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"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." When we hear Jesus say this, many of us smile as we picture the sweet faces of young children, but there is a depth to Jesus' teaching that we often do not take the time to explore.
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This is what Christ had to say in Mark 10:13. "And they…" Meaning just the multitude of folks that were out there and around Christ. "…were bringing children to Him..." The him being Jesus. "…so that He might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them." That's probably not a great public relations campaign, but that's what they were doing, nonetheless. Verse 14.
"But when Jesus saw this…" The word indignant is what they use here, but it's a very, very strong word. About as powerful a word as you could use without going over the top in a way you wouldn't think Jesus would. Christ was hacked off. He said to them, "'Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all.' And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands upon them."
That's where we are today in Mark. Let's pray together and see if God doesn't have something there for us.
Lord, I thank you for our friends that are here. I thank you for some guests here today that in a very real way represent the little children you told us not to forbid or prevent them from coming. I pray that today, the way we've gone about working hard to just be creative, innovative, and fun, and at the same time reverent and consistent with your truth, that they would be drawn to you.
That they would see we go through no small efforts so they would feel welcomed from the way they parked to the way they're greeted to the way we just follow up with them this week, Lord. You know our heart, you know how we pray, and you know how we labor. We don't want to do anything that's going to get in the way of them considering who you are.
We pray for the kids over there. We have a slew of folks over there that are serving those kids. They want to be so creative and fun. They want those kids anxious to come back and see what creative technique they're going to use to teach them about a timeless story with great application for their lives. I pray there will be some kids, as a result of the excellence that continues now just north of us, that would really begin to understand individually what it means to bow down before you and worship you.
We want to learn that in here, and we want to see if there's something in this text that can be applicable to our lives as individuals and as a body. We thank you for your Word, which is so powerful, and you say it's sharper than a two-edged sword. It's able to pierce us where we need to be pierced, so I pray you do that. I pray those of us that have become complacent about our concern for kids would be pierced and afflicted in our comfort.
I pray for the little children in their spiritual journey who are sitting here right now, Lord, that you would comfort them as they are burdened with trying to carry a weight you never intended for them to carry. Would you just, by your good grace, accomplish all that this morning? In Christ's name, amen.
All right. Well, what is it about this text? One of the things I always try to share with individuals when I'm in God's Word with them is that the reason we read the Bible is not just to get information. The purpose of looking at and studying the Scriptures is to produce life change. God wants us in the business of making disciples. That word literally mean learners, folks who are learning more about him.
All of us that are in here today are disciples of some sort. Some disciples have made a decision about who this Jesus is, other learners here this morning are trying to get their arms around that and figure that out. We couldn't be more excited no matter where you are, but we want to move you forward as we ourselves want to move forward. We want to measure our success as individuals who are stewards of the mysteries of God and who are servants of Christ of the people.
We want to measure our success only by our ability to participate with what God is doing in people's lives to affect change. That's what God wants to do: he wants to conform you and me into the image of his Son. The first thing that must happen for that process to really get moving is we've got to determine God's Son is whom we want to ultimately emulate.
Then we need to acknowledge we are very far off from that picture of dignity, holiness, care, and love. We need to ask that God in his mercy would deal with that gap, and then we need to ask that God in his mercy would participate by the power of his Spirit, which is present in our lives, to bring us completely there.
He uses his Word to do that. The Scriptures tell us in his word we are not to be conformed to the world, but that we are to be transformed continually by the renewing of our minds. So the way we learn to think like God thinks, the way we know things eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, things which have never entered into the hearts of men, is to go where God has freely given us his Word, that we might know his mind, that we might have his wisdom. That's why we study the Bible…transformation.
Well, what transforming truths does God want for us this morning from these four verses, Mark 10:13-16. Let's pick it apart. Let's start right here where it says there were a group of kids who were brought to him. "…and the disciples rebuked them." They said, 'Listen, leave him alone.'" Now you need to understand the disciples were just creatures of their culture. All they knew is what they had seen modeled, what they'd seen taught, and what they had understood from the society in which they were raised and lived in.
