The Priority & Posture of Children - Radical

The Priority & Posture of Children

As Christians seeking to make disciples, what impact are we making on the future generations? How do we guide children to Christ? Additionally, what can we learn from the earnest faith of a child? In this message on Mark Chapter 10, Donnie Cohn and Nate Reed instruct Christians about the priorities and postures of children. While children might lack the wisdom that comes through age and experience, what they do certainly have is a powerful faith. We could all do so well to learn from such childlike faith, even as we guide children on their own walks with Christ.

  1. How Do Children Come to Jesus?
  2. How Can We Guide Children to Jesus?
  3. Childlike Faith

The Priority & Posture of Children

Well, I’m here. I’m here today with Esther and Jemima and they are actually going to be reading our passage in God’s Word. So could you guys give them a round of applause and welcome them here? All right, girls, go ahead.

Please stand for the reading of God’s Word. Mark 10, verse 13 to 16. “And they were bringing children to Him that He might touch them and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them that the children come to me, do not hinder them for such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God, like a child shall not enter it.”

“And He took them in his arms and blessed them laying His hands on them.” This is God’s Word. You may be seated.

Awesome. Great job, girls. Good job. Come on. Here. Come on back. Good job. Well, my name is Donnie Cohn. I have the joy of getting to lead our ministries for teenagers and for young adults. Are any of you guys teenagers and young adults here today? We got. Oh. 9:00 AM beat you guys, and they were getting up the first thing in the morning. I’m going to do this again. Are any of you guys teenagers and young adults here? All right. There we go. A little bit better. Good job guys. So with all the kids here, the children, we’re going to do something a little bit different. Instead of one long message today, we are going to do too many messages from the passage that you just heard. So first off, I’m going to teach on the first two verses about the priority of children. And then Nate Reed, our location pastor is going to come out and he’s going to teach on the last couple of verses of that passage about the posture of children.

So even though you’re getting two different preachers this morning, you are still stuck with alliteration every single Sunday. So you can enjoy that. We’re going to dive right in. And we see in this story that they were bringing children to Jesus. And it was probably, who was it who was bringing these children to him? It was probably their parents for the most part. Might have been some other relatives who were part of it and they probably didn’t know.

They probably didn’t have a full understanding of who Jesus was, but maybe they had heard stories about the miracles he’d been performing and the incredible teachings that he had been given. They knew he was some great religious leader and they wanted him to bless their kids, but the disciples objected. So we see that they actually rebuked these people as they were bringing their children to Jesus. And the disciples probably thought that they were doing Jesus a favor.

They probably were thinking, there’s no way that these little children are worth Jesus’ time. They’re thinking Jesus must have better things to do, teach the adults and perform miracles and raise the dead.

But the problem was Jesus viewed it differently. And when Jesus saw what was happening, the Bible says that he became indignant and that just means he became angry or frustrated. And remember, Jesus never sins, so Jesus didn’t become frustrated for no reason. What had happened was that the disciples had come up with this idea that there are some people who are too small or too weak or too insignificant to be worth Jesus’ time, and they were dead wrong. Jesus was eager to make time for even the smallest child. The greatest one who has ever walked the face of the planet always had time for those who were small or insignificant in the view of the world, they weren’t insignificant to him. And it’s interesting that in a lot of cultures like our own where Christianity has had significant influence and Jesus has shaped aspects even of those cultures, this value has come to be embraced even among non-believers.

So I’ll tell you a story. Several years ago I went to an NFL training camp with a friend of mine who has disabilities that are clearly visible when you see him. So we came walking in and the stands were full with people who were going to watch this team prepare for their season. And an employee of the team saw us and pointed us toward a section in the front few rows that was roped off and said, “Hey, if you guys want to, you can go and you can watch from that section.” And he said, “And if you want to also, you can wait for a little bit after the practice ends and you’ll have an opportunity to meet one of the players.” So we said, “All right, that sounds cool.” We go over there and we go to the roped off section. There were some other people there who had disabilities and those who brought them, and we enjoyed the practice.

