Greg Laurie — Childlike Faith
When I was in elementary school I heard an expression directed toward me more than one time. Usually by teachers. Sometimes others said it as well. Here it is. "Greg Laurie will you just grow up"? I heard that a lot. It is because I was goofing off and causing trouble and that sort of thing. I have always been a little bit of a prankster. I like to have fun. I think life is challenging and hard enough. If you can have a few moments of laughter. I try to find it where I can. You know some people they just suck the life out of every situation. They are like here comes Debbie downer walking in the room. Right.
I don't want to be that person. I think it is a good thing to have a good time as much as you can. I think we do need to grow up but it comes quickly enough. Adulthood comes quickly enough. Remember when we were kids we wanted to grow up so badly. It seemed like we were in the third grade for 20 years. Right. Time seemed to go so slow when you were a young person. But as you get older time seems to go so fast doesn't it? I cannot believe how time seems to move for me at this point in my life. Here when you are a kid you want to be older. Then one day when you get older you look wistfully back on those days of your childhood and you realize how good you used to have it.
Remember those days. Man things were so much different then than they are now. The worst embarrassment when you were a kid was being picked last for a team. That happened to me many times by the way. When you were a kid being old was anyone over the age of 30. Remember that. "You are how old"? Water balloons were the ultimate weapon. When you were a kid it was a big deal to finally be able to go on the ride at Disneyland like the monorail that you had been wanting to go on because you are finally tall enough and you reached the point in that sign. Here is what I would say if you are young. Just enjoy it. It will pass quickly enough.
I like to be around kids. I love children but I especially love to be around my own grandchildren. I have four granddaughters as you know and I have one grandson. I love being around kids. And guess who else loved to be around children. Take a wild guess. A very good guess. That is right. Jesus. Jesus loved children. Children loved Jesus. They say children are a good judge of character. Well they certainly flocked to the Lord. We all remember the story when the mothers were bringing their little ones to Jesus because they wanted him to bless them. The disciples thought this was a bad idea. They thought the kids were a nuisance. They said to the mothers, "Go away. Take your kids with you. Don't bother Jesus". Jesus got angry and said, "Let the little children come unto me for of such is the kingdom of heaven".
Have you ever noticed that Jesus always took time for kids? There is that little girl. The daughter of Jairus who had died. Jairus said, "Please come to my home and raise my daughter". She was only sick at the point that Jairus initially approached him but by the time Christ arrived that little one had gone to the other side. Jesus sat down on that bed and he took her little hand and he said, "I say to you little lamb arise". That little girl came back to life. We looked recently at that father who had the demon possessed son that came to Jesus. Jesus delivered that boy. Of course you remember the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus singled out a little boy with his food which he multiplied and then gave to the multitudes. Jesus always had time for children.
So when the disciples were arguing one day about greatness he used a little child as an example of what we should all aspire to. So let's look now at Matthew 18. I am going to read verses 1-6. "At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, 'who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' Then Jesus called a little child to him, set him in the midst of them, and said, 'assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in my name receives me. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he drowned in the depth of the sea'". We will stop there.
Let's remember the backdrop of this story. Jesus has begun to talk about his impending death. In great detail he has told his disciples that he is going to be betrayed. He is going to be arrested. He is going to be beaten. He is going to be tortured. He is going to be nailed to a cross. Then he will rise again. Now after saying this they bring up the conversation about who is going to be greatest in the kingdom. This would be like coming back from the doctor's office and saying to a friend, "I just found out I have cancer and I only have one week to live". Your friend said, "Oh man I can't believe that. Hey man can I have your car"? Would that be insensitive perhaps? That is what the disciples are doing.
Jesus is saying, "I am going to suffer. I am going to die. I am going to be nailed to a cross". "Yeah interesting. Hey who is the greatest among us? Who is top dog"? Have you ever watched that TV show celebrity apprentice? One question is going to be answered in every show. What is the deal with Donald's Trump hair? No. That is not it. No. The question is who is going to win. First you have your teams. The teams compete. Then they form new teams. It is down to three and two and finally whoever is left standing that is the winner. The bottom line of the show is someone is going to win. That is what the disciples are asking. Lord in the end who wins? Who is top dog? Who is "numero uno" among us? Jesus does the unexpected. He bypasses them completely, sees a child, and calls the child over. Probably just smiled. Little child. Gestures to the little guy. The little guy comes running over. Now he tells his disciples, "You need to be just like this child".