When you think of children today in our society, despite all its indecencies towards children, largely there is a movement within this redeemed culture that says children are gifts and we ought to value and protect them. You hear politicians stand up and make the case that the kids are our future, and we need to invest in our children through education and programs that will support them.
Then the greatest of all programs is the one that our president has called us to lately, and that is not to trust that somebody else will love our kids but for us to individually be involved and connected with the younger ones. In that day and age, that wasn't typically the mindset. The ancient world didn't have the same romantic notion of children we sometimes think they did.
Children added nothing to a family's net worth and didn't even add to their honor. In fact, it was completely appropriate in the Greco-Roman world, roughly the 300 years before Christ and the 300 plus years after Christ, that if you didn't want the child you just delivered from your womb, you just did basically a post-birth abortion.
Not late-term abortion, but just go ahead and deliver the baby since they didn't have the technology to get rid of it in the womb and just put it out in the street. You know there are still some civilizations today that if it's not the right sex, they destroy the child. There are many civilizations, when that child is brought into the world, destroy the child.
Back then they would literally put the child out. They would expose the child and let either nature take its course or what would happen is unscrupulous men and women would go around and collect these children and raise them to be gladiators or prostitutes, sources of entertainment for men, one way or the other.
They would often take those kids and they would maim them to make them more sympathetic to the eyes of those they would eventually be begging from, and people literally made their living out of capturing exposed children. This is the mindset that adults had toward children during that day and age.
Here's God on the scene. The disciples had just figured this out. "He's got just a short amount of time, because they've heard twice already that he's on his way to Jerusalem to die. The guy is pretty busy. He has only really revealed himself in the last two and a half to three years, and now he's told us he's on his way, he's going to be delivered up, and he's going to be crucified. That's a little confusing to us. All we do know is our time with him is short, and we certainly can't bother him with kids. So just stay away, you unimportant and unvaluable ones, stay away."
Do you remember Christ's response? He was hacked off. He said, "You've got it all wrong, boys." He says it negatively and then he says it positively. He says, "permit" which is to say in effect, "Stop blocking," or, "Start allowing."
Permit would be, "Start letting them in." "Stop blocking" comes a little bit later. Don't hinder them. Right here where he says "permit," he's saying, "I want you to be proactive in beginning to let them into my presence, and I want you to stop hindering them, because you have got to know something: The kingdom of heaven belongs to folks like this."
This is where you're going to have to understand what children represented. More than what you just saw today, children represented the unfavored and helpless, those who could be bullied and discarded, and were seen as instruments of others' whim and fancy. Jesus says, "Those are the ones my heart especially goes out for." You're going to find out next week Christ loves the rich, and he is deeply grieved when the rich move away from him.
But today Christ is making it very clear, "I don't just love the rich, I love the hurting and the helpless. I love the orphan and the widow." Does that sound consistent with Scripture? Let me just show you a few things. Let me give you an application that will bring transformation, hopefully, in your life and mine, and in our lives as a body. Here it comes.
The first one I counted as I meditated on this, I just simply said it this way: Favoring the favored doesn't bring favor with the Father. Now that's tough to say 10 times, but it's easy to live like I'm just going to treat people well who can do something for me. We talked a little bit earlier in Mark 9, where there was another reference to children, in the context of being servants. The greatness of a man can always be measured by the way he treats those who can do nothing for him.
It is the nature and character of men and women in our natural state of existence, that we will favor those who favor us. In fact, to such an extent that Jesus says, "I want you to love your enemies, those who are not just unable to do something for you but who are proactively against you. I want you to love your enemies, for if you're kind even to those who are kind to you, what good is there in that? Even the wicked do that. I'm calling you something different, something radical, something transforming…
I want you to favor those who are unfavored, those society puts off and sees as invaluable and unable to produce and contribute. You love those people, and you permit those people to have full access to me, not just those who can feather your bed, who can make you feel significant because they sit by you and the world goes, "Wow! Look who's in that congregation. Look who's in the audience. Look who's that guy's friend. Look who he dates."
