Paul Washer Confronts American Christianity

A reality check for the American church culture. Shocking, dramatic, needed – sharing the truth in love – at a youth conference!

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A Christian Imperative: Bringing Children to Christ – Part 3 of 3

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.

A Christian Imperative: Bringing Children to Christ – Part 2 of 3

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 Part 1 of this series we looked at the biblical makeup and ideal involvement of these parental figures in youth ministry (verse 15a). Now we turn our attention to the second part of verse 15.

Having addressed the issue of parents and youth ministry, let us now examine the problems of youth ministry within the confines of this text.

Part 2: The Problems of Youth Ministry

Notice again our text:

“And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them,” 18:15b.

The greatest assault on youth ministry is sin – the sin of the children, the sin of the parents, and the sin of the world. Sin is the greatest problem in youth ministry. But if you would look to your right and to your left, in front of you and behind you, and in your mirror tonight, then you will see the problem of youth ministry in this text – the problem is us!

It is not the Pharisees that rebuke the people from bringing their children to Christ, who so often rebuke Christ; it is not the Sadducees or the Hellenists or the pagans; and contemporarily, it is not the naturalist or the spiritualist or the postmodern man. These who would prevent children from coming to Christ are the disciples’ of Christ – those closest to Him.

The disciples, here, make a critical error in their understanding of Christ’s mission and their place in it. Christ came to seek and to save sinners, and the disciples were set free to be servants to all in bringing everyone to Christ!

Though this is not an exhaustive list, I have recognized four kinds of problematic disciples who stand in the pathway of children coming to Christ, starting with these disciples:

First, the elitist disciple; as Calvin rightly states, these disciples preferred to introduce to the world a “fancied Christ.” They rebuked the parents who would have their children blessed by Christ because they perceived Christ as a King to important to extend love and grace and compassion and time to infants and young children. These disciples had forgotten that they too were lost in sin, and that Christ sought each one of them out. They had forgotten that they were sinners saved by the grace of Christ. Because of this, they tended to be unevangelical and separatist. They thought of themselves like bodyguards to a famous individual. Under these disciples, children will grow in the shadows of legalism and partiality, while missing the compassion and love of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ – that is, if they can get past these disciples into the arms of Christ.

I would give these disciples credit, for at least they believed in a powerful Christ, and would, obviously, come to grow to know Him more intimately as time passed and the exaltation of our Lord occurred. Today, the problematic disciples are not of the kind that believe Christ to be too high and lofty to fool with infants. Rather, many disciples today follow a Christ who is much less than what He has revealed Himself to be.

Here are a few more problematic disciples:

Secondly, the hypocritical disciple who would witness of a “powerless Christ”. On Sunday morning, these disciples wear a smile and say their “amen’s”, but Monday through Saturday, fail to spend any meaningful time with Christ. They say they believe Him to be powerful, but they never pray for salvations, and they never expect much from the youth ministry of the church. They masquerade as one thing, and practice something else.

Thirdly, the shallow disciple who would witness of an “unentertaining Christ.” They prefer the youth to watch Christian videos, play Christian games, have Christian parties, and listen to sappy Christian music, but they stand to rebuke anyone, parents, pastors, or laity who rather bring the children to Christ through expositional preaching of God’s Word, and a seriousness about the realities of sin, Satan, death, hell, and Christ crucified and raised as victor over them all.

Fourthly, the lawless disciple who would witness of a “tolerant Christ.” These disciples cling to the love and grace and compassion of Christ and His authority to give these things to them, but they cannot fathom a Christ who is coming a second time to judge the world in His righteousness. To these, Christ does not speak about personal sin, nor does He demand fruit and holiness. They profess to know much about Christ, while practicing very little of Christ.

Lastly, the material disciple who would witness of a “prosperity Christ.” These disciples are very dangerous because they are entrenched deeply into the thinking of the world. Christ alone does not satisfy, they say, and God is unhappy with you if you are not prospering materially. This disciple is, perhaps, the most tempting for youth to follow, because many pass this garbage off as “The Gospel”, and it is not. God is the ultimate satisfaction; in Him shall we be truly satisfied.

Regardless, all of these problematic disciples have one thing in common. They disdained what they saw. We must ask ourselves from the text, “What did they see that they felt so strongly to rebuke?” And the answer is – passionate people who having truly tasted of the goodness of Christ endeavored with every ounce of their strength to bring the children to Jesus Christ! That’s it! They saw undeniable passion put to practice and the outcome was evangelism – the parents were bringing the children to Christ!

I pray that instead we would all unite as faithful disciples whose desire is to introduce not a fancied Christ, or a powerless Christ, or an unentertaining Christ, or a Christ who tolerates disobedience, but rather the biblical Christ, the Jesus who says, “Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them.”

In Part 3 we will address the priorities in youth ministry as Christ identifies them in verses 16 and 17 of Luke 18.

A Christian Imperative: Bringing Children to Christ – Part 1 of 3

In the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) Christ has given us the Divine imperative and preeminent endeavor in youth ministry: “Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them.” The text that I will use is predominantly Luke’s account in Luke 18:15-17. I will address three important issues in youth ministry in three parts: first, the parental figures and youth ministry; secondly, the problems in youth ministry; and lastly, the priorities and Preeminent in youth ministry. I do not intend to exhaustively cover the issues concerning parents, problems, and the priorities in youth ministry, but, rather to allow Luke’s account make up and shape the contours of what is written here. Simply put, I humbly intend this as an exposition of Luke 18:15-17.

