Like a Child? (Friends of Union – February 2024 Devotional)

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Do you have friends who’d benefit from regular devotionals like this?

Do let them know about being Friends of Union so we can encourage them too.

 

by Daniel Hames

 

Devotional Transcript

Greetings, dear friends of Union. Thank you for your all support and encouragement. I’d love to give you an encouragement in return from Mark 10:13–16. There, we read this:

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, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to 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.

What does it meant to “receive the kingdom of God like a child”?

It’s an important question because, in this passage, Jesus says that if we don’t receive the kingdom of God in that way, we will never enter it at all.

Often, it’s said that receiving the kingdom like a child means having “childlike faith”—perhaps being easily trusting. Sometimes it’s said it must mean a kind of innocence or simplicity. Perhaps undimmed eagerness and enthusiasm. Those are the  answers I’ve most often heard.

But the trouble is that none of them are really here in this passage. Yes, they are differences we might observe between adults and children—and some of us might wish for more of those qualities in ourselves as adults! But it’s no good us just taking some of our observations and superimposing them on the Scriptures. Otherwise, we might as well say that receiving the kingdom of God like a child is to receive it while dribbling or having your nappy changed.

We need to ask instead: what’s actually there in the text that describes how the children come?

And there are three things the passage tells us about these children:

  • Firstly, they are brought to Jesus (v. 13).
  • Secondly, Jesus takes them up in his arms (v. 16).
  • Thirdly, Jesus blesses them (v. 16).

That’s all the description of the children we have. No mention of their behaviour or mood or age or their unspoiled angelic little faces!

Just these three things, making one simple but very significant point: they are brought to Jesus by other people. Jesus takes them in his arms, and Jesus blesses them. They are all passive.

Receiving the kingdom of God really, actually, truly is about receiving!

We receive the kingdom of God without doing anything ourselves. No quality in us—no effort or work from us, not even our discovering the secret of entering it—is the key. The condition we come in is not important. What is important is that, like these children who meet Jesus, we simply receive from him.

These little children demonstrate how the kingdom of Jesus works. Even a little child can enter the kingdom. It belongs to little children, because even they can do this one simple thing: genuinely receive the love and the blessing of Jesus Christ.

Think of the children in your church family. The kingdom of God belongs to them. If they will receive Jesus, the kingdom of God belongs to them. It’s that simple. And for the adults, it’s equally simple.

It’s very common in the church—and very easy within ourselves—to vastly overcomplicate this.

When we concentrate on trying to define what coming “like a child” might be, we end up looking more at ourselves and our ability to receive than looking to Jesus who gives.

We get wrapped up in trying to “become innocent” or trying to develop “childlike faith”—as if I could somehow … shed my outer cynical shell … my world-weary baggage and preconceptions … and rediscover the inner, simpler, less cluttered and less jaded me. Then perhaps I will have found the way to enter the kingdom of God.

We imagine that the kingdom of God is for those who have already become intellectually mature and who have become wordly-wise and been round the block. And they’ve seen and done enough that they’re able to somehow… step down a bit. To descend and make themselves humble and simple, to rediscover some lost innocence, and then they can receive.

We must undo some of that tangle.

We do not receive the kingdom of God by trying to become something we are not.

There is no psychological or spiritual preparation that we need to do before we can receive the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God is for those who, like children, will simply—open-handed, empty-handed—receive.
There are no hoops to jump through.

It is about being brought to Jesus by other people.

It is about being taken up into his arms.

It is about being blessed by him.

The kingdom of God is the kingdom of God. It’s Jesus’ kingdom, where he is the focus, and he is the hero, and he does all of the saving work. And he gives.

When the disciples kept those children away from Jesus, they felt that such little ones did not qualify.

Perhaps at times, you have felt that you don’t qualify.

Your Christian life isn’t good enough.

Your efforts aren’t sincere enough.

Your faith isn’t childlike enough.

Dear friends, that is the exact opposite of the gospel.

That’s the exact lie that Jesus is destroying in this passage.

The good news is that the kingdom belongs to those who can only receive.

If you feel like you don’t qualify … if you feel that you don’t have anything to give … if you feel like you may as well be a helpless, crying baby—always dependent and needy, never able to stand on your own two feet—then the kingdom of God is for you.

In Jesus’ kingdom, he does it all, and you receive.

And he will take you up into his arms and bless you.

However great your sin, however dark your unbelief, however faltering your discipleship.

As Jesus says in Luke 12:32:

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (emphasis added).

 

Past Friends of Union Devotionals

Behold the Works of the Lord (November 2023) by Michael Reeves

Knowing the Son (August 2023) by Clive Bowsher

Master of the Waves (May 2023) by Michael Reeves

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Union Publishing

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Union Publishing