Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 21 January 21:
Matthew 19:13-15 — “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
After correcting His disciples for attempting to keep little children away from Him, Jesus uses these children for an object lesson on faith. Both Luke and Mark record more of Jesus’ words – “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:17; Mark 10:15)
Jesus says that saving faith is like the faith of a child – with an open heart, ready to receive mercy and grace, trusting, eager, hopeful, joyful, excited, and comfortable in complete dependency.
Jesus says that we are to have a child-like faith, not a childish faith. Childish people don’t act their age, refuse to grow up, and dishonor the family name. Getting older is not the same as growing up. And as we all know, an adult can still act like a child. Throughout the Bible, Christians are called children of God (starting with Hosea 1:10), and the Bible has much to say to God’s little children –
- 1 John 2:1 — My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
- 1 John 2:12 — I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
- 1 John 2:28 — And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
- 1 John 3:7 — Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
- 1 John 3:18 — Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
- 1 John 4:4 — Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
- 1 John 5:21 — Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
The Bible encourages God’s little children to maintain child-like faith but to mature in their understanding and behavior –
- 1 Corinthians 3:2 — I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,
- Hebrews 5:12 — For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,
- Hebrews 5:14 — But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
- 1 Corinthians 14:20 — Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.
- Ephesians 4:13 — …until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
- Hebrews 6:1 — Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God….
In the Book of John, chapter 8, Jesus describes the difference between the children of God who truly love God, hear is word, and obey God and the children of the devil who do not really believe God, do not accept His word, and do what the devil desires. (John 8:39-47) Jesus called the Pharisees (religious leaders who claimed to be godly and righteous) children of the devil, despite their religious pedigrees. Claiming to be a child of God is not the same as actually being a child of God, and believing ‘in’ Jesus is not the same as believing Him, trusting Him, committing to Him, and obeying Him. James says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19) Saving faith is an obedient faith that continues to grow for a lifetime. We are not saved by our good deeds, but our good deeds are the evidence of our salvation. Good deeds are not the path to salvation but the proof of salvation. As Jesus said, “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:43-45) God expects you to bear the fruit of faith –
- John 15:4-5, 8-14 — Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
- 1 John 2:6 — …whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
- 1 John 2:14 — I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
- 1 John 2:17 — And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
- 1 John 2:24 — Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.
- 1 John 3:9 — No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.
A final point should be made about the actions of Jesus’s disciples and His response to them: For unexplained reasons, the disciples stood as a barrier between the little children and Jesus, perhaps considering them an annoyance, a distraction, or somehow unworthy of Jesus’ time and attention. Jesus essentially told them to get out of the way. As we mature, we must be very careful with how we treat those we see as less mature – “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
- 2 Chronicles 6:30 — Then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind….
- 2 Corinthians 6:2, 3, 11-13 — Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry…. We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.
- Romans 14:13 — Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
- Luke 11:52 — Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
- Mark 9:42 — “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.
Matthew 19:21 — “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
In many ways throughout the Gospels, Jesus said that the first step to following Him is to deny self. He means what He says. Obedience is only an issue where selfishness and self-centeredness remain. When we refuse to surrender all, only then do we say things like, “What exactly does the Law demand?” or “How many times must I forgive my brother?” or “Who is my neighbor?” In self-righteousness, we want to give God only what He has specifically asked for, and we look very carefully within the boundaries of the Law to find a place within what is written to build our own glorious kingdom, a sanctuary from authority; we then build our palace far bigger than the temple of God within our hearts (1 Kings 7:2-3; 1 Kings 6:2; 1 Kings 5:11). However, what God has demanded is our everything, all of us.
We are created to serve and glorify Him, and we were designed to have joy in serving Him. We were not created to serve self. The Bible says that we are Ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador is an official representative to a foreign country who represents the positions and interests of the appointing nation. But what would happen if an Ambassador began to show loyalties to the foreign country, began accommodating the demands and positions of that foreign country at the expense of their own kingdom, or began working on the side to establish their own private residency and position within that foreign kingdom? Not only would that ambassador be removed from position, he would likely be labeled a traitor. Proverbs 22:12 says, “The… LORD… overthrows… the traitor.”
Are we still trying to get something for ourselves? Do we still think that there is what is God’s and then what is ours? Have we not realized that it’s all God’s, including our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies? Are we really going to challenge God’s Lordship in any part of us or what we claim to possess? Are we going to set out today to take care of ourselves and what we want? Or are we going to forget about self and serve God wholeheartedly?
- Luke 10:27 — And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
- Luke 9:23 — And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
- Galatians 2:20 — I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
- Romans 12:1 — I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 21 Jan 21: Pray that God will increase your child-like faith and decrease your childish faith. Treat others as God’s little children. Give your everything to the Lord today.