Calvary Road Baptist Church

“SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN” Part 4

Matthew 19.14

 

Turn in your Bible to Matthew 19.13. When you find that verse in God’s Word, please stand to read along silently as I read aloud:

 

13     Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.

14     But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

15     And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.

 

Now, please, turn to Mark 10.13 to read along with me:

13     And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.

14     But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

15     Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

16     And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

 

Finally, turn to Luke 18.15 to read along with me:

15     And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

16     But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

17     Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

 

I am persuaded that you can get a better idea of what someone believes by observing what he does than by listening to what he says. Would you not agree with that? I think it bears repeating. You can get a better idea of what someone believes by observing what he does than by listening to what he says.

Thus, we have good reason to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ really does love the lost, really did give Himself an atonement for sins to save the lost, and really does save the lost from their sins. How can we believe these things? Because, not only did He make statements about each of those things, but He went beyond words to actually die on the cross, to rise from the dead three days later, and then ascend to the Father’s right hand on high.

Reflecting, then, on the message from God’s Word delivered here last Sunday morning, when I preached about the Lord Jesus Christ’s willingness to save sinners from their sins, as demonstrated by His eternal decree, His incarnation, His crucifixion, His resurrection, His ascension, His present session, etc., it is safe to say that whatever obstacle to the conversion of a sinner, particularly a child, exists, it is not Jesus Christ.

That being the case, where should we look next to examine those impediments to childhood conversion? If the Savior is willing to save, why does the sinner not get saved when the sinner does not get saved? Might the willingness of the sinner, particularly the willingness of children who are sinners, not be considered?

As I mentioned a number of weeks back, a man named Horace Bushnell, a pastor and theologian living in the 1800s, most famous for being a co-founder of what has come to be the University of California at Berkeley, and for authoring a seminal book titled Christian Nurture, is the dominant influence in the thinking of those today who are concerned with evangelizing children . . . oftentimes in ways they do not recognize.

Horace Bushnell’s view was that children are so naturally good, and so naturally inclined toward the things of God, that the unwillingness of a child to embrace Christianity was likely to be explained by grievous errors on the part of pastors and parents. In short, if the child does not become a Christian, particularly a church kid, according to Bushnell it is likely the fault of the parents or the pastor, or the parents and the pastor.

No one would take up the position that the conduct of either parents or pastors has no bearing on child evangelism, but is Bushnell’s underlying thesis correct? Are children essentially good? Do children exhibit the inclination to want to please God and embrace Christ if only they are not interfered with? If a youngster does not get saved, is it the parents’ fault, or the pastor’s fault? These are fair questions, since it is not at all unusual for parents of a lost kid to blame the pastor, though they rarely blame themselves.

What is remarkable about Bushnell’s influence on Christianity since he wrote his book can be summed up in two observations:

·         First, Bushnell’s book, Christian Nurture, is shot through with misinterpretations of the Bible and misapplications of the Bible. I am astonished that such a book would receive the praise that it has from Bible believing readers, because the book is filled with numerous departures from Bible truth, strongly supporting the conclusion that the author was a modernist.

·         Second, I am flabbergasted that Bushnell has had such great influence among people who have no idea of the effect his unbelief and distortion of the truth on their own beliefs and practices. You would think people might want to know where they got certain ideas about child rearing and child evangelism, but that does not seem to be the case at all.

Thus, I urge you to consciously choose to set aside preconceptions about children, and opinions about their willingness to become Christians, and at least ponder the considerations I will lay before you this morning. Love your children, but demonstrate a willingness to face the truth about them. After all, there is nothing to fear from the truth. Jesus promised that “the truth will make you free,” John 8.32.

What are the factors that affect the willingness of a child to come to Christ? I would like you to consider this important subject under five headings:

 

First, THE NATURE OF THE CHILD

 

May I say that each child born is a unique individual in the sight of God? May I also observe that there are characteristics and traits that each child has which are unique and unlike anyone else in the world? There is only one Frances. There is only one Christina. There is only one Aaron. There is only one Rebecca, though our children’s names are used by many other children. However, despite these unique differences that make each child unlike anyone else who has ever lived, the great majority of characteristics and traits our children possess are attributes that all children possess. Speaking more broadly, it is not only our children who possess these attributes, but each and every one of us. What, particularly, needs to be said about the nature of children? It is sinful. Of course, I speak of the spiritual nature of a child, of any child, of every child. The spiritual nature of a child is sinful.

There is a cause for your child’s sinfulness. We call it the Fall. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve fell from their pristine holiness into the depths of sin through disobedience to God’s command, they were not the only ones affected. Because Adam was the federal head of the human race, all who descended from Adam are born into the same condition Adam fell into by his act of rebellion against God. How else do you explain Cain’s murder of his brother Abel? How else do you explain Cain’s refusal to worship God with suitable offerings? In Romans 5.12, the Apostle Paul stated the matter clearly to the Christians in Rome: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Do you doubt your own child’s sinfulness? Romans 6.23 declares that “the wages of sin is death.” Find me a child who will never die and you will have found a child who is not sinful. I could give many examples, and dozens of explanations, but the short version is this: Your child, like every other child, is sinful. The way your child got that way, as well the way you and I got that way, was by being born into our sinful race that has been sinful since Adam’s first sin in the Garden of Eden.

