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DON’T HINDER THE CHILDREN
Intro: In this passage, Jesus has just finished teaching about the very serious matter of marriage and divorce. As soon as that discussion is finished, Jesus turns His attention to some little children that are being brought to Him by their parents.
It was a Jewish tradition to bring small children to a great rabbi so that he could bless them and pray for them. It was also common for parents to take their children to the synagogue, where each of the elders would take the child in his hands and pray for the life of the child. This is much the same thing that we still do today when we dedicate a child and parents to the Lord.
These parents are severely rebuked by the Lord’s disciples. Apparently, they felt that the Master’s time was too valuable to spend on small children. Jesus, in turn, rebuked them for their attitude regarding these children. He told the disciples in no uncertain terms that little children were what the kingdom of Heaven was all about.
It is appropriate that Jesus should give us this teaching about little children just after He spoke about the marriage relationship. The statement “and they twain shall be one flesh (Matt. 19:15) is literally fulfilled when a married couple come together to produce a child.
Now, let’s face it: children can be noisy in church; they require a lot of special attention and special programs; and they cannot contribute to the financial burden of the church. Children are not a curse to be endured; they are a blessing to be enjoyed! Psalm 127:3 says, “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. We are blessed by all the little ones around here!
This passage has something to say about children, and by extension, about the Savior’s kingdom. Let’s walk through these important, but often neglected verses, and observe some lessons about parents, children and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I want to preach on the subject Don’t Hinder The Children. I want to show you the lessons we find in these verses. There is a Lesson About Service; A Lesson About Salvation; and A Lesson About The Savior. I want us to understand that Jesus has a special place in His heart and in His plans for the children.
I. A LESSON ABOUT SERVICE
(Ill. This passage clearly reveals certain responsibilities that both the parent and the church have toward our children. Fulfilling these responsibilities is a form of service to our children. Let me show you how we serve them.)
A. We Serve Our Children By Evangelizing Them This passage nowhere implies that Jesus was saving these children. He was merely praying for them and pronouncing a blessing on their young lives. This scene teaches us that these parents cared enough about the spiritual condition of their children to bring to Jesus so that they might be blessed through His praying and His touch.
From the earliest passages of the Bible believers have been challenged to share the things of God with their children, Deut. 6:1-8. The New Testament renews that challenge to parents, Eph. 6:4.
Parents should do everything in their power to ensure that their children are exposed to the Gospel. That means bringing them to church on a consistent basis. It means giving them the opportunity to be in Sunday School and VBS. It means praying for them and with them and opening the Bible with them at home. It means being open about your own faith. It means being consistent in your own life as a believer. It means teaching them that nothing in this world is more important than the Lord and His business.
Sunday School teachers and VBS workers should share the Gospel with the children of this church. The Gospel should be preached from this pulpit. Still, the primary responsibility for evangelizing the children of this congregation rests on the shoulders of Mom and Dad.
(Ill. According to a recent Gallup Survey: nineteen out of twenty people who became Christians did so before the age of twenty-five. At age twenty-five, one in 10,000 will become believers; at thirty-five, one in 50,000; at forty-five, one in 200,000; at fifty-five, one in 300,000; at seventy-five, one in 700,000.)
B. We Serve Our Children By Educating Them By bringing their children to Jesus, these parents were telling their children that they saw something special in Him.
Like those ancient parents, believers in our day have the responsibility of modeling our faith in Jesus so that the younger generation can see that He is worth knowing. If my faith does not change my life and cause me to be a better person, my children will pick up on that. I can talk about my faith, but if I do not live out my faith, it translates into hypocrisy in the eyes of my children. They are very quick to spot a phony!
We are responsible for educating our children about the things of God. In Eph. 6:4, the word “nurture refers to the whole training and education of a child. It is not the public school teachers responsibility to see that our children come to Jesus. It is our duty to bring them face to face with a saving Lord. If we make much of Jesus in front of them, they will be far more likely to come to Him at an early age and remain faithful to Him as they mature.
C. We Serve Our Children By Encouraging Them When these parents came to Jesus with their children they were encouraging them to approach Him as well.
Christian parents are told in Eph. 6:4 to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The word admonition has the idea of encouragement. We ought to encourage our children to seek the things of God. Teach them to pray at an early age. Make the Bible a big part of their daily life. Pray with them. Bring them to Sunday School and preaching. Involve them in church activities like the youth group and VBS. Bring them to revival services. Expose them to everything of a godly nature that is available.
One of the best things a mature believer can do for children is for them to be in love with Jesus Christ. When mature adults love Jesus with a sincere devotion, it encourages children to love Him too!
