Summary: We are to get rid of childish traits while maintaining certain other childlike qualities.
You probably have heard that tonight is the start of our Vacation Bible School. Everyone has been working hard to get ready, and you can see the results of their work in the halls and in the classrooms. We would like to keep the children out of the classrooms, but if you adults would like to stick your head in the doors and take a peek, feel free to do that after we dismiss since you won’t get to be in the classrooms with the children.
VBS is, of course, all about children. We’ll be having an adult class this week, but primarily we recognize that VBS is about kids. We’re reminded of Jesus’ attitude toward children -- how his disciples apparently thought Jesus was too important and too busy to take time out for kids, but Jesus took the children in his arms and blessed them.
And as we focus on children, we are reminded of one of the most amazing truths in all of scripture, expressed by the apostle John in I John 3:1: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!" What a wonderful truth! That, through the grace of God, we have the opportunity to become God’s own children. And that’s really amazing when you think about it. We are the children of God.
But the image of a child is one that conjures up mixed emotions, though. They can be a tremendous joy to us, and they can, at times, be a great frustration. And that’s because there is such a combination of qualities in children -- some of them are admirable, some of them not so admirable.
As Christians, I think it’s evident that God intends for us to imitate the admirable qualities we see in children, while trying to get rid of the qualities that are not so admirable. Paul put it this way in I Corinthians 14:20, "Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature." In other words, there are certain ways we should want to be like children, and some ways we shouldn’t. It’s a process I call being childlike, but not childish. This morning, in honor of Vacation Bible School, I want us to look at eight qualities of children. Four of them are childlike qualities that we need to develop in our Christian lives. The other four are childish qualities that we need to outgrow as we mature in Christ.
I. Qualities of a Child That We Should Not Have
Paul said, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child; I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." (I Corinthians 13:11). Paul was specifically talking about certain spiritual gifts that were available to the church in its infancy, but would no longer be available once the church reached a level of maturity. But his statement has a broader application.
Growth and maturity involve putting certain childish things behind us. It’s been said, "You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely." Let’s look at four childish traits that we need to put out of our lives as we grow up in Christ.
Someone has composed the following list of "Toddler’s Rules of Ownership":
1. If I like it, it’s mine.
2. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
5. If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
6. If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
7. If it looks just like mine, it’s mine.
8. If I think it’s mine, it’s mine.
9. If it’s yours and I steal it, it’s mine.
There’s a lot of truth in that. A child’s world centers around himself for at least the first couple of years. Someone has said that every child is a potential dictator. And it becomes very evident at an early age. You bring a child home from the hospital, you lay him down in his crib, then you lay down in bed and go to sleep. Now, in a couple of hours, that child will wake up with an urge to eat. And you would think that that child would reason to himself, "It’s 2:00 in the morning. My parents are tired. I really hate to cry and wake them up; they need some rest. I think I’ll just wait for a few more hours before I say anything."
But you know as well as I do that it doesn’t work that way. Instead, the reasoning process goes something like this: "I’m hungry, and you will feed me right now. I don’t care what you’re doing. I don’t care what else needs to be done. I’m going to be fed, and I’ll keep screaming until that happens." That’s selfish. A baby’s world revolves around the concept, "What do I want?" And there’s nothing wrong with that because that’s the way God designed babies.