Next, a few comments about the condition of your child’s sinfulness. Sinful is a word. But words have meaning. What, then, is the meaning behind this word sinfulness? What are children like who are properly described as sinful? Sinful children are children who commit sins. A child does not become sinful by committing sins, just as no dog becomes a dog by barking. It is quite the other way around since Adam’s Fall. Dogs bark because they are dogs. Children commit sins because they are sinners. Adults commit sins because we are sinners. It is the nature that produces the behavior, with Adam and Eve being the only people who ever became sinful. Since then we have been conceived sinful. The Apostle Paul describes this condition of sinfulness to the Ephesian church in Ephesians chapter 2. The descriptive words he uses to picture sinfulness to his readers are such phrases as “dead in trespasses and sins,” “children of disobedience,” and “children of wrath.” So, your child’s condition is such that he is spiritually dead in his sins, is such that his behavior is characterized by disobedience toward God, and it leaves him the object of God’s wrath. Those descriptions show sinfulness to be a very bad spiritual condition.

What is the consequence of such a sinful nature? I have touched on the consequence leading up to this point, but the harsh reality is that being sinful means that your child, like everyone else who is sinful, will someday die. It is a terrible thing to die, and we must all die, unless Jesus comes before you die and, being a Christian, He takes you directly to heaven. But physical death, as bad as it is, is not the worst of it. The worst of it for the sinful child who is not a Christian is Hell. What kind of mom or dad would you be if, #1, you really believe the Bible, and, #2, you contemplate the eternal destiny of your beloved son or daughter, but you are unmoved and unaffected by your child’s sinfulness? The sinfulness of your child is an unpleasant topic, a dreary subject. But facing the facts is necessary for you to have any hope of seeing your son or daughter in heaven instead of Hell. You need to be so affected by your child’s sinfulness that it alters your behavior. Your child’s sinfulness places him in opposition to the plan and purpose of God for his life. Sinfulness makes every child God’s enemy, though God is no child’s enemy. And as Adam’s and Eve’s sinfulness prompted them to hide from God in the Garden of Eden, so your child’s sinfulness will prompt him to flee from the face of God and will incline him to reject the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Next, THE EXPERIENCES OF THE CHILD

 

As if the nature of your child was not enough to prevent him from wanting to become a Christian, there are also the experiences of his life that will make him all the more unwilling to become a Christian. The experiences of life can be understood in light of First John 2.15-17, where the Apostle John uses the word “world” to refer to the culture in which each of us acquires our many experiences:

 

15     Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16     For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

17     And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

 

Why does the Apostle John command Christians not to love the world? Because the world, the people and this culture in which we live, constantly subjects us to powerful temptations of various types, which are strong inducements and persuasive enticements to sin.

Why do parents seek to control what entertainment their children are exposed to, what friends they keep company with, what schools they attend, and what teachers and coaches influence them? Because such experiences will appeal to the eye, or will appeal to sensual appetites, or will appeal to pride, to provoke the sinner to commit more sins. And if Adam’s condemnation was the result of one sin, imagine what is in store for someone who commits a lifetime of sins?

Of course, since the world (which is to say, the culture) is controlled by Satan, God’s archenemy, it stands to reason that someone who is immersed in worldliness will be correspondingly less inclined to be willing to become a Christian. This is because in addition to the nature of their sinfulness, there is the brainwashing of the sinner that is accomplished by the propaganda of the world. It all adds up to the child being more and more convinced that becoming a Christian is something he does not want to happen to him.

 

Third, THE EXPOSURE OF THE CHILD

 

There is little real difference between what you would call experiences and what you would call exposure, except that I am using the word exposure as it relates to what your child has become aware of without actually experiencing. Children become exposed to sex sins in movies, in public school, in printed material, and online, without actually committing sex sins. If you don’t think such exposure leads to a desire to actually experience such sins you are naive. But children become exposed to more than just sex sins. The whole anti-God and anti-Christian mindset of the world is observed, and heard, by children as they observe and hear what is going on around them. That is why an important part of parenting is exerting control over your child’s environment. When my daughter was taking karate, there was not a minute she was taking instruction that her mother, or I, was not observing, listening, and evaluating what our little girl was exposed to.

Why do you think we enrolled our daughter in a Christian school? Was it because I am a pastor? Not at all. We enrolled her in a Christian school so I would know what she was being taught, and so I would know who she was being taught by. No parent can control everything a child is exposed to, but my goal was to control everything I could control to decide for myself what she was exposed to.

A child’s willingness to become a Christian is powerfully affected by what that child is exposed to, not just what that child experiences. Therefore, as a responsible parent, I exerted myself to minimize her exposure to worldliness, to be on hand so I could counteract worldliness when exposure was unavoidable, and to get her under the gospel as much as humanly possible.

