Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE PROPER ATTITUDE CLEARLY ILLUSTRATED”

 Luke 18.15-19.10

 

“Christianity does not profess to convince the perverse and headstrong, to bring irresistible evidence to the daring and profane, to vanquish the proud scorner, and afford evidences from which the careless and perverse cannot possibly escape. This might go to destroy man’s responsibility. All Christianity professes, is to propose such evidences as may satisfy the meek, the tractable, the candid, the serious inquirer.”[1]

 

I read that statement made by the famous Harvard law school founder and professor, Simon Greenleaf, to you about a year ago. Tonight we go there again. What Greenleaf wrote almost two hundred years ago is as true today as it was then. Though God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” Second Peter 3.9, there are criteria that He has established without which no sinner can be saved. Do you understand what that means? It means that there are patterns, patterns of behavior and patterns of thought that interfere with a person’s salvation.

Turn with me to Luke 18.15-17, where we read the Lord Jesus Christ telling His disciples about just such a thing:

 

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.

 

Let me establish the likely scenario before we explore the implications of the attitude the Lord Jesus Christ requires of sinners. First, take note that verse 15 reveals to us the efforts by our Lord’s disciples worked to prevent people from bringing children to Him so He would touch them and pray for them. “In Judaism, such blessing was given by elders or scribes on the eve of the Day of Atonement,” so it should not surprise us that people would bring infants, toddlers, and children to the Lord Jesus Christ for the same reason.[2] I think the Lord was likely seated inside someone’s house at this time, so that He would not initially notice what His well-intentioned but mistaken disciples were doing. That would also explain why the disciples were doing what they were doing, either because they felt such matters were too trivial to bother the Lord with, or because they did not want all those people to intrude into the house of the person hosting them. Whatever the situation happened to be, the Lord’s disciples rebuked people for wanting their children to be touched by and blessed by the Savior. In other words, they were not impeding access by the children to the Lord Jesus Christ, since the children were not themselves trying to make their way to Him. However, they were preventing others, presumably their parents, from bringing the little ones to the Lord.

In verse 16, we see the Lord Jesus Christ changing things completely around. His disciples had been blocking the children’s access to Him by blocking the adults who brought them. In this verse, we see the Lord Jesus Christ telling His disciples, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” This is so surprising. He does not tell His disciples to let the adults through with the kids. Rather, He tells His disciples to let the kids through, to suffer them to come to Him, and to forbid not the children. Do you see how the adults who had brought the children to be touched by Jesus and prayed over by Jesus are now out of the picture? There is a lesson to learn from this, my friends. Adults can only bring children so close to the Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of the way to Him, actually closing with Him, is something only the child can do himself. Try to get your kids as close to the Lord as you can, moms and dads, knowing that in the end it must be your child who closes with the Savior, and that you cannot do that for him. Verse 16 concludes, “. . . of such is the kingdom of God.” What does this tell us? It shows us that there is something about children that runs parallel to, and teaches us about, those who comprise the kingdom of God. Learning always proceeds from the known to the unknown. Therefore, there is a trait or characteristic that is childlike that should be very instructive to us about those who enter into the kingdom.

What do we know so far from what the Lord Jesus has said? First, we know that though this passage is not about a child’s willingness to come to Christ (since they were brought to Him and did not come on their own), this passage does speak loudly about the Savior’s willingness to receive them. There are no barriers to hinder anyone’s access to the Lord Jesus Christ, at least no barriers of His making. As well, we know that children picture something that is very representative and very instructive to us about those who comprise the kingdom of God. As little children depend upon their parents, so God’s children depend on their heavenly Father.[3]

Moving on, what do we find in verse 17? Our Lord refers to entering in. Look at the last time He made a comment in Luke about entering in, Luke 13.24: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” This is significant. If Luke 13.24 shows us the effort involved in striving to enter in, the word strive translating the Greek agonizomai, Luke 18.17 shows us the attitude involved in entering in: “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” What do we see from the Lord’s comments about this needed attitude? If you do not have this attitude, you are not entering in. Thus, only people who have a particular attitude, those who receive the kingdom of God as a little child, enter in, and those who do not have this attitude will not enter in.

What do we observe about this attitude that is so important to a person’s salvation? Five things:

 

First, IT IS AN ATTITUDE THAT RECOGNIZES THE ACCEPTANCE OF THOSE WHO COME TO JESUS

 

Notice what the Savior said to His disciples in verse 16: “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.” He directed His disciples to cease and desist their efforts to impede access to Him. He made sure they clearly understood that they were to permit even little children to come unto Him. What are we to make of this? In John 6.37, the Lord Jesus Christ declared, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” We are to make of this that the Lord Jesus Christ will never cast out anyone who comes to Him, and that He is always accessible to anyone who comes to Him, even little children.

