Let the Little Children Come to Jesus (Matthew Sermon 91 of 151)
March 08, 2009 | Andy Davis
Salvation, Marriage and Parenting, Baptism and the Lord's Supper
So I consider myself a very blessed man. I have five children, and every week as I've mentioned before, I have the privilege of getting Daphne dressed for church. She's three years old and with us today. This morning, knowing I was gonna preach on this text I said to her, “Do you know that Jesus loves you?” She said, “Yes, Jesus loves me. He died on the cross with blood on his face.” And I said, “Yes, and he was raised from the dead on the third day.” And she said, “Raised from the dead on the third day?” I could tell the phrase was new to her and hasn't really thought it through. And so it's a joy and a privilege to watch the words of the gospel rise up in her little heart over the years. I've seen it happen with our four older children. So they learned the language of salvation. And more than that, they learn a living Savior behind each of those words. Amen. What a great privilege.
But it's also struck me recently, what a sobering thing it is as well, because these little ones that are entrusted to us are eternal beings. And they are infinitely more God's than they'll ever be ours. It was he that crafted them together in their mother's wombs; it was he that holds them together every moment of their lives, and they will stand before God on Judgment Day alone in that sense, to give an account. And they will spend eternity in Heaven, or Hell. They are eternal beings. And what an incredible privilege it is for us to encounter them at that early age to begin sharing with them the good news of faith in Jesus Christ. John McArthur tells a tragic but powerful story of a family in his church, Grace Community Church there in California.
He said, some years ago, a family in our church experienced a great tragedy, the mother and two daughters were planning to fly the next day to New Zealand to join the husband and father who was on a preaching mission there and as the wife was learning some new crochet stitches to use on the long flight, the girls went outside to play. A few moments later, the mother heard the screeching of automobile tires, but since there was no crash, she thought little of it, that is until the older daughter came running into the house screaming and crying that the little sister Tanya had been hit by a car. The girl was unconscious but showed no signs of serious injury. Well, the mother bent over her, Tanya breathed a heavy sigh and turned her head to the side. At the hospital, the neurosurgeon told the mother that the girl had suffered massive brain damage and had little chance of surviving. Relatives and friends prayed fervently and the mother kept a vigil with her precious little daughter throughout the night, praying with great intensity that God would spare and restore her daughter. But she also prayed that above all God's will be done, even if it meant taking Tanya to be with himself. A relative who was a doctor, explained that Tanya’s breathing and heartbeat were functioning at the hospital solely by artificial means. He said her body is being kept working but Tanya isn't there anymore. She is with the Lord.
With a radiant face, her mother said to the Lord, "Have Thy will, not mine." To her friends and loved ones she explained, "I shall not forsake my Lord. Because if I did, I would be saying Tanya is gone, forever. I will do as David did in the Old Testament, when his child was taken, he washed his face, changed his clothes and went about his business satisfied that God knew best." At that moment, she was determined there would be no more begging God to bring her little girl back. Tanya was in the Lord's care and her mother believed she had entered into his presence, when lying unconscious on the street, she sighed and turned her head. The mother testifies that she was filled with an inner strength that was foreign to her, supernatural in origin. She recalled that for several months previously, Tanya had prayed, "Lord, I want to go and be with you while I'm young." When her mother asked why she made that request, Tanya smiled and replied, "Because I want to sit on Jesus' lap when I get there and I don't wanna be too big." On remembering those words, the mother said, "New assurance and peace surged through my sorrowful soul."
We serve a Lord who's incredibly tender and gentle to the little ones, isn't he? And that's the picture we have in today's text. And it's incredible, an amazingly high percentage of his chosen ones come to a saving knowledge of him early in life and what a great privilege it is for us who interact with those children, parents, brothers and sisters, church workers who interact with those children at an early age.
