Message preached on Sunday, October 4, 2009
In our world today there is a lot of discussion about children at risk. Actually, they’ve always been at risk. For instance, in Old Testament times some people worshipped Molech, described as a “detestable god” (1 Ki.11:5, 7: 2 Ki. 23:13). The sacrifices offered to this god were a person’s own son or daughter. Down through the ages children have been sacrificed with a view to gaining the favour of gods or for the appeasement of demons. In modern times, Tantric rituals have claimed children as sacrifices, and perverts have abused children sacrificing them to lust, and have got away with little or no punishment.
The Bible reveals God to be One Who proclaims the worth of children. They have an ordained place in God’s plan for the created world. God did ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac, but that was only to test him, to see whether he would God before his son, and whether he would trust God to keep His promise that Isaac would indeed be his heir. Having seen Abraham’s heart, God didn’t let him go through with the test. He stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son to gain God’s favour, and in a way when God stopped him from sacrificing his son it was in the end an object lesson for all God’s people that God didn’t approve of human sacrifices to gain His blessing.
The Bible reveals God to be the God who proclaimed the worth of children. For God children are not consumables or expendables. Children don’t have to wait until they grow up to be adults before they are included in God’s plans and programmes. Children are included by God because God is Who He is.
The God Family
The biblical revelation of God was in three stages. First, God revealed His transcendence─ that He is God above all, that God is Creator, Sustainer, and Protector. In the second stage of the divine revelation, God’s presence was experienced by people among whom God was incarnate in the person of Jesus. God was God with us, taking part in all our experiences and feeling for us. God cares enough to be our Saviour. In the final stage, God revealed His immanence. He came into human lives as the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, who indwells those who received Jesus as Lord. The Creator, the Saviour and the Sanctifier are three distinct persons, but are completely one, each living in the others (see Jn.10: 31, 38).
The Bible reveals that God is one being in three persons. God is triune. The notion of Trinity is one that is totally incomprehensible to the human mind. Humans are able to comprehend the concepts of singularity or multiplicity and therefore human speculation can come up with doctrines of God being just one person or of the multiplicity of gods. That God is triune is pure revelation. If God hadn’t revealed this truth, we would have just remained with our speculations.
But God has shown us these things through the Spirit.
The Spirit searches out all things, even the deep secrets of God. Who knows the thoughts that another person has? Only a person’s spirit that lives within him knows his thoughts. It is the same with God. No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God (1 Cor.2:10-11, New Century Version).
The best known definition of God is that “God is love” (1 Jn.4:8). Most people don’t know that it is from the Bible. Many reverse the order of the words and think that when they say “love is God” it has the same meaning as the original statement. It doesn’t. Love can be false or true, selfish or unselfish and selfless, possessive or committed but liberating, manipulative or redemptive. The love of God is so true and so redemptive that God is definable as being love in essence. The definition that God is love fits in with the revelation that God is triune.
Love is a word about relationships. If God Who is one, was singular in His oneness, and all alone before He created anything, how could He be love? Such a majestically lonely God could not be love—no more than a hermit living in total isolation and refusing any human interaction could declare that he was in love. For God to be love there has to be someone to love and have a relationship with. That is why it is possible to believe that God is a trinity even though we cannot understand how three persons can be one God or how one God could be three persons. The notion is incomprehensible to the human mind. But it is believable because God is love.
God is the surname of the family, and there are three persons in the God family: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Because God is a family, God calls families into His fellowship. When the world was being destroyed in the Flood, Noah’s family was saved. When humankind continued to alienate itself from God, He chose Abraham and his family. In the Exodus from the slavery in Egypt God liberated all the families of the people of Israel. (The Passover was not inaugurated as a national observance, but it was observed in homes according to their families). Prior to their settlement in the Promised Land, God gave Israel laws that recognized and safeguarded people by their families.
In a family, children are important. In a sense, families are about children. Procreation, nurture of children, and aiming for the settling of children is the agenda of any/every family. When a baby is born, the whole family is centred on that baby.