It was a ton of fun and it ended and everyone starts filtering out. Everyone is going back toward their cars and we’re just hanging out there and we look across the field and one of the players was walking toward us, but it wasn’t just one of the players, it was the starting quarterback who was a Super Bowl champion, the most prominent, the most well-known player, the face of the team. And he comes walking over and he takes time with each individual group to greet them and he signed a jersey for us. He was taking pictures with a bunch of people and took time basically to be with each of these groups one by one. But it’s not just this quarterback, right? In our culture, we celebrate stories of celebrities or of athletes who decide to make time to visit a children’s hospital or to serve in an afterschool program or to befriend somebody who has special needs.

We Need to Come to Jesus

Our culture through Jesus has actually come to see the beauty in certain ways of what we witnessed in this passage of the least, receiving the attention, receiving the focus even of those who are regarded as great. But of course, the thing that our culture and our world around us isn’t able to embrace is the fact that what any kid needs most, what any person who’s vulnerable or weak needs most, it’s not time with a celebrity or an athlete. What they ultimately need most is the same thing that you and I ultimately need most, which is that they need to be able to come to Jesus.

Amen.

What’s most incredible about this passage, it’s not just the fact that the great person is able to spend time with a person who’s viewed as small and insignificant. What’s most incredible about this passage is the fact that the God of the universe, when he actually came to Earth, that he made time for every single individual, no matter how weak or small, no matter how vulnerable or dependent, he made time for every individual to be able to come to him. And that’s what Jesus said. I want them to be able to come to me. And he said, “I want them not to be hindered.” I don’t want them to be held back. And if we’re thinking about our own society and our own cultural setting, we have to recognize the fact that right now there are a lot of hindrances to young people coming to Jesus. In the role that I have, I’m dealing with people who are in age group a little bit older than what we’re talking about in the passage.

Statistics about Passing Down the Gospel

But I’m forced to confront some really scary statistics about ways that churches are struggling to pass down the gospel to the next generation. Did you guys realize that nationwide, if you see a high school student who is engaged in church, who’s actively attending and participating in church, there’s only a 69% chance that they’ll still be engaged in church by age 17? Then there’s only a 58% chance that they’ll still be engaged by age 18. And then scariest of all, there is only a 40% chance that they will still be engaged in church at the age of 19.

And there are all kinds of cultural dynamics in the world around us that we don’t have total control over. We might not be able to do anything about those that contribute to this dynamic, but the thing that we can control, the thing that we can do is to make our church and to make our households the best places that they can possibly be for young people to thrive spiritually and to grow in their faith.

So in light of Jesus’ priority on young people being able to come to him and to know him, the question that I want to ask us today is, what is your part in helping those who are young or vulnerable come to Jesus? What’s your part in that? What’s God calling you to?

And for a lot of us, there may even be multiple parts that we take on in that. For example, are you a parent who is fighting against pushing back on the pressure that the world puts on you to make your family about extracurricular activities and building a college resume and instead decides we’re going to center our household on following Jesus? Are you a friend who sees parents around you and tries to support them by being a godly role model and someone who their kids can see in you a picture of what it looks like to follow Jesus? Are you someone who has an opportunity through your job to be around kids or people who are weak or vulnerable or considered least in society and you use that to point them to Jesus?

Do you have other opportunities in your life? Maybe there’s friends of your kids or their teammates or people who they’re in class with all of the time. Do you have opportunities around you to intentionally focus on pointing the young people in your life who God has placed there to Jesus? Or are you maybe a church member who serves regularly in children’s ministry or with students or with access ministry for people with disabilities? And I’ll tell you, I am so proud of young adults who we have who serve regularly in those ministries, but I’m just over the moon proud of the teenagers who week in and week out serve in children’s ministry and in access ministry. I want you guys to hear from me. You set an incredible example for our entire church.