You love the unlovable. One of the things I love about the Bible is it is so straightforward, so honest. You tell me if this isn't real world. In Proverbs 19, this is what is says, a very honest statement. Proverbs 19:6-7: "Many will entreat the favor of a generous man…" Is that not true? You don't think Mark Cubans has gotten a few more solicitations in the last 24 months than he did the 24 years prior to that?
"Many will intreat the favor of a generous man, And every man is a friend to him who gives gifts." Verse 7, in contrast. "All the brothers of a poor man hate him; How much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but they are gone." Can I hear some testimony that this is true?
How many of y'all have felt that before? I mentioned to you we've had some folks who have felt that way despite all the effort we have made to love folks who are hurting. Right now, I'm in the middle of a conversation with a guy in our body who just said, "Man, you were all for me when things were good and I could contribute and I was valuable to you, but I feel like my experience, my perception is now that there's a little bit of a pothole in my life, you guys aren't there for me."
I'm going to tell you, no small amount of time has been spent working through that, in our opinion, tragic misperception. Without trying to sound defensive, we've done all we could to explain how many people have made efforts, at the same time listening and validating their personal pain and letting them know, "Hey, listen. We don't just want to love you when things are well. We certainly don't want to make you feel like you pursue us with words, but we're gone because you're troubled now. That is just the opposite of heart of this church's leadership and this church's core. I will stake my name on that."
Thus, the hours we have tithed in that direction and others just like it, consistently. Look what is says in Proverbs 14:20, another very true statement. "The poor is hated even by his neighbor, But those who love the rich are many." Let's go back to Mark 10:13, I want to read this to you. ** "And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, 'Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'"**
What I want to show you is all through Scriptures God is very consistent in saying, "You don't just favor the favored. That doesn't find favor with me. You favor all folks." In fact, in context of where we just came out of, you need to understand what he is speaking to is a largely male‑oriented and male-dominated society.
Granted, Jesus was in Jerusalem, which had been given the Law and the Word. This is why Christ was so indignant with them. These men had been entrusted with the truth. They were supposed to teach other society's how to live when they are put in a position of power and leadership.
What had happened is specifically the males of first-century Palestine took their position of power in the 800 years before that and had exploited it to mistreat women and to abuse and think of children only as a product that useful as it was useful to them. In the previous 12 verses, what did we deal with? Jesus' sharp rebuke to men who would just send women off so that they could get on with another woman they thought was going to make their lives a little easier.
That is the context in which Jesus said, "That annoys me." In fact, he used a rather strong word. He says, "I hate this, and from the beginning you've known it hasn't been that way." Therein lies the last two weeks of how we talked, and the context was right here. "You need to know I am not at all pleased with the way the people in positions of power are exploiting those I have called to serve.
That has been my role and my desire from the beginning. Yes, man, I made you first and yes, I gave you a gift that was a woman to compliment you and to come along to your side. Your role is to be the head, but that was never to be your rank. I want the head to model me, who did not come to be served but to serve and give himself as a ransom for many."
Let me give you a little insight into how serious God is about this. In 1 Peter 3:7, this is what Jesus says about the way men are being abusive towards little ones, here specifically their wives. "You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman…" She is different than you. You guys are equal in the sense you are made in the image of God. You are equal in dignity, and in honor, and in value to the Creator, but you are not the same.
Those who hold to the egalitarian view as opposed to the complementarian view miss this by a huge margin, that equality of work does not equal sameness in function, specifically, those who are physically stronger and are emotionally designed to be able to compartmentalize more and can frankly just emotionally will their way and out-pain their partner.
Jesus says, "If you take what I have given you to serve the woman and use it to exploit the woman, I've got a serious problem with you. If you only favor the bride of your youth and when she becomes the wife of your years and you no longer like the way she looks or now have to work to bring forth love and tenderness back and forth, if you discard her for a secretary that is easier or for a neighbor that's easier or for anything else that substitutes what I called you to do, which is to dwell on a land and cultivate faithfulness, I've got a problem with that."