Now, in today's passage, we're gonna catch a glimpse of Christ's heart for little, little children. We're going to catch some of that heart, I hope, for ourselves. We're going to understand the preciousness of those first few years of a child's life, to learn how significant it is to bring those little ones to Jesus' day after day, for him spiritually to place his hands on them and pray for them and bless them. We're also going to try to understand the powerful attitude that had taken root in the hearts of his disciples that Jesus had to rebuke and correct. The attitude goes as follows, adults do important things, and there's no time for little children and all of that. We need to come to Jesus again and learn the value of little children, and see the preciousness of the brief time we have, with them like that and to make the most of it. And finally, this sermon is to encourage parents of little children in they're awesomely important responsibility to evangelize and disciple their children from the first moment of their relationship with them.
First Baptist Church has been blessed, lavishly by the Lord over the last number of years. Is that an understatement? Lavishly? I was thinking of what would be the best way to say it. Dozens and dozens and dozens of little babies, that's about right. And maybe more than that, we're not up to hundreds and hundreds yet, but the Lord is blessing abundantly... And it is a blessing, isn't it? And so I'm speaking to parents, lots of parents of little children who have the privilege of intersecting with eternal beings, these little children created in the image of God during this key time in their lives.
Understanding This Encounter: Parents, Children, Disciples and Jesus
And I wanna begin just by understanding this encounter from every angle. From the angle of the parents, the angle of the children, of the disciples and of Jesus. Look at Verse 13, "Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them, but the disciples rebuked those who brought them."
Understanding the Parents
So let's try to understand these parents, these were Jewish parents seeking to raise their children in the Laws of Moses. They cherished their babies like any parents do and they desired that their babies be blessed. Now in the Greek, both Mark and Luke give us a strong sense in the imperfect tense, that this was a continual process. Parents kept bringing their children over and over for Jesus to place the hands on them and pray for them. And by this time, I think Jesus' reputation as a teacher who delighted in little children was well-known. These Jewish parents having heard about Christ's ministry, they were still very much short of understanding who he was, I believe.
But according to the Talmud, the Jewish instruction based on the law of Moses, Jewish parents were to bring their children to respected Rabbis for prayer and blessing. Now usually, that would happen in the synagogue, so they'd go to the Rabbi at the synagogue and they would... The Rabbi would pray for their children and bless them. But there was a sense of greater blessing from a more prominent and God-blessed Rabbi and who could be greater than Jesus at that time? Jesus' reputation as a prophet from Nazareth and Galilee had spread far and wide. And Jesus was doing miracles and even more than this somehow had a tender heart for children, all of this well-established. So the parents came from all around, continually bringing their little children for Jesus to place his hands on them and on pray for them.
Now, these little children that are brought, new in life. Parents know that the bitterness of life as they grow older and they know the purity of the hearts of their little children, they know how much God will have to protect them and bless them, for them to be fruitful and prosperous in this sin-cursed world. And they want all the help they can get. Parents, you know what I'm talking about. So they said, "Let's bring them to Jesus, and Jesus can pray and bless them and God will protect them."
Understanding the Children
So there's so much for the parents. Let's understand the children; who are these children? The Greek word is “paidia” and it is the youngest stage of life. The word is used for newborn infants all the way up to the toddler years. So we're talking about little, little babies now, we're not so much... This sermon isn't so much about parenting all the way through, but it's about these little infants, these little babies and toddlers. Luke goes even further in making this clear in Luke 18:15, and says, “People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them.” So there are these babies, these infants and toddlers as well.
So even the most tiny human being, maybe just a few days old, barely able to open its eyes and focus, is of infinite worth and value to Jesus. Now, Jesus does not have a sentimental view of children, he knows that they are descended from Adam. He knows it better than anyone that they have a sinful nature; children do not have to be instructed in how to disobey their parents. It's part of the original equipment, I'm finding. No offense intended any attending here. But it just comes. It's natural because of the sin of Adam. They naturally have a tremendous bent towards self-focus, and selfish interests. They have a powerful sin nature and Jesus knew this better than anyone, but he also understands that children have at that early stage, a tremendous drive, it seems a natural bent toward God. Towards spiritual things, towards supernatural things. Toward invisible things. A natural yieldedness to him. A desire to learn about him. Though they cannot see him. Little children then have a deep attraction to the invisible God, so much for the little children.
