Summary: Jesus did not mean that we need to act like children, but to show a few good childlike traits that can help us draw nearer to God.
In the gospels, the apostles were always wondering among themselves who would be the greatest in the kingdom of God. They would argue amongst themselves because they wanted the places of honor
In Mark 9 and 10 we see two examples we’ll take note of.
Mark 9:33-34 (NKJV) 33 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, "What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?" 34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.
Even after the Lord spoke of His coming death in Mark 10:33-34, they had other things on their minds.
After Jesus told them what was awaiting Him in Jerusalem, James and John asked Jesus to do for them whatever they ask. Jesus asked what their request was. They proceeded to ask Jesus that when Jesus ruled over His kingdom that one of them could sit on His left, and one on His right in His glory. They wanted to be great in the kingdom and wanted a position of authority. The other 10 disciples hearing this were angered at their request.
I thought to myself, “Why would the other disciples get mad over that?” Any ideas? The only reason that I could see is that James and John beat them to the punch. That’s why they were angry. They wanted to be great in Jesus’ kingdom also. They all wanted the positions of power.
The greatest in the kingdom of heaven is the one who becomes like a child. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus disciples were doing here? I think they were acting like little children, but not in the way Jesus meant.
What does Jesus mean when he says that one must be converted and become like children? I would like to study with you in this lesson some different traits that children have. There are some that we should imitate as Christians and some that we shouldn’t. Our Lord wants us to be child-like, but not childish.
Let’s look at a couple definitions:
a. Childlike - like a child, innocent, trusting, pure, humble
b. Childish - pertaining to a child, silly, trifling, immature, self-indulgent, babyish, irresponsible
Let’s look at first:
CHILDISH TRAITS WHICH SHOULD NOT BE IMITATED BY CHRISTIANS.
LACK OF UNDERSTANDING
There are some in the religious world who claim that we just cannot understand the scriptures without supernatural help, or help from a certain religious body to interpret the scriptures for us. They point to all of the division we see in “Christianity.” They misquote 2 Peter 1:20 to say that we cannot interpret the scriptures without help. Is this true? I believe that those who make this claim misunderstand the scriptures themselves because the scriptures tell us that we can understand.
Jesus on many occasions when he taught told the people to “hear and understand.” Would he say this if it were not possible? Of course not. In the KJV, the word understand is used over 30 times in the gospels, 70 times in the whole New Testament, stressing the importance of understanding the message so we may be able to follow that which we understand.
The letters written in the New Testament were meant to be read and understood by the hearers!
Ephesians 3:3-4 “how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),”
Ephesians 5:17 “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
2 Timothy 3:15 (NKJV) and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Timothy understood the scriptures that he had, the Old Testament, FROM CHILDHOOD!
Even the book of revelation was to be understood by those who received it.
Revelation 1:3 (NKJV) Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.
John says that they should understand what they are hearing enough that they would keep the words of the prophecy and even be blessed by what they heard. I’m not going to blessed by something you say to me if I don’t understand any of it.
I would agree with anyone that says there are verses in the bible that are difficult to understand, especially the book of revelation to us since we are so far removed from it’s historical context.
Peter said that there were things that Paul wrote in his letters that were hard to understand. But we must try our hardest to understand God’s will for our lives. We do not want to be guilty of twisting the word of God because of our misunderstanding of a verse as the men that Peter describes in 2 Peter 3 that twisted the scriptures to their own destruction. That is why we must study the scriptures diligently so we may rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). It should be one of our greatest desires to grow in our understanding of the will of God.