************ Sermon on Mark 10:13-16 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on April 19, 1998

Mark 9:33-50
Mark 10:13-16
"Hearts and Hands"

I think I can safely say that we all agree on the necessity and importance of Christian education. And this I can say for a very simple reason. As Christian parents we are responsible for many things with respect to our children. We are to provide them with food, clothing, shelter, and love. But our greatest responsibility as Christian parents, better yet, our greatest obligation as Christian parents, is to provide our children with a Christian education whether this take place in the home, church, or school.

I The Basis for Christian Education
A Our text from Mark 10 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.

B Mark tells us that Jesus is sitting in a house talking with His disciples when some parents come to 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 popular man 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, to touch and shape the hearts, of their children. You see, people of God, touching is a means of bringing a blessing. Touching is especially a means whereby Jesus brings healing. Whenever Jesus touches someone that someone is changed in some way. Somehow the life of Jesus flows in and to and through them. Think of the woman who had been bleeding for 20 years; when she touched Jesus she was healed. Think of the man born blind; when Jesus touched him he was given sight.

Today, we have come to recognize the importance of touch, especially in the first 24 hours of a baby's life as we read in an article in last month's Trinity Post. But this is also true for all of life.
Topic: Gentleness
Index: 2276
Date: 3/1997.3

At Purdue University, a study was conducted with librarians. Half were asked to touch those who came in to check out or return books or ask for information. The other half were to conduct business as usual, with no touching. And the study concluded that those who were touched had higher regard for the librarians and the books in the library, and they followed the rules more willingly.
This study makes a good point: God has made each of us to need and appreciate tender touch.
Did you know, there are approximately five million touch receptors in the human body, more than two million in the hands alone. The right kind of touch releases a pleasing and healing flow of chemicals in the bodies of both the toucher and the touched. Studies have shown that people get healthier even as a result of tender attention and touch of animals, dogs and cats. Everybody wins when we touch each other in a proper way.

C 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 Mark 9, that Jesus had taken a child in His arms and said,
(Mk 9:37) "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

D 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:
(Mk 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.

Jesus knows human life. Of course He does for He is human. Jesus knows that children and others who have a weak or immature faith can so easily be led away from Him. No one knows human nature better than Jesus. That is why He warns the disciples and warns us so strongly about our responsibility to children and other young Christians.

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, however weak the faith of the parents may be. And as Christian parents, our children too are sons and daughters of the kingdom of God.

E 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 The Responsibility for Christian Education
A Because our children belong to the kingdom, because they belong to God, because they are different from the children of unbelievers, they must receive Christian education, they must be brought to Jesus so He can touch them and bless them and change them and shape their hearts. 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.

Notice, it isn't Christian education which makes our children different from the children of the world. They are different already. Christian education merely recognizes and states what is already a fact: that the children of believers are different, holy, special.

B 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,
(Deut 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 take place all day long and all year long.

Another beautiful Christian education passage is found in Psalm 78:
(Ps 78:4-6) We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. (5) He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, (6) so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.
What is the hoped for goal or result of this Christian education? The psalmist tells us:
(Ps 78:7) Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

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, more than that, we have an obligation, to give our children a Christian education. And, in each instance, Scripture tells us this is our duty because our children belong to God, because they are part of the kingdom.

III Christian Education in the Home, Church, and School
A The question that confronts us this evening is this: how are we to give our children a Christian education? How are we to bring them to Jesus so that He may touch them and bless them and change them and shape their hearts? There are three answers: parents, because your children belong to God you must give them a Christian education in their home life, their church life, and their school life.

I like to think of the home, church, and school as the three legs of a stool. As you know, all three legs of a stool are needed to give it stability. 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.

B The first leg of the stool is the Christian home. This is the most important element of Christian education. 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 and change her and shape her heart.

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. The children ought 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 and change them and shape their hearts 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. A couple of weeks ago we had friends with little kids over. I had forgotten how difficult this can be for family devotions. In Today's Christian Woman a woman had this to say.
Topic: Devotional Life
Index: 1002-1005
Date: 12/1997.1695
Title: Humor: Daily Commotions

Shortly after our family began having nightly devotions--which isn't easy with a precocious 4-year-old daughter and an impish 2-year-old son--my daughter asked, "Mommy, when are we gonna get together with Daddy and Austin to talk about God and have family commotions?"
How true. Sometimes it is "family commotions" rather than "family devotions." But things don't get better when you have teenagers because then they all have somewhere to go and something to do. Yet, it is so necessary so that Jesus may touch and bless and change and shape the hearts of our children.

C The second leg of the stool is the church. Christian education must also take place in the church. In the church the children must also be brought to Jesus so that He may touch them and bless them and change them and shape their hearts. 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 further means that the pastor and elders should make an effort to reach the children during the service. 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 are parents who don't think this is all that important. But don't forget the goal: we want to bring our children to Jesus so that He may touch and bless and change and shape.

D The third leg of the stool is a Christian school life. A Christian school life is one in which the Lord is openly honored and feared and served such as at Central Valley Christian School.

When we look again at the passage that I read from Deuteronomy 6 we see there that Christian parents have the duty to see to it that their children and youth are taught the ways of the Lord all day long. As you surely realize, our children and youth spend the bulk of their waking hours during the week in a school environment. Because they are covenant children, because they belong to God, because they are part of the kingdom, they should also receive a Christian education in the place where they spend most of their waking hours in the school environment. Don't forget the goal: so that Jesus may touch and bless and change and shape the hearts and lives of our children.

Let us listen and be obedient 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." In the home, the church, and the school let us bring our children to Jesus so He may touch them and bless them and change them and shape their hearts.

Litany: Led by Mark Branderhorst ...
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