Calvary Road Baptist Church

“SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN” Part 5

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 have exposed you to a number of things about evangelizing children over the past few weeks. My first sermon dealt with the issue of Roe v. Wade, the United States Supreme Court decision (one of several) that legalized abortion on demand. The main reality illustrated by Roe v. Wade, along with the insistence of most people to access to various means of birth control, is that children are seen to be an intrusive inconvenience rather than a heritage of the Lord in our culture. My second sermon dealt with a pastor, theologian, and author who was a contemporary of Charles G. Finney, and whose heresy compounded the already destructive effects of Finney’s influence on 19th century Christianity. His name was Horace Bushnell, and he wrote Christian Nurture, a book that completely overhauled the way Christians would seek make Christians of their children. Sadly, virtually every evangelistic effort directed toward children these days suffers from the awful impact of Bushnell’s views. Would to God churches returned to a more scriptural approach to evangelism, so that at least some of their members could testify of a Pilgrim’s Progress type of conversion experience so common in days gone by. In my third sermon of the series, I focused exclusively on the Lord Jesus Christ, and showed His willingness to save children. We briefly considered everything from His eternal decree and subsequent incarnation, to His crucifixion, bodily resurrection from the dead, ascension to His Father’s right hand, and present session in heaven as He awaits the time of His glorious and awe-inspiring return. We also reminded ourselves of the words He spoke, including those three passages I read at the outset this morning.

Last week, I quickly surveyed the issues that affect the willingness of children to come to Christ. Keeping in mind that no one comes to Jesus against his will, it is important that we think about those factors that affect a child’s desire to come to Christ, while at the same time studiously avoiding the pitfalls and errors Charles Finney and Horace Bushnell have led so many to fall into. In that message, I reviewed the resisting and rebellious sinful nature of each and every child, the importance of the Holy Spirit’s convicting and persuading work, and the absolute necessity that the Father draw the sinner to Christ. Then I commented on those things parenting and pastoring are directly involved in influencing, which are the actual experiences a child grows up with, and the exposure children have to things they do not actually experience firsthand.

Beloved, this series of messages is important because our children are important, because bringing any sinner to Christ is important, and because the obstacles to children coming to Christ, and wanting to come to Christ, are so great that this matter must command our attention. Dare any of us sink deeper into spiritual lethargy concerning the spiritual welfare of our children?

Who among us wants to stand before God with the blood of our own children on our hands for failing to be a faithful watchmen, to warn them of the judgment to come, and to plead with them by various means to flee to that city of refuge for the souls of men, the Lord Jesus Christ?

In the time remaining this morning, allow me to comment on a variety of topics that are obstacles to children coming to Christ.

 

First, THERE IS THIS MATTER OF CIRCUMSTANCES

 

Of necessity, there will be a great deal of overlap with my topics, and though it is possible to distinguish between topics for the purposes of discussion, please understand that these things are all so very intertwined in real life. When I speak of circumstances, I am basically talking about Providence. Listen to what the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says about Providence:

 

The theistic or Biblical conception of providence teaches that God is not only the Creator but the Preserver of the universe, and that the preservation of the universe, no less than its creation, implies and necessitates at every moment of time an omnipotent and omnipresent personal Being. This world is not “governed by the laws of Nature,” as deism teaches, but it is “governed by God according to the laws of Nature.” “Law” in itself, is an impotent thing, except as it is the expression of a free will or person back of it; “the laws of Nature” are meaningless and impotent, except as they are an expression of the uniform mode, according to which God preserves and governs the world. It is customary to speak of the laws of Nature as if they were certain self-existent forces or powers governing the world. But shall we not rather say that there is no real cause except personal will — either the divine will or created wills? If this be true, then it is inconsistent to say that God has committed the government of the physical universe to “secondary causes” — that is, to the laws of Nature — and that these laws are not immediately dependent upon Him for their efficiency. The omnipresent and ever-active God is the only real force and power and cause in the universe, except as created wills may be true and real causes within their limited bounds. This view of God’s relation to the created universe serves to distinguish the Biblical doctrine of divine providence from the teachings of materialists and deists, who eliminate entirely the divine hand from the ongoing of the universe, and in its stead make a god of the “laws of Nature,” and hence, have no need for a divine preserver. Biblical theism makes ample room for the presence of the supernatural and miraculous, but we must not be blind to a danger here, in that it is possible to make so much of the presence of God in the supernatural (revelation, inspiration, and miracle) as to overlook entirely His equally important and necessary presence in the natural — which would be to encourage a deistical conception of God’s relation to the world by exaggerating His transcendence at the expense of His immanence. That is the true theistic doctrine of providence which, while not undervaluing the supernatural and miraculous, yet stedfastly maintains that God is none the less present in, and necessary to, what is termed the “natural.”[1]

