Recently, in our study though the book of Mark, Doug taught on that passage in chapter 10 where people were bringing their children to Jesus that he might touch them. The disciples, still thinking in a worldly way, protested and demanded that people not bother Jesus with small children. Not only did Jesus rebuke his disciples about their way of thinking and their partiality, but he also taught them something very important; namely, that whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.
This must have been a shocking statement to the disciples at the time, but there can be no doubt that they would have taken it to heart, and we would do well to do the same. Doug helpfully showed us that to be childlike in receiving the kingdom looks like a child taking an adult at their word. Children trust without question, not worrying about how the adult will fulfil the promise. They understand their dependence.
This is a good thing, and we ought to become like children in this regard. Thus, there is a good childlikeness that Christians ought to develop. On the other hand, there is also a bad childishness that we ought to mature out of.
I was reminded of this dynamic as I took my children walking to the shops a few days ago. We have two rules for when we go out for walks. (1) Stay near to Daddy and Mommy; and (2) stay on the pavement and do not step onto the “black” unless Mommy or Daddy are holding your hand. Simple.
I trust any thinking person can see the common sense behind those rules. They are there not to squash the kids’ enjoyment of the walk but to facilitate it. They aren’t there to restrict their pleasure but to protect them in order to enjoy the walk (and live to walk another day).
As we rounded a corner on this particular occasion, two of the kids ran out into the road, and I had to reprimand them sharply, ordering them back to the pavement. “For goodness’ sake,” I thought, “don’t these kids understand that cars might knock them over?”
At that point I suddenly realised that I had just been given a glimpse at myself from God’s perspective. God has given us principles and commands in Scripture to live by. Mankind sees these rules and balks. Why should we obey God?
The same lie Satan told to Eve right back in the beginning is still working on us today. Satan told Eve that God had only commanded them not to eat from the tree in the midst of the Garden because God was keeping something good from them.
Today the same trick works on us: We often feel that God’s word is a restriction on our joy. More than that, we feel ashamed to bring Scripture into our conversations with unbelievers because, deep down, we feel that we can’t bring spiritual things into a secular debate. “That just won’t make sense to the unbeliever,” we think, and thereby voluntarily force ourselves to play by their rules—because our “rules” are just arbitrary guidelines we have chosen to live by, after all.
For example, we know that God reserves sexual intimacy for marriage, but we won’t bring that up in a conversation because, deep down, we wonder if two unmarried people living together is really such a big deal.
We know that God has said that same sex unions are an abomination, but deep down we blush, thinking that the loving position really is the world’s. After all, why not just live and let live?
But let’s face it and call it what it is: rank unbelief! This is a lack of faith in the goodness and wisdom of God. Now, I’m not suggesting that you necessarily engage unbelievers with the truth like a bull in a china shop. Winsomeness is called for in order to be heard, but I am challenging us to examine our own hearts. Do we believe that God really knows best?
Just as my rules for my children are not made arbitrarily, designed to ruin their fun—on the contrary, they are made to protect them from harm and misery—so God’s ways really are perfect. He has required things of us for our own good.
We see the childishness of a toddler who refuses to submit to a parent’s rules and narrowly avoids tragedy, but do we see the same childishness in ourselves when we think we know better than God, or avoid boldly bringing Scripture to bear on worldly affairs?
There is a childlikeness that is good for us to develop, but the writer to the Hebrews admonished his readers to grow up in their thinking, saying, “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14).
Can you distinguish good from evil? Do you really trust God enough to know that what he commands is good, no matter how much your flesh protests that you are missing out? Do you trust God enough to know that what he has forbidden is evil regardless of how good it appears on the surface?
Peter writes, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).
Thus, Christian maturity involves both a growing up into bold Christlikeness, and a self-humbling, childlike dependence on God for our every need.
So BBC, let’s put on childlikeness but at the same time put off childishness for our own good, and God’s glory, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.