Of Such Is The Kingdom

 Matthew 18:1-6

 

Our theme for this period of study is of the character necessary for entrance into the kingdom.   The words of our text were not addressed to the promiscuous multitude. I make this point merely to point out that their first application was  to Jesus' chosen disciples.  This fact makes them all the more remarkable and weighty.  I want to impress upon you this text hear it again:

 

Please turn to Matthew chapter 18:1 

1At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 

When the disciples would know who is the greatest in the Kingdom..  Christ startles them with these words, taking them as it were back to their childhood.  Except ye be converted, (except you turn  strefw  turn back toward childhood  and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."

 

The inquiry of this meditation is how a man may enter into the Kingdom of God. Taking  the affirmation of my text away from its context for a moment, we hear the great King answering our inquiry:   Except ye be turn,  and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

Now our danger as I see it is, that we seek to read into this story and into these words certain generally accepted theological ideas. I would like for us to get back to the simplicity of the Lord's statement.

 

The matter of first importance is that we keep before us the picture of Jesus with His disciples around Him. They had come with an inquiry. He took a boy — our translation says a child, but the pronoun is "masculine gender" —  The record does not tell  who the boy was specifically, in all probability he was playing near at hand or standing at the edge of the crowd which had gathered around the Lord.   The point is this Jesus did not take  a child  specifically and especially prepared for this  occasion,  not a child who had been specially schooled in religion, not a child from the temple even….

 

Jesus took a boy from  the crowd a young boy, a boy at play and set in the midst of His disciples,  and said: "You ask Me who is the greatest in the Kingdom. I want you to know and remember, that unless you  turn back toward childhood  and  become like this child, you cannot enter into the Kingdom."

 

In this statement, Jesus declared forevermore the child character is:    THE CHARACTER SUCH AS ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM.  I am not taking up the question of how a man can be restored to childhood, I am simply insisting upon the teaching of the Lord as to the necessity for such restoration.

 

To Enter The Kingdom, A Man Must Have The Character Of A Little Child!    I wish I could startle each of us here with this idea. Beloved, centuries have passed since the Lord said this, and we have not begun to understand it. If we should like to show someone the character necessary to enter the Kingdom, we would probably look to scripture, to one of the disciples, we might look to one in our congregation, and say "That, that is what you need to become to enter into the Kingdom of heaven."

 

But Christ did not point to on of the great Bible characters, as Abraham, Moses, or a King David,  He took a child and put him in the midst of the quarreling, prominent seeking disciples, — He set him in their midst that they might observe and learn.

 

I'm thinking of the time when the Lord Himself but a child in the midst of the doctors (Luke 2:46)  Jesus set a child in their midst and He said,

"You ask about greatness in My Kingdom, you  cannot enter until , you become like this little child. "

 

 What stress our Lord  lays upon this!   Followers of our Lord need to be kept in awe of this teaching. The disciples when they put forth this question, believed themselves sure of the kingdom of heaven.. They were ambitious of being greatest in the kingdom, “Lord who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

 

They meant not in character, not who is the purest, humblest one among us, But by name, Lord who is to have the chief seat in the Kingdom,  who is to be great?

 2And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted,(turn again) and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

  Now let us diligently endeavor to discover what this really means and give the lesson application. What is the character that Jesus declared to be necessary in order to enter His Kingdom?  That of a child…. to cover all the characteristics of a child would be difficult in the allotted time. I am told the people who can tell you most  about children are those who have none….. They deliver most of the lectures to mothers.

 

I remember a preacher talking to me a number of years ago,  how while still a young man he often preached to the parents of the congregation about how to raise their children. At the time he had none. A few years latter, a different preacher, with children, not so quick to offer advice.

 

 But, is there a child here, is there a child in your home, put that child in your midst…  your child, nephew… if he is mischievous, all the better—  put him in your midst.  Look upon him, that child in you lap,  is the revelation of character that Christ demands of each of us in order to enter the Kingdom.

 

Look at the simplest things about the child. There is a perfect naturalness to every child .. and we will enlarge on these in a moment.  There is an impressionable nature about children; Every child has a natural confidence, and every child is imperfect.  Please bear with me on this one…..

 

First it’s naturalness.  The child answers every impulse of his being. By this I mean,  when a child is curious, he will investigate,   He will ask you a million questions,  and most of them are  "WHY?". He asks you "Why is the sky blue?"…. You answer "because God made it so"… he answers back … BUT WHY.. and it doesn't matter what you answer, he will continue to ask why.  He is curious, anxious to learn. It is not until he gets older that he will refrain from asking..

 

If a child loves you, he will fling his arms around you and tell you so. It is not until we get older that we men have reservations about speaking of manifesting our love for another.

 

There is in this child a perfect naturalness. By this I say, the life of a child is a life devoid of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is acting a part. A child will be himself at home or in front of others. There is no hypocrisy in a child.

 

A child is impressionable, amenable to training, soft to molding and receptive. I quote a statement of a Roman Catholic bishop…."Give me your child until he is seven, and I care not who has him afterwards. I will have made an impression upon him for life."   I have no hesitation is saying that environment and training are  far stronger than heredity. If you begin soon enough, you can mold  and teach any child. 

