Kids and the Kingdom
Let’s begin this morning with one of those “stump the preacher” questions: how old will I be when I get to heaven?
I know the Bible says all born again believers will be resurrected and given a new body which will live forever. I know it will be a perfect body, a body free from all sin, disease, or pain. I know we can do the math and figure up how many years we have existed, but when we step out of this world into the next, how old will you be physically, emotionally, mentally?
Since heaven is a perfect place, I suppose you will be an ideal age, the age when you were the most happy and carefree. What age would that be for you? If you could choose one stage of your life which could go on forever, which stage would it be?
I never really thought much about this question until I read an essay by a Christian musician named Terry Taylor. He speculates God might make us kids again when we get to heaven. He seems to think this is the perfect age of innocence and wonder, of dependence and trust, the age when we have the least worries and the most fun.
Now I know that not everybody experiences a perfect childhood. This world is a cruel place and many children suffer terribly growing up. Today it seems we’re trying to grow up kids faster and faster—too fast, if you ask me.
But I’m still thinking Taylor has a point. I’m not so sure about what age we’ll be in eternity, but I do know Jesus welcomed little children to come to Him, and went further to tell us that unless we become as little children, we’ll never make it into the kingdom of heaven.
What does He mean by this connection between kids and the kingdom? That’s what I want to explore with you this morning as we read Luke 18:15-17.
I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but it seems like Jesus has a soft spot for kids.
Mt 18:5-6, 10 5Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. 6“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 10“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.
That really shouldn’t surprise us. After all, God came up with the idea of childhood in the first place. Flip through the OT and notice how often God expresses His fierce anger at those who mistreat kids. You’d think anybody that knew Jesus would know He loves kids.
But these disciples didn’t get the memo.
Vs. 15 tells us a group brings some kids to Jesus that He might touch (=bless) them… It was common back then for parents to bring their kids to the Rabbi for him to lay his hands on them and pray God’s blessing on their lives. Luke specifically calls these infants but the parallel passages in Matthew and Mark say there are also some older kids there. One thing to notice is that they’re all too young to get to Jesus by themselves. Somebody has to bring them.
You can use your imagination a little and see how this might happen. It’s probably another case of the power of the mommy network. One mom is chatting with another mom one day, and they get the idea of bringing little junior to Jesus. Pretty soon those 2 talk to a few more, and before you know it, there is a small crowd of mothers, toting kids on their hip, leading kids by the hand, shepherding a flock of kids all to find Jesus.
But before they get to Jesus, they have to get past His disciples.
We don’t know why these men try to turn them away. Perhaps they think Jesus is too tired; perhaps they’re afraid a bunch of kids and moms might stress Him out. Perhaps they think Jesus has more important things to do, more important people to see. I’m sorry, lady, but Jesus is a very busy Man. Why don’t you try the Rabbi down the street? Whatever they are thinking, they try to get rid of them, or in the language of vs. 15, they rebuked them.
But Jesus gets wind of what’s happening. He steps around the wall of disciples trying to “protect” Him and vs. 16 says He rebukes His disciples! In the parallel passage in
Mk 10:14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased…= very grieved and angry
Don’t ever come between Me and the kids! Jesus says.
Do you get the picture? Here is one group trying to bring kids to Jesus, and here is another group (Jesus’ followers) trying to keep the kids from coming to Jesus.
There is an important principle here about kids and the kingdom:
I. JESUS WELCOMES US TO BRING CHILDREN TO HIM.
How many of you have ever taken small children to an amusement park? Kids and people who aren’t afraid of heights have a lot of fun at those things. But not all kids get to enjoy the fun. Some of the rides have a little display out front—usually a cartoon character with one hand held out, and a sign that says you must be this high to enter this attraction. You have to be older, or taller, or even grown up to go here.
I think the disciples would’ve liked a sign like that. But I’m not sure Jesus would. I think Jesus wants us to feel welcome to bring our children to Him. How do you bring kids to Christ?
