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I am encouraged and motivated by what God is doing, of course he is always at work…we don’t always have the eyes to see it.
- Youth Group: The reports I have received from kids and parents of life transformation is heart warming…I have had conversations recently with adults who were part of the youth group…and they are thriving spiritually as adults.
- College ministry/WSU: There is life change happening. Students taking their faith seriously…opportunities for this coming year are exciting.
- Work among internationals…and some coming opportunities for overseas engagement…are fun to be a part of.
- Ministries that people here at the church are engaged in…without fanfare, or desire for recognition…humble and excite me.
- Last night Mt. Gilead Baptist church…it was so fun.
-But this is part of the larger unity and partnership of churches here in our area…pulling for one another not competing with one another
-I know you read of Christians not getting along…I see the other side.
- Working through plans to make our facility more member and visitor friendly and useful.
- Personally…challenged, encouraged…to look for where God is moving around me in my daily life and join him.
Please pray with me.
Children who are well loved and grow up confident in their parent’s affection are better positioned to be able to more fully receive love from others and give love to others.
Sadly, many children do not experience the kind of parent/child love that gives them this confidence and capability.
If you have experienced this kind of parental love…even though it was not perfect…it was a great gift…please be grateful.
If you have not…you are not without hope.
The Father/child love that gives confidence and opens up the capability to love and be loved is available to you.
Gal. 4:4-7 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
- In God’s perfect timing Jesus came into human history.
- To give us full rights as sons and daughters…access to go directly to the Father.
- Because we are his children, he has given us his Spirit (note the Trinity here…God sent the Spirit of his Son).
*The Holy Spirit, resident now in his children…calls out “Abba(daddy) Father” from our very hearts.
We are now included in this great family…Father, Son, Spirit…now sons and daughters…this eternal circle of love and acceptance is ours.
- We are no longer slaves (to sin) but sons (and daughters)…we are heirs to the great promises of God.
This is fantastic stuff…and to understand and to access these truths we must understand our status as “Children.”
He is “Our Father in heaven” that means we are “His children” on earth.
We are adopted as his sons and daughters into the Triune God’s family.
Let’s look at Mark 10…and some of what it means that we children and God is our Father.
Mark 10:13-16 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
The Lord’s analogy of a being like a child does not imply that we must simply try to “humble” ourselves…as if small children or babies have the developed character quality of humility…they don’t.
This is more about recognizing the actual reality of our humble state before God…not about becoming humble people.
Now of course, humility is an important part of understanding our need…our humble state.
But humility is the means to the end, not the end…the end is to see our desperate need for God.
Humility ought to help us understand how “humble” our condition actually is
Small babies do not yet have any character qualities…they are not courageous, industrious, sacrificial, or humble…a character quality is something that is developed intentionally.
They do have certain qualities…but we need to distinguish these from what we normal think of as character development qualities.
These qualities are things that are inherently true about babies…most prominent among these things is that they are dependent beings.
Though they do not possess humility as a developed aspect of their character…they live in an utterly humble state of being.
They cannot feed, shelter, or protect themselves…all that they need must be done for them.
Some here would disagree that their dependence is their most prominent characteristic…you would say “adorable” is their most prominent characteristic.
I will give you that…but let’s just say its…3am…and you are exhausted and your adorable baby is crying because she cannot feed or change herself…then you might agree that dependency is indeed their most prominent quality.
Small babies are not annoyed by their status…they are annoyed when their needs are not met…but they are not annoyed by being needy…they simply live in their humble position.
As we move towards the end of our summer series…a conversational relationship with God…a sub series of our yearlong look at closing the gap on faith and love.
Today we are going to look at how we can and should be “like children” in our relationship with God.
As we regularly reflect on the reality of our positional humility (we are needy) it can lead us to more character humility.
As we see our humble status before God, we can grow in a humble stance towards others.
Faith and love work together in many ways.
Increased faith in God brings increased love displayed to others.
Let’s look at four contrasts here as we try to understand what it means and what it doesn’t mean to be “like a child” in our relationship with God.
- We are to be childlike not childish
These children, were very small.
