AS A LITTLE CHILD

“Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”
Luke 18:17

The disciples struggled to comprehend the ways of the Savior. A few verses before, our text records that people were bringing infants to Jesus that He might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. They could not understand why Jesus would have the time or the interest in little ones. Jesus responded by saying that the children should not be hindered from coming to Him, and then these words, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”

This statement should make it clear to us that children can come to Jesus. He wants them to come to Him. Of course, they must be able to recognize their guilt before God and realize that the death of Christ alone is the payment for their sin. They must then by faith receive Him as Savior. Nowhere does the Bible teach of infant baptism or any form of salvation except repentance and faith. Children can come to Jesus as they are convicted of their sin and are drawn to the Savior. We must all “receive the kingdom of God as a little child.”

This was an interesting concept to the disciples and to others in our generation. The model that we are given for how to receive the kingdom is a child, not an adult. What might we learn from this? Receiving Christ and His gift of salvation is not about natural ability or maturity, for children are not able to do many things that adults can do. Salvation is God’s miraculous work. Nor is the new birth based on human understanding or intellect. Salvation is not reserved for those who perfectly understand or are exceptionally learned. Regeneration is not simply an academic decision based on acquired information. Salvation is an eternal work of the Spirit of God, wrought in the heart of a repentant sinner, who is sincerely trusting in Jesus Christ as his Savior.

Coming to Christ “as a little child” reminds us that the Gospel is simple. Too many seek to make the Gospel seem complex or complicated, when it is just the opposite. To come to Him “as a little child” implies that we come without prejudice or pride. We must come to Him in meekness and humility. One cannot come to Christ with aims or hopes of ambition, or with deceit and hypocrisy. We must lay aside our pretense and come, “as a little child.”

GIVE ME THINE HEART

“My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.”
Proverbs 23:26

The heart is the center of our being. It is the place of devotion and affection. To whom should we give our hearts? This should be the appeal of every sincere parent, “My son, give me thine heart.” The Proverbs give many instances of the father and mother instructing, warning, and guiding the children. Children should give their hearts to the parents.

It should be natural for children to hold their parents in the highest regard. The desire of children ought to be to please their parents above all else. However, sin can certainly damage that relationship. The last words of the Old Testament, referring to John the Baptist, say, “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:6).

This message definitely needs to be taken seriously in our day. Fathers need to turn their hearts to their children. Children need the love and attention of their parents. And children need to turn their hearts to their parents. This is something parents should be vigilant about. The Lord wants the parents to maintain a very special place in the hearts of their children. However, the temptation is real and powerful for young people to give their hearts to their peers. It is dangerous, yet very common, for children to be more concerned about pleasing their friends than their parents.

Not only should the hearts of children be given to their parents, but we all should know also that God wants us to give Him our hearts. This is certainly the will of our Heavenly Father. “My son, give me thine heart.” We are to give our hearts to God. He wants, and deserves, to have first place in our lives. The safest place for our devotion and affection is with God. We ought to love Him supremely. We should strive to please Him above all others. Neither anyone nor anthing should mean more to us than our Lord.

It is possible for us to be faithful in our church attendance, serve the Lord in various ways, and sing songs of praise to God and not really have our hearts surrendered to Christ. There will always be things such as responsibilities, friends, hobbies, careers, etc., that compete for the place that God wants in our hearts. We must not only guard our hearts, but make sure our Heavenly Father has them.

STIFFNECKED AND UNCIRCUMCISED IN HEART

“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.”
Acts 7:51

Stephen was giving his powerful defense of his faith in the Savior. His critics had falsely accused Stephen. They twisted his words and recruited false witnesses in an attempt to discredit his message of truth. Before the religious council, this man of God gave a summary of God’s dealings with Israel, including their habitual departures and idolatries. Stephen then spoke out boldly against the hypocrisy of the Jews and their role in crucifying the Lord Jesus Christ. In describing their stubbornness and carnality, he referred to them as being “stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears.” Of course, they did not appreciate Stephen’s assessment. His critics began to cry out against Stephen with a loud voice, ran upon him, took him out of the city, and murdered him by stoning.

How could they be so blind, so deceived, and so cruel? The Spirit of God led Stephen to call them “stiffnecked.” This word is used several times in the Bible and is another way of saying “stubborn.” These Jews were obstinate. They were not willing to hear the truth. They were hardhearted and deceived. In Exodus 32:9, “…the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people.” God Himself calls them stiffnecked. They were not willing to listen to God
or His messengers.