"I've got such a problem with that," he says, "that if you mistreat her in your strength, I'll show you what it's like to have somebody you are dependent upon to give you the Heisman. I want you to treat your wife with dignity, and I want you to care for her so that your prayers may not be hindered."
If you're here single today and you wanted a good reason to not be married, I've got one for you right here: While you're single, you have one less thing that can mess up your relationship with God than when you get married. I've got to tell you. I've seen this verse lived out in my life many a time.
When on a Saturday night, or even a Tuesday or Wednesday, when I'm getting away for a little bit to think towards Sunday or to sharpen up and wrap up completely where I'm going to be as I put it all in my mind as tight as I can, as I leave the house… Luckily I've learned to get up before anybody else is awake so I can't cause a problem on Sundays, but there has been many a time when I've been up there at the office and have been other places getting ready to minister and trying to pray God would clarify my thoughts and give me insight and application that would bless you.
He says, "Why would you think that in my position of strength I'm going to be kind and tenderhearted towards you when I put you in a position of strength and you are anything but kind or tenderhearted at home? Buddy, if you want to connect with me, I've told you that you need to make sure you serve her the way you keep coming to me and asking for mercy, insight, tenderheartedness, and provision."
I can't tell you how many times I've either picked up the phone or gotten my keys out and driven back home and reconciled with my wife the small gaps that have been built there by improper tone or just indifference so that I wouldn't be walled off, I wouldn't be getting the Heisman from heaven. I can tell you that verse is true, and I am thankful, because I need that kind of reminder.
God is so serious about us not just favoring the favored that he will give us a lack of favor when we exploit our positions of wealth, strength, and positions of power to exploit those he has called us to serve. This is why, and I'm just showing you this is not some small idea in Mark, this is a roaring truth in Scripture.
In James 1:27, he says, "This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." Now let me make it very clear. God has not elevated orphans and widows to a place nothing else is elevated to. These are descriptive more than these are inclusive. What I mean by that is these two classes of people, the orphan and the widow, are representative of hurting helpless, exposed, and needy who probably can't do a whole lot for you.
Jesus is saying, "You want to know what shows me you're doing this not because it's going to make you look great and not because they're going to do something nice to you? You do it and you serve and love those who can do absolutely nothing for you. Anybody like the orphan, anybody like the widow, anybody like the child. I'm very serious about that."
Let me give you an application that's just staring us in the face. We've got a bunch of folks who are in prison because they have been rebellious and foolish. Despite the fact they've been rebellious and foolish, those individuals still, I believe, have an innate desire to reconcile with the love and to be a dad or a mom to their kids.
Those folks can't do that, and they certainly can't make us feel more significant because they're going to come sit in our pews this coming Sunday. They're not going to help us towards our goal to provide for ministry here by putting money in the offering boxes as they come and go, because they're in jail.
So why do we care about them for? Prisoners of kids, there's so much poverty usually associated with that, and those kids are hellions and difficult anyway. Why do we want to mess with them? Here's the answer: because that speaks of the nature and character of our God, who seeks and loves all of us who can do nothing for him.
So when you see the Angel Tree in the back, you need to know this: This is not the same Angel Tree you see on TV. This is the Angel Tree with Prison Fellowship ministries, where we get to go and we tell the prisoners, "In the name of Christ, we will love you by going to your children and loving them in a way you can't because you're incarcerated."
We have an opportunity to grab an angel in the back if your family hasn't done it yet, if a team of friends hasn't done it yet, then go to those kids and say, "We're here because your mom and dad love you, but they can't be here. We're coming on their behalf, and we love your mom and dad and come on their behalf because we have an intimate knowledge with the one whose birthday it is that you're about to celebrate. So we're giving you gifts for your mom and dad. These are from your mom and dad, and we are pleased to serve them and to love you in the name of Jesus Christ, who is the greatest gift you can receive."
I'll tell you what. We've been very strategic about where we wanted our angels to come from this year. They're from the Vickery area, mostly, so that we can say, "Hey, we don't want to just show up and do a feel-good thing once a year with you. We want to tell you we happen to meet very close to you, and we would love for you to come in here. We'd love for you and your mom, uncle, granny, or whoever to come and worship with us. We'd love to get to know you a little bit and begin to share life with you."