Small children are a great example to follow. Why? Just the sense of wonder in a child. The love. The expression of that love. The complete dependence on their parents is so sweet. This is why I don't recommend going to Disneyland without kids. I think you have to have a kid to go into Disneyland. Because if you go with a bunch of adults you are just going to complain the whole time. First you are going to complain about the price, which is understandable. What is it? $1,000 now to get in. That is just one park. That is not California adventure.
Then you get in and there are the food prices. Maybe you are with your friends and well it is let's go get something to eat. You eat. Now you are all tired and one of you asks is there like a napland here. There is tomorrowland. I need napland. They didn't make that. You get on a ride. You comment on how fake this looks. On it goes. Take a child to Disneyland and you will see it differently. You will see it through their eyes. I think in many ways it is that way with a new Christian too. When you are around a brand new believer who has just committed their life to Christ sometimes it will reignite you as you see things through their eyes.
Listen to this. New believers need older believers to stabilize and ground them. Listen. Older believers need younger believers to motivate and excite them. Sometimes after a while well we start taking things for granted. We lose that sense of childlike awe and wonder. When you get around someone that is discovering it for the first time it can reignite you. That is why we put such an emphasis in this church on reaching lost people. Yes this is a place for us to come together and hear the word taught. Yes this is a place for us to come and worship together. Yes this is a place for us to come and develop and use our gifts that God has given us. Yes this is a place where we should bring nonbelievers to hear the Gospel. Because new believers are the lifeblood of the church. You show me a church that doesn't have a constant flow of new believers coming in and I will show you a church that is beginning to stagnate.
Ok so coming back to the point of our Lord. We should become like children. What does that mean? Well let me tell you what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean you should be simplistic. But it does mean you should be simple. It does not mean that you should be childish. But it does mean that you should be childlike. To be childlike is to have a sense of awe and wonder and dependence on God. To be childish is to be immature and selfish. We do want to grow up. We don't want to stay forever in a childlike state. We need to mature. In fact Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:14. "We should no longer be like children forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or someone has lied to us and made a lie sound like the truth". Yes we need to grow up. So how do we grow up and still remain childlike? Listen to this. We must grow in our knowledge as Christians and mature men of women of God but at the same time always maintain our childlike dependence on him. Let me say it again. We must grow in our knowledge as Christians into mature men and women of God but always seek to maintain our childlike dependence on Jesus Christ. Does that make sense?
One definition of a leader I have heard is a leader should have the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros. I want you to think about those first two things. The mind of a scholar and the heart of a child. Did you know it is possible to grow in your knowledge but still have the heart of a child? That is what scripture is telling us. The Bible presents a paradox. On many occasions scripture tells us if you want to be mature you should be childlike. If you want to be strong first discover your innate weakness. If you want to be happy you have to first be sad and see your sinful condition. If you want to go up you need to go down. If you want to be great you need to be humble. You need to be like a child.
Yes Jesus loves children and those that are young in the faith. He offers a stern warning. Verse 5. "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea". Here is what Jesus is saying. You need to be a good influence on younger believers. You need to be a good example for them. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:12, "Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all of the believers in what you teach and the way that you live, in your love, and your faith and in your purity".
Listen we should live in such a way that we could say to others, "Follow my example" Paul actually said that people were to follow him as he followed Christ. Could you say that to someone right now? Could you say to a new believer? "Hey do what I do. Take the steps I take". "Avoid the things that I avoid. Hang out with the people I hang out with. Follow my model". We should be able to say that because that it is what it is to disciple people. To take younger people believers under your wing and help them to grow. I think sometimes we are reluctant to do this because we don't want to change our behavior. Because we know if we had a new Christian around some of the things we joke about and some of the things we engage in might be a stumbling block to them. Therefore our conclusion is let's not have new believers around. Did that ever occur to you that maybe by having a new believer around it would be a reminder that you are supposed to be a good example?