(Ill. There is no greater blessing than for a child to be saved and for them to live their whole lives for Jesus.
D. L. Moody once returned from a meeting and reported two and a half conversions. Two adults and a child, I suppose?” asked his host. “No,” said Moody, “two children and an adult. The children gave their whole lives. The adult had only half of his left to give.”)
II. A LESSON ABOUT SALVATION
(Ill. While this text certainly highlights every adult’s responsibility to serve our children by helping them form a spiritual foundation, it also speaks about the matter of salvation.)
A. What It Implies The fact that children are invited to come to the Savior implies that children need a Savior. Now, most folks dont like to hear this, but children are sinners too, Psa. 58:3; Psa. 51:5; Job 15:14; Pro. 22:15; Isa. 48:8; Eph. 2:3. While children may possess a kind of innocence, they still stand in need of salvation.
That is why parents and other concerned adults must do all they can to bring children face to face with the claims of the Gospel. It is not our duty to save them, but it is our duty to expose them to the Word of God. When children hear the Gospel preached, taught and lived out, they are far more likely to come to Jesus at an early age, Rom. 10:17. Here is what Paul told Timothy about exposing children to the Word of God, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus, 2 Tim. 3:15.
B. What It Involves Whenever a discussion about childhood salvation comes up, someone always mentions the age of accountability. When I was growing up, the magic age of accountability was twelve. When a child reached the age of twelve, it was time for them to get saved, join the church and be baptized.
It surprises some people when they find out that the Bible does not mention a specific “age of accountability. A child becomes accountable for his or her sins when they come to place where they can understand the difference between right and wrong and when they are able to choose between right and wrong, Isa. 7:16.
The term “age of decision might be better than the age of accountability. When a person reaches a level of mental understanding regarding the nature of sin and its consequences and are able to make a decision for or against Jesus Christ, they have reached the age of decision.
So, when is that age? Well, it is different for every child. I have a Pastor friend who was saved at the age of 6. I have known other people who did not come to a realization of their condition until they were well into their teens. Some people, such as those with severe mental handicaps, may never come to that place.
To all the children in this room today, let me say something to you. When you reach a place in your life where you understand that you are a sinner; where you understand that you are going to Hell because of your sins; and where you understand that Jesus Christ died and rose again from the dead to save you, you need to be saved. You need to come to Jesus and be saved.
Parents, just because your children are young, do not assume that they do not need to be saved. Children grow up quick these days and they need to know about Jesus Christ. Tell them about Jesus from the day they are born and watch God save them at an early age!
(Note: Let me touch on something else while I am here. I received a phone call from a father a whi9le back. This father has a six-year-old son. This boy came to his father and told him that he wanted to be saved. The father acted wisely because he questioned his son to see what he understood and when he did, he found out that the little boy did not understand what sin was. It was clear that this young man is interested, but not quite ready. It probably won’t be long!
Now, when children come to you talking about salvation, you should never put them off. Take the time to ask them some pointed questions like:
· What does it mean to be saved?
· Why do you feel that you need to be saved?
· Can you explain to me how a person gets saved?
· Can you explain to me what sin is?
There are many other questions, but you get the idea. If they do not understand, keep praying for them and talking to them about Jesus. They will come back when they are ready.
When they are ready to receive Jesus, be careful that you point them to Him and allow them to come to Him by faith. In other words, do not put words into their mouths. You might help them to understand the kind of things they should pray about; things like confession of sin, expression of faith in the finished work of Christ, asking the Lord into their hearts, etc; but never, never, never tell them exactly what they should say. If they understand what they are doing and they are really under Holy Ghost conviction, they will know what they need to do.)
(Note: What about children who die before they reach the “age of decision? What happens to them? I think the Bible holds that answer for us. When David lost an infant son in 2 Sam. 12, he was convinced that his son had gone to be with the Lord, 2 Sam. 12:23. Children and others who cannot choose for themselves are not saved, but they are “safe in Jesus Christ. Ill. Rom. 5:17-21. The saving power of the atoning work of Jesus is applied to them. When they die in that “safe condition, they are regenerated and taken to Heaven! Parents who have lost children to death, miscarriage, or still birth should never fear because their little ones are in Heaven with the Lord Jesus today.
Is it possible that the high infant mortality rates in many countries today is actually the grace of God at work? Is it possible that He is taking the little children home to Heaven while they are still in an innocent state? If they reached maturity in a pagan culture they might never hear about Jesus. While abortion is a horrible crime against humanity, God’s grace is also in view here. Every one of those innocent, aborted babies goes to be with Jesus. We will meet them one day! What a gracious Savior we serve!)
