But Jesus called the children to him and said, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. Luke 18:16-17
In the midst of busy ministry to crowds so large that He could hardly get away, Jesus took time to bless children. He was willing to make others wait in order to pay special attention to the small. He took the opportunity to teach that unless we receive the kingdom of God as children, we will never see it. These verses remind me of two of the beatitudes, blessed are the poor in spirit, and blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt 5:3, 6). Children are dependent on their parents for everything. They have no ability to care for or provide for themselves, yet they do not live in servile guilt and shame or unstable insecurity. They eagerly receive and expect the love and care of their parents. Jesus taught the blessing God the Father has for those who depend on Him and trust Him. He demonstrated Gods great love for the least by valuing children who may not have been on the disciples list of priorities, but were on the Fathers heart.
This month Andrew and I sat in a home at 9:30 in the morning, as we had for a number of months, teaching this Bible story to a group of addicts. We meet with them early in the morning because most of them began drinking as soon as they woke up. H______ was already one-third of the way through a forty of beer by the time we arrived. It would have been easy to give up or grow discouraged, but though they had often refused to change and were not ready to give their lives to Jesus, they had a spiritual hunger and wanted to hear the Word of God.
That morning we were reading two stories, the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector who went to the temple to pray and the story of Jesus blessing the children from Luke 18. E______ listened attentively. She had been the most responsive and had stopped drinking, though she still struggled with pain pill addiction. She was greatly touched by the story and after we finished reading the stories she asked, That one guy walked away right with God. How does that happen? Though we had explained the Gospel many times, I immediately knew that this time her spiritual ears were open, and she was ready to hear.
We explained the gospel in a clear and simple way, using the story to explain how we are justified by humbly accepting Gods mercy and righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. She said that she believed the gospel message, but wanted it to really change her life. We explained that rather than just acknowledging the gospel as true, we must give our hearts and lives to Jesus as Lord. When we put our lives in Christs hand, He is free to mold us and make us more and more like Him. She became more and more excited as we talked. I asked her if she was ready to give her whole heart and life to Jesus. She said she was but wondered if she should change some things in her life first. We explained that if she gave her life to Jesus as she was that He would help her make the changes in Her life. She agreed and offered her whole heart and life to God.
Since that day E______ has been reading the Bible on her own, witnessing to her friends, growing in freedom from drugs, and experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit about things she needs to change. Im so blessed and encouraged by what God is doing in her life, and Im so thankful that God is willing to take us as we are and mold us into the image of Christ. E______ came to Jesus as a little child, dependent on His power to set her free and change her life. God has taken her in and is fathering her into health and a full life in Christ Jesus.