In fact, Luke’s account calls some of them babies. They were small enough that Jesus was able to “take them in his arms.”
The disciples did not dislike they children, but they were probably trying to protect Jesus from interruptions.
He was busy with “important” stuff and could not be bothered by small children…so they thought.
Perhaps they were afraid he was too tired, or would become too tired…for other important work.
Dealing with babies is hard work after all.
Their response shows how much they did not yet understand Jesus.
He was not just “getting redemption done”…redemption was, in the end, about relationship…Restored relationship with God.
So Jesus was not in a hurry with people…and he was not too important or too busy to love kids.
And Jesus was a master of turning the events of life into teaching moments…as he did here.
Clearly, this incident made an impression on the disciples because it was included in the gospel account.
John wrote that “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
Since Jesus did many more things and said many more things than are included in the gospels, it should make us very attuned to what is included there.
The disciples were impacted by this event and God wants us to be impacted as well.
We are to come to the King and receive his Kingdom as a child would.
We are to be “childlike” meaning have some of the qualities of a child…without being childish…having other, undesirable qualities of a child.
Childlike is primarily about need, dependency.
Childish might be…demanding and petulant (moody, touchy)
Childish might be…selfish, unwilling to put forth effort.
So childlike does not mean childish in that we do not take responsibility for our own lives and even the lives of others.
Paul told the church…
1Th. 4:11-12 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
Not being dependent on anyone does not contradict what Paul taught elsewhere about all being part of one body and all parts needing one another.
Here he is addressing personal responsibility…carrying your own load so you will not unnecessarily add to the loads of others.
But as childlike adults, we must know that our self-sufficiency does not apply to our relationship with God.
We must live as responsible people and we must see our deep need for God not just to get us to heaven when we die…but to live the abundant life right now.
Lack of an ongoing sense of need…can blind us to the reality of our situation.
Jesus said it “Easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Of course it’s impossible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle…so his disciples asked “who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied…“All things are possible with God.”
Even saving rich people is possible for God…But the point was that it is very hard for people who are full of self-sufficiency to understand their real need.
And if we fail to understand our need…we will not look in faith to Christ for the gospel solution.
Many people become foolish in their life outlook because they have been so successful in their human endeavors.
A man can lift hundreds of pounds and win a medal for his neck, or throw a ball into an orange hoop with great accuracy, or kick one into a net.
A woman can act in a movie with skill, or lead a company well.
Men and women accumulate wealth which brings power and influence…and often a false reality.
Wealth can create a bubble…that insulates people from what is real.
It can set them up for great folly.
We are in fact so very small and so very temporary…in scripture we are called dust, vapors, dry grass, insects, children…not to be derogatory but to give to perspective.
Everyone brings the exact same amount of wealth and power into the world that they take out of this world…none.
When we become adults, we must do all we can to care for our own needs and the needs of others.
But as we move through the world as “physical adults,” we must remember to do so as “spiritual children.”
Not children in the sense that we are not growing in our faith, but children in that we never outgrow our desperate need for God.
We must remember to be childlike without being childish.
- Simple not simplistic
A child has both a simple and a simplistic view of the world.
“Simple” means without complexity.
“I’m hungry, give me food or I will cry… feed me and I will be happy…it is that simple”
“Simplistic” means unrealistic or not a complete understanding of complex things.
Small children don’t contemplate the food chain, or what it means for mom or dad to go to work.
There is no knowledge or interest in how food appears…it just does.
This is not bad; in fact it is healthy when children are protected from much of life’s complexity as they grow.
Some children are forced to grow up too quickly.
Because of the absence of mature adults or the presence of immature adults in their lives, they must jettison childhood simplicity much too soon.
When this happens it may make them more streetwise and heart-hardened, but it does not make them healthy or more mature.
There is a healthy order in human development.
Children in ideal circumstances do not lie down at night and worry about whether they will eat tomorrow…they don’t need to contemplate the food chain.
Childhood, ideally…is simple and simplistic.
-When I am hungry I will eat
-Because food magically appears on my table.
They lie down to sleep in a world that is warm, safe, and sure…ideally.
But as we grow up we lose the simplistic view of life: We understand that food doesn’t magically appear, I need to get a job.