Amen.

What is Your Part in Sharing the Gospel?

You do. And we celebrate you for doing that. So the question is what is your part? What’s my part individually and how God has gifted me and how he’s gifted you in helping those who are young or vulnerable to come to Jesus? And we’ll finish this mini sermon with just one other question directed to the kids who are here. Do you guys, do you kids, do you know that Jesus welcomes you with open arms?

Yes.

Do you know that?

Yes.

Do you know? Yeah, I hear some yeses in there. I love it. I love it, but do you know that the Jesus who we just read about that doing this 2000 years ago, that’s the same Jesus who reigns forever from heaven and he’s still to this day, welcomes you to him? He has time for you. He has a place for you. You are literally never too young. It is impossible to be too young to follow him and to know him and to turn to him and to receive forgiveness of sins from him and to receive the gift of eternal life from Jesus. So I want you to hear this passage and hear this word as your invitation to come to Jesus. His arms are open to you. So what we’re going to do in the next few minutes is we’re actually going to live out what Jesus was doing with blessing the kids who are around him. And what we’re going to do, if you’re a kid here, we’re actually going to invite you in a minute to stand up.

And it’s okay if you’re too nervous. You don’t have to. We’re not going to make you. But if you’re a kid, we want to offer you the opportunity to stand up. If you’re a parent who’s like holding a kid, you’re also welcome to stand up with that kid. And then those who are around you, they’re just going to turn to you and someone’s going to take a minute or two to pray a blessing over that kid. You’re more than welcome to extend your hands. We’ll say, let’s not touch other people’s kids. We don’t know that everybody’s comfortable with that, but you can pray for blessing over every part of their life, and I’d encourage you, especially to pray for blessing over them, hearing this invitation from Jesus to come to him and their lives would be characterized by walking with Jesus and following after him. So, all right, here’s your moment, kids, if you’re up for standing up, we want to invite you guys to stand up now. We’re going to give you a big round of applause. So kids, go ahead and stand up and you guys can stay standing.

All right, so you guys see kids around you. Now everybody, why don’t you stand up and just turn toward kids around you and just take this next minute or two? Someone around you can pray a blessing over the kids who are there. Dear Lord, we plead with you for your blessing on every single kid, every young person, teenager, person who is weak or vulnerable in any way, for everyone who is here in this room, Lord, we plead the same way that you created them and you know them, their hearts and their worries and their fears and their joys and their triumphs and everything about them, Lord, the hairs on their head, the plans that you have for them, Lord, we pray that you would bless every single one of them. We pray for your blessing in all of their lives.

A Prayer for Our Children

But we pray especially for their blessing in knowing you. Lord, we look with a reverent fear as we see the world around us and how many young people are turning away from you. And we just plead with you that at McLean Bible Church, that you would bless us with a different picture of a place where young people are coming to you and following after you, where it’s not young people growing up in the church and leaving, but young people who didn’t grow up in the church coming and following after you. And we pray for our young people that you would raise them up not just to be disciples, but to be disciple makers too. We pray that they would multiply 30 fold and 60 fold and 100 fold for your glory in this nation and among all nations.

Lord, we pray that your name would be honored through this younger generation. Please bless them and do your work. God, we pray. And we ask for these things in Jesus’ name. Amen. You can be seated.

Amen. I’m so grateful for God’s grace and Donnie and how he’s leading and serving with our students [inaudible 00:20:06] ministry here at Tyson’s. And I hope that you’ve seen by now that we all have a lot to learn from children and we know this is the case because Jesus in this passage doesn’t call us to have adult-like faith, but instead a child-like faith. In fact, look at verse 15 with me. It says, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child.” Now just to be clear here, Jesus is not giving us permission to act like children. The Bible is clear that we are to grow up and mature in our faith. But as we grow up in our faith, Jesus is saying that there is a childlike posture that we should never lose. And so while Donnie helped us to see the priority that Jesus places on children, let’s now consider the childlike posture that Jesus instructs us to take.

