Luke 18:15-17 reads,
“Now they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him, saying, ‘Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’”
In parts 1 and 2 we have addressed two kinds of people involved in the ministry of a church and specifically the youth within that church – parental figures and disciples. In this part, we will turn our attention to a third Person, our Lord Jesus Christ and His priorities for youth ministry.
Part 3: The Priorities of Youth Ministry
“But Jesus called them to Him, saying, ‘Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’”
I have listed three priorities from this text that are simple staples to a successful youth ministry. And I am going to address them in reverse order. Therefore,
Priority #3: This church body must be made up of people who have received the kingdom of God like a child.
This is important in three facets;
One, we must be born again Christians. We live in a day and age when many who profess Christianity do not practice Christianity – and the authenticity of one’s faith is not in a mere profession but in the practice of Christ. Billy Graham has estimated that seventy-five to eighty percent of the people sitting in the pews on Sunday morning are lost. Have you attempted to force your way into God’s kingdom, or like a child receives a gift on Christmas morning, have you received the kingdom of God? By the one you will die lost and condemned; by the other you are fitted for glory.
Two, we must be born again Christians aimed at holiness. The kingdom of God implies the rule of God. When a person believes in Jesus Christ, they have believed in Jesus Christ as Lord over every aspect of their lives or not at all. Two-faced Christianity will serve to hinder a child from coming to Christ, but a true passion for holiness that glorifies Christ will serve to bring a child to Christ.
Three, we must be born again Christians aimed at holiness and humility, or who endeavor as servants of Christ to bring children to Christ. Jesus said in Luke 9:48, “whoever receives a child in my name receives me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” One characteristic of a child that Christ continually drew upon was the characteristic of humility. As such, children teach us a valuable lesson in bringing them to Christ – we must be humble servants.
Priority #2: We must give careful attention to our lives to avoid being a hindrance.
Christ said, “Do not hinder them.” This is an imperative of Christ, and as such, we would do well to obey Him. In Matthew 18:1-6, it is recorded that the disciples were arguing over “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And Jesus calls a young child to Himself and sets the child in the midst of them and says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
In that day, the worst of criminals experienced this very punishment. If we in any way hinder children from coming to Christ, Christ says we are counted among the worst of them. We must give careful attention to our lives, to our doctrine, to our words, to our thoughts, and to our priorities, for by them a sponge-like child will either fill up with sin or the truth that leads to salvation.
Priority #1: Jesus said, “Let the children come to Me.”
I believe that there are at least two things wrapped up in the “Me” of this greatest imperative of Christ, “Let the children come to Me.”
First, Christ’s preeminence as the definitive priority or a matter of Christ’s preeminence. When Jesus says, “Let the children come to Me,” He means that in contrast to anything else. Parents, it is good for you to set education as a priority for your child. It is good for you to set athletics as a priority for your child. It is good for you to set certain hobbies or friendships as priorities for your children. It is good for you to raise them with good manners and a solid moral foundation. But these all become sinful when they take preeminence over Jesus Christ as the definitive priority of your child’s life. When your child misses worship for a hobby, or Sunday school because of a spend the night party, or a family Bible study because of athletics, or a monumental discipleship weekend because of other forms of entertainment, then a sinful shift of priorities has occurred. Christ says, “Let the children come to Me.” When I misrepresent a text on Wednesday nights or teach them more about morals than the Gospel, or prefer that they follow me instead of Jesus Christ, I have hindered them from coming to Christ. And Christ says to me, “Let the children come to Me.” What good will it be, beloved, for a child to be well-educated if on the day of judgment he has not “come to Christ?” What good will athleticism be for a child when they stand before God in paralytic awe and horror that they had never “run to Christ?” What will there manners and morality be on the day when God requires of them the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, if they have not been “clothed with Christ?” God help us to honor Christ as the definitive priority in the life of this youth ministry. Jesus says, “Let the children come to Me.”
Secondly, Christ’s biblical Person and Work are revealed in His word “Me”, or a matter of Christ’s Person. We must bring the children to the biblical Jesus, the Jesus who reveals Himself even in our text as Prophet, Priest, and King. We must not fashion for ourselves an idol, beloved, and present “him” to the youth. No, we must speak of Him as He is in truth.
A well-known Christian publication recently sent out its Easter Sunday school study for children. In it they purposefully removed the crucifixion of Christ, His Priestly Work on our behalf, claiming that the crucifixion of Christ was too graphic for young children. I would ask them, “How can we celebrate Easter if we omit the substitutionary death of Christ?”
Beloved, in our living, loving, praying, serving, preaching, and teaching, we must hold up the biblical Christ as central to this youth ministry.
When He rebukes the disciples for their sin in our text, we see Christ the Prophet.
When Jesus speaks with the authority of God and gives the decree of the kingdom, we see Christ the King.
And when our Lord lovingly and compassionately calls the children to Himself in order to bless them, we see Christ our Priest and Intercessor before God.
In this youth ministry we must contend for the Christ who points out our sin, paid for our sin, and exercises Lordship over every aspect of our Christian lives. Anything less and we will hinder the children from coming to Christ. May it never be! Jesus says, “Let the children come to Me.” Let us, therefore, endeavor to bring them to Him. To God be the glory. Amen.
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