Some good people look at this verse and try to make it say more than it actually does. I’ve read behind some who try to make a case for baptizing babies from this verse. But Jesus doesn’t say anything about baptism here, so that sounds a little far-fetched.
So how old should a child be before you bring them to Jesus? I think the answer is wrapped up in exactly what we mean by the phrase bring them to Jesus. You can bring a child to Jesus in several different ways.
You can bring them to Jesus in prayer. Whenever you pray, you ought to pray for the kids in your family, in your church, in your community. We ought to bring them to Jesus and ask Him to help them grow in mind, body, and spirit. We ought to bring them to Jesus and pray for protection from evil, to ask God help them be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.
Another way many people bring their kids to Jesus is through child dedication. This is a special service in which parents dedicate their child to God (usually an infant, but not always). It’s based on the Biblical custom of presenting children to the Lord (Hannah, Joseph and Mary). The parents make vows to raise the child in a godly home, to teach and train them in the ways of the Lord. All 3 of my sons were dedicated to the Lord when they were babies, and I’ve been privileged to minister in many other child dedications.
Finally, there is a time when a child is old enough be brought to Jesus through conversion. How old should a child be before they can come to Jesus and be saved? I don’t find anywhere in Scripture where a particular age is specified I think one way to determine the answer is not by age as much as by their understanding. I believe a child trusts Christ as Lord and Savior:
· When they are old enough to be convinced they are a sinner who needs God’s
· When they’re old enough to understand they can only be forgiven through Christ.
· When they’re old enough to understand Jesus died on the Cross to pay for their
· When they’re old enough to understand they must turn away from their sins and
commit their lives to Jesus Christ as their King.
They don’t have to understand everything. When you gave your life to Christ, you didn’t understand everything. They don’t have to be perfect any more than you have to be perfect. If they understand the basic truths of the Gospel, they can come to Christ just like you and I did.
Can kids really come to Jesus? One survey I read recently said most people come to faith in Christ before they are 18. If they don’t they will probably never come to Him at all!
How old were they when they came to Jesus?
Matthew Henry was 11. Jonathan Edwards was 7. Isaac Watts (Joy to the World, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, At the Cross) was 9. Corrie ten Boom asked Christ to be her Savior at age 5. W. A. Criswell, the famous Southern Baptist pastor, was saved when he was 10. Hymnist Philip Bliss [It is well] was 12 years old. Nicholaus Zinzendorf, the father of modern Protestant missions, was saved at age 4. [i]
I know you have to be careful dealing with children and spiritual issues. You have to be sure you explain the Gospel in terms they can understand. You have to take into consideration the power of peer pressure in leading kids to do things just because other kids do it. There are a lot of adults who were never truly converted to Christ, but still think they’re OK because they had an experience in church when they were very young. But I also know something else: we’d better be careful about hindering a child from coming to Jesus. We might find Him rebuking us the same way He rebuked His disciples.
LET THE CHILDREN COME IN!
There's something quite nice about children.
Every family should have one or two
They're such a fine race/When they're kept in their place:
Say, the playground, the park or the zoo.
In his place, a child's quite delightful,
Full of fun, a most interesting buddy.
But his yearning for action Can cause a distraction
When he has invaded the study.
The office is no place for children.
They foul up our work with their fun.
So we make it a rule That they must go to school
So their elders can get something done.
Some children came searching for Jesus.
His friends were distressed and inclined
To think: “Oh, how terrible To have a fresh parable
Suddenly slip from His mind!”
So they tried to get rid of the children
Surely no major disgrace,
Protecting their Master, From certain disaster.
By keeping the children in place.
“Let the children come in!” shouted Jesus,
Then he said something frightfully odd:
“They are bearers of grace, and their ultimate place
Is right smack in the Kingdom of God.”
Well, the place of a child is the Kingdom.
That's what Jesus carefully taught.
