Do any of you have children? Are they still young, still children? If not, can you remember what they were like when they were young? Or think further back, to what you were like when you were a child – I have a hazy memory of it! It is good to recall the characteristics of children because they have a secret that many of us have lost. I want to read a bit from the Bible that tells about how Jesus responded to children: [page ] [Mark 10:13–16 Some people brought children to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them, but the disciples scolded the people. When Jesus noticed this, He was angry and said to His disciples, “Let the children come to Me, and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you that whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then He took the children in his arms, placed His hands on each of them, and blessed them.] Some people brought their kids to Jesus but the disciples told them off! Jesus was busy, people were flocking to Him, people with real needs – some were sick, some were demon possessed. Jesus was teaching them; they were there to learn deep spiritual things – things far too deep for children to understand. These children were getting in the way, distracting from the important things, crowding out the more important people. The disciples were trying to free Jesus up so that He could get on with what He was here to do. They told the people off for bothering the Teacher with these little kids. But they had got it all wrong! Instead of telling the people off; Jesus told His disciples off! He was angry! He gave them two commands: one positive, one negative – He doubly pressed the point home: “Let them come! Don’t hinder them!” I am so glad that Jesus lets the children come! I was three years old when I came to Jesus! That’s so long ago; I was so young, that I don’t even remember. But I am told that when we came home from church one Sunday I announced to my parents that, “Mr Gownlock has come into my heart!” Now Mr. Gownlock was my Sunday School teacher. Obviously I was a bit mixed up, my understanding was not complete, but something had happened. Now my Dad was a bit of an intellectual and concerned that things be theologically right. He had only been saved about 5 years, as an adult, he didn’t think a 3 year old could understand. So he went to Bob Gownlock and checked out what had happened – and, indeed, I had understood and knew what I was doing. I was 3, I had the understanding of a 3 year old; but Jesus did not turn me away. Now, over 50 years later, I can attest to the reality of what took place. What took place has stood the test of time. Now, I can tell you that I have not been faithful all that time, I went away from the LORD. But although I may not have been faithful, though my understanding was limited; nevertheless Jesus has been faithful. I wandered but He drew me back, He never let me go. People may have scoffed at a boy asking Mr. Gownlock into his heart, but praise God, Jesus never did. He took it seriously. He honoured the decision I made when I was 3; He let me come, didn’t hinder me; furthermore He has kept me ever since. The blessing on a three year old who came to Him has remained. Praise God that He lets the children come, that He won’t allow anyone to stand in their way. But it goes way further than that! After telling His disciples off for trying to prevent the children coming He goes on further and says: “I assure you that whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it!” Other translations say: “Truly I say to you …” Jesus was drawing their attention to what He was saying and emphasizing the absolute truthfulness and reliability of what He was saying. What was He saying that was so important, vital to know? “Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never ever enter it.” Do you hear what Jesus is saying? Not only can children come as well; it is they who have the secret of coming. If you don’t come like them you will never ever (the language is extremely emphatic) enter the Kingdom of God. There is no way you are going to enter the Kingdom of God unless you come as a child! It’s not that we adults can come and children as a special favour. No, no, no! The adults have to come the way the children do. They know how to come and it us grown up and mature, educated and sophisticated that don’t know how! We have to learn from the kids! Now that is humbling. We think we should be teaching the children, when in fact we have to learn from them! What is their secret? What is the key that children have that we have lost as we have grown up? Jesus said: [Luke 10:21 At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.] God deliberately hid it from the smart clever ones and yet babies got it! Why? Because it depends upon revelation not human cleverness. The message is very simple yet some very clever people just don’t get it. In fact the Bible says that it is foolishness to those who are perishing. [1 Corinthians 1:18–29 For the message about Christ’s death on the cross is nonsense to those who are being lost; but for us who are being saved it is God’s power. … For God in His wisdom made it impossible for people to know Him by means of their own wisdom. Instead, by means of the so-called “foolish” message we preach, God decided to save those who believe. (that is what children are good at) Jews want miracles for proof, and Greeks look for wisdom. As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For what seems to be God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and what seems to be God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Now remember what you were, my brothers and sisters, when God called you. From the human point of view few of you were wise or powerful or of high social standing. God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise, and He chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful. He chose what the world looks down on and despises, and thinks is nothing, in order to destroy what the world thinks is important. This means that no one can boast in God’s presence.] I have a good friend called Lyndon. I was asked to do help Lyndon; he wanted to do Bible study, the rest of the youth group wanted to socialize. But Lyndon needed help because he can barely read. Lyndon was in a special class at school, he is not that bright. But he knows Jesus. I am more assured of Lyndon’s salvation than I am of many with theological degrees. He is a great fun guy and we have had good times together. He has gone on with the LORD. He met Jesus, came to Him. The message isn’t complicated: Jesus died on a cross instead of me dying, was buried and rose again 3 days later because He was sinless. I rely on His goodness, not my own; on what He has done for me instead of trying to do it myself. I could understand that as a 3 