Understand, my lost friend, that there is no barrier to you coming to Christ that has been erected by the Savior. If you are lost, you are qualified to be saved. Jesus said that He had come to seek and to save that which was lost. If you are sinful, your sins are no barrier to you coming to Christ. It was the Apostle Paul, himself, who wrote “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” First Timothy 1.15. What seems to be the only factor in hindering the salvation of the lost, if there is no discernible barrier to any sinner’s salvation that has been erected by the Savior, Himself? The only barrier to your salvation is the mental barrier that you erect, in the form of an attitude that refuses to recognize the Lord Jesus Christ’s willingness to save anyone who will come to Him, that refuses to recognize the Lord Jesus Christ’s accessibility to anyone who will come to Him.

 

Next, THE ATTITUDE NEEDED TO ENTER IN IS AN ATTITUDE THAT TRUSTS JESUS ENOUGH TO ACTUALLY COME TO HIM

 

We do not see in our text that the Lord Jesus Christ used those little children brought to Him as an example of, or as an illustration of, striving to enter in at the strait gate. Children have many admirable qualities, but tenacious persistence is not typical of most little kids. That is why the Lord does not use little kids to illustrate striving. However, there is a particularly admirable trait found in most youngsters that the Lord did find so commendable and noteworthy, that He urged it upon anyone who wants to be His disciple.

What trait is He referring to? In verse 16, He said, “. . . of such is the kingdom of God.” His meaning, of course, was that children are in certain respects like kingdom citizens. He alluded to it again in verse 17, when He said, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” The trait referred to has to do with receiving the kingdom of God as a little child. What is it about the way a little child would receive the kingdom that is so noteworthy that the Savior requires that everyone receive the kingdom in like manner? If you will, consider what little kids are like before they learn from adults and older kids to be skeptical, to be doubters, to be suspicious, and to be cynical. Are little children not trusting? John Gill comments in connection with this verse that little children are “without prejudice, pride, ambition, and vanity, with meekness, and humility.”[4]

If I may, I would like to sum up what I think the Lord Jesus Christ is suggesting, with respect to one aspect of the attitude needed to come to Him. I think it is as simple as faith. You need faith to come to Christ, to reach out to Him enough to simply trust Him. Children are that way, until adults and older children, who trick them, who tease them, who betray them in various ways, teach them otherwise. It really is that simple. If you tell a little kid that it is okay to come, likely as not he will believe you enough to just come.

 

Third, IT IS AN ATTITUDE THAT IS HUMBLE ENOUGH TO COME TO JESUS

 

One of the sad losses that results from decisionism is the collective amnesia associated with false hopes.[5] You have no idea how many pastors I know and have read about down through history, who have dealt with false hopes on their way to a saving faith in Christ. Decisionism has left us with the ridiculous legacy that most sinners come to Christ the first time they are spiritually awakened, and that virtually no one encounters the dangers of false hopes. That is utter nonsense!

False hopes are more common than real conversions, since most sinners who have truly come to Christ have experienced any number of false hopes along the way. However, 175 years of Finney’s decisionism has left western Christianity, and those harmed by western Christianity’s influence, with this crazy notion that false hopes are either rare or altogether nonexistent. Therefore, when someone has hopefully come to Christ, and then is haunted with the fear that he may not be genuinely converted after all (meaning he may have a false hope), he is overcome with the proud fear of being humiliated by the discovery that he is not really saved.

What a sly trick of the devil that kind of thinking is. Keep in mind that it is not at all unusual for sinners to wrestle with false hopes. It happens. In most cases, false hopes are not only unavoidable, but they are part of God’s prescription of striving that leads to a more thorough self-understanding of one’s own sinfulness. Thus, false hopes can very well be useful when dealt with properly. The great tragedy, however, is when pride enters in, and the hopeful convert who has a false hope is held back from dealing with his soul’s condition by fear of embarrassment, by fear of discovery, or by fear of the unknown. Oh, if sinners would only take James 4.6 to heart: “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

Notice how childlike this is: Consider a little tyke learning how to walk. He takes a step and falls. Then he struggles to get up (that is like striving), and takes another step and falls. Here is where humility is so important. Is the child at all concerned about anyone observing him fall? Not usually. In other words, he is oblivious to the reaction of others to his failures. He just tries and tries, and tries again, until he succeeds. If that child was like most proud adults, he might try to walk once, but would give up after he fell one time, if he noticed that anyone was watching him. That, my friend, is the pride at work. The opposite of pride, of course, is humility. Humility does not care who is watching. Humility does not concern itself with the approval or disapproval of onlookers. Humility does not evaluate falling as though it were failing, but sees falling as a part of the process one goes through on the way to succeeding. And it is the same way with conversion.