 

That is a pretty involved description of God’s Providence, but I wanted to read it to you to show you that my own description of God’s Providence is more concise, and yet it is still gives you the main idea of what God’s Providence is: Providence is the unseen hand of the invisible God moving behind the scenes in the lives of men to accomplish His divine will.

So you see, circumstances in a person’s life are the result of God’s Providence. Things that occur which are beyond our control, the innumerable variables of life which we typically ignore, all add up to God’s Providence. So, how can Providence become an obstacle to a child coming to Christ? Consider that there is no faith where there is no hearing of God’s Word: “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” Romans 10.17. If the child is born in Outer Mongolia, it is likely he will never hear God’s Word preached. If he is born to parents who are opposed to Christianity, say to muslims, the circumstances of life will probably be too great an obstacle for him to ever hear God’s Word proclaimed.

But what if he is a boy or girl who is born in the USA? You would think Providence would work in his favor. But what about events beyond his control, such as his parent’s choice to stay home from church during that one sermon that would most greatly affect him? We have children living mere blocks away from this building who have never been to church, have never heard the gospel, and whose parents have never seized the opportunity to place their children within the sound of my voice. Such a choice is not Providence to the parents, because it is an exercise of their choice, but it is Providence to the children.

Do the choices you make, mom and dad, work in a providential way to provide an obstacle your children will never be able to overcome that they might come to Christ?

 

Next, THERE IS THIS MATTER OF CHRISTIANS

 

I bring this up because of my own experiences, both before and after I became a Christian myself. When I was a kid I knew people who professed to be Christians. But there was something about them that was singularly unpalatable to me as a boy. The men were effeminate. Of course, that is not the only thing about Christians that can dissuade a youngster from wanting to be one, but for a boy with aspirations of manhood it can be a big obstacle.

Can you see a junior high school boy in your mind’s eye trying to figure out just how he will be a Christian man, when none of the men he knows who profess to be Christians are manly, and when none of the manly men that he has ever seen showed any evidence of being Christians? What a perplexing dilemma for a kid. And, of course, the same kind of dilemma faces girls, with some variations.

Here is another obstacle I faced as a teenager. A couple times my parents took us to church, where we listened to sermons delivered by a guy who was an adulterer. I knew he was cheating on his wife, because every kid in our small town high school knew what he was up to. Do you think that presented some type of problem for me, as he preached about being saved from sins?

A major impact on my eventual conversion occurred the summer my uncle, Leon Waldrip, came to visit us. My aunt and uncle had only recently gotten saved, and my uncle was my hero. In the army in the Philippines at the outbreak of World War Two, he was captured at Corregidor and spent the rest of the war in a Japanese prison camp. Then when the Korean War broke out, he joined the Marine Corps and served in Korea fighting the communists. When he became a Christian in 1965, and when he confessed his own sinfulness to me, the obstacles of thinking Christians were all either effeminate or hypocritical began to fade in my thinking.

A positively beneficial effect came when one of the Hughes Aircraft senior scientists that I knew declared himself to be a Christian. It was at that point my fear that Christians were ignorant buffoons began to subside, with my conversion coming a short time later.

