord taught. In John 3:7, Jesus said to Nicodemus: "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again."
  4. It does not matter if a man comes from some faraway jungle where they worship the moon and stars and trees and bugs or whether he grew up in a pastor’s home where he learned the Bible at an early age – our Lord said, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.18:3).
  5. My children need to be converted. They cannot expect to get to heaven just because their father is a preacher. Your children need to be converted. The older I get the more convinced I am that many people who claim to be saved were never genuinely converted. Why do I say this? Because I see no evidence of conversion.
  6. Our Lord had much to say about conversion. Tonight we will look at three conditions necessary for genuine conversion.



    1. We are talking about child-likeness, not childishness. If childishness were a requirement for salvation, then we would be in the midst of a great revival!
    2. Bro. Meyers was telling me about some problems he has gone through in his church. The main problem: childishness.
    3. Our Lord said child-like faith is necessary for genuine conversion. Children are normally characterized by simplicity, dependence, trustfulness, and honesty. These are traits necessary for genuine conversion.
    4. One of our VBS (Vacation Bible School) teachers remarked the other day how easy it is to talk to children about the Lord and how difficult it is to talk to most adults.
    5. Children are known for their simplicity. Salvation is not complicated (although some people try and make it complicated).
    6. Children are known for their dependence – a child is dependent on adults to feed them, take care of them, teach them, etc. Likewise, when a person is ready for salvation, he or she must realize that they are totally dependent upon God for everything. Just as a small child could not expect to get in a car and drive to California, sinners must understand and admit they can never get to heaven on their own.
    7. Just as you are depending upon that chair to keep you from falling onto the floor, you must depend upon the Lord Jesus Christ to keep you from falling into hell.
    8. The other day, two JW ladies were sitting in front of our building. One of them scoffed at me: "Where is heaven? Where is the devil? Where is hell?" She’ll find out soon enough where hell is.
    9. Another child-like characteristic is trustfulness – a child trusts his parents implicitly. Likewise, we need to trust the Lord if we expect to get to heaven.
    10. Statistics have demonstrated that the vast majority of born-again Christians were converted in their youth. That is why we have a Sunday School, VBS, a Christian day school, a youth ministry, etc. We need to reach our young people before the devil gets them and ruins them. Oftentimes it is too late by the time they become teenagers. Oftentimes teenagers – even in good churches – are very cold and very worldly. Parents: wake up!
    11. The great evangelist, D.L. Moody, came home from a meeting one night and his wife asked him, "How many were saved tonight?" He replied: "Two and a half." She said, "Oh, you mean two adults and one child." He answered her, "No. I mean two children and one adult. The adult has only a half a life left to live for God but the children have their whole lives ahead of them."
    12. Young people: you have your whole lives ahead of you. Do not waste precious time. Start serving the Lord right now (cf. Eccl. 12:1).
    13. Back in the early 19th century, a pastor of a church in Scotland was discouraged and ready to resign. The deacons asked him why. He replied: "I only saw one person get saved the entire year and that was little Bobby Moffat." That same Robert Moffat grew up and became a great missionary to Africa, and the father-in-law to the famous missionary and explorer David Livingston.
    14. So what does our Lord mean in Matt.18:3? He means we need child-like faith in order to get saved.



    1. One of the reasons many people do not get saved is that they are very proud. They need to humble themselves but this they are not willing to do.
    2. I believe God put us in the tent for many reasons and one of them is that it screened out proud people. Please do not misunderstand me – I want to see God save proud people just like I want to see Him save all kinds of sinners. What I mean is that oftentimes proud people slip into churches and try and take over. Usually, religious hypocrites are not attracted to tents or rough-looking buildings. They are looking for ease and comfort and don’t want to make any sacrifices.
    3. Most of us are excited about the building progress, but mark my words. When the construction work is finished and the place looks beautiful, we will see more tares start to spring up among the wheat.
    4. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Our Lord made this very clear in his parable of the Pharisee and the publican (cf. Luke 18:9-14).
    5. So humility is necessary for genuine conversion.



    1. I would like to draw your attention to the words "offend" and "offences" (18:6,7,8,9). Some things are very offensive to God.
    2. And one of the things that is extremely offensive to God is hindering little children from serving God, keeping them out of church and Sunday School, etc. (18:5-7).
    3. There are unsaved fathers who prohibit their wives and children from attending Sunday school and church services. Our Lord said that it would be better for them that a millstone were hanged around their necks and that they were drowned in the depths of the sea (18:6).
    4. As a pastor, I realize that "it must needs be that offences come," but please understand the severity of our Lord’s words here: "but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" (18:7). There is a special place in hell for these miserable wretches who keep their families from going to Sunday School and church.
    5. Oftentimes, there must be drastic, radical changes made if a person is to get saved (cf. 18:8,9). Sometimes a patient will go and visit a doctor and the doctor will tell him, "You need surgery right away. You have cancer and unless you go under the knife, you will soon die." It is the same way spiritually: the deadly cancer of sin has spread all over some sinners and unless they take drastic steps they will soon die and "be cast into everlasting fire" (18:8,9).
    6. Oh – if only the unconverted realized how dangerously close they are to the fires of eternal hell! But they don’t! They are as oblivious to danger as a drunken man staggering down the street.
    7. By the way, our Lord is not teaching self-mutilation in these verses. Besides, doing that will not remove the source of offence anyway (cf. Matt. 15:18,19). The problem is in the heart of man and cutting your heart out will not save you, it will only kill you.
    8. The problem is in the heart of man. The Bible says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer.17:9).
    9. Man needs a new heart spiritually. David said: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Ps.51:10).


  1. I read a sad story about a drunken man that got hit by a train. He was not killed and a preacher went to visit him at the hospital. He gave him the Gospel and pleaded with him to get right with God before it was too late.
  2. The man finally promised the preacher that he would get saved before he left the hospital. The preacher prayed with him and as he left the hospital he never thought he’d see him again.
  3. Eventually, the man was sent home in a cast to recuperate. The preacher found out and ran over to see him. His first words were: "My friend, did you keep your promise and get right with God?" The unsaved man looked down at the floor and admitted, "No, but I will, soon."
  4. After awhile he became impatient with his cast and took a knife and cut it, stepped out of it, and walked downtown to a tavern. He wound up getting drunk and had to be carried home. He was rushed to the hospital and someone called the pastor and told him.
  5. But before the preacher could get down there the man had died. The hospital workers had to strap him to his bed, and he died screaming, "Get me out of this place – it’s on fire! Get me out of here – it’s on fire!"
  6. Heaven is real. Jesus said so (Matt.18:10). Hell is real too. Jesus said so (Matt.18:8,9). Which way are you going?

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