This is a dangerous place to be. They were resisting the message and the messengers, but in reality, they were not willing to listen to God. Our text says of them, “ye do always resist the Holy Ghost.” In their stubbornness, they were unwilling to hear what God was saying. Though the Jews practiced circumcision as a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham, God was more interested in the condition of their hearts.

God wants our hearts to be yielded and submissive to His truth. The Scripture’s reference to them as “uncircumcised in heart and ears” means they were carnal and fleshly in their hearts and listening habits. They could not or would not hear because of the carnality of their hearts and minds. They were thus resisting what God wanted to do in their lives. Resistance to the preacher usually indicates resistance to God. Our attitude influences our ability to hear. If we are not careful, our stubbornness, pride, or carnality can cause us to resist what God is saying.

MY MEDITATION OF HIM SHALL BE SWEET

“My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.”
Psalm 104:34

We are frequently reminded of the importance of our thought life. Our minds can easily wander. We can find ourselves thinking of negative things or daydreaming aimlessly. Our thinking will ultimately influence our emotions or feelings, and finally our actions. To gain control of our spiritual lives demands that we must first get control of our minds. Peter said it this way: “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind” (I Peter 1:13). We have to pull our thoughts together.

The passage we are considering is concerned with more than just casual thoughts, but with “meditation.” “Meditation” means “to contemplate, to dwell on, and to think through.” Meditation involves a deliberate attempt to keep our minds focused on a particular subject or thought, allowing the thoughts to muse or ponder them deeply. In our text, the psalmist gives us some great advice on the content with which our minds should be absorbed: “My meditation of him.” Our meditation, and our
contemplation, should be of Christ.

Meditation alone is not the answer if we are not meditating on the proper things. We are taught in other places to meditate on the Word of God, as well as meditate on Him. We should meditate on His goodness. Meditate on the sacrifice of the cross and the sufficiency of His atoning death. Meditate on the power of His resurrection. Meditate on His intercessory ministry for us in Heaven. Meditate on His promise to return for us.

Our “meditation of him shall be sweet.” It is pleasant to meditate upon the Lord that we serve and ponder His infinite grace and mercy. We also see in our Scripture the fruit of our thoughts. “I will be glad in the LORD.” Our meditation on Him will produce joy and peace in our hearts. There are so many opportunities in our lives to worry and be stressful. Many things seek to steal our joy and victory as Christians. When we allow our minds to be dominated with the negative and are consumed with our problems, it is no wonder that our gladness is replaced with sadness. Meditating on Christ will not cause our problems to disappear, but it will help us keep the right perspective as far as our problems are concerned. There is Someone larger than our struggles. Think about it. Think about Him.

THEY WERE SORE DISPLEASED

“And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased.”
Matthew 21:15

The religious leaders were more than a little unhappy with Jesus, “they were sore displeased.” They did not at all approve of our Savior. Jesus is so wonderful, one would think it difficult to be displeased with Him. But in fact, many are. Why would anyone be displeased with Jesus? They were displeased because He had criticized their religious practices. In the verses that precede our passage, Jesus had overthrown the tables of the moneychangers and accused them of making the temple a “den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13).

People often are displeased when someone questions their false religion, even if it is Jesus who is the One exposing them. We should always be willing to allow the Lord to show us if our beliefs are wrong, our emphasis is wrong, or if our worship is displeasing to Him. Too many religions are simply following the traditions of men rather than obeying the Words of God. Religion can become ritualistic and formalistic, it can be lukewarm and lifeless.

Christian worship should be spiritual and sincere. These religious leaders were “sore displeased” with the exuberant worship of the people, as they were enthusiastically praising the Lord, “crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David.” Most of us would agree that worship, which is more emotional than spiritual, could be inappropriate. We are to worship God in the Spirit. However, we are emotional creatures. There is nothing that says that worship should be dead and lifeless, more concerned with ritual than being meaningful.

Also, those who were displeased with Jesus did not approve of the fact that He was healing the blind and lame in the temple. This is difficult to comprehend. Why would someone not rejoice that hurting people were being helped? To these people, their religion was paramount. It took precedence over all things, even the needs of people. In addition, the miracles of Jesus threatened their religion because multitudes of people were being attracted to Him. They could not be pleased because of
their jealousy. In a sense, they were more concerned with their program than in the Son of God and His purpose, and were therefore “sore displeased.”