year old – I knew I was naughty, that I had done wrong things. In knew I deserved to be punished and could understand that someone else had been instead. Not hard to understand. But to some clever people it seems foolishness to think that someone dying 2,000 years ago can have any effect on them now. It makes no sense. They stumble over their own clever clogs. Look I have a library full of commentaries on the Bible written by extremely clever men; I read them and wonder, do they know Jesus like Lyndon does? For all their learning and reading, they seem to have missed the point! So what is that children have that we have lost? What do we need to recover in order to enter the Kingdom of God? Dependence: The verses we read said that they were “brought” – they weren’t seeking themselves, they were dependent upon others to bring them. I guess ultimately we are all dependent upon someone else bringing us to Jesus. We wouldn’t have come of our own accord. But children depend. When we grow up we know that we have to earn a living, work in order to get what we need. A child has no thought of that. He simply depends upon his parents. He doesn’t think or worry about where his food comes from. He has learned to depend on others. But no, we are independent, we are not going to rely on anyone. That is weakness. We are proud of our ability to provide for ourselves. We need to learn to depend. Faith: The one who depends, relies on someone else. They trust them. That is faith! We read earlier that God chose to save those that believe, There is no question in a child’s mind as to whether there will be a meal on the table. There always is. But we don’t like to rely on others. We take care of ourselves. Children have faith, they trust. We probably have all played the game: your little toddler is standing on the bench and you say “Jump to Daddy” And they do! They launch off. No doubt in their mind that you will catch them, no fear of falling. But no, we sophisticated adults have become cynical, we analyse the risks, seek guarantees and assurances. To receive the Kingdom of God we must come in faith. [Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.] We have to believe that Jesus is God, that He paid the penalty for our sin on the cross, that He will give salvation to us if we simply come to Him. That He will not drop us and land us in it. And that is another feature of children, their Simplicity: we make things so complicated. We have systematic theologies, Bible colleges, doctrinal debates – we have to understand and have it all worked out. Every “t” crossed and “i” dotted; an answer and explanation for everything. We are very concerned with being able to give the right answer. A child simply comes. They don’t have to understand it all. Let’s face it: He is not much of a God if our puny minds can understand Him. Some won’t come to Jesus because they have questions they want answered. As adults we don’t want to be gullible or taken in: we have this defensive mentality where we work out the angles, the motives, have become cynical skeptical as a defensive mechanism. We have chosen cunning instead of belief. A child is not that complicated. Just simply come – the questions will go, they may be answered or they may just become totally irrelevant. Take off your clever clogs and be simple like a child. Of course that takes: Humility: we want to know, to understand. We take pride in our understanding and learning. A child has humility. And perhaps the biggest barrier to prevent people coming to Jesus is: PRIDE! It was pride that led to the first sin. We are proud of our achievements, of what we have done. We boast of our own righteousness – it takes humility to admit that I am rotten, I am a sinner, I have nothing good in me and must simply depend on the goodness of another, on what someone else has done and not what I have done. Children have a humility that we have lost. They have no accomplishments, no need to prove themselves. We want to be somebody, be recognized, appreciated, be significant. If we are going to enter the Kingdom we need to come in humility, on our face before One who is infinitely greater than we are. Receiving: Because did you read what Jesus said?: “Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it” The kingdom is not earned, it is received. We, in our pride, want to earn. We are conditioned to it through all our adult life – you work, you get paid. You commit a crime, you do time. Always we get what we earn. It seems to apply to everything. If someone invites you for a meal, you immediate reaction is: “When shall we have them around?” We find it difficult to just receive. No, we must pay back for what we get. But look at a child: if you give them something, they have no obligation to pay back. They have no ability to. Everything they have, is given to them – they simply receive it without question. And you cannot earn your way into the Kingdom of God. Jesus paid the price and we cannot. Just like the child cannot. I have been reading the story of the rich man who came to Jesus: he wanted to know what good thing he had to do to obtain eternal life. He thought that he had to do something. He ended up walking away. This is the big difference between Christianity and every other religion – they are all about what you have to do; in Christianity it all depends on what Jesus has already been done. We need to receive it like a child – no strings, simply accept. Appreciation: Look at the way a child receive – look at them at Christmas. When we adults get gifts we are very careful to say thank you and express our appreciation – so polite, so well mannered. Have you seen your kids?! They may say “thank you”, if they are well brought-up; but more often than not, it is just rip into the wrappings with unfeigned excitement. They have been up since 4 wanting to open them! They are so preoccupied with playing with what they’ve got that the words “thank you” might have been forgotten. Their eyes are shining. They may not have said the words, but their appreciation is more eloquent than that of us adults. I know which I would appreciate more. The appreciation is real. Not going through the motions. When you have been brought from death to life, when you know your sin and guilt is gone forever, when you know that you are a son of God! That Jesus loved you and gave His life for you – if that is real – should we not be even more appreciative than our kids on Christmas day?! In growing up we have lost some precious, yes invaluable things. Unless we regain them there is no way that we will ever enter the Kingdom of God. May we learn to depend like a child, believe like a child; have the simplicity and humility of a child; like them how to receive and appreciate all that God has provided. If you want to enter the Kingdom of God you have to come like a child.