What we're seeing right here in Mark 10 is Jesus is saying, "You don't just favor the favored, because that doesn't bring you favor in my eyes. You love the hurting. You get yourself an angel, be an angel." You know what angel means? An angel in the Scripture is never determined, whether it's a created being or a created spirit being or a human messenger, except by context. Literally an angel means messenger. That's all it means.
The context is what determines if it's a created spirit being, a different class of species you will never be. No matter how young you die, you will always be a human made in the image of God who one day will reign over the angels, which is why many people believe one angel in particular, Lucifer, had a problem with God in creating you. That's why he hates you and wants to drag you down. There's a little theology for you. Listen to that part of the tape again. Meanwhile, you be an angel, you be a messenger of God's grace, provision, and love.
Let me give you another point. Because of what Jesus said where he tells us to permit the children to come, it's pretty obvious we have a great responsibility to bring children into his presence. Now let me just make a quick comment here, because when you think about children, you've got to lose the mindset of our day, which is cute, sweet, laughable Bill Cosby kids.
You need to think about children in the context of what they represent here in the Scriptures, which is the unlovable, those who cannot contribute, and are often a pain. Now as a dad of five kids, I've got to tell you if you ever have the privilege of shepherding young children, you will find out just how dependent they are.
You will be much more on call if you have kids. Your life changes significantly. You have a duty and a responsibility, which is demanding, extremely demanding. You will have individuals in your house who are extremely destructive. You will buy more milk, you will replace more frames, you will buy more plates, you will remove your carpet more often, your leather seats will have rips in them, and on, and on, and on…
They are difficult. You will be tried like you have never been tried when this little one comes into your house. They can be downright nasty. You will be grossed out by these little ones who are in your house. If you've ever thought you don't want somebody else's vomit to enter your mouth, you probably don't want to be a parent. They don't know to aim away when they do this thing called projectile vomiting. So you're saying, "It's going to be… Oh! It's not going to be okay if you ever do that again."
Without much effort, if you want to bring people who are dependent, demanding, destructive, difficult, and downright nasty into your house, you might have a problem, or you might be somebody who has been touched by the grace of God.
I'm going to tell you something. More than just having nasty diapers to change, there are little ones out there who are very small in their spiritual understanding, and God wants us to bring them in. He wants those difficult, demanding, downright nasty adults who are little children in their spiritual insight, understanding, and history to sit right here with us and be intimately involved with our lives.
I've got to tell you something. If you befriend those who are far from God, they will be very demanding. They will be destructive in things that they say about you, and they will be dependent upon you in unhealthy ways at times when you're going to have to constantly navigate and coach, and they will be downright nasty and difficult at times.
God says, "I know that. Love them anyway. Don't just love them anyway; you be creative about ways to let them come so that they don't feel out of place." God is saying basically these kids in this story had to be brought to him by others. They have nothing to offer him as a means to commend their presence, and he is going to say, "Let me tell you something. That is a great picture of little ones who are out there spiritually."
There are some of you here today who would never have been here had people been investing in your life, loving you, and praying for you intentionally and saying, "Would you just come? It's going to be a little bit different of an experience. We really do love you, and we want you to know that God loves you. Not to act like us and look like us. You're not where we are yet. The grace of God, which has been so powerful in our lives has not yet touched yours, and that's okay, but we're desperate for you to meet our Dad. So come on.
We have tried to bring you here and we want you to know we are not ashamed by that. If we are your friend and we have found the one who can transform your eternity, which starts right now, what kind of friend would we be if we just had our own little club and didn't let you in? Not much of a friend.
When you come here, there is nothing you can do to commend yourself to the holiness of our God. You don't have enough money. You don't have enough time left to do enough good things so that he would go, 'All right. You can be my boy. You can be my little lady.' Neither do I. Do you know why he adopted me as his son? Because the Scripture says the kind intention of his will.