PART 1: The Parental Figures and Youth Ministry

I use the term parental figures so as not to exclude grandparents and relatives in bringing their children to Christ. Some would desire to use that term because of the current state of thought concerning marriage, homosexuality, divorce, live-in relationships, etc. in the hopes of not offending anyone – I am not one of those people! By parental figures I mean, primarily, two adults within the bonds of heterosexual covenant with one another, so joined in the presence of God, and are the biological parents of their children, but not to the exclusion of those circumstances that arise where a child’s parents have passed away so that the grandparent’s or other relatives have taken over parental responsibilities, or in the instance of adoption into such a united couple, etc. Ideally, biological parents are the child’s primary teacher and accountability in the things of God – though often times in the world we live, unideal situations arise.

Recently, as I was scanning Headline News, I became privy to a tragic story of nine teenagers in Polk County, Florida. Two of the teens were boys, the other seven were girls, ranging in age from fourteen to eighteen years young. One of the girls was kidnapped by the other eight; the two boys stood outside guarding the door so that the impending assault might transition uninterruptedly. In what transpired as an act of revenge, six girls took turns video taping and attacking another girl. After they had smashed her head into a wall, knocking her unconscious, they continued to pound on her body and face after she had been revived. At one point the girl holding the camera said, “There’s only 17 seconds of battery left – make it good!” They continued to savagely beat this girl to the point where she now has no vision in her left eye or hearing in her left ear as well as severe swelling all over her body. The truth is that they might have murdered this girl and cared less. These girls were cheerleaders and honor roll students! Afterwards, one of the girls questioned a policeman asking if she was going to be out of custody in time to make it to cheerleading practice the next day! No remorse, no conviction, not even a hint of regret. There intention was to put the video of the beating on YouTube, a popular website for the younger generations.

At least three things come to mind: first, that these kids external accolades had no bearing upon their spiritual condition – no remorse or conviction about their murderous actions and intentions, often heard encouraging one another on in the assault. A question that arises from this consideration for a parent concerns the priorities of life that a parent takes with their child. After school activities? Intellectual studies? Condition of the eternal soul?
Secondly, though this was no doubt a great tragedy, it pales in comparison to the tragedy of a lost soul. What if in a moment any one of those girls had entered into eternity as swiftly as they appeared to be trying to send the one girl in murderous fashion? A fifteen year old honor roll student consigned to hell is an infinitely greater tragedy. We might be appalled at the sight of this video, but I wonder, how often are we silenced by the reality of hell and the lost condition of the young soul? Lastly, how great, then, is the responsibility of parents, pastors, and laity – the entire church – in youth ministry, in bringing children to Jesus Christ?

For our purposes, let us look at our text and point out at least four short principles with regards to the right dispositions of parents and youth ministry that arise from the 15th verse of Luke 18.

“Now they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them,” Luke 18:15.

I find four principles concerning the right condition of parental figures and youth ministry.

First, that these parental figures had experienced the blessing and reality of Christ’s ministry themselves. John Calvin is right to note Luke’s use of the particle “also”, or as it is in my translation, “even”. That is to say that these figures, having been previously blessed by Christ’s ministry, now anticipated that He would bless their children as well. Perhaps the most important element of youth ministry is the spiritual condition of the parents. In other words, the biblical ideal is that the parents are themselves believers in Jesus Christ.

Secondly, having experienced the blessing of Christ themselves, their sole desire was that Christ might bless their children also. This is a mark of having truly tasted the grace of Christ, that you greatest desire is that others may taste of Him as well; and for parents, the foremost desire is that Christ may touch your child.

Thirdly, that these parents had obtained a right expectation of Christ’s ministry. They were bringing their children to Him “that He might touch them.” Again, the parents, having been blessed freely by Christ expected nothing less than that Jesus would bless their children too – that He would equally and freely confer blessing upon the children.
They expected that He would “touch them.” Matthew’s account secures the meaning of the parent’s expectation when he writes that Christ would “lay His hands on them and pray,” (19:13). Simply, they expected Jesus to bless their children.
In Jewish culture, to have someone bless you or bless your children was to honor that person with a superior status. Therefore, Melchizedek blessed Abraham, and Hebrews 7:7, giving the understanding of that Old Testament text, reveals, “It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior.”
These parents honored Christ as the superior, and humbled themselves as the inferior. And out of this understanding came their great passion and expectation of Him. It is likely that they held out Christ to be of a high Prophetical office. Therefore, they expected rightly that Christ would bless them and pray for them, granting the children a participation in His grace.

Lastly, these parents were rightly aligned with the heart and will of God. As we shall see, Christ calls them to Him, beckoning the children to come to Him, and as our text makes clear, “Now they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them.” In a day when many parents allow the child to be their own spiritual guide, or when many parents are insensitive to the heart of God for their children, these parental figures were perfectly aligned with God’s heart for the children.

Now we have a biblical sketch of parents who effectively minister to their children – believing parents who have a biblical desire for the salvation of their children, a biblical expectation of Christ’s gracious ministry, and a biblical alignment with the heart and will of God, that by every means necessary, they will bring their children to Jesus Christ.

In Part 2 we will examine “The Problems in Youth Ministry (according to Luke 18:15)”.