Understanding the Disciples
Let's try to understand the disciples. “Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them, but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.” What were the disciples thinking? In some sense, you kind of feel sorry for them, especially Peter, as their weaknesses, and sins, and mistakes keep getting displayed generation after generation, we get to talk about them. So why were the disciples rebuking the parents? I wonder what words they used to do the rebuking perhaps they were frustrated. Their time alone with Jesus was being spoiled by all these crying infants, one after the other, coming, making noises and doing annoying things. Messing up their schedule and their plans.
In any case, it seems the issue of this: The teacher's time is too important for little babies, was preeminent in their minds. Now, often times you see this kind of thing in the inner circle of some great figure, a political leader, military conqueror, or some great general, an important statesman, a CEO of an important company, a well-known singer or entertainer or famous athlete. There's a coterie of kind of bodyguards and hangers-on around that individual all the time. And you can't get near them. I've often thought, “Oh, I'd love to go back in time and be with Jesus.” You wouldn't get within the same county. Just tons and tons of people around him all the time. And Jesus has his inner circle as well. Now this entourage will put their hands up as you try to get near. Put a stop sign up. Now, especially these important people, these great men have no time for anyone who cannot further their great agenda. They're great men meeting with other great men. Doing great things and have no time for little people and for distractions. And so little children, they think especially are a waste of time.
Sadly, they might not even have time for their own children. Even to have children, or if they have them to spend any time with them at all. I was reading recently about the family lives of royal families in Europe over the last 150 years and it's pretty tragic in this very area. This one area, for example, in the English royal household, a hundred years ago, King George and Queen Mary spent less than 30 minutes a day with their own children. 30 minutes a day. The children were raised entirely by nannies, they would frequently cry or shrink back from their biological parents, they'd barely recognized them. They felt much more comfortable with their nannies.
I read a recent story translated out of a Dutch newspaper telling a similar tale of woe about the royal family of the Netherlands. The central figure of that story was a nanny who cared for the little princess Louisa Marisa, and she said that 10 days after this little baby girl was born, the royal family left her to go on an official trip to the US. And that more or less from that moment on the baby was the nanny's to raise almost entirely. And so, also, for the other children born to the family and these little children would cry when being held by the mother, and reach for the nanny and wanna be taken back by the nanny. Now as they grew, they started to understand who their mother was and she would promise a goodnight kiss but would be distracted by important business, so that it would sometimes take up to an hour for her to go upstairs and kiss them at night. And here are these little children fighting to stay awake so they can have this one little kiss with their mother. The only encounter they'd have with her all day long.
Anyway, so many people look on children as an unwelcome intrusion from the vastly important business of their lives. And perhaps the disciples felt this same way when they rebuked the parents for bringing the little ones. “Our Master is too busy saving the world to hug your children.” And almost certainly, this response flowed from their own pride, in their own importance as well. And therefore, this is a very serious issue that must be rooted out of the hearts of the disciples. It's not a minor thing. If Jesus doesn't check this response in his disciples at this point, they will develop into the kinds of leaders who walk around in the marketplace with flowing robes and long to be greeted by others at the marketplace and to be called Rabbi and don't have any time for little people. It will shape and pollute their entire ministry, if this root of bitterness isn't weeded out. They cannot be bothered, not just by little children but by any small person, any insignificant person. It will shape their entire ministry. And it wasn't what Jesus was about. So much for the disciples.
Let's try to understand Jesus. Jesus' reactions really are quite remarkable. I often think about that, Jesus is probably the most unpredictable person in history. I'm not saying you shouldn't ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” It's an important question, but sometimes I have no idea what Jesus would do. Because he does surprising things. And it says in Mark 10:14, “When he saw this, he became indignant.” He was indignant. The word means to be aroused to a certain level in anger, to be vexed, to be annoyed, to be irritated. That's part of the larger display we have of Jesus' emotional life; our Lord is an emotional being. Perfect emotions, yes. But he had emotions.