C. What It Illustrates This whole matter of children coming to Jesus was used by our Lord to illustrate the way all believers must come to Him, Mark 10:36-37. In this passage, Jesus says that all who come to Him must come as a little child. He is referring to a few of the special characteristics that separate children from adults.
Children are trusting, humble and dependent. They are so trusting, that they have to be warned not to talk to strangers. (Ill. Noah Nelson) They are so humble, that they will readily accept what they are told by attacks. (Ill. Parsley at Shoney’s) They are so dependent, that they simply rest in the ability and willingness of those around them to meet their needs. (Ill. They don’t worry over food, clothing or shelter. They don’t worry about who will pay the bills.) Children don’t doubt that their family members love them. Children simply accept profound things by faith. They don’t look beyond the obvious. They just believe!
Those are the requirements for a person to come to Jesus. For a person to be saved, regardless of their age, they must be willing to humble themselves before God. They must be willing to lay down their pride over the life they have lived and the achievements of that life. They must humble themselves by acknowledging their sins before God. They must be willing to admit that their works and religious activity can never save them. They must come to the place where they, like a little child, simply look to Jesus in pure faith, trusting that He will do everything He has promised to do.
Contrast this image childlike faith with the very next passage. When the Rich Young Ruler came to Jesus in Mark 10:17-22, he refused to turn loose of his pride, his money or his self-righteousness. He left with all his possessions, but he left without Jesus!
A person must look to Jesus by faith, trusting Him and His finished work on the cross completely for their soul’s salvation. This requires the childlike qualities of trust, humility and dependence. This is the only way anyone ever receives salvation.
III. A LESSON ABOUT THE SAVIOR
(Ill. This passage not only speaks about Service and Salvation, it also has something to say about the Savior. Watching Jesus minister to these children, we get a glimpse of aspects of our Lord’s personality.)
A. v. 13 We Can See The Savior’s Heart The disciples thought Jesus was too busy for a bunch of children. When the Bible says, brought unto Him, it has the idea of a long line of children being brought to Jesus. Parents from all over the area had brought their children to Jesus so that He could pray for them and pronounce a blessing over them. When the disciples rebuked the parents Jesus was much displeased. This means that Jesus was very angry with the disciples for trying to prevent children from coming to Him. Children hold a special place in our Lords heart! In fact, Mark 9:42 reminds us that harsh judgment awaits those who abuse little children. Jesus always defends the defenseless!
Ill. In that society children were often treated with contempt and viewed as property. A papyrus letter written by a man named Hilarion to his expectant wife, Alis, dated June 17, 1 b.c., instructs her: “if it was a male child let it [live]; if it was female, cast it out.”
In ancient Rome, fathers held absolute power over their children. This power was called “Patria Potestas”. A father could condemn a child to die simply by commanding it be done. A case where this happened was recorded as late as 60 A.D. This practice was finally outlawed in 375 A.D.
What Jesus does here is elevate children to a place of importance. He also reveals that children hold a special place in His heart.
This scene reveals a lot about Jesus. Children cannot serve Him like those who are older. They cannot contribute as much money as those who are older. Still, He loves them and reaches out to them in grace.
This just reminds us that God is not interested in what we can do, what we can give or how old we are. He simply invited people to come to Him on the basis of pure grace! Jesus loves lost sinners and He invites them all to come to Him, Rev. 22:17, Matt. 11:28; John 3:16.
B. v. 15 We Can See The Savior’s Hands This verse says and He laid His hands on them. This indicates that He placed took the time to bless each individual child that came before Him. No matter how young they were or how insignificant they appeared, Jesus cared about them took time for them.
Never think for an instant that Jesus doesn’t care about you. He loves you and He will not turn you away if you will come to Him. No matter where the path of life has taken you; no matter what you may have done; no matter how insignificant you may feel; Jesus Christ will save you and change your life if you will come to Him. He cares about your condition and He will take the time to touch your life if you will only come to Him by faith.
Conc: Regardless of whether you are saved or lost, young or old, Jesus cares about you. There are some children in this room who have expressed an interest in coming to Jesus. If He is calling you, today would be a great day to come to Him. While this message has been about children, it isn’t only for children. If you have never been saved, regardless of your age, you need to come to Jesus today. He died on the cross to save you if you are lost.
If your life has gotten complicated by living in an adult world and you need some help from God today, you can get it. If sin has crept into your relationship with Jesus and is hindering your walk with Him, He can forgive that today. If you will come to Him, you will find that His grace will be sufficient for you. If there are needs in your life, you can come to Him like those little children did two thousand years ago and you can find the help you need!