Some moms and dads think some recent conception called quality time helps raise children. Other moms and dads think doing things with their kids helps raise them. That is so much junk parenting, with parents simply trying to justify being absentee parents or trying to fill childhood voids in their own lives rather than raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Exposure to the gospel, not exposure to you, is the real key to parenting. Understand that I am not telling you to ignore your children, or to mistreat them. But the goal is to raise kids in such a way that they will be more willing to become Christians. That does not happen by going hunting, but by being under the gospel, where grace is ministered to your child through the preaching of God’s Word.

 

Fourth, THE CONVICTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

The natural and usual tendency of every child will be to reject the gospel. It is in every child’s nature to oppose the plan and purpose of God for his life, and this is mainly accomplished by rejecting Christ. This is why Christian parents are unsatisfied with good kids, with obedient kids, with responsive kids, with kids who please their parents in every respect while rejecting the Savior.

To achieve the conversion of their children, parents are called upon to work diligently to exert their influence to affect their child’s experiences and exposures, and to comment on those experiences and exposures they cannot control. This is why Solomon wrote, “My son, hear the instruction of thy father,” in Proverbs 1.8.

But parents can only work on the environment. To work on the child’s heart to overcome the sinful antagonism that child has toward the things of God requires the intervention of the Holy Spirit of God. Only the Holy Spirit can so affect a Christ-rejecting sinner that he actually wants to be a Christian. No sinner who is unaffected by the Holy Spirit will ever be willing to come to Christ. The sinful nature is so deeply ingrained, and is so strongly opposed to the things of God, that it is not possible for the sinful child to willingly come to Christ without the Holy Spirit’s intervention.

Romans 5.6 declares, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” “Without strength” to save ourselves. “Without strength” even to want to be saved from sins. It requires the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit to persuade a sinner to want to become a Christian, to be willing to come to Christ.

 

Finally, THE DRAWING OF THE FATHER

 

Many things are mysterious and unfathomable. The relationship between the Holy Spirit persuading the sinner to want to come to Christ and the Father actually drawing the sinner to Christ cannot be fully understood by anyone. So, rather than understand it, let us just recognize that it exists.

Turn to John 6.44, and read the words of the Savior: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Thus, you cannot, on your own, willingly change your mind and come to Christ. You cannot. Neither can your child.

We know the Holy Spirit must persuade for sinners to want to come to Christ. From this verse we know the Father must draw for sinners to be able to come to Christ. All we can conclude is that the persuasion of the Holy Spirit and the drawing of the Father must work together in perfect harmony for a sinner to be willing to come to Christ.

 

I am persuaded that you get a better idea of what someone believes by observing what he does than by listening to what he says. Would you not agree with that? I think it bears repeating. You get a better idea of what someone believes by observing what he does than by listening to what he says.

We have briefly looked at the factors related to a child’s willingness to come to Christ. Their willingness is related to and influenced by their sinful nature, their experiences in life, those things they are exposed to, the Holy Spirit’s convicting and persuading work, and the Father drawing the young sinner to Christ.

We know the child’s sinful nature always pulls away from the gospel, away from conversion, and opposes any willingness to come to Christ.

The particular way in which the Father and the Holy Spirit deal with the lost are shown in the Bible, but which individuals are dealt with by God the Father and the Holy Spirit are not known to us. We do know the Savior’s willingness to save. I preached on that last Sunday.

That which we can directly do, which parents can directly do and which preachers can directly do, setting aside the vital ministry of prayer which being directed to the Father is thereby indirect, has to do with our children’s experiences and exposure. We can influence and comment on their experiences and exposures.

What experiences can you create for your children to offset the impact and influence of those influences which will work to pull sinful children away from a consideration of Christ? How about family devotions? How about parents setting examples in worshiping and serving God? How about a reverence for the things of God that can be recognized by even little children? And what about comments that are made and instructions that are provided so children will see their experiences in a new light, a light you provide them?

Then there are those things children are exposed to. What can you do? Minimize their exposure. Change their environment. Control who has access to them and where they go to school, or what activities they participate in that will increase the things they see that no child should see, or hear that no child should hear.

This message is an overview of the obvious factors that affect and influence a sinful child’s willingness to come to Christ. No mom or dad can affect the presence of his child’s sinful nature, but he can influence the strength of its grip on his child. That’s what discipline, correction, and spankings are for. And while we cannot control the Holy Spirit of God so that He will persuade, or control the Father so He will draw, we can exercise control over our children’s experiences in life and the things they are exposed to. We can make sure they are exposed to the gospel as much as humanly possible. We can take steps to ensure that we do not grieve and quench the Holy Spirit so that He will not bless our efforts or hear our prayers.

Before any child ever comes to Christ he has to want to come to Christ. What are you willing to do, what sacrifice are you willing to make, to work toward the goal of your child wanting to come to Christ? I am persuaded that what you are willing to do, the steps you are willing to take, the lengths you are willing to go, not to make sure your son becomes a worldly success, but to make sure your son becomes a Christian, will bear upon the likelihood of your child ever being willing to come to Christ.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org