“WHEN I WAS A CHILD…” 1 Cor. 13:11; 1 John 3:1-3
INTRO – There are several different places in Scripture where we are referred to as “children” in our eternal relationship to God, our Father:
- Deuteronomy 14:1 – “You are children of the Lord your God…”
- John 1:12 – “Yet to all who received, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
- Romans 8:16 – “The Spirit Himself testifies w/ our spirit that we are God’s children…”
- Ephesians 5:1-2 – “Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children, & live a life of love, just as Christ loved us & gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering & sacrifice to God.”
- Ephesians 5:8 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…”
- 1 John 3:1-2
- 1 John 3:10 – “This is how we know who the children of God are & who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”
- 1 John 5:19 – “We know that we are children of God, & the whole world lies under the control of the evil one.”
All of us who are born again are children of God, no matter what stage of maturity we are in. Someone once said, “A baby is God’s opinion that life should go on” (Carl Sandburg). It is such a privilege & honor to be a child of God. It’s a gift of His grace that none of us should ever take lightly. Whether we’ve been a child of God for a week or for 40 years, it should be something that we rejoice in every day. In fact, the longer we are saved, the more we come to understand what a gift it truly is. As the old hymn says, “Every day w/ Jesus is sweeter than the day before.”
Only those who are born again are God’s children. Some people like to say, “All of us are God’s children.” That’s simply not true. We are all God’s CREATION, but only those who are born again are His children. God’s creation knows ABOUT God; God’s children KNOW God personally & intimately.
What do we mean when we refer to the “childhood” stage of the Christian life? While all of us who are Christ-followers are children of God, those who are in the childhood stage are those who have progressed further than the infancy stage that we talked about last week. God never intends for His children to remain as spiritual babies in the infancy stage of life. Immaturity in our faith is simply NOT God’s will for our lives. He expects us to continue to progress & mature in our Christian lives, growing up in our faith, becoming strong, mature believers. We know that we will never get to the place of total maturity in our spiritual lives. In fact, one of the evidences of spiritual maturity is an ever-deepening understanding & appreciation of our complete dependence upon the Lord. But, we also realize that, as long as we are alive, we need to be growing stronger & deeper in our faith, striving to be complete in our walk w/ Christ. The childhood stage is that stage of wonder & discovery in our walk w/ Christ as we begin to mature.
In our physical lives, the time span between infancy & mature adulthood is a matter of decades. A baby doesn’t become an adult overnight, or over the course of a few days, weeks, or months. It’s a process of gradual growth. In fact, if a child matures too fast, it can be dangerous, or even fatal. Medical condition called progeria, is an abnormality that is characterized by premature & rapid aging. Child in their teen years looks like an elderly person. Most progeria patients don’t live past their teen years.
Some Christians suffer from a spiritual progeria – they look more mature than they are in their spiritual lives. May attend church regularly, may be in a Life Group, may serve in some capacity in the church. From the outside, it looks as though they’re mature. But inwardly, they’re still stuck in an immature childish state. And, like a child, when they’re put under pressure, their response is going to be an immature response. They may lash out. They may revert back into a pattern of sin. They may go into a state of denial. Spiritual growth & maturity is an inside-out growth process. In our spiritual lives, the growth process is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. It is true that at the very moment you are born again, you are adopted into the family of God w/ all the rights, privileges, & inheritance of any other member of the family of God. In other words, the 7 yr.-old boy who gets saved at VBS this month is just as saved as the 70 yr.-old man who has been a Christian for over 60 years.
- Both have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
- Both have been raised up w/ Christ & seated w/ Him in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6).
- Both of them have an eternal inheritance that is being kept in heaven for them (1 Pet. 1:4).
- Both are completely saved, completely secure, completely safe in the grip of God where no one can snatch them out (John 10:28-29).
- Both of them need to be maturing & growing in their relationship w/ the Lord.
As a believer grows in his/her walk w/ Christ, they enter into this childhood stage. Paul said in 1 Cor. 13, that when he was a child, he “talked like a child, thought like a child, & reasoned like a child.” There’s nothing wrong w/ being a child & being childlike in our faith. It’s an important stage in our spiritual growth. Jesus said in Mt. 18:3 – “I tell you the truth, unless you change & become like little children, you will never enter the k’dom of heaven.” But Paul clearly said in 1 Cor. 13:11, “…When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” Childlikeness is accepted in the Christian life – Childishness is not.
Specifics of this stage:
Beginning to grow in spiritual understanding – As the child of God begins to move out of the infancy stage, taking in more & more milk & nourishment of the word of God, the Holy Spirit continues to do His work of teaching & revealing the truths of God.
Beginning to appreciate the love of the Father more – One of the absolute foundational truths that all of us need to know is that God loves us. One pastor said this: “The one thing that the Bible emphasizes more than us loving God and people is that God loves us. He loves us first and most. God isn’t in heaven plucking a daisy saying, “I love you” when you obey and “I love you not” when you sin. He cannot not love you.” (http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/151028-10-things-a-new-christian-should-know-to-grow.html)
- 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this…”
- 1 John 4:19 – “We love b/c He 1st loved us.”
Beginning to realize significance of the FAMILY of God – As Christians begin to grow in their faith, they begin to realize that there is more to the Church than just a building where they gather to worship. Having the family of God around them to encourage & walk w/ them as they take baby steps in their faith is so important & so wonderful.
Struggles of this stage:
Vulnerability – Temptations abound for all of us, no matter what stage of maturity we are in. But the vulnerability level for Christians in the childhood stage is extremely high.
Naiveté – “Wow! I can’t wait to be around all those Christians. It’s going to be so wonderful b/c then I won’t have to deal w/any mess.”
Discouragement when comparing to others – This is a very effective tactic of the enemy.
Strengths of this stage:
Spontaneity – What’s some of the crazy things you did as a kid that you would never consider doing as an adult? FB poll yesterday! Wow!
Willing to take risks – Peter walking on water – David facing Goliath – The disciples leaving their jobs & families to follow Jesus –
Simplicity of faith – While the Bible doesn’t specifically tell us to have “childlike faith” in those exact words, we do see Jesus speaking to this in Matt. 18. “A humble, unpretentious faith could rightly be called a “childlike faith.” When Jesus wanted to bless the children, He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:14–15). How does a child receive a gift? With openness, honesty, and unbridled joy. That type of happy authenticity should be a hallmark of our faith as we receive God’s gift in Christ.” (http://www.gotquestions.org/childlike-faith.html)
Childlike faith is:
- Humble faith
- Honest faith
- Taking God at His Word
- Powerful faith