God recognized the importance of little children and ordained that when Israel observed its most important festival, in every family the littlest one would have a significant role to play in the continuing education of people (Ex.13:26).
God is Father
Before Jesus people knew only about the Creator. They knew Him to be all powerful. Though there were songsters and prophets who talked of God’s loving kindness, people regarded God only as the Almighty Lord. Certainly no one had ever taught that God is Father.
Jesus was the first to tell people that God is Abba (Father). The word “father” is too formal. The word abba is more like “papa”. The idea was totally revolutionary. It still is. Today Muslims in India use the word abba when addressing their fathers, but they would never think of referring to God as Abba.
Paul was so wonder struck and impressed with this usage of the word, that he felt the need to preserve the original Aramaic word Abba within the Greek text of what he wrote (Rom.8:15; Gal.4:6) to stress the significance of Jesus Christ’s teaching that God is Father.
The Jews were expecting that when the Messiah would come, he would restore Davidic kingship and establish an earthly kingdom. But Jesus talked of God’s kingdom as a kingdom not of this world. He said that one did not fight for God’s kingdom in the way that people fought for an earthly one (Jn.18:36). To gain entry into God’s kingdom one must be born again/born from above (3:3, 5). Jesus said that we have to become children to enter God’s kingdom (Matt.18:3). When God is Father, it makes sense that we have to become children in His kingdom.
Churches today don’t regard children as full members. Kids are treated as those in preparation for membership, just like they say that children are the future citizens of a nation. But in God’s kingdom they are the owners of the kingdom. Adults have to become children to enter the kingdom. As children they’re already in. The kingdom belongs to them. They belong to the kingdom. According to Jesus, they have their angels looking at God face to face (18:10). That’s a mysterious statement. But Jesus said it.
Obviously Jesus wanted children to be encouraged and affirmed.
- Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me (v.5, NCV).
- Whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward (10:42, NASU)
They are not to be treated as outsiders. That’s what the disciples did to children who were brought to Jesus for His blessing (19:13). The disciples thought that children were not important enough for the Master to bother with. They never tried to stop any adult from meeting Jesus—even if they were social outcasts like leprosy sufferers or known prostitutes. But Jesus went against that typical attitude and said that God’s kingdom belongs to children (19:14). Imagine that! But we don’t and that is why we still try to keep kids out saying that they are not ready to be regarded as followers of Jesus.
Children may not be rational about why they accept Jesus when brought up in the circle of faith. They’re just simple followers. They imitate. That is how they learn. If you lead, they will follow. Lead them to Jesus.
God is Faithful
The Bible reveals God to be one who initiates covenants with people. He makes covenants and keeps them.
Covenants are the formalisation of relationships. A relationship is given official or public recognition. One goes on record that the relationship exists. For instance, a wedding proclaims that a man and a woman have entered into a covenant to be faithful to each other, and that no one is permitted to come between them or do anything to undermine their relationship.
Tokens or symbols accompany covenant-making. Tokens give a covenant a real world presence. They are proof that it happened and is not something that we imagined in a dream state.
When God instituted His covenant with Abraham, God made circumcision the sign that all Abraham‘s descendants were to bear. Circumcision was done when a baby was just eight days old (Gen.17:12; 21:4; Phil. 3:5). The ritual clearly declared that God’s plan included children from their very infancy.
Whole households were baptized in the Early Church (Acts 16:15, 33; 1 Cor.1:16). In that ancient world, a household was not a nuclear family, nor just an extended (joint) family of brothers and their families. A household included even the slaves and their families. There were bound to be some kids in such large groups.
Paul wrote that even if only one partner in a marriage is a believer, the children of that marriage are “holy” (1 Cor. 7:14). Scripture says some strange things, doesn’t it? Who would have thought that kids born in a home where one is from another faith are holy?
The end of the matter is, God loves children. Jesus loved kids and drew them into His circle and proclaimed them owners of God’s kingdom. Adult believers, if they are indeed believers, must believe what Jesus said and not try to dispossess the children of the King.