I thought it would be good for
us to consider this very important mission field and responsibility the Lord
Jesus has given to his church, that of reaching children. And I want to do so
under three heads. The first is why we should bring children to Jesus. You'll
notice in verse 13 that people were bringing little children to Jesus. Then
secondly, how we may do it, and thirdly, what joy and blessing are ours if we
There are three reasons we should bring little children to
Why should we bring little
children to Jesus? First, because he bids them welcome, and we are his
representatives. As we're told in the Bible, we're to have the mind of Christ.
Indeed, we read in verse 14 that the Lord Jesus was indignant when he realized
his disciples were trying to keep the children from him. And then there's that
other passage: "Do not look down on these little ones; despise not these
We all know that if princes had
been asking to meet with Jesus, they would have said, "Well, of course.
How nice to see you. We'd like to open the way for you to come to Jesus. He's a
little tired, but I'm sure he will see you."
But when children came,
"Go away," they said, "the Master is busy. He's too tired."
That isn't the way he saw it,
and it isn't the way we should see it. Princes and kings and presidents and pop
stars and ballplayers are not more important than children or anybody else,
because God doesn't see as we see. We have our heroes, our stars, and we say,
"Wouldn't it be wonderful if that person became a Christian?" It
would, but it would be just as wonderful if the person who lives next door to
you or who works at the next desk became a Christian.
There's a second reason we
should bring children to Jesus, and I want to spend some time on this: clearly,
they are eminently suitable to receive the gospel. Verse 15: "I tell you
the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child
will never enter it." And then in Matthew 18, when Jesus was asked who is
the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, he called a little child and had him stand
among them. It's clear that children were never far away, so Jesus just
indicated to a little child to come and stand, and then he said, "I tell
you the truth, unless you change, unless you be converted"--the word means
turned around--"and become like little children, you will never enter the
kingdom of heaven." He doesn't mean we're to become childish or immature,
but there must be some things about a child that grownups have to emulate in
order to enter his kingdom. You would have thought, therefore, that we would
have had a fruitful ministry amongst children, because they're already like
that, eminently suitable to receive the gospel.
What is it about children that
makes them eminently suitable to receive the gospel? I would say in the first
place that little children have no difficulty believing in God. It's as they
get older and become more sophisticated that they say they have some difficulty
believing in God. But when little children see something that's beautiful and
intricate, they say, "Somebody made that." It's only after lies are
received in their education that they say it happened by chance and accident.
But little children believe in God the Creator.
And they believe that God the
Creator can do anything, because that's the only God worth believing in, isn't
it? It's only when people get grown up that they say, "I believe in God
the Creator, but I don't believe he can do miracles. I can't believe all these
things I read in the Bible; they're impossible." But that's the point
about God; he can do the impossible because he is God.
When my children were little, I
used to do their prayer time with them at night before they went to sleep. We
used to discuss what we would pray for, and one night when I asked what we
should pray about, Richard, the youngest, didn't answer because he was nearly
asleep. He was allowed to go to sleep during prayer time because he was very
tiny. And Timothy, the oldest boy, said, "Let's pray for the queen."
I said, "That's good. We're told in the Bible to pray for those who rule
over us." So he said, "Yes, we'll pray for Queen Mary." I said,
"Well, the queen's name is Elizabeth. Queen Mary is dead. We don't pray
for the dead." So then my daughter Allison said, "How did she
die?" And I said, "I don't really know how she died. I think she just
got to be a very old lady, and then God called her to himself." And
Richard, who I thought was asleep, took his thumb out of his mouth and said,
"And then God turned her into a boat." When queens die, they
obviously get turned into boats and a child has no problem believing that God
could do that.
Thinking back, I don't know how
he dealt with the ship named the Queen Elizabeth, because she's still
alive. But one of the things about little children is that they don't have any
difficulty believing in God. The world didn't make itself, did it? And God can
Children are also open to
teaching. They grow up to become know-it-alls, particularly in the realm of
theology, but when they are little, children know they don't know about God. They
want to know about God. "What is he like?" they say. "What does
he look like? How old is he? Who made God?" and so forth. They're
interested. They're teachable.
But I find that grownups often,
as the Lord Jesus was indicating, put all that behind them and become expert
theologians. They say, "Well, I think God is like this, and I think God is
like that. And the God I believe in, he does this and he does that."
Usually with people who talk like that, the one thing you can be sure of is that
they don't think. They preface everything with, "I think," but they
don't think. They make it up. They make a god out of their own minds as the
pagans, the idolaters, do. The idolaters take a piece of wood and make shapes
out of it, and then they put it on a pedestal and say, "That's god. We're
going to pray to the god." Or they take a piece of stone and they chisel
it this way and that, and then they put it in a temple and say, "We're
going to pray to that; that's god." And we say, "How silly." But
some of us do the same thing, only we don't use our hands. We use our minds,
and we say, "I think I'll make God like this, and then I'll make him like
that, and I'll have him do this but not that." We haven't a clue what he's
like, because we don't read the Bible. We end up with a god made in our own
image, and it's worthless. But children say, "I want to know the truth.