THE REWARD OF OBEDIENCE

“And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee…”
Genesis 22:16, 17a

The faith of Abraham is the attribute that he is best known for. By faith, he left his home in Mesopotamia to settle in the Land of Promise. By faith, he and Sarah were blessed with a son when he was one hundred years of age. Then, God commanded Abraham to take his miracle son, Isaac, and offer him for a burnt offering. This is one of the great acts of obedience in the Bible and pictures the sacrifice of God sending His Son to die for our sins. Abraham promptly obeyed, and just prior to his
carrying out the order, an angel stopped him and Abraham was directed to offer a ram instead. In referring to Abraham’s obedience, we have a part of God’s response in our text. God said, “because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee.”

There is great reward to those who obey. We will never know the full blessing of God in our lives if we are not willing to obey Him. God’s commands for us are for our good and for His glory. It is always best to obey. Some things are easier to obey than others. Undoubtedly you can think now of many areas in your life where you have been walking in obedience to God. Thank God for that. Whether we recognize it or not, God will certainly bless the obedience of His children. For instance, He said of those who obey Him in tithing, “prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).

God wants to bless His children, but He will not bless disobedience. Some things are much harder to obey than others. Perhaps, as you read this, you are thinking of such an area where you struggle to obey. It will require much more faith and sacrifice than most other things. Such was the case with Isaac. God was asking Abraham to give what was most precious to him. This is one of the lessons we should remember from this story. The more difficult the act of obedience, the more sure we can be of God’s blessing and reward. Of course, we do not obey just to get a blessing. We obey because we love God and want to please Him, but rewards will come.

PREPARING THE HEART FOR TRUTH

“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.”
Ezra 7:10

Ezra was a priest and a scribe. His occupation was in the studying and transcribing of the Word of God. “This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given” (Ezra 7:6). The journey from Babylon to Jerusalem took four months. Ezra gives us a transforming truth regarding our preparation to receive God’s Word. Ezra wisely recognized the condition of his heart as it related to the Word of God. He realized that the study and understanding of the Bible was not merely academic or intellectual. He “prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD.”

The Bible is God’s Book. It is a spiritual Book, a supernatural Book that cannot be comprehended on a purely academic level. God reveals His Truth to us from the Word of God. We should seek to understand the Bible and to learn and apply the principles of Scripture. The Holy Spirit is given to us to reveal God’s truth to us. The unsaved man does not have the spiritual capacity to understand the Word of God. The condition of our hearts will determine our ability to receive God’s truth. Ezra also prepared His heart to “do” the law of the LORD. Not only is the heart a factor in learning truth, it is also key in the matter of obeying truth. It is one thing to know what God says; it is another to do what God says. For man to consistently obey the Word of God and follow its teaching requires a heart that is surrendered and yielded to God and truth.

Lastly, Ezra prepared his heart to “teach” the Word of God. To teach the Bible is a tremendous responsibility. One cannot communicate God’s truth effectively in the energy of the flesh. Ezra was what one might consider a “professional” Bible teacher, yet he dared not teach without his heart being right. Before attempting to teach the Bible, the heart of the teacher should be prepared. It is inconceivable that we would undertake opening the Word of God and seeking to explain the truths contained therein without seeking to have a prepared heart. As we consider the importance of the heart of the teacher, should we not also think of the heart of the student? If we are going to get the most of our Bible reading and study, as well as the preaching services, we must come with prepared hearts.

LOOKING AT THINGS UNSEEN

“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
II Corinthians 4:18

This passage gives us a key factor that will greatly affect the life of faith we are called to live. We should be learning to look at the things that cannot be seen, and training ourselves not to look so much at the things that can be seen. We are a part of two different worlds. We are a part of this physical, natural, and temporal world. The natural world can be seen and experienced with our natural senses. However, as Christians, we are also a part of a spiritual, supernatural, and eternal world. This spiritual world is just as real, but cannot be seen with the natural eye.

