The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven
And He called a little child to Himself and put him in the midst of them, and said, Truly I say to you, unless you repent (change, turn about) and become like little children (trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving), you can never enter the kingdom of heaven (at all). Whoever will humble himself therefore and become like this little child (trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving) is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:2-4 (Amplified)
The Maturity in Christ
Though we commonly look at maturity in Christ as growing up into adulthood (Ephesians 4:13-15; Col. 1:28,29), I want to look at maturing in Him as growing up into childlikeness; the more we mature in Him, the more the characteristics of childlikeness abound in us.
There are many wonderful characteristics of a healthy child, such as being emotionally alive, spiritually sensitive, teachable, trusting, hopeful, loving and receiving love, forgiving, not self-conscious, etc. The one I want to focus on here is the lack of self-consciousness, which I will refer to as self-forgetfulness.
Maturity into Childlikeness
Maturing into childlikeness, particularly self-forgetfulness, is only possible in the Child Jesus (Isaiah 9:6). Luke says “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom…” (Luke 2:40). Later in Acts 4:30 Luke makes reference to God doing wonders in the name of His holy Child Jesus.
The Nature of the Adulthood in Jesus
In the process of maturing into full manhood, Jesus did not outgrow the virtues of childlikeness; those virtues carried over into His manhood, making Him the most attractive and appealing Man that has walked the earth. Unlike Jesus, our own sin, compounded by the sin of others against us, has robbed us of the virtues of childlikeness, making us self-conscious adults who over-analyze and dissect ourselves and others to the point of not being able to receive freely of God’s life and love. I believe a part of maturing in Him for us means to gain back these virtues, including that of self-forgetfulness and the spontaneity that accompanies it.
Let Us Gain What We Have Lost!
To regain what we have lost, we must first acknowledge how far as a Church culture we are from childlikeness, particularly in the west where rationalism has split our heart from our head and we’ve lost the art of being still to listen and receive truth with the simplicity and faith of a child. Then we must repent of personal sin that has distorted our view of receiving truth, receive God’s forgiveness and fresh filling of His Spirit; we must also forgive the sins of others against us, sins from our distant past and sins of the present, and receive healing for the wounds of our soul; finally, in order to continue to mature in self-forgetfulness, we must cultivate a lifestyle of practicing the childlike virtue of listening and receiving freely from God then obeying whatever He tells us to do.
This practice will begin to tenderize our “immature, self-conscious adult” hearts and empower us to be still and hear the affirming voice of the heavenly Father. It was in His Father’s affirmation of Him that Jesus, the divine Child, could mature into manhood properly, obey the Father, and through His obedience to His Father’s will reproduce His likeness in those who trust in Him.
Let the Holy Spirit Save Us
In a wonderful fantasy story by George MacDonald, the wise woman, who is the Christ figure of the story, is depicted in one place in the story as a child:
“…as Rosamond looked, the child began, like the flower, to grow larger. Quickly through every gradation of growth she passed, until she stood before her a woman perfectly beautiful, neither old nor young; for hers was the old age of everlasting youth.”
Holy Spirit of Jesus, come and save us from immature adulthood; forgive our sin and heal us of those wounds we carry because of sins of others against us; take us to the Father through the Son to hear His affirming voice that calls us into mature childlikeness so that we stand as full adults, “perfectly beautiful, neither old nor young,” free to forget ourselves in worship of You and in ministry to others.
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