What is God like? What did Jesus do? Does he love me?"
And they have tender
consciences. It's only as they grow up that their consciences become, as the Bible
puts it, "seared as with a hot iron," or insensitive. When children
are little, they aren't like that. With two of mine anyway, I only had to say,
"You've disappointed me. I'm sad today because you did that," and the
little eyes would fill with tears. I didn't have to do anything else. And we
need a tender conscience if we're to know we need the Savior.
If our conscience is seared and
we do things wrong and don't think it matters, how can we ever know we need him
who came from heaven and went to the cross that we might be forgiven? And how
can we ever come in the right attitude to this great God and Creator, the God
of the impossible, and say, "God, you made me and you will judge me, but
please be merciful to me, a sinner"?
A little child is also used to
accepting authority. When we grow older, we say, "Nobody is going to run
my life, not even God, and certainly not Jesus Christ. I'll do it my way."
Hell will be full of people who said, "I'll do it my way." The great I
is right in the middle of the word sin.
One of the things we need to do
when we become Christians is to say, "Lord, you are the Lord. Be the Lord
of my life; I surrender my heart to you."
Next, children are responsive
to love and friendship. They know they need that; they like people to care for
them. D. L. Moody ran a wonderful Sunday school amongst children in Chicago one
hundred years ago. Little boys and girls would come, often ragged and some of
them barefoot, sometimes literally walking miles to get there. One day he asked
a little fellow, "Why do you come so far to get here?"
And the boy said, "Because
they love a fellow here, Mr. Moody."
I hope that's how our boys and
girls feel. So, children are eminently suitable to receive the gospel precisely
because they have the characteristics of a child.
And then a third reason we
should bring children to Jesus is that Jesus saves children--he really does.
Mark 10:14, "For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." It
means what it says. And Matthew 18:6, "If anyone causes one of these
little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a
large millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the depths of the
sea." The text calls children those "who believe in me"--it
couldn't be plainer. Therefore, I believe that although children are young and
there are many things they don't understand, they can know that Jesus loves
them, and they can learn that Jesus came to take away their naughtiness that
they might be forgiven. And in response, they can give their little hearts and
lives to Jesus.
There are three ways to bring
little children to Jesus.
How can we do it?
First of all, we bring children
to Jesus by prayer. This we must do, because their salvation is not automatic.
Just because they're little children and open to the gospel doesn't mean they
will hear and believe the gospel. No one is born a Christian. They may be born
in a Christian country in the sense that the country has been heavily
influenced by the Christian faith. They may be born in a Christian family, and
that's a wonderful privilege, but even that doesn't guarantee they will become
Christians, because becoming a Christian is a choice that each one must make.
God has no grandchildren; he only has children, and each person must be born
again. Only God can do this great and gracious work. So we're to pray for our
One of the greatest preachers
the world has ever known was Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He was raised in a town
called Colchester in the East of England, and his father was a lay preacher who
used to go out every Sunday ministering the Word. But one day, as his father
left home, he felt convicted that he was going to minister to other people and
was neglecting his own family's spiritual welfare. So he turned about and went
back, and as he was going up the stairway to the apartment, he heard his wife's
raised voice. At first he wondered if she were angry, if someone were
misbehaving. Then he realized as he stood outside the door that she was in
prayer. With a tremor in her voice, she was pleading for the salvation of her
children--"especially," he heard her say, "my eldest son,
Charles." God heard her prayer, saved the boy in his teens, and made him a
preacher who led tens of thousands to Jesus Christ.
Pray for your children, for
your grandchildren, for your nephews and nieces, for your neighbor's children,
and for the children of your friends at work. Perhaps you'll be the only one
who ever prays for those children. That's how we're to bring children to Jesus,
by bringing them to his throne in prayer as Mrs. Spurgeon did.
And then we bring children to
Jesus by teaching them. Second Timothy 3:15 says, "From a child you have
known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation
through faith in Christ Jesus." We shall teach them many things, but let's
teach them this Book. Let that be the basis of our curriculum always. In the
Book of Deuteronomy, God's ancient people were told, "Teach your children
the things of God. Bind them upon your forehead, bind them upon your hands,
talk with them in the home, talk with them by the way." In other words,
don't teach just in formal sessions, but let conversation in the family often
be about the things of God.
And it isn't only the parents
who have that responsibility. I believe the church has it, too. Jesus said to
Peter, "Feed my lambs" as well as, "Feed my sheep." We
bring them to Jesus by bringing Jesus to them, by teaching them the Word and
the gospel. When they are skillfully prepared for each age, stories and songs will
stay in the memory, making indelible impressions.
When I was a teacher years ago,
my principal was not a believer. He told me that one day he'd been at home, and
his little grandson was there. And his grandson said, "Play the piano,
Grandpa." Grandpa was playing piano, and he swung into "Baa, Baa
The little chap said, "No,
play 'Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.'"
