Sermon delivered June 21, 1997

by Pastor Kent Crutcher

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Who Needs Kids?

I met a lot of children last Sabbath and this morning, and I'm just going to let it be known straight up front so that you don't have to wonder, they're my favorite people. The rest of you are okay, but they are my favorites.

But who needs them? Really! You know, kids are getting worse these days. Haven't you felt that? Have you noticed? I mean, when I was younger we never even thought of doing some the things these guys are doing today. I found somebody...I'm, I'm going to quote them. "Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for older people. Children nowadays are tyrants. The contradict their parents, talk in front of company, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers." That was written by Plato, 2300 years ago.

I found another quote, "I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependant on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders. But the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint." That was written by Hesiod 800 years before Jesus was born. Have you noticed that kids are getting worse these days?

Evidently the disciples felt this same way. Let's look at the book of Mark, chapter ten. And I'm using the New International Version (NIV). And this is a story that is familiar to us all, and it's been read at many baby dedications. But we're going to spend a little bit of time today. Mark 10:13... "People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.' And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them."

Well, let's not sell the disciples short. We must realize that while they were behaving in this manner.... You know, they were all excited about Jesus being there; about His coming kingdom they had envisioned in their heads; and they were so busy getting Jesus prepared to take this kingdom and defeat the Romans, and all that they had in their minds. In fact just a few moment earlier they had discussed who was going to be greatest in that kingdom. And then they see these people trying to bring their children to Jesus... "He doesn't have time for this! You know, He's got a big kingdom to set up. You know, He is going to be our king. Um, take the kids away! We don't need any bother here." And they really believed that Jesus did not want to be bothered by these, you know, children. He had bigger things on His mind. So the disciples, you know, they thought they had Jesus' best interests at heart. So let's not make them out to be too big of villains.

And we also realize the people's point of view. It was customary for people to bring their children to a rabbi, and the rabbi would lay his hands on the children and give them a blessing. They didn't do this just once or twice, every time a parent saw a rabbi, "Would you bless my child?"

The disciples were really too young to benefit from meeting Jesus anyway. "We don't want to displease Jesus by interrupting Him." But it was with His disciples that Jesus was displeased. Jesus saw this as an occasion to teach His disciples something very important. He saw it as an occasion to give parents hope, and He saw it as an occasion to actually bless the children.

The hope that Jesus gave to the parents then, is hope for parents for all time. This hope is not only for the youngest of children. Ellen G White in the Desire of Ages states: "Some of the children had passed beyond the years of infancy to childhood and youth." "Jesus know the burdens of every mother's heart." "In every grief and every need He will comfort and help." No matter how old or how young our children are, we can still bring them to Jesus. I can guarantee that my mother brings me to Jesus every day, and I'm an old guy. I can bring my infant to Jesus. I don't care if your son or daughter is forty-six years old we can still bring them to Jesus. Don't stop praying for them.

In blessing the children, Jesus showed His concern and hope for the future of mankind. Unlike the quote we read from Hesiod, 800 years before Christ: "I see no hope for the future of our people if they're dependant on the frivolous youth of today..." He had no hope. Jesus had hope for the future of mankind in blessing the children.

I was in the book store last week. There on the shelf I saw a magazine called, Group. I had looked at the magazine before, but this one really caught my attention because the cover story stated, "Exposing bogus beliefs about kids." For those of you that are about my age and older, bogus means "false". That's the new lingo.

