Becoming childlike seems like a characteristic that would not be desired in any type of warfare, but in spiritual warfare it can be the difference between a sweatless victory and a prolonged and difficult battle.
Jesus said if we don’t become as a little child, we will not enter the kingdom of God. That is a sobering statement that we should examine closely. Our warfare must be waged with kingdom authority, and from a kingdom perspective. A childlike perspective is a kingdom perspective.
Matthew 18: 1-4 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 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. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
It is critical to recognize that the phrase “kingdom of heaven” is not referring to eternal life, but the kingdom of God on Earth. There are two phrases in the New Testament we must discern properly to understand this passage and many others. The phrases “the kingdom of God,” and “the kingdom of Heaven”. These two phrases are always talking about the same thing, which is the kingdom of God on the Earth.
The kingdom of God is any place on Earth that God’s rule and reign is acknowledged. Primarily it is in the hearts of men. The kingdom of Heaven is God’s dwelling place, where there is no corruption, no darkness, and no decay.
The phrase, “the kingdom of God” is used almost 70 times in 10 different books of the New Testament. The Phrase, “the kingdom of Heaven” is used 32 times exclusively in the gospel of Matthew.
The explanation of this is simple. Matthew was a Jew. His audience was Jewish, and he was writing about Jesus who was a Jew. Devout Jews at that time, and even today, have a holy reverence for mentioning the name of God. They will only utter or write the name of God when there is no other alternative. I believe Matthew tailored his message to his audience so that the gospel would be better received by the Jewish leaders of his time.
This can easily be verified by looking at all the parables about the kingdom recorded in the gospel of Matthew. Most of them will not make sense any other way.
Anytime we see the phrase kingdom of Heaven used, we can safely replace it with the kingdom of God without any danger of adding to, or taking away from the scriptures.
All the kingdom imagery and terminology we see in the Gospels is not about going to Heaven when we die, but about Heaven coming down to earth while we live.
Matthew 6:10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Earth is the domain of the kingdom of God. It is Heaven’s outpost, given to Adam for stewardship for a season, lost by Adam through deception and rebellion, redeemed through the blood of Christ, and is now under our stewardship. We gain our entrance and citizenship into Heaven by accepting Christ as Lord. We gain entrance to the kingdom of God by becoming like a little child. This will never become a reality if we don’t become childlike.
What does Jesus mean in Matthew 18:3 about entering the Kingdom like a child?
Becoming childlike requires a putting aside of our will. This way our opinions and misconceptions do not get in the way of trusting God wholeheartedly.
A child understands that they do not always know what is best. Children often have very little control over their own lives. They embrace the fact that they have to put their trust in other people. They trust what their parents, teachers or other adults say without doubts or fear. For example, when a young child is shown a magic trick, their eyes light up with wonder.
Adults, on the other hand, are much more skeptical than children. This childlike faith and sense of wonder are somehow lost in the process of growing up.
There is something essential about a childlike perspective that pleases the Father and empowers a person to enter the kingdom, but what is Jesus talking about? What is this childlike perspective that Jesus has in mind?
We throw terms around like, “childlike faith,” but faith is never mentioned by Jesus. He is answering a question about who will be the greatest in the kingdom of God. I am not saying that faith has nothing to do with it, but Jesus did not put emphasis on faith. He put emphasis on a perspective that greatly effects our faith.
Is it possible that becoming like a little child means that we maintain the sense of wonder and innocence of a child that life in this sinful world tends to beat out of us?
Could it be that Jesus is talking about living life without being self-conscious, without guile, being open about our feelings and emotions, having an undefiled conscience and living life with excitement and boundless energy? Could He be referring to childlike inquisitiveness, vivid imagination, and creativity? Or a heart that is humble, joyful, hopeful, tender, loving, gentle, quick to forgive, and willing to believe the best of every person?
These are the sort of qualities that tend to define a child but get quickly stripped from us as we mature and become more “self-aware,” encountering the sin and brokenness of our fallen world.
As we grow into adulthood, we become jaded and prideful. We hold grudges and stay angry, refusing to forgive. We tend to lose hope because our hopes have often been dashed and destroyed. We allow negative emotions to rule us and let unimportant things matter more than what matters most. We lose our joy and live with a seared conscience.
As adults, we do things “because we’ve always done it that way” and have trouble with new ideas. We tend to reject things we do not understand, and this hinders us from trusting in the seemingly impossible. Children do not behave this way. Neither did Jesus.
Does this mean Jesus lacked maturity? Did He lack wisdom and understanding? Far from it. Jesus was full of wonder and hope for humanity. I believe Jesus lived in a constant state of awe and wonder. Jesus lived in awe of His Father, in awe of humanity, in awe of life, and in awe of His Father’s creation.
Anyone who witnessed how Jesus lived began to see how life should be lived. I believe this made Him the most attractive person on the planet to those who were not too jaded by selfish pride. It also made Him hated by those that were blinded to truth.
Jesus revealed to us how God intended life to be lived. The life of Jesus is the perfect example of childlikeness. His life is perfect theology.
Hebrews 1:9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”
I think many of us have a hard time seeing Jesus as joyful and childlike, yet some of the fruits of the Spirit are gentleness, meekness, and joy. I think His fruit was probably ripe and could easily be harvested just by being in His presence.
People began to see the rule and reign of God’s kingdom unfold before their eyes as Jesus began to embrace His earthly ministry with demonstration of the Kingdom of God and power. Signs and wonders were the fruit of His childlikeness before the Father
Jesus modeled the life we should live, and Jesus invited us to follow Him. He taught us that if we want to experience the kingdom of God in this life, then we need to become like a little child.
I encourage you today to get alone with God and don’t bring a prayer list. Just come to Him as a child that loves His Father and wants to be just like Him. Ask Him to help you be more childlike, in fact, ask a bunch of questions. Be open, vulnerable, humble, and forgiving. Tell Him what you struggle with, what makes you happy, what you would like to change about yourself. He’s a good listener.
Be attentive to His voice, practice being still in His presence and listen with the expectation of Him speaking to you.
The first step in becoming more childlike is to spend time with Him and allow Him to Father you. Embrace His love, invite His correction, pursue His instruction, and believe that change is coming.
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