But Grandpa didn't know that
song, so he said, "I don't know that."
"Play it!" the lad
insisted. You see, he wasn't sanctified yet. He got cross. He demanded
"Jesus Loves Me," and Grandpa kept saying he didn't know that song.
Finally, with wide eyes the little boy said to his grandfather, "Doesn't
Jesus live in your heart?"
I'd had many a conversation
with this man, but I think that got through to him more than Harry Kilbride had
ever done. This little boy's father and mother were not believers, either. I
couldn't find out how he came to learn that song except that I suspect, from
what the grandfather told me, that some neighbor had a Bible club and had taken
all the children of the district who would come into her home and was teaching
them the old, old stories of the Bible and how to sing the gospel. Oh, it's a
And then we should bring them
to Jesus by loving them lavishly, because God loves us, and Jesus loved
children, and we should also. That's not opposed to discipline. Godly
discipline is an expression of love; it says in the Bible, "Whom the Lord
loves he disciplines." The Roman noblemen were very promiscuous. They had
many children who were bastards. They didn't discipline them. They may have
provided a few coins for their upkeep, but they weren't very interested in
those children. But those born to the wife, the sons and daughters who were
heirs and heiresses, they were disciplined and taught because they were loved.
But we should remember that God is
slow to anger, plenteous in mercy. It says, "As a father pitieth his
children, so the Lord pities them that fear him, for he knoweth our frame and
remembereth that we are dust." We're to always remember he's only little;
she's only in the fifth or sixth grade; he's going through that stormy time of
adolescence; she's in between being dependent and yearning for independence.
We're to be understanding.
And we're to remember that
Christianity is a faith of voluntary choice. Never abuse the mind or heart or
will of a child. There comes that point--and I don't know in any particular
life when that point will be--when sometimes we have to say, "You yourself
must decide." We have to keep hands off and let them choose, because we
can't make people into Christians. We can teach them the gospel from the
cradle. We can pray for them and with them, but we're always to remember that
our prayer is that they of their own choice will come to see their need of
Christ and put their trust in him. What joy and blessing are ours if they do!
We will have the joy of Jesus in this
My last point is that we shall have
the joy of the Lord Jesus, because he said he rejoiced that these things were
hidden from the wise and learned and revealed to babes, for such was the
Father's gracious will. He rejoiced when he saw that. We share the joy of the
parents. Is it not a parent's most desirable thing for a child that he should
be saved and given to Christ over and above academic prowess, sporting honors,
or career success? For what does it profit parents if a child gains the whole
world but loses his soul? Shall we not share the joy of the child himself,
because no one converted later in life doesn't wish his whole life had been
spent serving Christ.
D. L. Moody was once asked after a
mission, "Did you see any fruit from your evangelistic mission?"
He said, "Two and a half
"Do you mean," said his
questioner, "two adults and one child?"
"No," said Mr. Moody,
"two children and one adult. One of those who came forward had half his
life already gone. But two who trusted Jesus have their whole life before
Mr. Moody had the mind of Christ.
What is more valuable than the soul of a child? How could we possibly neglect
this ministry? Even the atheists and humanists and evolutionists will in
certain circumstances acknowledge this.
Picture with me a great museum that
is ablaze. There are priceless treasures in that place: paintings that can
never be replaced, documents of great historical importance, antique porcelain.
The fire tenders are coming from far and wide. "Save this, save that, save
the other!" people cry. Then in an upper-story window comes the face of a
little child. Don't you think that every man and woman in that crowd would say,
"Save the child!"?
Well, what about the atheists and
evolutionists and humanists? Wouldn't they say, "Never mind the child.
Children can be replaced. There are paintings in there that can't be replaced.
There are documents beyond price. There are too many children in the world
anyway, too many mouths to feed. Let the child bum." Only a fiend would
You see, an atheist may be one
thing in the lecture hall, but he'd be another thing in those circumstances.
All the humanity God had put within him that he tried by his pride to deny
would come welling up, and he would say, "Save the child!" He's not,
after all, a complex piece of protoplasm. He's a little person made in the
image of God. The world generally doesn't believe that, but we believe it.
That's why we have to preach this Book.
There is only a small percentage of
children in this area, I am told, who come under any gospel influence. And this
Book is not allowed into public schools. Who is telling them what's there,
then? And if we don't tell them, who will? We believe that children are of the
utmost importance to Almighty God. 'They're unique, priceless treasures.
And my last word is this: Have you
come as a little child to the Savior? No, I'm not asking if you've abandoned
your mind or thrown your intellect away. That's not what Jesus meant. Have you
come humbly, teachable, and with a tender conscience to a God that you know is
there and said, "I need you. I can't do it by myself. And I certainly
can't get to heaven all by myself"? "Except ye be converted and come
as a little child, you will not see the kingdom of God." But coming like
that, you will.