    Exposing bogus beliefs about kids,
  1. Kids don't know right from wrong. I'm not going to tell you everything the article said, but the gist of it was the Gallup Poll was done among teenagers. One of the questions of the poll was, What important questions do you ask each other in your age group? The question that far outweighed any others by 45% was, "What is right to do and what is wrong to do?" Kids are interested. They want to know. The number one question they ask each other, "Is this right, is this okay?"
  2. Kids have frustratingly short attention spans; the information age has changed the way our kids think. A typical issue of the Los Angeles Times contains more information in it than a seventeenth century Englishman could have had available to him in a lifetime. Children have adjusted their minds to be able to take in information from three, four, twenty different sources at the same time, and if they don't have that information flowing in they seem to appear bored. It's not that they're shallow. It's just that they don't have enough coming in. So that was the second bogus belief.
  3. Kids are less committed to the church. Interesting! The statistics show just the opposite. Statistics are showing that teenagers are coming to church more, and adults are coming to church less. So it's actually the adults that are becoming less committed to church: teenagers are becoming more committed; and that's amazing in an age when their parents aren't forcing them to be here as much as they used to.
  4. Kids are more selfish than ever before: very ME oriented. Volunteer organizations are reporting a fast, steady growth in teens volunteering for service in their community, and in foreign missions more than ever before.

Kids! Who needs them? Let's be like Jesus and show that we have hope for the future of mankind!

We can also learn from Jesus' blessing of the children that children should be taught about the gospel at the earliest of ages. Even though they are young, their hearts are open to divine influences that are there. Jesus knew that in planting seeds of truth into their young minds at the earliest of ages that they would grow to be His followers.

I remember walking in my back yard when I was about eight or nine years old, and I was thinking about different things, and one of the things I was thinking about was Jesus. I was wondering: I've never seen Jesus. I've never really heard Him talk to me. How do I know about Him? Well, I went and asked my Mom. I said, "Mom, when did I first know about Jesus? How do I know about Him?" And she told me, "Well, you know about Him because since you were a baby, your dad and I have been taking you to church; we've been singing songs; we've been having worship and that's how you got to know Jesus. Oh, I couldn't remember all that. But I still knew Jesus.

At the earliest influences children can learn to love Jesus. Unfortunately, the same is true of unholy influences. Be careful what the children see at the earliest of ages.

We must take the advice that Jesus gave His disciples: "Don't hinder the children that are coming to Me.." Jesus is drawing the children, yet all too often we hinder. We can keep children away by being cold or indifferent, or by speaking of religion as if they're too young to understand, or too young to even accept Christ. Ministry of Healing (EG White): "Never give them cause to feel that heaven would not be a pleasant place to them if you were there." Wow! That lays a burden, doesn't it? It does on me. Jesus warns us sharply about this in Mark 9:42: "And if anyone causes 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." Yes, this is talking about young Christians, but that's what children are, right? Young Christians. Be careful with our children.

Yes, children love Jesus, and Jesus loves the children. In fact He see's so much good in them that He sates that WE must become like them in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Let's look again at Mark 10:15. "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will (maybe enter it... no, there's a word there that is absolute! Will) NEVER enter it." It doesn't say sometimes, or it will be hard for them to enter it: It says that unless we accept the kingdom of God like a little child we will NEVER enter it.

There is evidently a trait possessed by children that adults have a harder time possessing. What is it? It's evidently what it take to get us into the kingdom of heaven. Let's turn to Romans 6:23. "For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23 tells us that Heaven is a Gift from God. Mark 10:15 says that we need to receive that gift, heaven, like a child. So the child-like trait must be in the way a child receives a gift.

You know, I don't think I have ever seen a child refuse a gift. Have you? Open hands reaching out! "Yes! I will take that! It will be mine! I'll have it forever!" No, adults are different. "Oh no! I just couldn't!!! No, it's much too nice." Or. "I really don't deserve it. No, but I didn't get you anything." You know, adults... I'm ashamed I think this way. I dread birthdays more than anything. One reason... I don't mind getting older: that's not the problem. It's that people give me gifts. My family gives me gifts. And I haven't gotten them anything. I feel awkward. I'm opening up presents and I'm not giving anything back. And I don't like that feeling. So don't give me anything for my birthday. It makes me uncomfortable. I'm not even going to tell you what it is.