B.B. Warfield wrote a great article about the emotional life of our Lord and talking about this encounter, he likened Jesus' response to that of anybody having a physical irritation, like a teething baby or a man walking down the road with a rock in his shoe. Jesus is annoyed with his disciples, he's mildly angry at them and their blatant misunderstanding of his heart and his mission. Now, for me, as a pastor, as a man, one of the most remarkable and amazing things about Jesus is how incredibly interruptible he was. I mean, here he is, he is in fact saving the world, he doesn't have much time to do it. It's only gonna be a short ministry, some calculate it to be as short as three years. And you hardly ever, if ever see an encounter where somebody comes to Jesus, and doesn't get what they came for. Or an encounter with Jesus, it's remarkable, he's incredibly interruptible.
He never rushed. Every encounter was precious, and he made the most of every single one of them. Even with these little babies. So he cherished these little children, he was absolutely not annoyed with the interruption, was delighted with it, I'm sure.
“Let the Little Children Come”
So look what he says in verse 14, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” So let's pick it apart, phrase by phrase. First, “Let the little children come.” Now, this implies that the natural bent of these little children is Godward. That if you'll just let them, they'll come. And I think it's true, more than at any other time in their lives.
One commentator put it with great tenderness in this way, this is what he said, “As the flower in the garden stretches toward the light of the sun. So there is in the child a mysterious inclination toward the eternal light. Have you ever noticed this mysterious thing, that when you tell the smallest child about God, the child never asks with strangeness and wonder, ‘Who is God? I've never seen him.’ But listens with a shining face to the words as though they were soft, loving sounds from the land of home. Or when you teach a child to fold its little hands in prayer, it does this as though it were just a matter of course. As though there were an opening for that child, of that world of which the child has been dreaming and longing with anticipation. Or tell them, these little ones, the stories of the Savior, and show them the pictures with scenes and personages, of the Bible [and] see how their pure eyes shine and how their little hearts beat.”
And there's just this drive, this interest that little children have for spiritual things, and Jesus wants to make the most of that. Let them come. Let them come to me. Again, proximity to Christ is everything. Jesus frequently says, “Come unto me.” “Come to me,” he says. He says it to the fisherman by the Sea of Galilee. “Follow me,” He says, “And I'll make you fishers of men.” In Matthew 11:28 he says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Jesus is gonna say in the next passage, we'll look at in Matthew 19, to the rich young ruler, “If you want to be perfect, sell all your possessions, give to the poor. And you'll have treasure in heaven, then come follow me.” In John 6:37 Jesus says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and those who come to me, I'll never drive away.” To his enemies, He says, “You refuse to come to me that you may have life.” John 7:37, “On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and called out in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.’” And in John 12:32, he says, “But I, when I'm lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”
And so he says “Let these little children come,” encourage their God-given desire to be near me, feed their spiritual appetites, let them do what their heart wants to do before the world, the flesh, and the devil come and harden it, and corrupt it and make it so difficult and put so many obstacles in their ways, and twist their desires. Let them come near to Christ for eternal life, let them come to know Him and cherish Him, and love Him. Feed their spiritual appetites and yours. Isn't that something you can feed on that? They're excited about Jesus. You should be too. They wanna know more about Jesus. You should, too. So you kinda piggyback on your little kids, and they'll rekindle your love for Christ. Feed it, feed that appetite. You can't feed it too much. Parents are always worried about too much with their kids, always too much sleep, worried about that. Too much food, too much crying, too much play, too much fluoride.
Too much salt or sugar in their diets, too much thumb-sucking, too much TV, too much music, too much of anything can be harmful. Let me tell you something, there's no such thing as too much Jesus. Cannot be. Oh, there's definitely too little Jesus. There's no such thing, as too much Jesus. Jonathan Edwards commenting on Song of Songs 5:1 says, Song of Songs says this: “Eat friends, drink, and be drunk with love.” Commenting on that in terms of our relationship with Christ, he said this, “Persons need not and ought not set any boundaries to their spiritual and gracious appetites. Rather they ought to be endeavoring by all possible ways to inflame their desires and obtain more spiritual pleasures. Our hungerings and thirstings after God and Jesus Christ and after holiness can't be too great for the value of these things. Therefore, endeavor to promote spiritual appetites by laying yourself in the way of enticement. There is no such thing as excess in our taking of this spiritual food.”