But we also most often lose the simple confidence of a well-loved child: The confidence that says “I have needs…those needs will be met…because I have a father.”
We get a job because we understand how the world works…and we live in fear, and insecurity, and we lose sleep and fail to live a life at rest…because we don’t really believe that we have a Father in heaven…who is active in my life on earth.
But as children of Abba we can lose the simplistic, unrealistic approach (we are not childish but adults) but maintain the simple, childlike faith.
“The world is not safe…I can be hurt or killed…and I must live with wisdom…but the Lord is my shepherd Daddy I will not be in want…Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear…because my dad is always with me.”
This is childlike simplicity that is a part of a mature faith.
In Leo Tolstoy’s autobiographical work “A confession” he wrote of his struggle to come to faith.
He was formerly a brutal, selfish, man…in every way imaginable.
He eventually came to see his life as folly and became continually suicidal…day after day he contemplated taking his own meaningless (he believed) life.
He did eventually come to faith…but a stumbling block for him was some believers who lived the same as he did.
“I was repelled by the fact that these people’s lives were like my own, with only this difference that such a life did not correspond to the principles they expounded in their teachings. I clearly felt that they deceived themselves and that they, like myself found no other meaning in life that to live while life lasts, taking all one’s hands can seize. I saw this because if they had a meaning which destroyed the fear of loss, suffering, and death they would not have feared these things…”but they did fear them.”
He did eventually find believers who lived an authentic faith…a faith that actually impacted their fears…in practical ways.
They did not fear death or life…they trusted their father…and their authentic lives impacted his faith.
May God grant that this be true of us…and may we with great effort and intentionality move into this kind of life ourselves
We are to approach the King and the Kingdom with the simplicity of a child.
We do not throw away the perspective of an adult that understands the nature of the world, but rather we add back to an adult perspective the perspective of childhood that we most often have lost.
We live as “grown children” by understanding the world is not safe, but knowing we do not have to live in fear.
God, unlike a human parent, is all-knowing and all-powerful and cannot fail or die.
We do not live as fools unaware of the realities of life and we do not live in fear because we are aware of the reality of God our Father and his promises.
We must grow in faith so that with our very lives we obey God and not our fears.
Listen to this verse that sums up this point…
Heb. 2:14-15 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
We are his children…he destroyed the real power of death in our lives…fear.
-Fear of final and ultimate loss of all things meaningful
-The gospel has swallowed up death in victorious life (1 Cor.15:54)…this fact impacts life right now.
- Heartfelt praying and honest praying…like a child
This is much like the point from last week…”Emotions are important, good thinking is essential”
Small children are “stream of consciousness” talkers…this is endearing…until it is not.
Sometimes they just won’t stop talking…if they think it, they say it.
What is in their minds is coming out of their mouths.
This is normal practice for small children…but not good practice for adults
Adults should learn to filter their thoughts before they put them into words.
If they do not, they are foolish and can cause great damage with their words.
Prov. 18:13 He who answers before listening — that is his folly and his shame.
Prov. 10:19 When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
There is an exception to this…that is in our praying.
In prayer, adults should relearn the childlike practice of “heart to mouth” communication.
It’s not that we shouldn’t be thoughtful in prayer. We should.
It’s not that everything we think and feel is good. It’s not.
It is more about remembering that God knows what is on our minds before we can speak it anyway.
It can be very helpful to be honest with what is really going on in our heads and hearts.
If you doubt this then surely you have not read the Psalms…they are full of child-like honesty, coupled with adult-like conclusions.
If a complaint is in our minds, then it can be good to talk to God about it.
Not that our complaints are always valid, but rather it is good to talk with God about them.
If doubt is in your heart, then talk to God about your doubts.
Just because it is in our minds and our mouths, it does not mean we are considering it valid.
But when we come to God like a child, telling him everything (even though he knows it already) the conversation can change.
It can turn into a conversational relationship…more heartfelt and more honest.
Some married couples avoid dealing with difficult issues…because they can cause relationship discomfort.
-Leave well enough alone…is their motto
Its not just that they are being wise in their words but they are being self-protective with their hearts.
