Monday, December 10, 2018
   
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One Whose Attitudes Lead and Mimic a Child's

A person God uses is one whose attitudes lead and mimic a child's.

10] "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11] The Pharisee stood up and prayed about [ Or to ] himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12] I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

13] "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

14] "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

15] People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.

16] But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17] I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

This parable is a contrast of appropriate and inappropriate attitudes and actions. I want you to notice in Luke 18:14 two words: "...went home..."

I want to use this phrase to take us into a hypothetical situation.

If we can be careful not to do damage to the text, I would like us to try to imagine what these men might have been like away from their act of prayer. What were they like away from the temple? What were these men like when they got home? Do you think their actions in this parable give us any clues as to how they might be in their own homes with their families?

I think so! How we respond in religious gatherings—and especially how we pray—reveals more about ourselves than we realize. For example, I think we can easily deduce from this parable which of these two might have been the best father by looking at a few clues in their prayers. Before we get to these clues, let me state a guiding principle that will govern our application of this parable.

I would like to advance this principle: our religious and Christian attitudes will reflect themselves not only when the church gathers, but also in how we treat our children at home.

 

The first clue is found in v. 11a.

"The Pharisee stood up and prayed about [or to] himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.'"

This phrase reveals his religion is self-centered. He is not addressing God; he is praying to others so that people will be impressed, and so he can reinforce his own prideful view of himself. As a result, his religion will be self-serving. He won't serve others; he will expect to be served. He will see his family, friends, and children in light of how they can affect (sustain or improve) his self-centered, religious world.

This self-centered attitude will play itself out in a number of ways:

  • He will see his children's behavior only in the light of how others will view him (e.g., if his children have good manners, he must be an exceptional father).
  • He will expect his children to serve him continually. He won't serve his children.
  • He will be looking for his children to create praise for him.

Tragically, his children may grow up hating religion/Christianity. They will not be affirmed, but struggle with their worth and value. The children will also incorrectly define Christianity as a set of legalistic rules. Finally, a sad result is that he will be humbled by his arrogance, and in some cases may not recover.

A second clue is found in vv. 11b-12.

v. 11—"'I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12] I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' "

It is obvious from these verses that he sees others in relationship to his own goodness and actions. He won't see his sinfulness in relationship to God's holiness, but will measure himself against others (you can always find someone worse that you). The impact is that he will probably be a perfectionist with his children, i.e., demand a flawless performance. No grace will be extended for failures, slip-ups, or the inappropriate actions of his kids.

 

Because he judges himself on the basis of his merit and not grace, his children will receive overly harsh punishment. In other words, because he won't see himself as forgiven much, he won't love much.

 

A third clue from this parable is short, but poignant.

v.13—"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

 

What a contrast to the pharisee! The tax collector sees himself in the light of God's holiness and recognizes how far he has fallen short. He does not compare himself with others, as the pharisee did. As a result, he sees himself in need of God's grace and God's forgiveness.

What is the Lord's view of his heart and confession? Jesus says in v. 14—"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

What impact do you think this justification and forgiveness would have on this father's (this tax collector's) children? There would certainly be a sense of awe and holiness in this household, but if children were to fail, think of how easily grace would be offered and how much love would be expressed. He who is forgiven much, loves much.

Rules and legalism would be replaced with principles, wisdom, and ready counsel. God's character and attributes would be understood and appreciated—e.g., His mercy, His grace, His longsuffering, His love, and yes, His judgment and righteousness.

I think it's easy to see which of these two fathers would be appreciated most by their children. What will sustain and expand the character of the repentant tax collector?

The incident following this parable wonderfully sustains our focus on fathers.

15] People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.

16] But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

17] I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

 

The disciples apparently thought Jesus was too busy for the children; how wrong they were. This is a wonderful picture of the value Jesus places on children, and a picture to us of how we should respond to them. When I sing at a baby dedication, I sense God's presence and favor in a special way. When you touch a child, think like Jesus and maybe, even without a word, bless or pray for that child. (Caution: Be careful not to inappropriately invade their space. Don't scare them!)

Beyond this, I'd like to draw your attention to a guiding principle that affects fathers and parents.

How we relate to children portrays our understanding of the kingdom of God.

Do you know what a child needs from a father? A father who is a child in the kingdom of God. Parents, as you raise your children, mimic them.

  • Their simple faith
  • Their purity of heart
  • Their sense of wonder and discovery
  • Their openness to God

If you as a father/parent are going to be great in the kingdom of God, you will have to lead and mimic at the same time. You will need to be like a child to enter the kingdom; to be humble like a child in your prayers; to follow and mimic their attitudes and faith if you intend to sustain godly parenting.

A wonderful example happened to Nancy and to me the week before our grandson was to be born. We had been having our son, daughter-in-law, and then 18-month-old granddaughter over for dinner every night to help out, so we had our granddaughter around us quite a bit. That experience reminded us once again of the importance of leading and mimicking a child.

One day in the kitchen, I was rejoicing with my daughter over the graduation of her husband and of her brother receiving his Master's degree. We clicked our glasses together and said, "a toast." I looked over at my granddaughter, standing 5 feet away, and she had her little spill-free cup raised in the same way and was saying, "toast." It was obvious she was mimicking us.

It was also interesting to watch how the whole family responded when she tried out her new vocabulary. No matter what word she said at the table, we all repeated it with the same inflections and enthusiasm. If she said, "blah," we would say, "blah." It was obvious we were mimicking her.

The most telling example of the need to mimic and lead came when we asked her where her baby brother was. She quickly ran to her mom, patted her tummy, and kissed it. When we asked her again, she ran over and patted my tummy and said his name, then patted her own tummy and said his name. Right now we believe she thinks her baby brother is in everyone's stomach. Obviously she's a little young to understand.

What will make the difference in our children's lives?

  • They will need humble fathers and mothers who see themselves as forgiven much and thus will love much.
  • They will need fathers and mothers who will mimic the childlike faith of their child