So, as parents of little children, we ought to be first of all, ravenously pursuing Christ, ourselves putting our love for Jesus on full display in front of those little children and secondly, we ought to be fanning their own love for Christ into a flame more and more, there is no danger here. Friends, feed their appetites to know Jesus. “Let the little children come.”
“Do Not Forbid Them”
Secondly, he says, “Do not forbid them.” Do not forbid them. This is prohibition clearly, in context, Jesus is just telling his misguided disciples to stop doing what they're doing, and allow the parents to bring as many children as God will, but in a deeper sense, he doesn't want his disciples playing the role of the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23, in verse 13, he says, “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You shut the Kingdom of Heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Don't play that role with the little children, let them come. Don't hinder them, don't make it hard for them. Now, the word can mean forbid, Don't forbid them, but it could also mean hinder. Don't make it hard for them, don't slow them down.
How We Prohibit Children from Coming to Jesus
So how do we hinder children, little children, from coming to Jesus? Well, first and foremost, above all, we hinder little children from coming to Jesus by not telling them about Jesus, we can know nothing about Jesus apart from the written word of God. They don't have Jesus naturally in their hearts, and so in order to let the little children come to Jesus, they need to hear stories about Jesus, they need to be taught who Jesus was. Says in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” And so, from the moment they come home from the hospital, tell them about Jesus, read them Bible stories about Jesus, they must know about Jesus, His miracles, His teachings, all of the stories. Tell them again and again about Jesus, don't hinder them by starving them this Gospel of Jesus. They will sit for hours and hours. I've tested this. You will get tired of it before they do. I have proven that, alright? They will keep asking and keep wanting to hear more and more, so feed them. Feed 'em stories about Jesus.
We hinder them also by stifling their enthusiasm for Christ. If you put their childish excitement down you're hindering them. You should fan those affections into a flame, you should make much of the little pictures they draw and the little things that they do to express their love for Jesus, put them up on the refrigerator, put them on your door, and have them there years later. Like when they get married, you still have them, those little pictures. Now, if you found a picture and didn't know who drew it, was just on the ground, it wouldn't mean anything to you. It's not art of the highest order, but for you it means everything, because they're expressing their heart and their love for God. By the way, that's a picture of our worship for God, too, it's not worship of the highest order that's up in heaven, but he takes it from us 'cause he loves us so. And he welcomes our worship, imperfect as it is. So get those pictures and put them up. We hinder them by quenching the spirit, spirit is fanning their love for Jesus into a flame. We act like a wet blanket slowing it down, by refusing to take their spiritual hunger seriously by blowing off their questions that they may ask. Make the most of that time. We can hinder them by exasperating them with harsh or unjust discipline. I know that the Bible speaks of corporal punishment. It's an important part of training.
The Bible also says in Ephesians 6:4, Fathers do not exasperate your children, instead bring them up in the training and the nurture of the Lord. We can hinder them by curtly cutting off their childish questions, like during family devotion for people to say, “Oh. Just childishness, irrelevant. It doesn't ever seem to connect to what we're saying. Don't let him speak, he's too young, don't let her participate, too little.” Don't do that, let them come, let them express an interest let them participate.
“Of Such is the Kingdom of Heaven”
And then finally it says “Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Now, the Kingdom of Heaven is the theme of the Gospel of Matthew. It's mentioned throughout the Gospel. 32 times in the Gospel of Matthew, that exact expression, is used, “the Kingdom of Heaven.” Four times we get the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom itself, by itself, as mentioned four more times. Once Jesus mentions Your Kingdom in prayers such as Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. He uses expressions like the Kingdom of my Father. He frequently introduces parables with the phrase, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like.” Now, what is this Kingdom of Heaven?