What Does Childlike Faith Look Like?

In other words, what might it look like to have childlike faith? So to consider that, let’s just think about some of the ways that children generally respond to or approach their parents. So first one, I think about children take adults at their word. If you think back to your childhood, there was likely a time maybe when you were on the playground or in your backyard playing in the neighborhood with friends. And at some point the phrase, well, my mom says, or, well, that’s not what my dad said, likely came out of your mouth. Some of you may have even said this past week. I actually remember growing up, we grew up in the northwest and we would often go on hikes and we would see the moss that would grow on trees like this. And my dad, who mind you has a doctorate in forestry, would tell us, “Kids, that’s elephant snot.” And we believed him. I still believe it today.

I tell my kids the exact same thing when we go on hikes, kids, that is elephant snot. Children accept what their parents tell them is true, which just stresses the importance of teaching them what is true from an early age. So they take adults at their words. Similarly, children relentlessly make requests. When kids have something that they want or they’re curious about something, they are persistent in seeking those things out. I’ve got a three year old at home right now. This is our life. They want answers to their questions and they will not stop asking how or why until they’re satisfied.

Children also depend on their parents to meet their needs. And again, generally speaking, most children don’t spend time wondering where their next meal will come from, who’s going to clothe them or change their diapers or where they’re going to sleep. They simply rest in the ongoing pattern of their parents meeting those needs. Children also find comfort in their parents’ presence.

In fact, parents, let me ask you this question. When your kid is scared at night, where do they go to find comfort? Wherever you are, which is likely in your bed in the middle of the night multiple times. I won’t mention which kid it is, but one of our children currently is struggling with being afraid of the dark. They’ll come to our bed bedside, they’ll say that they’re scared, and we tell them, “Hey, everything’s okay. You can go back to your bed.”

And every time the response that we get is the same, they say, “But I just want to be near to you.” Nearness to Mom or Dad equals comfort. Now, just as a side note, I’ve been saying generally because the reality is that many children, for a variety of reasons, don’t have parents or a safe environment to exhibit these things.

Jesus Brings Redemption

If they don’t have someone to meet their basic needs or a place to feel safe, which is all the more reason for us to work tirelessly, to support struggling parents, birth moms, and to provide homes for vulnerable children by fostering and adopting. I can imagine that some of the kids or teens in the room right now, you’re in that place. And if that’s you, we just want to grieve the challenges that you have had to endure in your life so far. But we want you to know that Jesus sees you in your pain and he promises that he can bring redemption from your story, and we love you too and we’re here to serve you however we can. So kids know that safety and comfort are found in their parents’ arms. And then lastly, children trust their parents in everything. I don’t know about your kids.

My kids are sitting over here, they like to jump off of things a lot. Like suddenly we hear little Michelle, “Mommy, Daddy, catch me.” And without even waiting for a response, they just go for it. Sometimes we’re not even paying attention. It just happens. They trust us with their entire lives believing that if they jump, we will always catch them.

Amen.

Now, when you look at this list, you see that children are naturally inclined to respond to their parents with absolute trust and dependence. Now of course, this is all generally speaking, kids are not perfect and often do these things with selfish and impure motives. But this is the typical posture of children towards their loving parents. And what Jesus is saying in these verses to us is that as we grow older in our faith, we should maintain a similar posture to him. So I’m going to take this list and let’s just adjust it a little bit and consider what it could look like to have a childlike posture towards God.

Take God At His Word

So first, childlike faith then takes God at his word. It recognizes that scripture is completely reliable and trustworthy and necessary, that it’ll never lead us astray. And I know that the pressures of this world are going to try to lead us to think otherwise, but when that happens, we can confidently respond by saying, but my heavenly Father said this.

