Let The Children Come Unto Me
Most of you are familiar with the phrase K.I.S.S. Keep it simple stupid. Although it is a bit crude, it is extremely true. We, adults, seem to complicate things so well. We tend to over-analyze, over explain, over think issues. We have a nasty habit of turning the most important things in life into a maze of complexity. That sentence itself is supposed to be descriptive of my point, but it is itself bereft with vagueness and void of application.
Luckily we have living and breathing illustrations of simplicity walking all around us. We can find them in many people’s homes, in shopping malls, at the grocery store, in swimming pools, and occasionally in line at Casey’s. These living breathing illustrations of simplicity are children. Children have a way of turning complexity into simple realities. They anchor us in the here and now.
Being a child, for most, is a pretty good life. Many of us probably have several positive memories that always put a smile on our faces or warmth in our hearts.
I remember when I was five or six years old. We lived in Asheville, NC and my uncle Fred lived in Greensboro, GA. He would come to our house once or twice each year, always bearing gifts.
Sometimes my uncle Fred would just show up out of the blue, unannounced. He always had a new Cadillac and a new girlfriend. One of those unexpected visits the family sat around the den talking. I looked at my uncle, as seriously as I could be and said, “how come every time you come you always bring a different girl?”
There is just something about being a kid that is fun. Watch a 3 year old eat a piece of cake, get it all over their face and care less about it!
Everything is new and in need of discovering. The smallest of places around the house are countless forts and hiding places. I remember having a new kitchen built in our house and we would hide in the cabinets. Today, if I climb in a cabinet, something has gone terribly wrong. And, if it’s not already broken, it’s going to break.
Have you ever found yourself saying, “I wish I were a kid again?” There are some days when that sounds pretty good. Perhaps a better wish for some of us is simply to be more child-like, a little less serious, and a little less complex.
Recall with me if you can a familiar passage, Romans 12:1-2. In those scripture verses we are called to: “be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” As we read through that chapter the inevitable question arises: transformed into what? What do we want to become?
A sophisticated, well thought answer could be: transformed to become more and more like Christ so that we can discern and live out more and more of His will for our lives. And typically, when we think about growing, we think about maturity and getting older and wiser. And that it is obviously part of transforming, but today I want us to consider a road less traveled.
The transforming I am thinking about requires us, who are a little more mature to become a little immature. It requires us, who are older in age to become younger in faith. This morning I want to suggest, that to be more completely transformed we must take a journey to childhood. Turn with me if you would to Matt 18, and let’s read the first few verses.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Wow! Jesus, I am 39 years old. Why do I have to become a child to get into heaven? We all recognize that He’s not talking physical; He is talking spiritual and mental.
Once upon a time I was a children’s minister in Villa Rica, GA. On my first night I was in the gym playing around with the kids. There was one little boy I had on my knee, twirling around, playing, laughing, screaming; suddenly he stops, looks at me and says just as seriously as he can, “you’re fat.” Of course I was a little stunned. But what else could I say. He was simply stating the obvious.
Later in the month I was talking to his mother and she told me that he doesn’t like having blonde hair. He has three sisters, and two female cousins, and all are blondes. He can’t stand having blonde hair. So, the next time I see him and we are playing around, and he says, “you’re fat.” I say “so, you have blonde hair.” Immediately he leaves and goes to play elsewhere.
Children are painfully honest. Honesty in life is so important: honesty with our self; honesty with others. We have to be honest about sin, about morality, about business, about the condition of our hearts. We have to move on past some of those grown-up sins that we have grown accustomed to. There are no trivial sins.
Is it your tongue, your health, your time, your money? At some point we must come to grips with who we are in order for God to make us into what He wants us to be. We must be honest with ourselves, sometimes painfully honest in order for God to transform us. We do this because Jesus says in Matt 19:14 “Let the little children come unto me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Children are also full of energy. Give a kid a cookie and a cup of juice and he is good to go for hours. Rain, sleet, snow or hail, nothing can stop a child from playing, except pizza. Kids have so much energy. Nothing seems to slow them down or bother them.
