AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH, November 2, 2014
A Presbyterian body continuing with its charge to attest the Saviour, Jesus Christ without qualification, and the Bible without compromise
CHILDREN BEFORE GOD
ANGELS, HEAVEN, EARTH, OFFENSES, JUDGMENTS AND
STUMBLING BLOCKS COMING UP FOR THE CHILD
When you look at the startling scenes in the DVD Wonderful Life, magnifications and explanations, the diligent designings the meticulous care required, then you ask: Where is the signature ? In bone China, it may be found on the bottom of the cup. In the creation, it is found in the Bible, alone able to give grounds for its authenticity as from God, and in it you find Jesus and with Him you see a little child. Let us examine this.
THE SITE TO AVOID STUMBLING BLOCKS DILIGENTLY
The question had arisen: Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven ? Taking a little child to Himself, Christ said, Unless you be converted and become as a little child, you will certainly not ENTER the kingdom of heaven. You can forget greatness; ponder entry. Attitude and atmosphere relate even to entry, repentance and realism, not adventurism and derring-do.
As to these little ones, "in heaven, their angels always behold the face of My Father who is in heaven," Christ declared. Heaven is the ultimate meaning for earth. So we go first to the angels and heaven for perspective, and that is found at Matthew 18:10-14. Don't scorn what angels behold! If one of the little ones is lost, seek with zest to find that one, we read in 18:14; "for it is not the will of your Father that one of these little ones be lost." They are not to be kept from the knowledge of Christ, as if this world is their lair, nor fed its fictions, as if their ruin were man's chief aim. Ruin the opening for relationship and you are like those who leave children unfed. Spiritual food is needed for mental and spiritual and moral muscle. If your whole household is divorced from God, your room to make them stumble is profound.
Offending little children ? (18:6-7), making them stumble is the keynote to this term. If you make or cause one of them to sin, it were better to have a millstone around the neck and be drowned.
That may seem gross, but doubtless the causing to sin involves more than a mere moment of exasperation, rather something destablising or giving a false perspective. The term is the Greek word from which our term 'scandal' appears to come. In a sense you scandalise the kid, you produce a very bad consequence at a deep level. Put differently, you put a stumbling block in the child's path or even entice. It is a large scale matter.
It is not just that the whole life may then be warped in resentment, wrong ways of meeting challenge, indolence, carelessness or self-will be stirred, but there is something very deep. Such failure is high on the list in the demand for repentance (Luke 13:1-3)
ANGELS AND THE FACE OF GOD
Be very careful not to SCORN, LOOK DOWN ON OR HAVE CONTEMPT towards a child, these little ones, said Christ (18:10). So here we have jointly the penalty of offence awaiting the unrepentant wrong-doers concerning a child (it may be mental, spiritual, physical, negligent), and an exhortation to have due regard for them. If you want to consider a child, for example, a rather unfortunate result of a sexual adventure between adults, as some appear to do, then the idea of despising the child, having no regard for it, being indifferent or even resentful towards it has immediate involvement comes into focus. DO NOT DO THIS.
One rather obvious way of achieving this is NOT to have sexual adventures, NOT to relate to those of the opposite gender with a child possibly to come, UNLESS you and that person are properly and duly linked in a lifetime alliance (short of adultery, Christ Himself making this exception - Matthew 19:9), so that the love expressed on this permanent basis provides the stable environment of love FOR the product, the child, and for the other member, who in productive partnership led to the child, so enhancing the cherished result of the union.
Do violence to their right ways, by indifference, misdirection or omission and you may beget violence, as with a car with steering neglected. In fact, a child, the most massive construction site in this world in type, beyond all of man's efforts, is not just a physical contribution to the universe, which happens to need help to develop the potentials inherent. It is, said Christ in effect, ever so much MORE than this. Christ declared that there is a scenario in heaven, or a function. In this, there are angels involved and the angel of the child has a transmissive quality, it appears, on the one hand, and a receptor action from the Lord on the other, SINCE even these angels steadfastly gaze upon the face of the Father (18:10). There is a certain steadfast beauty in a child at peace with the living God, sin covered, comfort present.
There is, if you will, something that is not stark innocence in the child (for as Psalm 51 points out, in iniquity was he born, as in Romans 5), but which is nevertheless open to stunning beauty. The God of wonder has this expressive contact which is available to children, way past all their processes and physical developments. There is a certain tenderness, as with a fawn in a wood which sin may dishevel, but which appears beyond simple growth, as an atmosphere for it. It is easily scarred; readily ruptured; horribly unprepared for vast abuses and misuses, whether in training or teaching or feeding or handling; or whether in mind or in spirit. What a child sees with eyes, hears with ears, beholds with spirit can lead to unconscious revulsion from life itself, from wholesomeness, to cynicism or numbness.
When thus the nature of the child is attacked through scoffing disregard, or through cruelty or lack of self-control, and when this moves into the realms of depth, and when the love which is as necessary as milk is not present, when the environment is stained from the first, then it is far more than a jolt. It is if not exactly sacrilegious, then open to an almost unutterable disaster, a warping and a disruption. It is like putting burning oil in perhaps millions of gallons into the atmosphere, as Saddam Hussein was reported to have done physically and geographically. It is again like omitting oxygen from air.
