(Article for publication week of 11-26-2008 AD)
“…Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18: 3). Our Lord spoke these words to His disciples when they were squabbling about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. By these words our Lord warned them that the important thing is to be sure we are in the kingdom. Striving about preeminence is not of the spirit of Christ and we must ever be on guard against such a spirit in ourselves. So our Lord told His disciples they better search their hearts if they were really converted men. And of course we know one of them, Judas Iscariot at last proved he had never been converted and had never been part of Christ’s kingdom. If our Lord’s twelve needed such warnings, how much more do you and I!
“Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” First of all let us be sure we understand what the Lord means by being in the kingdom of heaven. Some have come up with fanciful ideas concerning what the kingdom of heaven is. Some have advanced the idea that the kingdom is the visible church state. Others have speculated such things as the millennial reign of Christ on earth and other unscriptural ideas. By comparing parallel passages in the gospels we will see that the “kingdom of heaven’ (generally used by Matthew) and “ the kingdom of God” (generally used by the other evangelists), is the kingdom that our Lord told Nicodemus in John 3:1-8 that we must be reborn to see or enter. It is the kingdom that we must be translated into by the sovereign, irresistible power of the Lord (Colossians 1:13). Every one of us are in one of two kingdoms, the kingdom of Christ or the kingdom of darkness. Simply put, to be in the kingdom of heaven is to be saved. If you are not in the kingdom of heaven you are in the power of darkness and lost, unconverted and unsaved.
Now, the Lord says here that the kingdom must be entered by true conversion. Theologically, conversion is the human response to regeneration. In regeneration, we are passive, but in conversion we are active. To enter the kingdom, you must be regenerated (John 3:5). But the regenerate person does indeed actively and consciously enter into the kingdom. Jesus spoke in John 10:1 and following of Himself as the door of salvation. Friend if you will be saved you must enter through the door of Christ Himself. Again, in Matthew 7:13 the Lord Jesus Christ tells us that to be saved we must enter in at the strait gate. You see dear ones, if you will be saved, you must actively and consciously enter through the door. Some of you have seen the door, but you have yet to get through. Unless you get through the door of conversion you must be forever lost. And be sure you understand that Christ is that door, the only door that will get you into the kingdom.
And I want you also to notice that our Lord tells us that to be converted is to become as little children. What does he mean by this? Well , we know He cannot possibly mean anything like infant purity. Psalm 51:5 makes it clear that we have a sin nature as soon as we are conceived. But our Lord does teach an important lesson about salvation by the little child He took in His arms on this occasion. Little children are very trusting of their parents. So, a converted person is a person who has trusted Christ for everything he needs for salvation. We also see a kind of simplicity in a child that is indicative of those who are Christ’s children. Let a person be brought to know Christ in salvation and he will give up his grandiose ideas of Himself and be like a little child in the presence of Christ and His children. We note also the smallness of the little child as a picture of how Christians feel themselves to be small. Those who still have grand ideas of themselves are not giving much evidence of being saved. I urge you to become like a little child and come to Christ for salvation this day.