THE HEART OF A CHILD

 

Our key text this morning is:

 

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,3 and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.4 "Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.5 "Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.6 " But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

 

One of the main messages Jesus taught His disciple to teach to others was that kingdom was coming:

 

Matthew 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: "Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.6 "But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.7 "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'

 

We can all imagine some of the thoughts that were going through their heads especial when we consider they were thinking of a physical kingdom like the one under David. Since they were Jesusí chosen men, they kept arguing about who was going to be the greatest in this new kingdom. We can see this in:

 

Mark 9:33 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, "What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?"34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.

 

A little bit later, James and John took it a step further as we read in:

 

Mark 10:35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask."36 And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?"37 They said to Him, "Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory."

 

Every time His disciples would start thinking this way, He would explain to them they have the wrong attitude. For example, notice His response to James and John:

 

Mark 10:38 But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"39 They said to Him, "We are able." So Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized;40 "but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared."41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John.42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.43 "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.44 "And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

 

It seems to be in the nature of man to want to feel important and to be in a position of power, but as Jesus taught the apostles, if you want to be great in the kingdom of God you are to be humble and you are to be servant of all. But the greatest illustration He used to teach them this premise was a young child. As we read from our key verses:

 

2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,3 and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.4 "Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 

When Jesus did this, it no doubt struck to the heart of His apostles and made them feel foolish about how they were acting because Jesus is telling them not have a pompous heart, but have a humble heart like a young child. Most of us in here can relate to Jesusí illustration and understand exactly what He means because we know how young children are. We know how humble and innocent they are and we are taught that we must become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

Since we must become like them, I think it is important for us to know what that means and what it does not mean. First, Jesus is not saying that we should become immature and do immature thing because that would go against the principle that we are to become mature. As Paul said:

 

1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

 

1 Corinthians 14:20 Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.

 

We are to be adults and continue to mature in the Word of God by digging deeper each day. We cannot and must not stay in the kiddy pool when it comes to learning Godís Word. As the writer of Hebrews said:

 

Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

 

We are certainly not to throw temper tantrums when things do not go our way like Ahab did when Naboth would not sell or trade his vineyard:

 

1 Kings 21:4 So Ahab went into his house sullen and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he had said, "I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers." And he lay down on his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no food.

 

Jesus did not have any of these immature qualities or those like them in mind when He said we must be like little children. So, letís take a look at some the qualities that He was talking about.

 

First, little children are innocent and pure. They have not been corrupted by the world and they have not developed a desire for sin. Every Christian must learn to reprogram themselves to have the same kind of pure and innocent heart.

 

Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

 

This is not something we can do overnight. In fact, many times it takes a lifetime to undo the damage we have done to our hearts by all the worldly things we have brought into them. Many of the things we have learned from the world, and many of the shocking images we have seen in movies, in real life, in print, or on our computers will be engrained in our minds for a long time.

 

We must also understand that the words that we use and hear all the time will affect us. When we are around people that cuss and say vulgar things all the time, it no longer shocks us and our minds had a tendency to apply certain meanings to certain phrases that have been corrupted by the world. The more we immerse ourselves in things like these, the more challenging it will be to re-program ourselves to where we actually become shocked when we hear or see things that are not righteous or wholesome.

 

As I said, it will not be an easy process for us to clean the junk out of our heads, but we can eventually do it, though I personally believe that our hearts will be scared for life. In order to go backward to having a pure and innocent heart, it begins by renewing our minds in way of righteousness. As Paul said, we must bring:

 

2 Corinthians 10:5 Ö every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

 

One thing that will definitely help us in this process is prayer. We should pray to God something similar to what David said††††††††††† in:

Psalm 51:6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.8 Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice.9 Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities.10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

 

We must also continual reprogram our heart with the Word of God. The whole chapter of Psalm 119 declares the importance of putting Godís Word in our heart and I recommend you read the whole chapter today, but for our time, we will just look at the beginning of it:

 

Psalm 119:1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the LORD!2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart!3 They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways.4 You have commanded us To keep Your precepts diligently.5 Oh, that my ways were directed To keep Your statutes!6 Then I would not be ashamed, When I look into all Your commandments.7 I will praise You with uprightness of heart, When I learn Your righteous judgments.8 I will keep Your statutes; Oh, do not forsake me utterly!9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!

 

As we use prayer and Godís Word to reprogram our minds to help us reclaim our innocence and clean our hearts out, we must also stay away from those images and words that caused us to become corrupt in the first place. It is already a hard enough battle as it is without having the corruption still in place. It would be like an alcoholic who is trying to quite but still keeps his refrigerator stocked with beer. We need to train ourselves to have the attitude of David:

 

Psalm 101:3 I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me.4 A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will not know wickedness.

 

The second quality a young child is that they are full of love. There is nothing quite like a young child who can come up and hug you and kiss you and completely change your mood. Having the kind of love that a child has for others is the kind of love that we are to have for others.