But you see how professing Christians were a major stumblingblock to my conversion. I did not want to be like them. I did not want to be a sissy, I did not want to be a hypocrite, and I did not want to be an ignoramus. From the perspective of years, I can look back and see what the real problem was.

Don’t you see it? Christ was not lifted up and magnified in my eyes so I could see that He, the sinless Son of God, is greater than any so-called obstacle that might present itself to any sinner. When He was lifted up so that the obstacles were seen to be relatively small and insignificant, I came to Christ.

The problem with so many who profess to be Christians is twofold: First, their lives do not exalt and lift up Jesus Christ. Second, they are more obstacles to the conversion of another than evangelists who guide the lost to the Savior. If we would bring our loved ones to Christ, we would be exalters of Christ rather than obstacles to Christ.

 

A THIRD KIND OF OBSTACLE IS FAMILY

 

The reason I have distinguished family from Christians is twofold:

 

First, it may very well be that your family, for all their professions of faith and protestations of godliness, are not really born again people after all. So, family should be considered apart from others who profess to be Christians because of their even greater impact on a sinful child than those outside the house who profess to be Christians.

Second, the proximity of your family to you, their closeness to you, makes them loom far larger in your thinking than professing Christians who are not family members. Consider a nearby hill. Because the hill is close to you it appears higher in your sky than a much higher mountain that is much farther way. In like manner, because you are so near to your family members, and because they live their lives so closely to your own, everything they do, the way they feel about things, their values, affects you. So, even if you cannot put their inconsistencies and coldness toward the things of God into words, even if you do not know how to precisely state what is spiritually wrong with them in so many words, you can feel their lack of concern for your soul, and their pretense at the Christian life.

Why do you think the Lord Jesus Christ warns, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple,” Luke 14.26? No one can present a bigger obstacle to a child’s conversion, or to anyone else’s conversion for that matter, than a close member of his own family.

To be sure, a mom or dad who strongly opposes the cause of Christ is a big enough obstacle, so that a child must consider the possibility of losing his mom or dad that he might gain Christ. But there is also the obstacle of the mom or dad who does not really know Christ, but pretends to know Christ, and thus presents to the child a powerless and ineffective Savior from sins.

What child would turn his back on his sins to come to a Christ he was convinced does not truly save from sins, cannot really save from sins, because he does not see such a salvation in his momma’s life, or in his dad’s life?

 

Fourth, FRIENDS CAN BE AN OBSTACLE TO COMING TO CHRIST

 

The friends I am talking about are school friends, neighborhood friends, work friends, club and team friends, and any other kind of friend that you can imagine. These are not like family or church people. You do not really choose family, but are born into a family. If you are a kid, you do not choose church, since that is your parent’s call. Friends are those you generally have far greater latitude in choosing for yourself, even if you are a kid. But friends can be a huge obstacle to coming to Christ. Remember what the Apostle Paul wrote in First Corinthians 15.33: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” Paul urges the Corinthian Christians not to be fooled into thinking that bad company does not ruin good behavior. Bad company most certainly does corrupt even the best person’s behavior.

What does that have to do with friends affecting whether or not you come to Christ? Let me read Proverbs 16.3 to you to illustrate the relationship between your behavior and your beliefs: “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.” What you do affects how you think, what you believe.

See how this is related to friends? Friends do things with each other. Friends spend a lot of time talking and airing out their views and opinions of things. And friends are always bouncing ideas off each other, sounding each other out, delicately trying to sense what is cool and uncool, what is acceptable and unacceptable, what is appropriate and inappropriate. This is why Paul told the Corinthians, in effect, that bad friends leads to bad behavior.

You really ought to be at any school when a new student shows up. It takes about one day for that new kid to feel what the other kids are like, and to find those students who have generally the same values and attitudes toward authority that he does. If his own values are considerably different than those he is in class with, some adjustment will be made, with the new student generally lowering his personal standards and values to fit in with his new classmates. Of course, if he needs to drag students down to his level to have friends, he will immediately set out to doing just that.

