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“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 18:3)
Jesus came so you could have eternal life … now. Yes, you can begin to experience a taste of the kingdom of heaven in this life. This is not just for “Super-Christians.” Jesus did not die for Super-Christians. He lived and he died for you. And his constant and consistent message was, and is, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come.”[i]
In essence, “I have brought the kingdom to your heart’s doorstep, and all you need to open the door into the kingdom, to experience what I have to offer, is to have a changed heart.”
What wonderful news! “How great is the love that the Father has lavished upon us!”[ii] But I have some not so good news—at least for you grown-up types. You must become like a little child to enter his kingdom of heaven, here and now. Oh, I can hear the squirming from some of you. “Like a little child? What? That is utter nonsense. See, there is always a catch with Jesus, and the catch is always unattainable!”
Let me respond. It is not unattainable. Not at all. But it will indeed be difficult for those of you who pride yourselves in having life figured out. It will be challenging for those of you who are sure you are right, at least right most of the time. It will be a real hassle for those of you who are addicted to control.
I used to be one of you. I can still revert to my former smart, in control, got life figured out Self, too. But when I do, I am stepping out of the flow of the kingdom among us.[iii]
I can be moving along in the flow of the kingdom, carefree, peaceful, loving, compassionate and caring, at one with my Savior and the world around me, and suddenly I think about some disagreeable task ahead of me, or something someone said or did that irritates me. And immediately I am out of the flow, crashed up onto the banks, muddy and slogging along in my own strength.
Can you relate?
But what does Jesus mean by “become like little children?” He could certainly mean dependent, or trusting, or wide-eyed wonder. I like to think of a little child as someone who knows they need help. They know they are not in charge. They know they cannot take care of themselves, by themselves.
They know these things because they know they are weak, and they know they do not have life conquered, and not even close to figured out.
So they ask for help … like a little child.
Do you need help? Do you realize that you indeed need a lot of help – every single day? You see, I finally realized I am a mess. I do not have it all together. I do not have anything figured out—except that I need Jesus. And I finally realized I will at best achieve a C+, perhaps a B-, on my own. But with Jesus’ help life flows along more like an A+ Life to the full, because through the Holy Spirit, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”[iv]
Here is how The Passion translation presents Jesus’ words about becoming like a child:
Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable like a little child, you will never be able to enter God’s kingdom realm. (Matt. 18:3)
A teachable heart. Do you have one? Or are you too grown up?
If you want a little more:
A little 10-year-old boy wanted to build a fort, so he was in the backyard clearing out a space. His father watched as he struggled to move a large rock that was in his way. He was getting nowhere against this heavy rock, so his father walked out to help. He watched for a moment longer as the boy, determined to succeed, fought in quiet desperation.
Then, the father said, “Son, I don’t think you are using all your power against that rock.”
The boy glared at his dad and cried out in tears of frustration, “How can you say that? I’m giving it all I’ve got!”
The father smiled and said, “My beloved child, you’re not using all your strength because you’re not using mine.”
[i] Matthew 3:1
[ii] 1 John 3:1
[iii] Dallas Willard
[iv] Philippians 4:13