So, the last time you did, Play some ball with your kid,
You were closer to God than you thought.
-Michael B. Brown[ii]
Our Lord welcomes us to bring our kids to Him, in prayer, in dedication, and when the time is right, conversion. But He goes on to make another connection between kids and the kingdom in vs. 16b-17. The principle here is
II. JESUS WELCOMES US TO COME TO HIM AS A CHILD.
Of such is the kingdom of God…He’s not saying that only kids go to heaven, but He is saying that everyone in the kingdom has something in common with kids.
Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.
Unless you come as a child, you don’t get in.
So the important question is: how do we become kids again? I think the answer is wrapped
up in this little word receive in vs. 17. Jesus tells us that you have to receive the kingdom of God the same way a child receives a gift. That gives us some important clues, doesn’t it?
First, receiving a gift is different from earning a reward. For a gift to truly be a gift, you cannot earn it. Kids don’t sit around the Christmas tree with their piggy banks, waiting to pay for the presents. They just accept them, unwrap them, and enjoy them.
In much the same way, to come as a child to God, you must understand the kingdom of God is not something you achieve, it is something you receive. You don’t get in because you’ve been good enough; you needn’t stay out because you’ve been bad enough. It is a gift.
Ro 6:23 …the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Receiving a gift also involves trust. How many moms warn their kids over and over don’t ever take candy from strangers! But when the gift comes from the hands of daddy or mommy, or grandpa or grandma, they know it’s safe.
In much the same way, receiving the kingdom of God involves a child-like trust—what the Bible calls faith. It’s not just trust in a set of facts, but trust in a Person—Jesus Christ.
Trusting in Christ means you believe what He says, you rely on what He’s done, you turn away from sin and turn to Him as your personal Savior. In grown up terms, trusting Christ means repenting and believing the Gospel.
Faith is an area where growing up means we must become more like a child. - Colleen Townsend Evans[iii] "
Unfortunately there are many grown-ups who say no thank you to the gift of God’s kingdom.
Jn 1:11-12 11He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Here’s the deal in a nutshell: to receive the kingdom of God, you’ve got to come as a child, with empty hands and a trusting heart. Jesus opens His arms wide and says all who come as a child are welcomed into the kingdom of God.
At the beginning of his sermon the pastor holds up a $5 bill and says, "This is a gift to whoever wants it. But if you really want it, you have to come and get it." He lays it down on the altar, and begins his sermon on receiving Christ as a little child.
But no sooner does he lay the money down and turn around than a 3 year old boy steps out of the pew, walks up and takes the money, and goes back to his seat. [iv]
Can it really be this simple? Can you really come to Christ this morning with empty hands, an empty heart, an empty soul, and reach out in repentance and faith and receive the kingdom of God? Yes. It’s that simple. Jesus invites you to come this morning. Come as a little child, trusting Him, and walk out of here today with a clean slate and a new start.
You can learn a lot from a kid.
A teacher told everyone to draw a picture of what was important to them. In the back of the room Johnny began to labor over his drawing. Everybody else finished and handed in their picture but he didn’t. He was still drawing. The teacher graciously walked back and put her arm around Johnny’s shoulder and said, “Johnny, what are you drawing?” He didn’t look up; he just kept on working feverishly at his picture. He said, “God.” “But Johnny,” she said gently, “no one knows what God looks like.” He answered, “They will when I’m through.” [v]
This morning we’ve looked at how Jesus says kids show us the kingdom of God. Now it’s your turn to do something about what you’ve heard.
Jesus Christ welcomes you this morning to come as a child and receive the kingdom of God. Won’t you come this morning?
[i]Robert J. Morgan, Nelson's Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000),
[ii] Be All That You Can Be, CSS Publishing, 1995.
[iii] Heart to Heart," Today's Christian Woman.
[iv] Debbie Brumley, Concord, NC. Christian Reader, "Lite Fare."
[v] Em Griffin, The Mind Changers