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Monday, October 24, 2011

Growing Backwards

It seems that grownup life is layer upon layer of increasing complexity.  Maybe it is boredom with the simple concepts we once came to know, or maybe this reflects our advancing skills in everything from juggling tasks at work to cooking a gourmet dinner.  More likely, it has to do with the competitive nature of adulthood.  If you can't distinguish yourself from the rest, you could suffer rejection and loss of one kind or another. All I can say is that being a grownup is tough.

Our relationship with God is quite the opposite of "being a grownup."  Don't get me wrong.  It takes maturity to face the things that come with being a Christian, like dying to self and enduring persecution.  When it comes to the bare bones of Christianity, it's really pretty simple, and that's just what God wants for us.

While life gets more complicated with the passing days, God has very much simplified what He wants to see in us.  It's like growing backwards, and it's really quite refreshing.  Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these," (Matthew 19:14 NIV).  Heaven is full of people who come to Jesus with the same level of trust, understanding, and faith as little children!

Take a moment to study this.  The children who swarmed Jesus were eager to know Him and see Him.  They didn't question His claims that He was the Son of God.  They just accepted Him eagerly.  They didn't complicate matters by wondering if they were worthy to know Him;  they didn't contemplate whether they were attractive enough, holy enough, learned enough, rich enough, or popular enough.  They just came.  This simple motive, to know Him and be known, is what Jesus most longed to see in those adults who also swarmed around Him.

God doesn't want anyone to be blocked from knowing Him, due to some lack of skill or distinction.  It's not a competitive race to the top with Him--He wants us all to be winners!  Here's the most-quoted passage on childlike faith in the Bible, for review:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18: 1-4 NIV)
I'm sure that gathering of adults was wondering, "What could this random kid know that I don't know already?"  The answer to that is key.  The kid didn't know anything that they didn't already know.  The kid already had all the qualities that God needed from all of them:  Faith, obedience, trust, love, humbleness, attentiveness, etc.  God needs only the most basic of ingredients to work miracles.  That's how He transforms everyone who comes to Him, from the greatest to the least.  It is His skill, not ours, that shines, and His righteousness, not ours, that makes us ready for the kingdom. 

The problem that adults have is too much complexity, which stands in the way of what God wants to do with us.  As Peter wrote, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance," (2 Peter 3: 9 NIV).  God is waiting for us to recognize our overdeveloped sense of self-righteousness, and become humble and meek in our faith.  We need re-training in what is good and praiseworthy.  We need to become like children again, just learning from our Teacher, and stop coming to class with the attitude that we know more than the one teaching us.

It's time to go back to the basics with our faith, and praise the simple, unquestioning belief that isn't obscured by the cares of this world (Matthew 13:22).  Those who humble themselves to the authority of Jesus and humbly, obediently, selflessly obey what the Bible teaches will prosper.  Those who look for loopholes will stumble over their own faithlessness in God's competence.  He is competent, and His work proves that.

Let's grow backwards today, toward a simple, childlike faith, and find rest in Jesus.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5: 6, 7 NIV)


Shannon said...

As my Korean friend put it, "So it is impossible for an adult to enter the kingdom of God. But if you are reborn, then you can be a child again, and it will be easier for you." I love the simplicity of his statement--perhaps that's one more reason that Jesus used the idea of being "born again" to explain His mission to Nicodemus(John 3:1-12). We often think it symbolizes a new beginning, but it also points us to the fact that we must humble ourselves and look with fresh eyes to understand God's truth.