We want you to know this morning that kind intention. In my Father's house there are many rooms. Those of you who have been put out, he wants to pick you up and not exploit you. He wants to bring you into the King's house, and he wants to adopt you as his son and daughter. We want to permit you to come."
Now there's the positive, what about the negative? He says, "You don't hinder the kids from coming to me." Well, how do we hinder kids from coming? Let me just tell you. It's going to take a lot of work. I'm going to rip through them quickly. This is how we as a body can hinder children. Do you understand what I mean now with children? The demanding, the difficult, the dependent, the destructive, the downright nasty of our society. This is how we hinder them.
First,we hinder the children from coming when we make certain sins of little ones more intolerable than others. Do you know what I mean? It's okay if you spill your milk at our house, because we expect it, and we'll let you do it maybe once or twice. We don't want chronic milk spillers, but milk spilling… All right. We've gotten to a place where we can just take a deep breathe, get out the Bounty, and try to move on…
But you wet your bed, come in my room, and cuddle with me about 3:00 am a few times, I can sometimes react differently to that one. "Hey, Alex. You're like 38!" No, I'm sorry. Your kid is a certain age and you go, "Oh, don't do that!" Or you have some other issue in your house, some other sin, that you just go, "Hey, that's not going to happen."
Let me just drag you where I want to get with this. Oh, you know, gossiping? We all gossip, even frankly here we do in the form of prayer requests. We gossip. We're not supposed to do it. You just have to learn to do it in a sanctified way. Sexual immorality? Man, that's really one we don't talk about that, and we don't welcome that here, specifically when that immorality has a perversion that kind of the same-sex variety. You know what I mean?
I know there are lots of parents who work so many hours they neglect their kids. Listen, we have to make some money to live where we live. We live in a part of town that's not real cheap. So, yeah, we've got some parents at our church who basically abandon their kids after they've got them. That's kind of an acceptable sin here, but you'd better not abandon that kid while he is still in your womb. That is intolerable.
See what I mean? See how we hinder certain people from coming into our midst when we elevate certain sins? You just pick the ones you think can't be handled here. I have got to tell you, as much influence as I have as a pastor, elder, and leader with my other very committed people, there is no such thing here as a problem which we want to say, "That's in a different class. We're really not comfortable with that detestable activity."
So I spill milk and you wet the bed. We both are imperfect and we both need a Savior. When we elevate certain problems over other problems, God has a problem with us, because you are hindering people he loves from coming into his midst.
Secondly, we hinder people if we act as if we never did childish things or if we act like we still don't constantly need patience, grace, and forgiveness from our Father. That is a hinderance to people. Did you know that? When we act like we've got our act together here. I want to make up sin in my life, but I am desperate for you guys to not put me or any other elder, shepherd, or leader in the body, of which we have many godly people…
I want you to quit thinking any of us don't work hard at repentance, confession, and reconciliation, and don't desperately need the scriptures and spiritual disciplines in our lives, and don't desperately need the grace of God every day to stay rightly related to our Father. We hinder people when we act like we have arrived at a certain place that they may never get to, but we'll tolerate them until they find that magic pill we did. That's a hindrance.
We are all on a journey here. Maybe a few other laps around the track, but we are on a journey together, and when we start making people feel like they're not as far along as we are or will never get to where we are, that hinders them from growing.
Thirdly, we talk in a language we know they won't understand. That is a hindrance, and we are very careful in the way we articulate and represent those cards we give you to share with your friends, neighbors, coworkers, waitresses, and waiters. They are worded specifically so that we use language which will connect with their hearts. I think a lot about the words I use. I get evaluated every week about the words I used, if they were too preachy, too in-house?
Did we bring it down to a level where folks can understand, not compromising or changing the truth, but did we use a language they could understand? Sometimes we get some folks in here and we just use words that are like spelling in front of a child so they can't quite get it so we can show how smart we are. The truth is we might have learned how to pronounce Pharisee, but we don't have a clue what they were. So we have to watch our language and explain it when we use them.
