Like A Child
A few years ago, a friend and I were discussing faith. At one point, he sighed and said "Ah, to
have a childlike faith again!"
While I share his thoughts that it is a good thing that new Christians have that kind of faith, I think there is an underlying theme in his sentence that, for some reason, those of us who have been believers for a number of years cannot have that kind of innocent outlook toward God. The truth is that all believers can shed our hardened spiritual exteriors for an unjaded, wide-eyed, childlike belief in our God and all that He can do. In fact, this is not only something we can attain, but we are called to attain.
Mark 10:14b (NAS)"Permit the children to come to Me, . . .for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these."
Matthew 18:3-4(a parallel passage can be found at Luke 18:17) "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven"
Peaceful scene?Make no mistake. If you're picturing Jesus sitting on a rock, surrounded by cute kids, talking sweetly about how great life will be when the Roll is called up yonder, think again. Jesus is not talking gently here. This is a tough statement. It’s a command. And it’s directed at you and me. We are called to obey God, and this is part of the package. We are under orders to humble ourselves and be like children.
In Matthew 18:3 (above), Jesus is letting us know that we are expected to do something that will be against our very nature. “Converted” is a Greek word (Strong’s number 4762), which is translated "turn" in most other places it's used; in other words, we have to make a radical departure from what seems normal for us. Change paths. This command, like many of God's commands, requires us submit to His will, rather than obey our natural wants and desires.
What does it mean to be like a child?The example given in the introductory paragraph is that of having a childlike faith that nothing is beyond what God can do. When we read passages like Matthew 18, this is the first thing to come to mind. However, Jesus never defines for us what He means by when He wants us to become like children. Probably faith is one way we can do this. Even more likely is the possibility that we are called to be like children in many other ways. It should be emphasized here that there is some speculating going on here. Since Jesus did not spell out in so many words what He meant by this command to become like a child, I cannot be exactly sure. However, for each of the child-like traits below, I have provided verses to back them up. Let’s look at some common characteristics of children and see how they can apply here.
In what ways are we to be like children?Let's start by making a list of ways that children are different from adults. Here is a short list of traits that kids have which are typically lost in the transition to adulthood:
1. are Trusting
2. are Teachable
3. look to their parents when they hurt
4. are Submissive to authority
5. desire to grow up
6. are Brutally Honest
7. know the importance of playing
8. love to rest on their parents' shoulders
Each of these topics has been divided into separate chapters, the links for which are below.
Common ThreadAs we explore these characteristics in detail, we'll see one common thread: the importance of humility. Let's look at our original passage again: "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven"
The truth, as Jesus phrases it, is that you and I need to become like a child. Clearly, humility is a crucial element, a part of the package that we cannot do without if we are to walk in this truth. Humility can be the subject of an entire bible study in itself. Humility is, by definition, the opposite of pride. What Jesus is saying here is that He wants us to set aside our pride and become like a child, and in order to become like a child, we need to humble ourselves.
The Test and Pride CheckEach chapter contains a Test and a Pride Check.
Why the Test?Because often we can be taught a biblical truth, nod our heads in agreement, and then fail to walk in it. This is not an attempt to shake our fist at what God is teaching us, but a simple failure to make the connection between the message and its application in our lives. The Test section will give scenarios similar to those that you may encounter in life, and a chance to see if your reaction in those scenarios is aligned with Scripture.
Why the Pride Check?In the passage from Matthew 18, Jesus says we must be humbled in order to become like children. As we go into detail about these traits, you’ll note that the stumbling block which keeps us from our childlike calling for virtually all of these traits is pride. It takes humility to be teachable, to submit to authority, etc. Keep that in mind as we go along.
Does this apply to any one group of believers? Anyone can benefit from gaining an understanding these truths about what Jesus wants from us. Men, in particular, have the most pride issues when it comes to becoming like a child in the ways that Jesus would want us to. The truths revealed by Scripture in this study are applicable to women as well, but men need to pay special attention to the Pride Check section at the end of each chapter. This message would make an ideal topic for a men's bible study.
This study reveals 8 traits that children have, each of which has a spiritual application for believers. They have been separated here into 8 web pages, or "chapters." Ready to start? Click on any of the chapter titles in the menu above or the link below.
NEXT: Part 2--Children Are Trusting
NEW! I am in the process of compiling this study into a 30-day devotional. I have a links below to a very rough draft. Both versions below are in PDF format, for which you will need the Acrobat Reader, a free product from Adobe.com.
Click here for the version optimized for printing into a booklet (not worth trying to read on the screen)
Click here for a screen-ready version
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