Well, the central concept is, that God the Creator of the ends of the earth rules actively over all that He's created. He is a king, he sits on His throne, He's a good king, a loving King, he gives laws by which we are to be governed, He will hold us accountable to those laws. He is also our Judge, and he is our Savior having sent Jesus into the world, and he is saving us from outside of the Kingdom in, from rebellion against the laws of God, to glad submission to the throne that is at the center of the Kingdom of Heaven. Now people must enter the Kingdom. This is the language used again and again. Matthew 4:17, Jesus began to preach “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near,” so you need repent and come in, enter the Kingdom. Matthew 5:20 says, "I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven." Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who's in Heaven,” and of the tax collectors and the prostitutes Jesus said to the Scribes and Pharisees “they are entering the Kingdom of God ahead of you.” So we must enter the kingdom of God
Now, poignantly here, Jesus says “of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” That means the Kingdom of Heaven is made up of people like this, of newborn infants, somewhat, as it were. So let's talk about the infants themselves, the actual babies.
John McArthur put it this way, “It's not that small children are regenerate and then lose their salvation later, if they do not receive Christ as Lord and Savior. It's rather that His atoning death is applied on their behalf if they should die before they are able to choose on their own. It may be that infant mortality rate is so high in many countries where the Gospel has not yet penetrated because the Lord is taking those little ones to Himself before they can grow up in a culture where it is so difficult to encounter the gospel and believe.”
And if that's true, and I think it is, isn't it marvelous that there's already people from every tribe and language and people and nation, around the throne? Now don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying we don't go and preach the Gospel, we must, we're commanded to, but I think many of them are already there and that's a delightful thing. But I don't think, as John McArthur said, that they lose their salvation later, but they have it at the infant stage.
But secondly, the Kingdom of Heaven is made up of people who are like little infants, themselves John Calvin said, “This passage broadens to give kingdom citizenship to both children and those who are like them,” a child-like faith, a willingness to come and be saved, to act like a lisping infant as though you were born yesterday and know nothing. Because that's kind of the truth isn't it? When compared to the Ancient of Days you just humble yourself like a little child. We already bumped into this concept earlier in Matthew 18:3, he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven,”
So I want to address any that are here today that have never trusted in Jesus. You've heard the testimony of these three young men, they testified to saving faith in Jesus. What about you? Have you ever changed and become like a little child? And entered the Kingdom of Heaven through simple faith? Have you trusted in the blood shed by Jesus on the cross as a forgiveness for your sins, for your violating of the laws of that king? King of the Kingdom of Heaven? Have you trusted in Him? Are you ready to go and be with Jesus if he should call you today? Like he called that little girl? Suddenly, by a car accident. Are you ready? Have you trusted in Jesus?
Now, the danger for the disciples is that they're gonna be hardened through pride; in hindering the little children is showing they really don't understand the Kingdom of Heaven. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. And so he says, “Let the little children come.” Let's evangelize these little children, let's talk to them about the Kingdom, before their hearts get hard. Reese Kaufman, who's the CEO of Child Evangelism Fellowship, he's the President, and he said “We spend so much time in adult evangelism trying to get them to be in that little childlike state. Little children are already there.” Let's take advantage of it and speak sweetly to them of the Gospel.
Jesus Touches Them and Prays for Them
And so in verse 15, Jesus finishes by placing his hands on them and he goes on for this, the power of the incarnation. Jesus frequently touched people, sick people, lepers, a mother-in-law who had fever, he touches her. And here he touches these little children and he blesses them. In Mark 10:16, he takes the children in his arms, and he puts his hands on them and blesses them. In the Jewish culture patriarchal blessings meant so much. Remember how Jacob swindled Esau out of Isaac's blessing, the placing of the hands and the speaking of words of blessing became almost prophetic at that stage of what was gonna happen with Jacob in the future. So also, Jacob on his deathbed, he rouses himself up out of his deathbed, to place his hands on Manasseh and Ephraim who are Joseph's sons, his grandsons, and speaks a patriarchal blessing on them. Jesus does the same thing and he touches them. Little children need touch. I really do, I think we all do. Isn't it a delight to pick up a little child and hold him or her in your arms? You hear these tragic stories of these orphanages in third world countries and other nations where, totally neglected, they're being biologically fed, but nobody's holding them, nobody picks them up, and cares for them and they have lasting problems as a result.