 

There are men and women here  in this worship service today

Who  are Christians because the hand of a godly parent was placed upon his character early enough to mold that direction. If there were no other, I am that man. I am Christian today because from my earliest years of recollection the hands of godly parents were placed upon me.  Sometimes with a switch or belt therein.

 

The child is naturally plastic, impressionable,  confident and trusting.  I know as I speak that there are children, raised in influences that ought not be… but even they if rescued and placed in the proper environment, are impressionable,  and have the capacity for faith and confidence.

 

 The child is imperfect. ….. There is nothing wrong with the child, allow me to illustrate. A child lying in his mother's arms is not perfect. Of course you must not tell the mother so. It is absolutely perfect, but it is not PERFECTED.  There is in that child that we admire greatly, that perfect child the potentiality for a grander perfection in days ahead. There is room for development and growth, we beam with joy as we ask "Little Johnny what are you going to be when you go up?"   "A FIREMAN" he replies..  Now Jesus said to His disciples

Except ye be turn  and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven ¾  

 

The character that Christ demands for entrance into the Kingdom !   Is that of perfect naturalness.  a character that is impressionable, a character which has the elements of confidence and trust.. The character which is not yet perfected, but able to be so.  Christ demands the things that make it possible for Him to command, guide and develop and ultimately crown in Glory.

Except ye be converted, (except ye turn) and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven ¾

 

Now that we may return to that with still greater force, let us go one step further:   If that be the character demanded of the Lord listen again to the conditions

Except ye turn and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven ¾

 

In this condition, there are two things we need to notice. First there is the NECESSITY FOR CHANGE. Secondly that change is one that carries us back to first principles, or back to a childhood nature. Conversion makes us in character like little children,  trusting, confident,  "careful for nothing,  but asking in everything".. We must be children, void of malice, and governable..

1 Cor. 14:20

20Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. 

 

 So we need to turn back to naturalness, away from that which is its opposite, hypocrisy     Perhaps I startle and even offend you with this statement. MOST OF US  ARE HYPOCRITES TO SOME DEGREE, Hypocrisy has fine shades and there are subtle degrees of it.         Hypocrisy  is simply PLAYING THE PART,  acting. The man who masquerades as a follower of Christ, and yet lacks spirituality , we denounce him quickly .

 

 Again-  Here is a man who makes no profession of goodness,  while in the deepest sense, his heart cries out for God, I have seen men, who look you in the face and say "I'm an atheist" yet in time of deepest need, calls upon His name. That is hypocrisy.

 

There are then numbers of people who listening to the gospel, are deeply touched and moved by its messages, who nevertheless leave the building and go back to former ways. Why? Because for years they have taken up a certain position and if they confessed that they needed a Savior, and yielded to Him,  it would give lie to the position formerly held.

 

There are hundreds of "church members" who need to be converted. Their difficulty lies in the fact that they are member of the church, but they are hypocrites.  They are calling a Name that they do no hallow.  46And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?  Luke 6:46

 

Jesus calls us from all forms of hypocrisy.  "except ye turn and become as little children,  plastic, yielding ye cannot enter My Kingdom"

 

We must not only turn from hypocrisy, but we must turn from hardness to impressionableness

 There are those who have so hardened them-selves against the message of Christ,   Have so hardened their hearts in the face of the gospel, that they can  see and not see, and hearing they hear not.  The Great King stands at the entrance, and as we try to enter with all our pride, and hypocrisy—  Jesus says:

 Luke 18:17

17Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

 

These words are harsh, they scorch me now as I preach.  I become tremendously conscious as I stand before you of how little I know of the child like heart I once possessed.

 

 How can I ever find my way back to childhood, back to the child like character? To this inquiry let us hear the answer. John 3:1-3

1There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

 

Let us put the two things together:

Except ye be converted,(turn again) and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Except a man be born again, (born anew) he cannot see the kingdom of God.

 

The human responsibility is revealed in the word "converted, (turn again)" the Divine activity is indicated in the phrase born again, (born anew). I can turn back in strong desire, I can turn back in solemn dedication, I can turn back in simple obedience. But I can never become a child until He has touched me.

5 Behold, I make all things new…….. 6And He said unto me. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.   Revelation 21:5-6

 

 When I am willing to be taught, willing to be led, when I am willing to put the crown upon His brow,  I have become a child in conversion.  There is a beautiful  figure in the Old Testament of the Potter and Clay. The clay is marred, but the hands of the Potter are upon it to reform it making it what the desire of the Potter is.

 

Occasionally I turn to 2 Corinthians 5:17 and read with astonishment: “17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. “  Are you willing to be taught, are you the kind of character that is governable? 

Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 

  Won't you obey the Lord today? —

And become a Christian..  You must hear the gospel John 6:44-45 ;  By hearing faith is produced;  Romans 10:17; But faith alone will; not save anyone;  Jesus said that we must repent Luke 13:3,  Having repented of our sins, we must confess that Christ is the Son of God,  Acts 8:37, Now we are ready to complete our obedience to Christ in baptism. Jesus said "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Mark 16;15-16

 

Are you a Christian?

contact:: Ron Cope minister

email:  RonCope@chestnutmtchurchofchrist.com

phone:  (678)617-9658