 

Fourth, IT IS AN ATTITUDE DEMONSTRATED BY BLIND BARTIMAEUS

 

We have recently studied the encounter the Lord Jesus Christ had with the two blind men, so I will not carefully review the encounter with Bartimaeus recorded in Luke 18.35-42, but only want to read verses 35-39 and make a couple of comments:

 

35     And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:

36     And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant.

37     And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.

38     And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

39     And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

 

There were many incidents in our Lord’s earthly ministry Luke could have recorded, so why was he inspired of the Holy Spirit to record this encounter? Because it perfectly illustrates what we learned from our Lord’s encounter with the children. Remember me pointing out a characteristic of genuine humility, a characteristic found in children, when they are learning to walk? Remember the fall and get up, the fall again and get up again, without concern for what other people think? Do we not see that here? Some in the crowd tried to quiet this blind fellow down, but he would have none of it.

Again and again he cried, “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me,” until Jesus dispatched disciples to bid the blind man to come to Him, and he did as they instructed and was saved. How this illustrates what we learned concerning the children. Again, people getting in the way, shooshing this blind man, with only those disciples explicitly following Christ’s instructions effective in bringing him to Christ.

 

Finally, IT IS AN ATTITUDE DEMONSTRATED BY ZACCHAEUS

 

Like Bartimaeus, we have recently studied about Zacchaeus’ encounter with the Savior, so I will only make a couple of comments after we read Luke 19.2-6:

 

2      And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

3      And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.

4      And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

5      And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.

6      And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

 

Do we not see in Zacchaeus the same attitude exhibited by the blind man, and called for by the Lord Jesus Christ when He spoke to the little children? The Holy Spirit again prompted Luke to include this record to illustrate once again what was illustrated by the blind beggars, that it is all about attitude when you speak of coming to Christ.

Though very wealthy, with standing and respect in his community, and wearing expensive clothing, Zacchaeus thought nothing of climbing up that tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus, or of scurrying down from that tree when directed to do so. My friends, it was his attitude, showing his humility, and demonstrating that he had no concern for the opinions of others when weighed against his concern for his own soul.

 

I wonder how many of you here in our auditorium know you are lost, but you are unwilling to make a move toward the Lord Jesus Christ. Your reasons for doing nothing are not always the same. Different people frequently have different reasons for doing or not doing something.

Some of you are not convinced the Lord Jesus Christ is accessible to you. You are just not positive that He will receive you if you come to Him. I hope you have come to realize from our text and the two events which illustrate to us that the Lord Jesus Christ is completely accepting of anyone who will come to Him, and that the only barriers to any sinner coming to Him are barriers erected in a person’s own mind. Others of you may have the attitude of distrust or skepticism toward the Lord Jesus Christ. For one reason or another you are reluctant to trust and rely on anyone, even the faithful One, Jesus Christ. May I urge you to rethink your doubts about the Lord Jesus Christ? You see, He is unlike anyone else you have ever known. Therefore, consider the wisdom of reacting toward Him like He is someone else, when in fact He is not like anyone else you have ever known. He is always truthful, and since He said He would save those who come to Him, He will.

Finally, consider that the attitude so crucial to receiving the kingdom, which is the same as receiving the King Himself, in addition to knowing that He will accept you, and in addition to knowing that you can trust Him, is also an attitude that has a measure of humility. Why is humility so very important? Because humility is the place where the grace is found, and we all know that salvation is by grace through faith.

How important is it to be childlike in the manner the Savior spoke of? My friend, it is crucial. If you are not like a little child in this respect, you’re just not getting in to His kingdom. Of course, that means you will never come to King.

Any sinner can come to Christ, so long as you come with the right attitude, so long as you come as a little child. This blind beggar named Bartimaeus proved this, as did the rich publican named Zacchaeus. Jesus suffered and bled and died on the cross to provide for your salvation from sin. His only demand is that you come to Him without an “attitude,” that you not come to Him as though you are doing Him a favor, but that you see yourself as the needy one who He will accept, that He can be trusted, and He will not embarrass.

When He rose from the dead, and demonstrated His victory and omnipotent power before ascending to heaven, did He not show Himself to be worthy? He is worthy. He is able. He is waiting . . . for you to come. Come to Jesus now.



[1] Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony Of The Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Classics, 1995), page 12.

[2] Darrell L. Bock, Luke Volume 2: 9:51-24:53, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), page 1469.

[3] Ibid., page 1470.

[4] John Gill, The Collected Writings of John Gill - Version 2.0, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000-2003)

[5] Decisionism is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a Lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion; it is the belief that a person is saved through the agency of a merely external decision; the belief that performing one of these human actions shows that a person is saved.

 

Conversion is the result of that work of the Holy Spirit which draws a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for justification and regeneration, and changes the sinner’s standing before God from lost to saved, imparting divine life to the depraved soul, thus producing a new direction in the life of the convert.  The objective side of salvation is justification.  The subjective side of salvation is regeneration.  The result is conversion.



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org