Does this mean then that due care involves no discipline ? on the contrary the story of the prodigal son shows that life itself has goads for discipline, and goodness may be despised whether the child grow by his or her own corruption, or by some kind of mental, spiritual or physical corruption. However, with little children, discipline is not so extreme an option, while yet its absence can grow slowly as time passes, into real danger. As time passes, the question arises of physical punishment. Then the cane, never to be used as the chief source of discipline, nor neglected in cases of warrantable foolishness as a sharp and unvengeful reminder of reality (Proverbs 13:24), it may become an aid. "He who spares his rod hates his son: but he who loves him chastens him diligently." There is a certain "foolishness ... bound up in the heart of a child," says Proverbs 22:15 and this requires an antidote.
It is better to help realism than to help wilful or even witless wandering, leading to wandering in mind, spirit or body into what may distort the rest of life, whether with self-trust in one extreme, without the living God, or with drugs, promiscuity or superficial decisions, with heaven replaced by one's very own self and its chosen ways. You can ensure your absence from heaven, but you cannot replace it with self-built self-assurance, founded on pride or hatred, aspiration or vacuity. So a spirit of discipline is needed.
Where now the angel faces regarding that of the Father ? Discipline in diligence means two things: you do NOT discipline until and unless called for, for this is as slack as failing to do it when it is. A diligent pilot is not always fiddling with engine setting during a smooth flight, but uses this flow for the best. If the engines shoot out flame or smoke, then much discipline may be needed, and one must be watchful.
You must oil your engine, water the radiator, put grease in the door hinges, and this all might be regarded as interference, but a smooth routine can make it almost unnoticed. All this is part of diligence, do what it takes as wisely as you can with excellent results obtained with understanding. Thus the child is not made a god, nor scorned nor disregarded, but treated just as you would like to be treated in his or her place. In this way the full wonder of a relaxed but vigorous, loving and watchful, conscientious and careful upbringing can be wrought: the thing is precious, like a 10 million dollar car.
For all this, you will need self-discipline. Avoid those who could trespass, keep the child from accident as far as you are able; look for special talent to aid its development; do not RUN the child on the other hand, but encourage with opportunity for initiative, imagination and finding of things not foreseen. Do not suffer foolishness to live and bound like a cancer, and realise that social phenomena may be desirable to the young mind, but now many of these are simply traps for the sullen, the scattery, the undisciplined, the slack or the recklessly adventurous.
On the other hand, the child brought to know the Lord may exercise much self-discipline, when duly informed, and for a loved child led in the way, little discipline may be needed, but the category should not be omitted.
Yet for all that, evil may entice the swaggering soul, secure the sedate and the praise of men intoxicate the self-sufficient.
Nevertheless if you seek diligently a beautiful garden, neither worship it nor fail to perceive past its many rather obvious needs, that for access to the ultimate Father, through the Saviour, it may become a very pageant of beauty. Be then sensitive, realistic, watchful and responsive. FAILING to care for the spiritual aspect of the child's life, this, left ignorant is one of the simplest ways to spoil the tendril seeking for a post to make contact, climb, and bear fruit
In fact (Matthew 18:4), humbling YOUR OWN SELF to a sense of dependency on the living God, just as the child in no small part may depend on you, is part of the duet as adult and child grow before God. This applies to all age groups. Indeed, the topic of spoilage, misuse, on the one hand, and necessary self-discipline is featured in this very passage, through the words of Christ, moving freely in these domains. While a young child is the major focus here, its lessons are extended freely by the Lord Himself.
OTHER FAULT PLANES
Matthew 18:6-9 extends the concept of offending the child life as a stumbling block, into other domains. What if part of your own life is causing ruin to another or to the entirety of your being like a fever ? say, a stealing hand which wins fortunes for you, a brandished tongue which subdues all with a mixture of crassness and brashness, a wandering foot which takes you where you are singularly astray ? It is as if the parts of the body symbolise, stand for the departments of life.
IF you are in some potency, in some outpost of your personality or power or position, behaving ruinously, though maybe very successfully as the world estimates, in some making of contracts, training of recruits, looking after patients, and there is an obvious failure that you just cannot control: then CUT IT OUT. Leave that domain rather than create evil through it.
It is better to lose a prized position, or reputation, or money source, or authority emplacement, than ruin your soul in a morass or moraine of defilement. Cut off the hand which causes to stumble, is the imagery used. So whether it be for the child, or for yourself, have discipline for good, avoid evils on all sides, be responsible, conscientious, watchful, discrete, prudent, alert and good-hearted, gentle as a mode, gracious in demeanour, thorough in application, with all diligence seeking to please the Lord in all things, not making pseudo-religious requiems for the dead parts of your life, but tossing them out as rubbish and rejoicing in the Lord.
Hard ? It is no easy way; but is one fragrant with the functionality and spirituality of Christ. Is it so hard to put on chains on your wheels in the snow of failure, to secure a better grip ? What is required, needs doing; and failure to fall in dissolute, desolate, slumping spiritual heaps as you err, but instead arising with faith, is what is required.
There is what is heavenly, but it is based in the source in heaven, and its ministrations. Bruise, bully, disdain, disregard these and the face of the Father moves far from you. Christ here indicates vital aspects of the path of life, and even penalties as deep as life for wilful ignorance, vacuous disregard, or self-satisfied acceptance of what is frankly evil. A trusting heart and a simplicity of realism, not obscuring realities with words, is what one may expect in a little child. Breaking from spoilt nature, regenerated children of God live that way.