Amen.

We saw this even in a Bible reading just yesterday, Jesus responds to the temptation of the devil in Luke chapter four by saying over and over again, it is written. Now, I do want to mention that childlike faith doesn’t mean that we won’t ever have questions or doubts. That likely will come at times. We want to doubt that God’s word is good and true, and when that happens, God invites us to bring those doubts to him as well and to seek out answers in the doubting. Childlike faith takes God at his word. It also relentlessly pursues God in prayer.

Just as children are relentless in seeking answers, God invites us to do the same with him. In fact, Jesus tells his disciple this in Luke chapter 11, we’re going to see this in our Bible reading a little bit later this week. After teaching them how to pray, he tells them the parable of a neighbor who won’t stop knocking on his friend’s door at night to get bread.

The neighbor says, “Don’t bother me, go away. We’re trying to sleep.” But the friend keeps on knocking and listen to what it says happens. It says, because of his impudence. Literally means persistence. He will rise and give him whatever he needs. I tell you, ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you just as a child relentlessly pursues answers from a parent. Don’t stop bringing your requests to God.

He hears every single request you make and he answers them in his perfect time, in his perfect plans, even if it’s not in the way that we would expect. Relentlessly pursues them in prayer. Childlike faith. Also depends on God to meet all of our needs. We know that God is all present and all knowing, which means he knows all of our needs before we even ask them and he promises to meet them just like that passage in Luke just said.

Find Comfort In God’s Presence

In fact, in the very next chapter in the Book of Luke, Jesus will tell his disciples not to be anxious about their life, what they will eat, what they will wear because God knows their needs. He says that if birds and flowers can rest in his provision, then we the pinnacle of his entire creation can absolutely rest in his promise to meet them.

Childlike faith then also finds comfort in God’s presence. Just as children find comfort in the presence of their parents, we can find security and comfort in the arms of our perfect heavenly Father. He promises never to leave us or forsake us. Matthew 28. He’s near to the broken-hearted. Psalm 34. He’s a refuge for the oppressed. Psalm nine. He offers us peace in the midst of any storm. Philippians four. This is where children of God go to find comfort in times of difficulty to the feet of our heavenly Father.

And finally, childlike faith trusts God in everything and ultimately in the life to come, ultimately in the life to come. This is at the foundation what it actually means to be a child of God. And it’s why God’s children can rest in any circumstance that they face. It’s the reality that the entire Bible speaks to you and it has massive implications for every single one of our eternity. If you’re exploring Christianity, this is the most important thing you’re going to hear here today.

In fact, I want to summarize this reality in a way that should sound familiar to those. The children that are in the room today. Those that have been in our programming, this is actually a simple way to share the best news in the entire world in 10 words. 10 words. Even if you’re not a child, you might consider memorizing these or writing these down as a way to share this best news in the world with those that you might encounter.

And there’s actually motions that go along to this as we say it. So I’m actually going to invite the kids, actually all of you for that matter, to do the motions with me. And if you’re not sure what that’s supposed to look like, just find a kid around you and watch them and let them serve as your example. I’m going to teach them as we go. But here’s what the Bible teaches us. The Bible shows us the reality that number one, God rules. Kids. How do we do that? That’s right.

Take your crown, put it on your heads. Let’s all put on our crowns and say this together. Ready? God rules. God created the world that is the ultimate authority in all things, but we sinned. What do we do, kids, now? That’s right. I know when you dab, it’s supposed to be really cool, but this is like you’re hiding from your sin and your shame. So let’s all do that together. Ready? We sinned.

We Are Sinners

We sinned. We rejected his rightful rule in our lives by rebelling against him. And as a result, we are deserving of death and separation from God. But when there was nothing that we could do to save ourselves, God provided, show me what you do kids. Make that cross. Let’s all do it together. Ready? God provided. God sent his son Jesus to die in our place on the cross as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. But it didn’t stop there. Goes on to the next part.