Fourthly, we hinder the children from coming when we never love them enough to know their world and to communicate to them in it. It's our job to get in there and to love our friends and lost neighbors, and to understand where they're coming from. Where do they connect? What are their needs? How can Christ meet their needs?
How can I grow as a believer so I can be more equipped to help them wrestle through the struggles and problems they have in their lives? One of the great curses of coming to know Christ is that in two years if you begin to walk with him and you're not very intentional about keeping this from happening, you largely are removed from your non-Christian world.
That's a real problem. So we stop even knowing the questions they are asking and the pains they are facing. We don't make an effort to love them enough to know their world and communicate to them in it. Do you see some of the things we are trying to do?
We are desperate to grow in our ministry through the arts here, because we know that arts communicate with people, not just folks outside of the kingdom of Christ but also within. That's why you saw Marcie this week write an incredible fun wordplay these kids could connect to in order to help them understand why you bow down before Jesus who is the King.
Lastly, we hinder the children from coming when we act like children ourselves, as if there is no need to or ability to grow up. Did you catch that last one? It's a hinderance when we keep acting like children, and now I revert to the immature. If there is no life change in us and we say we have met one that is going to grow us up into a new creature, it would infer to them there is no growing up because there is no power because there is no Messiah and there is no King.
I want to say this again. This is why the most important people in our church are the next 100 people who come, because Jesus says, "You permit them to come and you don't hinder them." But this point right here is why you are so doggone important. If we don't build into you and we don't grow into Christlikeness, it doesn't matter if 100 come. They are going to be absolutely unimpressed we met anybody who can bring healing grace and transformation into their life.
So when I say the next 100 people who come are the most important, do you see how important you are? And why we have Equipping classes and Community Groups and why we pray together and extend grace to one another? Because if we don't change, if we are still children and divisive, destructive, and downright nasty, they're going to say there isn't anything there that speaks of transformation, and we have a King who is all about transformation.
Let me just say one thing to the folks who are here this morning. Let me just give you one more application and then we're going to stop. Here it is: Until you are weary and helpless as a child and trying to deal with your burden of sin, you won't look to your Father for the rest only he can provide. Let me give you a verse which explains this to you. It begins with Matthew 11:25…very familiar.
"At that time Jesus answered and said, 'I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes.'" Did you see what he did? He revealed them to babes. God gave them in a way only a loving parent can with tenderness, patience, and speaking a language which these folks can understand. He gave them something.
Which is why there is a verse in Ephesians I want to jump to quickly, and then we'll go back to the point to establish it. Look at Ephesians 1:3. This is why you worship him. This is why we are so fired up to get in here on Sunday and sing, "Joy to the world!" and, "Hark! The herald angels sing." Look what he has done for us. We're the reason, and now it's our job to praise him, and so we do.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love…" Look what it says. "In love He predestined us to adoption as sons…" **What is inferred there is clearly not just his sons but his daughters." …through Jesus Christ to Himself…" Here's the catch."…according to the kind intention of His will…"**
Until we know how desperate we are in need of a gift, until we know how absolutely helpless we are if it weren't for a loving Father who, for reasons we can never explain, though we can contribute nothing to his kingdom and have nothing to commend ourselves to him, until we know it was the kind intention of his will that reached out to us, we will never worship him appropriately, we will never ask him for that gift, and we will never declare the greatness of his gift to a watching world.
If you're here today and I can convince you of one thing, I would love to convince you of this: There is nothing you can do to commend yourself to a loving Father. Nothing. You are a downright disgusting, dependent, rebellious, nasty child who does a lot more than spilling milk, and he loves you. He wants to grow you up into a right relationship with him, but do you know what you have to do?
You have to humble yourself and say, "Lord, I am so far from what you want me to be that I could never get there myself. If it weren't for your grace, mercy, prevision, and specifically the fact you were both just and the justifier of one like me, through this child of Christmas, I could never know you.
Thinking of Matthew 11:25 and Ephesians 1:5, listen to this point again. Here it is: Until you are weary and hopeless as a child and trying to deal with your burden you won't look to your Father for the rest only he can provide. A child cannot carry the weight of the day. Let me close with this story.