 

John 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

 

1 Peter 1:22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,

 

It is not easy to love as a child does with pure motives, but that is what we must work toward. Love is the foundation of Christianity. If we cannot learn to love others and love God then no matter what we do, it will be empty. As Paul said:

 

1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

 

Loving others is easy for some, but for others it can be really challenging. The way we learn to have this kind of love is through prayer and by learning about love from God.

 

1 John 4:19 We love Him because He first loved us.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:9 But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;10 and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more;

 

God shows us what love is and what love means. His example can help us to learn what it means to love as a young child does.

 

Romans 5:6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

A third quality of a young child is they understand they are dependant on their parents and this causes them to have a deep trust in them. This is certainly a quality that we must learn as Christians because with out God we are nothing. We must learn to trust that He will always be there for us.

 

Unfortunately, we become to full of ourselves sometimes and we think we can do things all by ourselves without the help of God, but we learn from Scripture that is a mistake.

 

Jeremiah 10:23 O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.††

 

What happens most of the time when a young child tries to do something on their own that they are not yet ready to do on their own? They usually get hurt. The same thing happens to us when we try and leave God out of our lives and take on situations without Him. It does not make us little and it does not make weak because of our dependence on God. Instead of viewing our dependence on God as something bad, we should be comforted by it just as a young child is comforted by a big hand that is helps hold him up so he reach something that he could not reach on his own.

 

Most young children also show a great trust in their parents. For example, they will launch themselves through the air knowing that their father or mother will catch them. We must have that same trust in God, knowing that He will never drop us or look away. He love and cares for us continual. As Paul said:

 

Romans 8:38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Just as a young child does not always understand why their parents do things certain ways, we will not always understand why our heavenly Father does certain things, but we must understand that our Farther in heaven always has our best interest at heart and will do things according to His will and not our own. We must trust that He will make things work out for the best:

 

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

 

A forth quality a young child has is that they believe what their parents tell them and they are very obedient. Yes, sometimes they do not obey, and hopefully a parent corrects them when they do, but for the most par, they do what they are told. Kids have no reason not to believe their parents, and we have no reason not to believe our Father in heaven. He has proved to us over and over again that His Word is truth.

 

When a parent tell their child not to touch the burner on the stove just after it has been turned off, they usually obey that instruction. If they do not, they get burned and they will never touch again. In a similar way, we can know that when God tells us not to do something or else we sin, then we should not do it. If we do, we sin and hopefully we will learn from that mistake and not repeat it because, if we continue in sin we will get much worse than a temporary burn. So, we must continue to grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord by continuing to believe in God and what His Word says. If we do mess up, let us learn from our mistakes and not repeat them.

 

A fifth quality a young child has is forgiveness. It is amazing to watch a child get into a fight with his sister or brother and be ready to kill them, but then 5 or 10 min later, he is talking nice with his sister or brother and will play another game with him or her. It is hard for a young child to hold a grudge.

 

We certainly need to develop that quality as a Christian. We must always have a forgiving spirit and not hold grudges against people: As Jesus said:


Luke 17:3 "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.4 "And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him."

 

Matthew 6:14 "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.15 "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

 

We are far better off when we can train ourselves not to hold grudges because those grudges will just weigh us down. Just as Jesus said, when a person comes to us and repents we must learn to forgive them and allow the healing to take place.

 

While there are many other qualities of young children we could look at, I want to mention one more and that is their humility. They understand that they are small and need help. How many times do we hear young children ask us for help, and when they look at us they think we are strongest parents in the world? They do not have a self-inflated image of themselves. If there is one quality that we all must learn to have it is humility. After all, James said:

 

James 4:6 ÖTherefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."

 

Without humility, we cannot receive the grace of God. We cannot be like Jesusí disciples were in the beginning when they were arguing who would be the greatest, and we cannot allow our pride to get the better of us. As:

 

Proverbs 29:23 A man's pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor.

 

As Paul said:

 

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

 

Like a child, let us never forget how small we are and how big our heavenly Father is. Letís us never forget how awesome our God is our how we would not exist without Him. When we put things in perspective, it will help us to become as humble as a child.

 

In conclusion, we have seen that we must become like a child if we want to make into heaven. Some of the qualities we must learn to be like children are as follows:

 

  1. We must train ourselves to become innocent with a pure heart. We do that though prayer, by putting Godís Word in our heart, and by staying away from those things that can corrupt us.
  2. We must learn to love like a child does. If we do not know how, we can learn how through prayer and by learning from Godís example.
  3. We must learn to be dependent on God and to trust in His timing and judgments.
  4. We must learn to believe every Word that God has told us and be obedient to that Word.
  5. We must learn to be forgiving.
  6. We must learn to be humble and never allow pride or hunger for power to make us inflate our egos.