My devotional reading today came from Mark 10 where parents were bringing their children to Jesus. The disciples rebuked them for bringing children to Jesus. Evidently, they perceived that Jesus’ ministry was too important for children. But Jesus made the staggering claim that to children “belong the kingdom of God.”
Here’s the story from Mark.
13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.Mark 10:13-16
It is important to grasp the historical context in contrast with our contemporary view of children. In American culture, children are cherished and prized. Often we build our lives around their schedules and live our dreams through them. But in most ancient cultures, children were not valued to such a degree. Child mortality rates kept parents in some cultures from naming their children until they were five. While Jewish views of children were better than their Greco-Roman counterparts, children were still perceived as lowly and unimportant in society.
Yet, the text tells us that some parents perceived that Jesus was unique. They recognized that having Jesus bless their children was a priority. And Jesus welcomed them! Children have a unique sense of trust. Their trust muscles are exercised at an early age where they learn to depend on others for their basic needs. Trust is the human response to the gospel. This is one of the reasons why children respond to Jesus and why the kingdom of God belongs to children.
Recently at our church we’ve baptized a number of folks and some of those have been children. This past Sunday, we had an 8 year old girl publicly profess her faith in Jesus. We also had a 9 year old meet with our Children’s Minister to talk about faith. She professed faith as well and will be baptized soon. What I love about the most recent children who have come to faith in Jesus is that their parents have been their primary evangelists. This is as it should be.
I love telling children, adults, and teenagers about Jesus. It is a privilege to help others come to faith in Christ. But it is biblical when parents are the primary evangelists of their children. I firmly believe that all Christians are responsible to share the gospel, but we are especially sent to those around us with the message of Christ (see Romans 10:14-17).
Parents and grandparents, you are especially sent to your children and grandchildren with the gospel. Like the parents in Mark 10, will you bring your children and grandchildren to Jesus?
Here are several practical suggestions for helping your children meet and follow Jesus:
- Pray for them. The mother of the 9 year old who came to faith in Jesus this weekend shared with me, “We have prayed for this day since we found out we were expecting her!” Of those children who have come to faith recently in our church, many of them have been on my personal prayer list. And several of them have been on the regular prayer lists of those in discipleship groups together. Only God can save. When we pray for the salvation of our children, we admit dependence on God to convict, make alive, and rescue from sin. If you are not regularly praying for the salvation of your children and grandchildren, start today.
- Talk with them. God, faith, church, and the gospel should be a regular topics of family conversations. Some of these conversations can be formal, such as family devotions (see below), but many can happen just in the regular happenings of the day. Parents and grandparents, if you have a vibrant faith, then this will be natural. The more you walk with Christ, the more normal it is that Christ is a consistent part of your conversational life.
- Share with them. Both of my boys responded to the gospel during our times of family devotions. Family devotions don’t have to be intimidating. Start small and short. Your maximum time should be one minute for every year of your youngest child. For example, if your youngest is 5, your maximum devotional time should be 5 minutes. We used a children’s Bible and Bible story books when our boys were little. Now we are reading a paragraph a night from the New Testament and closing in a time of prayer.
- Bring them to worship. Dads, I’m going to aim this one at you. I believe the Bible teaches the husband to be the spiritual leader in the home. This means that husbands should take the lead in family devotions and attending worship. Too many husbands and dads wait on their wives to get them to church. Most of those children who have come to faith recently in our church have families that attend worship regularly and dads that lead their families to worship. Dads, think about this. You are responsible for the spiritual lives (eternities) of your families (children). What you make a priority they will as well. For you single parents out there, especially single moms reading this, I know your life is tough. As a church we’re suppose to be your support and community. At Wilkesboro Baptist, Sunday school and Awana (Wednesday pm) for children (pre-k through elementary) and Sunday school and disciple-life (Sunday pm) for middle and high school students are our programs aimed at communicating the gospel and biblical principles for your children and teenagers. We believe in helping them learn the gospel. We can be your support system. Let us know how we can help you.
- Follow Jesus. While the principles of Christianity can be taught, doctrine can be communicated, and the message of the gospel preached, following Jesus is often “caught” as much as it is “taught.” Following Jesus is something we should demonstrate. In a recent lecture series on preaching, John Piper reflected on the three means for life change in a church: exhortation, supplication, demonstration. Those who don’t know Jesus need to hear the gospel (exhortation at home and in the gathered worship experiences at church). They also need to be prayed for (supplication). But the main way our children and grandchildren will come to follow Jesus is if they see you following Jesus (demonstration). How you follow Jesus (or don’t) will influence the faith practices of your family. Do they know you pray and read the Bible? Do they see you value church? Do you serve others and invite your children to be a part of serving your church and community? Parents and grandparents, when you bring your children to worship, let them see that it matters to you. Sing. Give. Bring your Bible. Take notes. If you are engaged, in the gathered worship experiences, they will learn to be as well. I’m not suggesting that you be perfect. Nor am I suggesting that you flaunt your faith for your children. But if you follow Jesus, the life you demonstrate will reflect the gospel to those around you.