Now listen. We are not all God's children. But we are all created by God in his image. We are all loved by God. We are all sought by God but the only way you become one of his little ones who can call him Father is by believing in Jesus Christ because John 1:12 tells us, "For as many as received him, he gave them the right to become sons of God". Now we shift gears in this narrative in Matthew 18 and we sort of expand the analogy to not just include children but to also speak of sheep. It is still along the theme of the Lord's care for his little ones.
Go to Matthew 18 again. Look at verse 11. "For the Son of man has come to seek and save that which was lost. 'what do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish'".
So we are still talking about little ones. Point 1. God cares for his little ones whoever and wherever they are. The little ones are like children that need love. They are like sheep that need care. So the point that is being made here just as though sheep need a shepherd, we need a shepherd as well. I hope this isn't insulting to you but, and I already alluded to it, sheep are truly one of the dumbest animals on the face of the earth. There are many animals God could have compared us to. No. He picks sheep and I think that is on purpose because sheep need help.
Because like sheep. Point 2. We have a natural tendency to go astray. In Isaiah 53 we read these words. "All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way". Why do we go astray? Because like sheep we are stupid. Because if you hang around the shepherd here is what you will discover about him. The shepherd cares about you. The shepherd protects you. The shepherd always leads you to green pastures. The shepherd always leads you to fresh water. The shepherd is always looking out for your welfare. Could not the same be said about God? God always cares about you. God always wants to provide for you. God wants to protect you. But yet in our stupidity we walk away from the Lord just like a sheep going our own way thinking we know better than God and we get ourselves into big trouble.
I read a headline in a newspaper awhile back that said, "450 sheep jump to their death". I had to read the article. This happened in Turkey. As it turns out the way it took place was one sheep jumped off of a cliff or just walked off of a cliff and 1500 more followed. The only reason they didn't all die is their landing was cushioned by the sheep that went before them. How stupid is that? One sheep goes over the side. "OK guys. Single file. We are all going over the side. It is not that baaad. Let's go". Stupid! Are we any different? So often we march in lockstep with this culture. We engage in group think. We think what we are told to think. We blindly follow the crowd. We cave into peer pressure. We are just like sheep.
Here is the good news. Even when we go astray. Point 3. God never gives up on his little ones. Even when we go astray God never gives up on his little ones. Notice the persistence of the shepherd. Verse 13. "If he should find it, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray". Luke's version of this statement says, "Jesus searches until he finds it". The shepherd doesn't say, "One sheep. What does it matter? "Win a few. Lose a few. The cost of doing business". No. He says, "I am going to find that sheep. I don't care where he went. I am going to search high and low. Failure is not an option". He finds it.
Point number 4. Even as our shepherd seeks us, listen, so we should seek others. You know sometimes when someone doesn't want to believe in Jesus or they believe but they are rebelling against Jesus. You go to them and try to help them they snap at you. They yell at you. They are angry with you. That could be an indication they are actually under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Don't give up on them. God didn't give up on you now did he? Keep praying for them. We see the shepherd pursuing the sheep. He finally finds it. Luke 15:5. "He brings it back on his shoulders rejoicing". This is a perfect picture of God carrying us when we have fallen. David writes in Psalm 28:9, "Save your people and bless your inheritance. Shepherd them also and carry them up forever".
Coming back to kids. Kids love to be carried don't they? "Carry me papa" my grandchildren will say. I pick them up. As they are getting older, "Carry me papa". I don't think papa can do that anymore. You are getting bigger. God always carries us we are never too big for him to carry us. In fact, he will carry us all through life from childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, the later years, the final years. Isaiah 46:4 says, "Even to your old age, I am he, "Even to gray hairs I will carry you". For me that is even to no hairs. "I have made, and bear and even I will carry you and "Deliver you," says the Lord. God is going to carry you sheep. God is going to watch out for you child. He is never going to give up on you. You know the Bible tells us that when Jesus went to the cross something kept him going. Think about this for a moment. He did it for you. He went to that cross because he knew that you would be his child. He went to that cross because he knew that you would have faith in him and would meet him in heaven one day. That is what kept him going. The joy set before him. Yeah we all need to grow up. But let's never lose our childlike sense of awe and wonder.