This is how teachers can figure out a great deal about a new student in very short order. This is also why parents should be absolute sticklers when it comes to who their teachers are, what schools they go to, who their kid’s friends are, and what the composition of coaches and players are found on any team or in any club kids are allowed to participate in.

Friends can be huge obstacles to a kid’s willingness to listen to gospel preaching, to a kid’s willingness to consider the claims of Jesus Christ, and to a kid’s willingness to imagine himself being or wanting to become a Christian.

 

Finally, THERE IS THIS MATTER OF THE DEVIL

 

I believe there really is a creature called the Devil. Throughout the Bible, from Genesis to the Revelation, we see him working to oppose the plan and purpose of God, to cast doubt on God’s character and integrity, to malign His purpose, and to thwart His will. Satan was the serpent in the Garden of Eden and the genius impulse that drove Nimrod to invent idolatry. Satan is back of every false religion, prompts the worship of every false god, promotes the pride and arrogance of every atheist, and seeks to undermine with error everyone foolish enough to respond to his enticements.

He is the prince of the power of the air, the god of this world, the manipulator and controller of this evil and seductive world system, the wicked one who is the father of all lies and the sower of all tares among the wheat. To every Christian, the devil is our adversary who, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. And to every lost sinner, he is transformed into an angel of light, with his ministers also being transformed as the ministers of righteousness, so they can deceive the unwary.

Who do you think prompted Peter to resist our Lord’s advance toward Jerusalem, that prompted the Savior to rebuke him by saying, “get thee behind me Satan”? Who do you think persuaded Eve that a bite of luscious fruit was to be preferred to the favor of the Creator? Whose lure and enticement caused Lot’s wife to look back over her shoulder to the city of Sodom, and thereby lose her soul forever? And who do you think brought Bathsheba out into her private courtyard one night to bathe under the night sky, just as king David was looking over the balcony of his fortress where he could see her?

Don’t you see? Don’t you understand? Have you no understanding of the bigger picture here? Your children are pawns in a very large scale conflict. Satan already has your child, just as every lost sinner is already in his grasp. What he would do is persuade the Christian mom or dad to compromise, to weaken his stance, to yield important ground, so he can gain advantage in his great struggle against God, against this church, against me, and against you.

He would urge you to give in to your child’s demands. Lay off your insistence that the entire family go to church. Hold back your tithes to undercut the unity of the congregation and discourage those who are holding the line. Miss services to engage in some trivial pleasure so the importance of the gospel ministry can be undermined. My friend, Satan is the one who leads a multifaceted attack on the work of this church to hinder our efforts to bring your youngster to Christ.

That is why you need to resist the devil. That is why you need to hold the line and continue doing right. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. That is why you need to take the long view in this struggle, rather than the short view. That is why your goal should always be, must always be, faithful service so Christ might be exalted, faithful service so God might be glorified, faithful service so the children might be won to Christ.

 

We are out of time for this morning, but I think you are beginning to develop a Biblical theology of child evangelism. I trust you see how our culture devalues our children and mocks those who place a high value on kids.

To be sure, there are those who sincerely want to reach children for Christ, but too many of them have been influenced by the heresies of Charles Finney and Horace Bushnell. They are erroneously persuaded that children are inherently good and that all they need is tender guidance to grow into the Christian life.

That is not true! Children need to be brought to Christ in the same fashion any other sinner needs to be brought to Christ, under the preaching of the gospel, in the hopes that the Spirit of God will powerfully convince them of their terrible sinfulness and their desperate need of Christ. Your child needs a crisis conversion!

To that end, each and every one of us must bear witness to the reality and the importance of the ministry we are a part of by being consistent, by being faithful, by seeing the pitfalls and traps others have been lulled into, and by determining to be faithful in our commitment to reaching ours and others the Bible way.

You need to pray to God for your child, persuade your child in a gentle and concerned way to consider the claims of Christ, and purpose to be back here with the whole family tonight at 6:00 PM.



[1] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (AGES SOFTWAREÔ, INC. · Rio, WI USA · Version 8.0 © 2000)

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