Christmas is a horror story for adults because we're afraid somebody is going to give us something, and we didn't get them something. So every year we spend more and more money, accumulating more and more things just in case somebody gives us something: we want to be prepared. That's why fruit cakes were invented. You know, every year you've got these little packages around the house just in case somebody show up bringing you something. "OH, well, we have something for you, too. There."

Adults are bad this way. We do not like to receive gifts because we feel obligated. We feel like we're undeserving or we're embarrassed that we didn't give something back. My friends, heaven is a gift, and adults have a hard time receiving it. That's where righteousness by works comes in. "Lord, let me do something. I've got to work for this just a little bit. You know, I've got to do something good. And Lord, notice that I've done more good things than I have bad things. Does that get me a little closer to heaven?" No. Adults are suspicious of gifts. We wonder what the catch is. What is it that we have to do now to deserve this.

But children accept gifts gladly, without suspicion, and without trying to pay for it in some way. I have yet to give one of my children a gift and then they try to repay me for it. It's always "Did you get me something else, too? There's more, I'm sure." That's the way we need to be with God. "I want more of this gift of eternal life. I want to be in heaven. I want to be there now. Give it to me now. I know I don't deserve it. I know I can't pay you back for it. But I want it, and I will take it, and it will be mine forever." Nothing hurts the giver more than the recipient trying to pay for the gift. Can you imagine how God must feel when someone tries to work their way into heaven - after all the grief that He went through to make Heaven a gift: He gave His only begotten Son to make heaven free to us because He knew that that was the only way we could ever get in? And yet we try to pay for it. "Well, let me just do this." "No, no, no. If you love Me you'll keep my commandments. I want your love, and then the commandments will come and all the good deeds will come out of your love for me, but it won't get you to heaven. Just evidence that I live in your heart. Don't try to pay Me for heaven. You can't afford it.

We can become so self-sufficient that our pride won't let us even accept a gift from God. But children have not yet reached that state. They accept the gift of eternal life gladly. They have enough faith to take the Giver at His word. This is the kind of trait that we must have before we can enter into the kingdom of heaven. "For by grace are ye saved, through faith - not of works lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8,9

A French businessman found that he was doing business in Great Britain often. In fact he found that he was visiting England and staying there more than he was in France, itself. And finally he decided at the coaxing of his cohorts and fellow businessmen, "You might just as well move your citizenship here, and just live here." Well, he really had to think about it a long time because he, you know, France was his home. But yet he was in England more. And finally the day came when he decided to have his citizenship transferred to England. He went through all the process, the rigorous testing and that goes with a citizenship change. Finally the day came. He took the oath to become a citizen of the Untied Kingdom of England. Then one of his buddies asked, "How does it feel? Yesterday you were a Frenchman, today you're an Englishman." You know, Frenchmen and Englishmen have never gotten along real well. "How does it feel? You're no longer an Englishman and now you're an Englishman." And the man said, "It feels great!" "Well, we thought you'd feel, like homesick." "No, this is great! Yesterday, Waterloo was my defeat. Today it is my victory. I am now an Englishman."

If you have not yet accepted the gift of God with the faith of a child, won't you do it today? Then you can say, "Yesterday my life was a defeat, I belonged to Satan. But today it is a victory because I have accepted the gift of citizenship in the kingdom of God. Not through anything I can do but through accepting with the faith of a child what Jesus did for me."

Who needs kids? Friends, we do. Because kids have the key. If we can watch them take a gift: they have the key to our salvation because we must accept it as they have.

No, we shouldn't see children through he eyes of the world, but through the eyes of Jesus. They can teach us how to believe.

                Doubt sees the obstacles,
                    faith sees the way!
                Doubt sees the darkest night,
                    faith sees the day!
                Doubt dreads to take a step,
                    faith soars on high!
                Doubt questions: Who believes?
                    Faith answers, "I."

Scripture:    Mark 10:13-16
Opening Hymn: #341  "To God Be the Glory"
Closing Hymn: #348  "The Church Has One Foundation"

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