************ Sermon on Luke 18:15-17 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 18, 2005
"Let the Children Come to Me"
Christian Education Sunday
There is the story of an ancient king, who, wanting to know what was the natural language of man, ordered two infants, as soon as they were born, to be brought to a place where they were brought up without any instruction at all, and without ever hearing a human voice. And what was the result? When they were brought out of their confinement, they spoke no language at all: they uttered only incomprehensible sounds like those of animals.
If two infants were to be brought up from the womb without being instructed in any religion, there, is little room to doubt that the result (unless the grace of God interfered) would be just the same. They would have no religion at all: they would have no more knowledge of God than the birds and animals.
As Christian parents we are responsible for many things with respect to our children. Lora and Adam, and every parent here, are called upon to provide their children with food, clothing, shelter, and love. But, on this Christian Education Sunday, I have to say our greatest responsibility as Christian parents, in the words of our text, is to let our children come to Jesus. When we do not do this then we have failed our children.
I Touched by Jesus
A Our short Scripture reading from Luke 18 speaks to this. It is a very familiar text and yet the point is so often missed. Too often people see this story of Jesus and the children as a sentimental, romantic, and heart-warming incident. They see a Jesus Who loves children because they are so nice and sweet and innocent. But that is not the point at all.
Luke tells us that some parents bring their children to Jesus. They want Jesus to touch their children. You heard me right. They want Jesus to touch their children. No, these parents are not hero-worshipers who want the thrill of this great teacher touching their children. They are not sending their children to Jesus to get His autograph. It is not a superficial and shallow thrill that they are after. Rather, they want Jesus to change the lives of their children. You see, people of God, touching is a means of bringing a blessing. Think of Isaac – though he was fooled into thinking it was Esau – touching Jacob and blessing him with every sort of blessing. Think of Jacob on his deathbed. His twelve sons and the sons of Joseph come before him and he touches each one and blesses them with all sorts of wonderful blessings. Think of Jesus touching someone or being touched by someone. When the women who was bleeding for 18 years touched Jesus, the life and healing power and strength of Jesus flowed into her. When Jesus touched a man born blind he was given sight. When Jesus touched a man with leprosy he was healed. Whenever Jesus touches someone that someone is changed in some way. Somehow the life of Jesus flows in and to and through them.
B Some parents, then, want Jesus to touch their children. But we read that the disciples chase them away. After all, they consider Jesus to be very important and busy, and they know that children can be bothersome. They want to keep Jesus free to attend to more important matters. They do not think children are important enough to receive Jesus' attention.
It is surprising that the disciples act in this fashion. Because it was just a short little while before, and you can read this in Luke 9, that Jesus had taken a child in His arms and said,
(Luke 9:48) "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me ..."
C Children are very important to Jesus, so important that He becomes angry with His disciples. We must remember the words of Jesus in Mark 9:
(Mark 9:42) And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. Or, to paraphrase this,
If anyone gets in the way and prevents children from coming to me, if anyone causes them somehow by example or words or attitude or deeds to lose faith or weaken faith in me, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.These are very harsh words, but then Jesus sees children as being very important.
D When Jesus admonishes the disciples for their behavior, notice what He says: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them." Why does Jesus command this? Jesus gives us the answer in the next line: "for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." This is the whole point of this passage. The children of believing parents are not received by Jesus as being little heathens who need to be converted. They are not received by Him as being outside of the covenant. They are not received by Him as being outside of the church and salvation. Jesus teaches (and this is no new message because we find it all over the Old Testament) that the kingdom of God also belongs to the children of believing parents, regardless of how weak the faith of the parents may be. And as Christian parents, our children too are sons and daughters of the kingdom of God.
What does it mean that our sons and daughters belong to the kingdom of God? It means that our children are different. They are different from the children of unbelievers. They are sons and daughters of the kingdom of God. They did not earn that privilege, no. And we do not earn that privilege for them. And so there is no reason here for sinful pride or for a "holier than thou" attitude. The blessings of the kingdom, the great fact that we and our children belong to Jesus, is a gift of God's wondrous grace.
Let me repeat: our children are different; they are God's possession. And we as parents, we are stewards of this possession; we are stewards who must someday answer to the Master for how we have managed what is in our care.
II Bring to Jesus
A Because our children belong to the kingdom, because they belong to God, because they are different from the children of unbelievers, they must be brought to Jesus so He can touch them. This way as the child grows up she is brought to a full understanding of how different, of how special, of how important she is in God's eyes.
Lora and Adam, and congregation, we need to do this as soon as possible, as early as possible. Your children should be learning to pray as they learn to talk. Your children should be reading the Bible as they learn to read. Your children should not be able to remember the first time they are in church or the first time they have heard the name of Jesus.