Jesus gives. So we’re going to take that gift and reach it out everyone. Let’s all do it together. Ready? Jesus gives. Jesus rose from the dead and declared that everyone who trusts in his payment for their sin, no matter who they are or what they have done, will be forgiven of their sin and welcomed into his family in a relationship that will never and last for all of eternity. Which leads us then to the last two words. We respond and we do that by calling out like this. Let’s do it together. Ready? We respond.

We all have a choice to make. God offers us this free gift and we can either receive his salvation and enjoy relationship with him forever, or we can reject his sacrifice and spend all of eternity separated from him bearing the full punishment of his wrath. Paul David Tripp, who’s pastor, counselor and author said it this way.

He says, “To be a child of God, you must admit your weakness to be the recipients of his grace, to never come to the place of thinking that we’ve outgrown the Father’s care, to never desire to grow up and be on our own, to be comfortable with being needy, to be comfortable with the weakness, our drive for autonomy, our drive for self-sufficiency, our drive to measure up must be abandoned. It is the call of the kingdom.” And so I want to ask, have you responded to this news with childlike faith? I want to urge you to do so because Jesus’ words, if we don’t, are clear.

Look with me again at verse 15, it says, “I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Consequences of rejecting him are devastating. But the reality of what happens when we trust Jesus, when we jump into his arms with childlike faith is glorious. Look at verse 16 with me. It says, “And He took them in His arms and blessed them laying His hands on them.” When we trust in Christ, as we see symbolized by the children in this passage it brings about the presence of God. “He took them in His arms.” Personal relationship and intimacy with him. And then it also brings about blessing. I say blessing. It’s the joy of knowing and enjoying God for all of eternity in this life and in the life to come. So we have a lot to learn from children. They have infinite value in God’s kingdom. So may we as a church commit to bringing the children in our church family to Jesus, however he might lead us to do so.

And children are an incredible model for us of the kind of faith that God desires for us to have. So kids in the room, I want to say to you today, we need you. You are our example. And if you’ve trusted in Jesus, just like the Jesus storybook Bible says, don’t ever grow up so much that you lose your childlike faith. Don’t ever grow up that much. And to everyone else in the room, may we look to the children in our midst as an example of how God invites each of us to follow him.

Amen.

A Prayer Thanking God for Children

Would you bow and pray with me? Oh Lord Jesus. We want to thank you for the children that you have brought into our midst. Thank you for the ways that they give us a picture of your creativity, knowing that you have created every single one of them in your image, they’re image bearers of God. We thank you for their innocence, their dependence and joy that is just so attractive at times. And we pray that you would help us to honor them in our midst and do whatever is necessary to serve them, to lead them to Jesus as we heard earlier today. And I pray that in watching their example, Lord, you would help every single one of us to grow in childlike faith. And I want to pray that specifically for those who are struggling to embrace faith right now, or doubting or questioning, or in a really difficult spot. Father, help them to be able to take you at your word, knowing that your word is trustworthy.

It will never return void. Help them to believe that you not only hear their prayers, but you promise to respond to them in perfect accord with your will. Help us to trust you with our needs. Help us to run to you when we need comfort before anything else that this world offers us. And then for those in this room, Lord, or those who have never trusted in you, God, help them to realize their great need for you to see that you have done everything necessary to forgive them of their sin and welcome them into a relationship as an adopted son or adopted daughter of the King that will last for all of eternity. Do that in their hearts today. And then, Lord, make us a church that’s full of people that live out dependent childlike faith for your glory alone. Thank you for your word, Lord, thank you for teaching us today. We pray all these things in Jesus’ name and all God’s children say it together with me.

Amen.

Amen. Amen.

Nate Reed is the Tysons Campus Pastor at McLean Bible Church.

Donnie Cohn

Donnie Cohn is the Central Director of Students and Young Adults at McLean Bible Church.

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