We may not always be able to keep up with kids physically or emotionally. We may not be able to keep up with life physically or emotionally. However, we have no excuse for falling behind due to spiritual exhaustion. We have an endless supply of power through the Holy Spirit. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power…”
Sometimes we just get spiritually exhausted and worn down and we give up the good fight against particular sins or particular habits. We forget the source of our strength. God sent His holy spirit to intercede for us, to help us overcome sin. We don’t have to be a victim of gossip, poor diets, potty mouth, over indulgence, smoking, or drinking in excess. We don’t have a week spirit; we have a spirit of endless power.
Become like a child because Jesus says in mark 10:15 “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter into it.”
Children are also innocent (well mostly). Let me qualify that. They tend to be innocent at heart, but not necessarily innocent in action. There is a sense of purity about them. Their purity and their innocence help them from being easily offended and as a result from being resentful.
Jesus told his disciples “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Innocence is as much how we think as it is how we act. It’s assuming the best about a person instead of the worst. It’s believing that not everyone wrongs or offends us out of malice. We get into a pattern of negative thinking.
We need to ask God to help us have good thoughts. It’s that simple. We need to become as innocent as children. God will give us this innocence if we ask for it. We need it because Jesus says in Matt. 11:25 “I praise you father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”
Children are also dependent. They can’t survive as children without basic care; especially small children. They must be fed, clothed, given shelter from the elements of nature. They don’t know what is best for them, although they may think so at certain points of their lives. They are dependent on others for their care, for their sustenance.
Clearly we are to depend on Christ for everything: “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God…;.” “pray without ceasing…;” “Are any among you suffering? They should pray.” Prayer is an expression of dependence. We are dependent on Christ. We are God’s children. If we don’t speak to God regularly, we will not know Him intimately, our relationship will be casual.
When I try to teach children about prayer, I use this illustration. Since God is our Father, we need to think about God the same way we would think about our earthly parents. If we didn’t talk to our parents all week long, they would think something is wrong with us.
If we come home from work or school and bypass mom and dad and go straight to our room, they would know something is terribly wrong. In the same way when we only speak to God once a week (or even less) something is wrong. We need to go to Him with everything. Prayer is much like the act of breathing. It is part of our lives. Our very lives are dependent upon God. We can’t survive as children without our parents. We can’t survive without God, literally.
We commit ourselves to be completely dependent on God because Paul tells us in Romans 8, “it is that very spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
Children are also usually humble. “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Children are humble because they are honest, and sincere, and pure, and innocent, and sensitive, and gullible, and dependent. They aren’t overwhelmed with pride and arrogance. They don’t have a sense of “I am better than you.” They don’t yet understand the prejudices of their parents. They may imitate your prejudices, but they don’t understand them.
In II Chronicles 7:14 God appears to Solomon and says, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Psalm 25:9 says God leads the humble in what it is right, and teaches the humble His way.
We need to humble ourselves, make ourselves lowly. We do this because God gives grace to the humble at heart. God esteems those who are humble and contrite in spirit. God wants to lead us and guide us and direct us, but not if we already have our own map, not if we always think we know what is best, not only for ourselves, but for others as well. God wants us to be a servant of all, but not if we are waiting to be served by all.
God wants to make us the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, but not until we are willing to be the least. He chooses us to be first after we are willing to be last. God has called us to the humility of a child. The Bible says it is from the lips of children and infants that God has ordained His praise. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that it is what we are.”
Children are great. They are usually a joy to be around. Christians seeking to mature in the faith are called to have the heart and faith of a child. Here is your chance to be a child again.
God has called us to become like little children. We are called to be converted; called to be transformed; called to be humbled. Children are teachable, and willing to be molded and shaped by our words and our actions. Isaiah 64:8 says: “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
Sometimes I want to say to a person: “grow-up!” Maybe I should say, “be childish.” So let me so to you this morning, have some fun. Take a deep breath, simplify, put down your adult baggage and lighten up. Life is so short. If your panties get in a wad, change them out. Go hang out with some kids. Laugh, smile, cry, do whatever you need to do.
God is asking us to become like children and if we are all to be children, then we should not insult God by being nasty to one another. Because “if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
Love your neighbor, love yourself. The alternative lies at the bottom of the sea!