“Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.’” Mark 10:13-15
We use words like awesome, amazing, phenomenal, or breathtaking, to describe things that have a high impact on us. These words don’t do justice to this concept that Jesus is teaching in this portion of the Scriptures. It would be some combination of beautiful, powerful and immortal that would categorize this, yet it is very simple: we must become like a child to enter the kingdom of God. Or explicitly, we must receive the kingdom of God in the same way that a little child would receive it.
Everyone understands what a child is like. It’s a universal concept, the same in every culture throughout the ages. To define it we might start with the words innocent, vulnerable, open minded, pure, unstained, and trusting. What was the Lord really alluding to here?
I work in the software development industry. Currently the industry is going through a transition. A new and better method for developing software products has recently been discovered and is taking the industry by storm. The vast majority of software companies are adopting this new methodology to some degree. The expert consultants who are driving this adoption are finding that the main hindrance to the transition is the existing culture of the company and the old habits of the workforce. In their view, it would be much easier to make the transition, and the success rate would be higher, if everyone in the company was brand new to the industry with no prior experience working in this area. They very well could have used the same analogy that Jesus did and said that everyone needed to become like a child again with regards to receiving this new software development process.
I think the point is clear. We need to drop the old baggage. We need to reset our thinking when we come to Jesus. “Old things have passed away and all things have become new” the Scripture’s advise. When we come to Jesus to receive the kingdom we must become new creations, not just by reason of our acceptance into the kingdom and our forgiveness of past sins, but mostly due to a complete change in our thinking.
When a child approached Jesus, he had nothing to offer to the Lord. It wasn’t a joint venture. The child was not saying, “Okay Lord, let’s work together to accomplish great things for the kingdom. I’ll use what I know and You can enhance it and we’ll do great things together.” No, a child comes with a blank slate. A child has nothing to offer from the past, but is completely open to learn and grow in Christ.
The problem is that we don’t see or recognize the old habits because they are burnt into our psyche. Our subconscious minds have these old patterns of thinking deeply established in them. The answer: become like a little child. It’s such a simple concept yet it’s so hard to do.
This isn’t just a onetime situation when we first come to Jesus that we must be like a little child. We are receiving the kingdom every day, so this is a daily occurrence. When Jesus says, “will by no means enter it. “, I believe He is referring to us literally entering the heavenly kingdom of God at the end of the age. As we live out our lives here on earth, we are a part of the kingdom of God, but we have not literally entered into it. We have received it but must continue in it, so in that sense we are transitioning into the kingdom until ultimately we are taken from this world and enter the literal kingdom.
So how do we become like a child? I think the easiest way to say it is that we have to die. The old “adult” person in us needs to die and the new “child” needs to come out. We die to the old habits, the old methods, the old thought patterns, the old ways of thinking and acting that are a part of this world system. The problem is that this seems foolish and wasteful. It seems impractical to our natural minds. All these things that we’ve learned in our lives we now throw them out? All of them? Let the Holy Spirit be the guide for this, but most likely the answer is yes, all of them need to go. The Lord doesn’t need our skills and talents to accomplish His work. He can use them if He wants, but most times they just get in the way of the death process in our lives because they are associated with our pride or arrogance, or they get in the way of us being dependent on the Lord. They are most times associated with our flesh and therefore get in the way of our spiritual growth.
How beautiful and how powerful this death really is. We become a new creature with a childlike faith. We recognize that all of the old stuff is the very thing that has us in bondage. The old things are a burden to us. They cause stress and anxiety. They make us depressed. They create conflicts and then they put the pressure on us to solve the conflicts. Many Christians just transition their old ways into their new Christian lives. They just clean up the old baggage and bring it with them. So the outside is clean but the inside is still dirty and still causes the same problems. The inner thinking remains the same but it is hidden from others so we think we can get away with it. The Lord sees though. The Holy Spirit is saying, “Become like a child.” It’s not being lazy. It’s not being impractical. It’s not being foolish. Rest in Him like a child. Trust in Him like a child. Depend on Him like a child. When it’s time to move, He will show you. He will empower you to accomplish what is needed. He will open the door and prepare the way. You don’t have to do it. Really! The burden is no longer on you.
Becoming like a child is how we become spiritual. The childlike approach is a spiritual approach. We are like children with regards to this world and the system in which the people of this world function, but we are like mature adults with regards to the spiritual world and the kingdom of God. We are responsible, yet completely dependent on the Lord. We accomplish amazing things, yet are powerless to do anything apart from the Lord. We are victorious against our enemy, but it is not flesh and blood that we battle. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord.”
This approach of childlikeness is not optional. The words of Jesus are sobering, that we will not enter the kingdom of God if we don’t receive it like a child. The exhortation here is to make sure we have done so and are doing so. Remove anything that resembles the old ways. Allow the Holy Spirit to dig deep into our thought life and bring out the dirty old baggage so we can dispose of it for good. Allow the Scriptures to open up to you as to a child. The result will be beauty, power, freedom, and ultimately, eternal life.
“As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” 1 Peter 2:2
I see this concept of becoming like a child to receive the kingdom as a critical and fundamental part of the Christian experience. We need to get it correct. I pray for myself, and whoever else reads these words, that we would fulfill this approach to receiving the kingdom to the fullest. With God’s help let it be so. Amen.