But the absence of conflict is not the presence of relationship.
It is not good to say all that you think or feel…the point is, that within the boundaries of love and wisdom…we have to be honest with our hearts if we want to have deep relationships with others…including God.
We want to be like a child in our conversation with God…so that he can make us more like mature adults in our thinking and living.
When we speak honestly with him…we are positioned for God to redirect our honest thoughts and feelings…into what is actually true and real.
If you have trained yourself to be careful with your words, you have done well.
Now, in prayer, train yourself to be honest with your words.
It’s never good or right to slander or accuse God of wrong.
But if you are struggling to understand why he allowed or caused something, it is good to talk with him about that struggle.
A child will talk with someone they trust about virtually anything.
A mature and loving adult does not despise the child for this, they love them for it.
In your conversational relationship with God do you need to become more childlike?
Talk to God about what is really on your mind and heart.
Perhaps you will be better positioned to hear what is really on his.
- Be adults in regard to the past and future, more like a child in regards to the present
Adults tend to live in the past and the future.
We have often have regrets over the past, or we are just reflective and nostalgic about it.
We can live looking forward to the future, wondering about the future, or fearing the future.
Very small children tend to live in the present.
They don’t spend much time on the past or the future.
They are at a stage of life where virtually all time is now.
As they grow out of infancy…they look forward to things that are yet to come.
I recently told my grandson I would pick him up on Saturday; he asked, “How many days is that?”
“Four” I said
“That’s a long, long time,” he complained.
But then he was lost in the moment again as he went back to his play.
The very young live mostly in the right now.
Perhaps this is another factor in Kingdom living that correlates to being childlike.
We are to be like children in that we are to relearn how to engage the “now” without being overly diverted by the past and the future.
Of course, it is childish to not remember the past or to fail to prepare for the future.
But is it “childlike” to learn to live more fully in the “now”?
I think so.
The past is beyond our control apart from making amends for our mistakes.
The future is outside the realm of our control as well, apart from making necessary preparations for possibilities.
The only time we have is now.
We can worry about the past, yet it is unchangeable.
We can worry about the future, yet it is not ours to control.
We can trust in the present by giving God the past and the future.
We can learn to walk more closely with God by engaging what he has for us today. Jesus asked, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27).
It was, of course rhetorical…no one can worry themselves into additional hours of life.
Jesus said that he feeds the birds and clothes the flowers, so stop worrying because you are much more valuable to him than they are.
To live in a conversational relationship with God, we must live in the right now of where God has us.
This has been enormously challenging for me at different times of my life.
One time in particular my lack of having adequately trained myself to live with Christ in the now…caused me to live with great anxiety and distress.
As we come to our Father in heaven…of course we bring our regrets and consequences from our past to him.
We bring our hopes and fears of the future to him.
But in all of this we must continually learn and train ourselves to live with Christ in the present.
Remember what Jesus said we are to pray?
“Father…please give us this day our daily bread.”
I hope you are putting some of what we are discussing into practice
Never mind that you are inconsistent or imperfect in your practice…we are practicing, training…closing the gap.
I see change in my life…I hope you do as well.
For the next few minutes we are going to talk to God, individually…together.
- Repent of childishness…reflect deeply on childlike dependency.
-Pray: “God forgive me for being petty, defensive, selfish”
“God help me see my deep need for you, and others.”
- Take your fears to God…ask him to align your thinking, feeling, and doing with the facts of faith…to not live as this is all or even most of what is real.
-Pray: “Take my fears of living, losing, dying. Make my mind, heart and lifestyle align with the truth of the gospel….I give my fear to you right now.”
- Pray mindful but heartfelt prayers…be honest with what is real on inside of you and be open to being redirected to more adult-like thinking and feeling.
-Pray: “God I feel…” “God I want to think and feel what is right…help me now, redirect me.”
- What should you do with your past and future? What can you do?
-Do you need to repent or make something right for the past?
-Do you need to plan and prepare for the future?
Pray: “God I give you my past…if there is something to be done about it…I will.”
“God I give you my future…if there is something I need to do to prepare…I will.”
“God I give the past and the future to you right now…help me experience you in the present.”