Do Not Hinder the Children, Part 2

Do Not Hinder the Children, Part 2

In last week’s brief midweek message, I was fairly hard on parents.  This week, I will lay a burden on the whole church.  Let me say, again, before we get started, that I am not wanting to cultivate some kind of legalistic approach to church attendance.  I am simply arguing that Christians need to gather with the church as much as possible in order to fend off the attacks of the evil one.

In part one, we quoted the words of Jesus when He said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”  I described the current situation of our times and how parents are some of the main culprits of this act that displeases the Lord.  Many parents hinder their children from being introduced to Christ, experiencing a relationship with Him, and learning of Him simply by neglecting regular church attendance.  Yet, I do not want you do be deceived into thinking that I am only talking to parents with school-aged children.  No, the spiritual growth and discipleship of children is the responsibility of the entire congregation.  Yes, parents (and especially fathers) bear most of the responsibility, but the church bears some as well.

In a couple of recent sermons, the subject of mentoring has come up.  All Christians, according to New Testament norms, are expected to mentor others in the church.  Older men are to teach younger men.  Likewise, older women are to teach younger women.  Moreover, we should all be conscious of the example that we are setting for others, especially for those who are most impressionable—children. Similarly, the Great Commission is a wonderful passage (Matthew 28:16-20) and really gets at the heart of Christ’s purpose for the church in this age, and I would propose to you that if we are going to be obedient to that call to make disciples, then there are no better candidates than the kids that are running around us in the sanctuary.

Parents, this is your main job—discipling your children, and church, you should also take an active role in helping to raise up a godly generation.

Rendering to Caesar, Rendering to God (Matthew 22:21)

Rendering to Caesar

A little reminder of Jesus’ words about rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s may be beneficial for us as Tax Day arrives.  So often we are frustrated with the governing authorities: their taxation and their poor leadership.  The Jews of the first century were also frustrated with the occupying Empire.  They had many reasons to be upset with Rome, the greatest being a theological one: Rome occupied the Promised Land and oppressed God’s chosen people.

Heavy taxation was only part of the problem that the Jews had with the Romans, but it was a constant reminder of their own inferiority to a Gentile Empire.  Some of the Pharisees and Herodians, two groups of Jews, thought that they could set a trap for Jesus by getting Him to publicly speak ill of the authorities.  Yet, as usual, Jesus knew the wickedness in their hearts (yes, the ill will they had toward the Romans but, even more so, the ill will that they had toward Jesus).  So, how does Jesus respond?  Did He tell the people that they were right to rebel against the governing authorities?  Did He tell them to not give in to the tax demands and pay hard earned money to the filthy Gentiles?

Jesus, in a most clever fashion, tells His opponents to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.  He also told them to give to God what belongs to God (we may have to talk about this next week).  Is it hard to honor such corrupt American leadership like we have today?  Sure.  No one is denying that.  Is it difficult to send so much money to the government every year?  Yes, it is a hard pill to swallow.  Is it the right thing to do?  Honoring the governing authorities and paying our taxes is most certainly the right thing to do because the Lord has instructed us to do so.  He has commanded us on several occasions, Himself and through His apostles, to submit to the governing authorities and to honor the national leadership.  Part of living as a good citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven is living as a good citizen of the kingdoms is this world (in our case, the United States).  Let us stand for what is right despite how corrupt our culture or government may become.

Rendering to God

When we begin to ponder what Jesus meant by, “Render to God the things that are God’s,” we may feel a little guilty over the many compromises we have made when it comes to our Christian responsibilities.  One commentator has said, “The most significant part of life is that which belongs to God. . .” (Morris, 558).  And yet, we so often neglect this part of our lives.  We are blinded by the things of this world.  We are distracted by trivial pursuits.  We get wrapped up in things that do not last.  We often times do not use our energy, time, finances, minds, possessions, and the rest in service to God in the ways that we should.

This writer goes on to say, “We should be clear, too, that Jesus is not saying that we can divide life into separate compartments so that God has nothing to do with that section which belongs to Caesar.  The obligation to God covers all of life; we must serve Caesar in a way that is honoring to God” (Ibid.).  In reality, for the Christian, there is no divide between the sacred and the secular.  All of life is sacred.  Every part of our lives should be influenced and, often, directly determined by the Lord.  We like to think that Sunday is God’s day (if we even give Him that anymore) and the rest of the week is “mine.”  We like to think that 10% of our money should be “paid back” to God when, in fact, it all belongs to Him.  We like to think that we can serve a few minutes here and maybe an hour there, but God wants us to serve Him at all times (often by serving others).  We like to separate “sacred” and “secular” but there is no room for such thinking in the Christian life.

To use the idea of Caesar again: Caesar most certainly represents the worldly government, but he may also represent all of the things of this world.  The Christian realizes and submits to God’s Lordship above all others, the worldly government and all of the things of this world.  God is, therefore, sovereign over Caesar, the President, America, or any other.  We have obligations to the authorities and systems of this world; we also have obligations to our families, employers, and communities, but our greatest obligation is to the Lord Himself.  Let’s render unto God the things that are God’s, that is, the entirety of our lives.

Do Not Hinder the Children

Do Not Hinder the Children

In Philippians 3:12-16, we are exhorted to press forward in the Christian life.  One of the applications that I have given in response to that message has been to have our children in church.  Now, we could be legalistic about this issue, but I want to share with you the practical reasons for having our kids at church on a regular basis in this devotional and in next week’s.

The Lord Jesus famously said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”  One thing that greatly displeases the Lord is keeping children away from Him. Ironically, some of the most common perpetrators of this expectation of our Lord are Christian parents.  For the sake of making our children “happy,” we often do anything but attend church on Sundays.  Whether it is going on trips, playing sports, or simply sleeping in, many of us are guilty of hindering our kids from going to the Lord.  Have we displeased the Lord if we take a couple vacations a year?  No, I don’t think so.  But we do offend the Lord if we do not usher our kids to the Lord on a regular basis. We feed them, bathe them, clothe them, educate them, and ensure that they have plenty of exercise all on a regular basis.  For that matter, we even make sure that they are entertained every day.  Yet, how often do we consider either the positive or negative impact of church attendance on the health and well-being of our children?

I have been convicted about this vital part of parenting, and I hope you are as well.  Maybe some of you have already raised your kids, but what about your grandkids and the other families in the church?  In a culture that has turned so hostile against Christianity, I am convinced that we do not need less of God, we need more.  We do not need less time in God’s Word, we need more.  We do not need poorer church attendance, we need near perfect attendance.  The same goes for adults and all of your family.  Let’s not neglect worship, prayer, learning, sharing, encouraging, and accountability.  Let’s not hinder our children from coming to the Lord.