Sunday, January 6, 2008

Unless you Become Like Children

“Truly, I say to you, unless you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”—Matthew 18:3-4

I used to think that this passage was a call to innocence. It seems perfectly logical. God is a holy God, and in order to enter the kingdom we must be perfectly holy. Children are sweet and seemingly innocent. Anyone who has spent any amount of time with an infant or toddler knows they are far from innocent. Romans tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” including the adorable three month old baby (Romans 3:23). There is something far deeper going on here than Jesus saying “be sweet and innocent like this child.” He is calling us to be like children in their very nature.

Children, especially infants, are utterly dependent on everyone around them for their very existence. If a newborn is not fed every day by his mother, he will not live. If a toddler is not bathed, she will never think to be clean on her own. If a five year old is not sent to kindergarten, he will never know that learning to read and write is essential. As we grow older we move into independence, but that is not what Jesus is calling us to as believers. He is calling us back to our childhood, and reminding us of our complete dependence on the Father.

Children are also extremely trusting. You never have to tell your eight-year old that food will be in the cupboard when she gets home from school, she simply believes in your provision. In the same way the little boy so quickly offers to be thrown into the air and caught by his father. He simply believes and trusts that his father will keep him safe. As a little girl I was always less afraid at night when I knew my dad was home. I could sleep more soundly knowing that he was in the room right next to me.

As we grow into adulthood we have this notion that complete freedom and independence is a given, a right of passage. And we live in a culture that thrives on personal autonomy and independence. As a friend of mine preached recently, we have a longing to be independent. We don’t want help, but Jesus is telling us that if we aren’t like little children, utterly dependent on the Father for life and salvation, we will not enter the Kingdom. That is a staggering thought.

We can’t enter the kingdom unless we are like children because there is no room for self-sufficiency where Christ reigns as king. It is quite humbling to admit that we are incapable of taking care of ourselves. I spend more time attempting to do things too difficult for me, when I very easily could have just asked for help and been done quicker. The Bible has a word for this. Pride, and we are all dripping with it. But, we are grafted into a family where God is our Father. In a family, children believe that their father will protect and provide for them. When I was a little girl I never was fearful that my dad wouldn’t be there to protect me if I was scared, and I never questioned his ability to provide food for our table. Yet so often I find myself worrying about whether or not my perfect, heavenly Father will provide the food for my table now. This is pride and unbelief in the sovereign purposes of our great God.

We must become like children because we must admit that we cannot do anything apart from the hand of our heavenly Father. We also must believe in the provision and protection of a perfect Father, who will never disappoint us, never abandon us, and never hurt us. Our theology of God has everything to do with our every day lives.

So, as we seek to become like children, let us look first to Christ because it is by him that we are made sons of God. But let us also look to the little children in our churches. Maybe, just maybe, we will learn something theological.


Anonymous said...

Amen and Amen!! Lord, help me to learn this again!

Donald said...

Courtney, I always enjoy reading what you have to say! This is a convicting message for me and it is one that I must take to heart. I think that we must also become like children in our dependance on God for our salvation. We must rely solely on the work of Christ and not on what we bring to the table (merits, works). Keep up the good work!

ChosenRebel said...

Good post Courtney. May God expand your influence for his glory and your joy.

Ashi said...

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Andrew Case said...

Good word. One of the greatest books I've ever read is called "The Mystery of Children" by Mike Mason. It changed my life. I'll never look at children or myself the same again. It's worth checking out. At one part he writes, "Those who refuse to become childlike are doomed to be childish." Here's another to get you to read the book: "There’s no work more complex, more important, or more exalted that that of caring for children. After all, it’s what God Himself has chosen, above all else, to do with His time."
Go under His mercy

cdt said...

Thank you for the book suggestion, Andrew. I will check it out!

Lasting Impressions Photography said...

love it!

John Moore said...

You need to see the film, "Wit." It will provide you with another view of this verse. The role of suffering in the communion between human beings and God. Suffering renders individuals as children requiring nurturance from a parent, such as God. This may be why the Christian mystics of the middle ages embraced suffering as a needed prerequisite for an intimate relationship with God.

Anonymous said...

It's all about the children. Interacting , loving, and raising a child above yourself AND enjoying every second of it will be the ONLY way into the Kingdom of Heaven