Jesus holds them and touches them. These little children. He yearned to touch them and minister to them. Now, these little infants, were pre-lingual, you can't speak to them, But it says in Psalm 22:9, David speaking he said “Yet you brought me out of the womb, you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast.” So, at a very early stage, they're learning how to trust. At that point they're learning how to trust mommy, though they don't know the words of trust or mommy or any of those things, they're learning how to trust. Later on that trust will be transferred through the words of the Gospel to Jesus Christ. But even in an early stage a nursing mother is doing pre-evangelism, for that growing baby, and so Jesus touches them.
So what applications can we take from this? Well, first and foremost, just from that tragic story as we began, I want to urge you to consider your little children as the eternal beings they really are. They're going to spend eternity in Heaven or hell, they have been given to you for a short time, If the Lord should take one of them in infancy, or in childhood, don't murmur against God. Remember what I said at the beginning of my sermon? They're infinitely more his than they are yours, they are. We don't have a claim against God, in reference to any child; they're His.
Now, he gives them to us for a period of time, and we can love them and nurture them. Let's be focused, intensely focused from an early age on their salvation. Now you could say “They don't even understand. I'm gonna wait until they're…” Well, until they're what? Two? Three? At what point will you start telling them about Jesus? I would urge that you do it while they're still in the womb. Train yourself. Get yourself ready to be an evangelist and then as soon as they come out, you start telling them about Jesus, read them stories and people will think You foolish. A seven-week-old and you're reading them the Bible. But at some point they’re suddenly gonna be three and all of a sudden they can start saying about Jesus with blood on his face, and soon they're seven and they're speaking a little bit more maturely about the gospel and pretty soon they're like, these young men that were baptized, earlier here today. Start early.
What responsibilities do you have? Let me just give you these 10 briefly. First of all, receive your children thankfully. They are a gift of God, from him. Receive them thankfully. Thank God for them and don't be arrogant over them. Don't act like a king or queen or emperor or empress with them.
Secondly, love your children deeply. Let your heart melt frequently concerning your little children.
Thirdly, understand your children positively and negatively. Positively, they are created in the image of God, and have immense potential. Negatively, they are descended from Adam and you'll find out soon, most definitely. Don't idolize your children, understand them.
Fourthly, teach your children, constantly. Deuteronomy 6 says, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children, talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” I have some booklets that I did on two sermons on Deuteronomy 6 and they are available free of charge out here in the North Tower. Sermons I preached on how to saturate your children's daily lives with the word of God, just pick them up. I think there's about 20 of them out there.
Fifthly, be Christ-centered daily. Say things like, “Jesus made that pretty bird. Isn't it wonderful that Jesus gives us days like today? Let's thank Jesus for the food. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Saturate them with Jesus Christ.
Sixthly, discipline your children wisely with tenderness, with compassion, with diligence, with consistence, with love.
Seventh, pray for your children consistently. Pray for them consistently. Pray for them every day; bring them to Christ. Charles Spurgeon in his sermon “Children Brought to Christ and not to Baptism,” he said this, we can't physically bring our children to Jesus. The way we do it spiritually now is through prayer, bring them to Jesus, so that he can place his spiritual hands on them and pray for them.
Eighthly, Model Christ for your children faithfully. Let them see the love you have for Jesus and the way you seek to live with him day after day.
Number nine, involve your children in church early. When they're ready to come, bring 'em to church. I mean here, big church. And I wanna speak to this congregation, there are many parents here that bring their children into the sanctuary. Praise God for them, do not play the role of the disciples in this story. You don't wanna play that role. Don't despise them, don't wish they weren't here, don't wish you didn't have to listen to their sounds. Parents, you know enough to take your children out of the sanctuary if they're making too much noise. Take them out. And when they're quiet, bring them back. I would urge you, the other six days. Work hard on them to get them quiet okay? Six days a week, work, work, work, work, work. Fruits of the labor on the seventh day. You understand that. Okay? But bring them, bring them. And can the rest of us realize that the overwhelming majority of congregations throughout the world, they're all worshiping together? In Kenya, I was there, 1986, there are babies everywhere, there are children everywhere. They don't have separate children's church, they don't have all that. They just all worship together. Bring them early.