Let me also tell you, it is easer and better to lead a child than an adult to Christ. I rejoice in the work done by rescue missions, where we see the wrecks of manhood and womanhood changed into noble men and women. But this is not the work that produces the most satisfactory Christians. The younger we get a child to believe in Christ and begin Christian training, the more beautiful the product. How I thank God that the overwhelming number of people in our churches today were converted before twenty-one years of age.
At an early age, then, we need to bring our children to Jesus so He can touch them and bless them.
B How do we do this? What does the Bible say to us?
From beginning to end the Bible stresses the duty of Christian parents to give their children a Christian education. If we want our children to be touched by Jesus, if we want to bring our children to Jesus, we need to give them a Christian education.
In many places the Scriptures teach the necessity of Christian education for God's children. One of my favorite Christian education passages is Deuteronomy 6 where God says,
(Deu 6:6-9) These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. (7) Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (8) Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. (9) Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.According to this passage, Christian education must occur in all places and at all times (cf Psalm 78:4b-7).
I think we all know the words of Paul in Ephesians 6: "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (vs 4).
The message of Scripture is clear: we parents have a responsibility to give our children a Christian education. This is our duty because our children belong to God, because they are part of the kingdom.
C The question that confronts us today is this: how are we to give our children a Christian education? How are Lora and Adam and the rest of us to give our children a Christian education? How are we to bring our children to Jesus so that He may touch them and bless them? There are three answers: parents, because your children belong to God they should receive a Christian education in the home, the church, and the school.
I like to think of the home, church, and school as the three legs of a tripod. As you know, all three legs of a tripod are necessary to hold up the camera, video-cam, telescope, surveyor's transit, or whatever. Without one of the legs the whole business falls down. Likewise with Christian education in the home, the church, and the school. All three must work and stand together or the whole business comes crashing down.
I am sure that we all realize that the most important element of Christian education takes place in the Christian home. The Christian education received in the home is the basis for any education received in the church or school. If the home does not do its job, if the parents do not teach about Jesus in the home, the efforts of the church and school in this area will fall by the wayside. All Christian education must begin in the home. No parent can ever escape this responsibility and leave it to the church and school.
What form does Christian education take in the home? It is the duty of Christian parents to sit down with their child and explain to him that he belongs to God and that Jesus loves him. It is the responsibility of the parents to tell their child that she is part of the kingdom of God and that Jesus wants to touch her in order to bless her.
Telling children about these things, of course, is not enough. We must also show them. We parents must be an example to our children of what a child of God really is. Our deeds, our character, our habits usually have a far greater influence on our children than our words.
There is more to a Christian education in the home as well. In a Christian home there is also much prayer for and with the children.
Subtopic: Devout Mothers
Susannah Wesley, for example, spent one hour each day praying for her 17 children. In addition, she took each child aside for a full hour every week to discuss spiritual matters. No wonder two of her sons, Charles and John, were used of God to bring blessing to all of England and much of America.
Children also need to hear the conversation between God and His adult child. Many adult Christians don't pray much and don't pray openly about their struggles, failings, and doubts. The children need to learn how to bring all things to God in prayer, how to struggle with God in prayer.
Bringing our children to Jesus so He may touch and bless them also involves reading and searching God's Word together. Please, parents, never neglect this no matter how busy you may be. Always take the time to read and explain Scripture to your children every day.
I hope every family will examine their home life to make sure there is Christian education in their home. I hope every family will make sure their children are being brought to Jesus so that He may touch and bless them.
D Christian education should also take place in the church. In the church the children must also be brought to Jesus so that He may touch them. And, once again, this must be done because our children belong to the Lord. This means that children ought to attend weekly worship services. It also means that the church ought to offer an excellent church-school program as well as various youth groups and societies in which our children and youth are taught and study the church's beautiful doctrines about Christ and our salvation.
There is one concern I want to bring up as we are looking at this. When the elders and I look at the attendance record, it is obvious that some parents do not think Sunday School and Catechism are all that important. This is an important ministry. It is one of the things we do as a church to bring our children to Jesus so He can touch them and bless them. And, did you know it is required? The Christian Reformed Church urges consistories to discipline those parents who refuse to have their children in church school.
E The last spot where Christian education can take place is in the Christian school or Christian home school. A Christian school is a school where the Lord is openly honored and feared and served. Let me encourage you all to consider the Christian school, and even a Christian college education, for your children and youth.
When we look again at the passage that I read from Deuteronomy 6 we see there that Christian parents have the duty to teach their children and youth the ways of the Lord in all places and at all times. As you surely realize, our children and youth spend the bulk of their waking hours during the week in school. Because they are covenant children, because they belong to God, because they are part of the kingdom, I want to encourage parents to have their children receive a Christian education in the place where they spend most of their waking hours – in the school or home school.
Lora and Adam, and all of us, let us listen to the words of Jesus: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." On this Christian Education Sunday I want to encourage you all to consider what you can do so that our children, God's children, can come to Jesus so He may touch them and bless them.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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