The easiest things to look at are those things that are seen. For instance, we can look at our apparent resources. They can be seen. We look at our obvious weaknesses and incapability. They can be seen. We look at the way we feel. That can be known on a natural level. The more difficult things to set our attention on are the things that are not readily seen. What are some examples of things that we are to look at, that cannot be naturally seen? The eternal destinies of men, Heaven, and hell cannot be presently seen, but are real, nonetheless. The cross of our Savior cannot be viewed with the natural eye, but is the real and powerful source of our salvation and victory. The promise of the Holy Spirit’s presence, leadership, and power cannot be seen. The grace to endure trials cannot be seen. The strength to persevere cannot be seen, but it is real. Eternal reward cannot be seen, but it is certainly a promised reality.

Where should we devote the majority of our attention – to the things that are naturally seen or the things that are not seen? We are to look at the things that cannot be seen. God wants us to focus on the things that are eternal. The more we set our affections on the things that are unseen, the more real they will be in our lives. How then can we see things that are unseen? First, we see them as they are revealed in the Word of God. Secondly, we see them by faith. By faith, we gaze upon the things that are eternal. In order to look at the things that are not seen, we must look away from the things that are seen. By faith, we turn our focus from the physical and the natural, and set our attention on the unseen and eternal spiritual realities.

THEY TURNED BACK, SEEKING HIM

“And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.”
Luke 2:45

No matter how many times we read the great stories of the Bible, they always have something to say to us. Mary and Joseph, presumably with Jesus, were returning to Nazareth from Jerusalem. They had made the sixty-five mile trip to observe the Passover feast. Jesus was twelve years old at the time. Joseph and Mary had assumed that Jesus was with their company as they journeyed, but after a day’s traveling, they realized He was not present. Our Bible verse states that, “When they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.” They backtracked and eventually found Him in the temple, in dialogue with the scholars. How relieved they must have been to once again have Jesus in their presence.

Have you ever felt like Jesus was missing from your company as you traveled this road of life? Those who are saved have this wonderful promise, that He will never leave us nor forsake us. We will never be without His promised presence in our lives. However, there are times when He seems to have distanced Himself from us as far as our consciousness or experience of His presence is concerned. We have all felt the absence of His blessing, and wondered if something was amiss.

What should we do when there is something missing in our walk with Him? The Bible says that Joseph and Mary “turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.” We have to go back to where we might have left off from walking with Him, and seek Him. What an important privilege it is to seek Him. He wants us to seek Him and to seek Him with all our hearts. It may be that when we turn back to seek Him, we will find the very place that we left His will, disobeyed Him, or walked away from His will. When that occurs, we need to honestly confess our sin and begin to walk humbly and obediently with Jesus again.

When Joseph and Mary found Jesus, He said to them, “wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business.”(49) The same is true in our lives. If we expect to walk close to the Savior, we are going to have to stay close to the Father’s business. Jesus will always be near the Lord’s will for our lives. When we depart from the Father’s will and decide rather to pursue our agenda, we might very well find that Jesus is not walking as closely to us as He once was.

HE WAS INDUSTRIOUS

“And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour: and Solomon seeing the young man that he was industrious, he made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph.”
I Kings 11:28

Solomon did not follow the Lord as he should have, and as a result, God took the kingdom from his hands and Jeroboam eventually became the king of Israel. Jeroboam, who had many undesirable qualities, was recognized and promoted because of a particular character trait that he possessed: “He was industrious.” With all of his faults, Jeroboam was commended for his industry.

This is a required characteristic for God’s servants. The word industry means “diligence, business, or hard work.” There is much in the Scripture about the virtue of industry or having a strong work ethic. When God placed Adam in the garden, He gave him a job to do. Jesus said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). It is not coincidental that the Lord’s work is called “work.” It takes work to do what God would have us to do. Of course, we can do nothing without the
Lord. God has a work for us to do, and He even works through us. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

It is apparent to most of us that our society is lacking much in this category. Too many people want something for nothing, or want to be rewarded for laziness. Just as the Bible has much to say about hard work, it is not silent about slothfulness. “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute” (Proverbs 12:24). Slothfulness is sin. Solomon could see Jeroboam’s industry. People notice when others are hard workers, and they also notice when people are lazy.

As Christians, it is important that we have a good testimony in regard to our work ethic. Employers will notice and appreciate it when their employees are industrious. It resulted in a promotion for Jeroboam. One of the most important things a parent can teach their children is the value of industry. If we have not trained our children to labor, we have not prepared them for life. Our text says that when Solomon saw “the young man that he was industrious, he made him ruler.” A person who is not willing to work will not go far in life, nor will he be useful to the work of God.