And tenth, encourage your children tenderly. Be gentle with them, and tender and get them ready for their life.
A Word About Child Baptism
I wanna speak a brief word about children's baptism. I can't think of another place where I could say it. First of all, I wanna say this: Spurgeon in his sermon “Children Brought to Christ and Not to the Font”, meaning to baptism, he's addressing the topic of infant baptism, there, not children's Baptism. It's a different issue. He does say this, and I'm warned by Spurgeon, concerning this, this passage I'm preaching on today has “not a ghost of a whisper of a shade of anything to do with baptism.” So you may wonder “Why am I bringing baptism up?” Well, just because people ask frequently about child baptism. May I say, to you this child baptism is a uniquely Baptist problem? Presbyterians don't have the problem, they baptize infants. Methodists don't have the problem, they baptize infants, Anglicans and Episcopalians, they baptize infants, Lutherans baptize infants. We don't. What are we looking for? Well, we're looking for a credible profession of faith in Christ. What does credible mean? Now, there's an interesting question. When it comes to little children, it's particularly interesting. It is not hard to get a little child to pray a sinner's prayer. You know what I'm talking about? It's not hard to do.
I do not, for one, believe there should be multiple baptisms in someone's life. I think it should happen just once. We do not believe, as Spurgeon was preaching vigorously against, in something called baptismal regeneration. That you have to have the water of baptism or you going to Hell or limbo as the Roman Catholics might teach. I don't believe that. Bible doesn't teach that. Thief on the cross was never water baptized and he was with Jesus in paradise. You don't have to be water baptized. It's important that you not refuse to be baptized, that's very important, but little children growing up in a Christian home aren't refusing to be baptized, they're ready and willing for anything that their parents lead them to do.
So therefore at what age should they be baptized? Now there's a question. Would you recommend that the elder sets a threshold age? Okay, you tell me what that age would be and then I'll search in a concordance and try to find a Bible verse to support that number. I don't think we'll find it. There actually won't be any New Testament encouragement for setting the threshold date.
And you know what would happen, it would interject an artificial force into the life of this congregation where when that age comes you'll feel a certain pressure to have your children baptized. It happens over and over. What then, what then? We're cast on the Spirit of God or cast on the elders to make wise decisions or cast on on the parents to make wise decisions. Understand your theology. It is not baptism that saves, it's faith that saves. So saturate their lives with the Gospel with the Gospel with the Gospel and let the Gospel grow up in them and at the right time they can be baptized and if you bring them to the elders we'll talk to them, we'll find out what's going on in their lives, we'll seek as best we can to deal with them. But here's this. Don't bring them too early please. Now, if you're pressing me to know what early is, I don't know what too early is. I just say there should be charity in this and there's no harm in waiting, and when the right time comes and you're certain that the word of God has taken root in their hearts and is bearing fruit above, then bring them.
A Word to and About Children’s Workers here at FBC
And I would appeal for like I said Charity and love on both sides. There's too much harshness that goes on sometimes in controversial issues like that one, all I'm saying is, evangelize them, bring them to Christ and at the right time, you'll be... It'll be obvious to you when it's time for water baptism. Final word, I just wanna say thank you to children's workers here in this church. Praise God for you, I'm thankful for you. Jesus sets an example here of blessing other people's children. We do not minimize the role of parents, we maximize it, but others can make an impact too, can't they? And so it's a sweet thing for families to worship together and stay together. It's also a sweet thing for others to interact with those little children and make some kind of an impact, and we have some godly men and women, they're doing that every week. And I just wanna say thank you on behalf of the congregation to you for your sacrifices. Close with me in prayer.