This week I was taking my little girl to school. We were reading the Proverbs on the way to school like we try to make a little history tradition of doing. We were in Proverbs 12, it was the 12th of the month, so we were reading that first verse. It talks about how those who reject the discipline of the Father are stupid. That's a word we're not supposed to use, but there it was.
It was kind of cute. My daughter goes, "You mean, like the Taliban?" Kirby said that. I'm like, "What are you doing thinking about the Taliban?" I said, "Well, yeah, like the Taliban, but more often like when we don't respond to what God is trying to communicate to us. God uses a very strong word. He says, it's stupid to not listen to a loving Father. It's stupid to not trust in him rather than carrying the burden of trying to figure out how we're supposed to live."
Kirby said, "Dad, I had a dream last night." I said, "What was the dream?" She said, "Well, Ally and I were wearing our dresses and had bows in our hair. We were riding rollercoasters. Over there the adults were having a war. We didn't care. We just kept riding the rollercoaster." I thought about that and I went, "That's kind of a strange dream."
But as I thought about it some more, I thought, "How great is that? My little girl is so secure in my ability to care for her and protect her that even though she hears whispers of the Taliban and war she doesn't care. She's a little girl. She's wearing a dress with a bow in her hair and she's riding a stinkin' rollercoaster and having a ball.
Do you know why? Because she has trusted her burdens to a loving father. I'll take care of the war. You just have fun and you just trust your Daddy, listen to him, and don't be stupid. Matthew 11 says, "Those of you who are carrying the burden of the war with your flesh that you'll never win, would you quit carrying that burden? Would you let Christ fight that war he has already won for you? Would you get on the exciting adventure that is life, the abundant life Jesus came to provide." God, would you give us a child's heart? Let's pray.
Father, I pray for my friends who are out here today who are far from you, who don't know there is a loving Father in heaven who cares for them, who died for them, whose love for them is so much greater than anything I'll ever show Ally, Kirby, Coops, Landry, and Cade. I pray though, Lord, there will be some glimpse of my love for them that will speak of your love for the world.
I pray that would be true in the way we treat the little ones who are here today and the little ones we're going to meet this week. Would there just be a glimpse, Father, of your love for them in the way we permit and hinder not those folks. We know, Lord, that means we have to grow up and not do immature, childish things ourselves, but to be conformed in the image of Christ in the way we live, dress, talk, speak, reconcile, and hope.
Finally, Lord, for my friends who are here today, would there be someone who would get out of the war of performance and the burden of fear of, "Will I be good enough?" and would they get over here into the valley of peace where they can have the abundant life which you intend them to have, dressed in garments that are holy and blameless, just enjoying the ride of faithfulness? Father, would you give us a child's heart. Amen.
The only thing worse than not having a child's love is having a child's love and not knowing your Father. I am absolutely certain there are some individuals here today who would not disagree with anything I have ever said, or wouldn't disagree certainly with anything I said today, and yet they have never humbled themselves to say, "I need you to be my Father and I need you, Father, to make a provision for me that I can never make as a child. There's nothing I can do to commend myself to you."
It's time for you to take that step of faith, cross that line, and come to him and humble yourself like a child, and say, "Holy Father, Daddy, will you forgive me that in arrogance I have lived as if I were beyond my years, beyond my species? I have offended you and hurt your name. In grace, I return home today."
Cross that line of faith. There is an action point for you. Come and let us tell you how you can do that in a way that can change your today and your tomorrow and put you in that life you always wanted. There is forgiveness with Jesus Christ, but you have to come humbly as a child to your Holy Father born in Bethlehem who reigns eternally in the heavens.
For the rest of us, may we permit and hinder not. May we grow up in him. We'll worship here again next week, 5:00 pm on Christmas Eve. Would you grab your friends and let them come so that they might know your Father? They matter to him. Have a great week.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 9:1 through Mark 10:34 and includes the 2-message series "Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage: The Ordeal and the Ideal".