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CONVERSION REQUIRES THE
TEMPERAMENT OF CHILDHOOD

by Dr. Robert Hymers

A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, January 14, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15).


This sermon is adapted from one by Dr. W. G. T. Shedd, the Old School theologian who stood against the growing “decisionism” of the nineteenth century (W. G T. Shedd, Ph.D., Sermons to the Natural Man, Solid Ground Christian Books, 2003, pages 379-400).

The phrase “little children” here does not refer to infants, but to the young, who are capable of coming to Christ and, as we see in chapter nine, verse forty-two, are capable of believing in Him. The word translated “little children” is “paidiŏn.” It means “a childling…a half grown boy or girl” (Strong #3813). Christ is merely pointing out that childhood and adulthood are two distinct stages of human life. He is contrasting the general attitude of a child with the general attitude of an adult.

The young are much more likely to be converted than adults because adults tend to have their religious opinions and prejudices already ingrained in their minds, and are usually so caught up in material pursuits that they have no time to consider their souls.

There is a short period in life, from childhood into the early twenties, when a person is most likely to be converted. When that period passes, it is far less likely that a person will ever be converted.

Christ therefore encouraged the young to come to Him and receive Him. Christ does not say that the young are sinless. Quite the opposite. In verse fourteen He encouraged their coming to Him. The young are much more open to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit before their hearts become hardened and dull by years of rejection and sin. Thus, conversion requires the temperament of childhood.

Christ tells us that the trustful and believing temperament of youth is much more open to true conversion than the self-reliant and skeptical attitude of adulthood. Consider how the temperament and mood of a young person is different from that of a world-hardened adult.

Conversion offers the forgiveness of sins and provides for it in Christ’s redemptive work. No one can think of those things without realizing that the pride and self-reliance of adulthood excludes most of them from salvation, while the meekness, teachableness, and softer conscience of the child, make it more likely that the young will be converted. If the first feature of Christian conversion is seeking pardon from God, then it is necessary that the one who is to receive pardon must have humility and be easily taught inwardly by the Spirit that he is a sinner who is seeking pardon that he doesn’t deserve.

The soul of man is guilty. But there is something in the very nature of guilt that excludes the proud, self-reliant spirit of most older people, and makes it necessary for a person to be made lowly, and teachable, and dependent, as in childhood. The sinner must be made like a softened child, and broken down from being a hardened adult. In other words, the strong, self-reliant spirit of adulthood must be broken down or there can be no conversion. A self-reliant spirit must go, in order for the person, young or old, to become bruised, broken, helpless, so the person is brought to a sense of guilt, a godly sorrow for sin, and a sense of his need for pardon through the crucifixion and Blood of Christ alone.

How can God in Christ give you forgiveness unless your pride and resistance have been broken down? The very sorrow the convicted sinner feels for his sins is always the product of God’s grace. It shows that God is working on you, to prepare you for salvation in Christ, by breaking down your stubbornness and making your heart teachable, as a young child. If that doesn’t happen you will never be converted.

If God’s angels must be meek and lowly of heart; if Christ Himself must be meek and lowly in heart; how much more is this true of a vile, apostate child of Adam like you? The Bible says that your

“whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment”
     (Isaiah 1:5-6).

Now, I ask you, is this not true in your case? Isn’t it true that your whole head is sick - with wrong thinking and sinful thoughts? Isn’t it true that your whole heart is faint - fainting with lack of true belief in Christ, fainting with false ideas, doubts, and unbelief? Isn’t it true, in the sight of God, that your whole soul and mind are ruined, depraved, at enmity with God? Isn’t it true that you have found no way to heal the raw sores in your soul? Isn’t it true that you have, as yet, found no cure for your filthy, ruined, and dying soul?

Those who are younger often feel the horror of their own sinful natures and are soon are brought to Christ for salvation and cleansing through His Blood. But isn’t it true that you are beginning to feel no need for that? It is because Satan already has a death grip on you. You are already passing out of the childlike state of youth. You are already become a hardened adult.

“Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15).

Oh, I know you may have stumbled when you were younger. Some bad people may have taught you false forms of “decisionism” then, and caused you to stumble and have a false conversion. But think - a false conversion logically shows that there is a true conversion to be obtained. Do not let yourself go on and on, stumbling over the false things that were pushed on you when you were younger. Come back again to the beginning. Seek the conviction that prepares the heart for true conversion. You must hurry, for the days of your youth are rapidly slipping away. Soon your soul will be entrapped by false ideas, like the Pharisees, and you will then, in an adult state, find it impossible to rid yourself of these malignant, false ideas.

You must hurry to seek true conviction from God’s Spirit, or you will soon be like the rich young ruler, who “went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22).

Is it possible that an already hardened young person can come back to the state of his earlier youth, be pierced in his heart by his hypocrisy, sin, and inward depravity, and be converted in Christ Jesus?

Jesus gave a warning and a word of hope to you. First He said,

“With men it is impossible” (Mark 10:27).

You are not going to be able to do this yourself. You may be very smart and very intellectual, but this will escape you completely. It is not something you can figure out or understand on your own. “With men it is impossible.”

But the next words of Jesus give hope,

“With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).

It is possible (note that I said, “possible,” not “probable”) that God may melt your heart, even now, as you begin to pass beyond the time of childhood. It is possible that God may stir up your complacent, rigid, self-righteous heart, break you down from your false religious profession, show you the total corruption and ruin of your soul - and prepare you for true salvation through Jesus’ Blood. Conversion requires that you have the mood of a child. We pray that this may be your happy condition in the next few days of these evangelistic meetings. May God in Christ grant these experiences of humiliation, hatred of sin, and faith in Christ to you, though you have long withstood His grace.

But I must warn you - every day that you go on as you are you are, one day older, and one day farther from Christ’s admonition,

“Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 10:13-16.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Amazing Grace” (by John Newton, 1725-1807).


THE OUTLINE OF

CONVERSION REQUIRES THE
TEMPERAMENT OF CHILDHOOD

by Dr. Robert Hymers


“Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15).

(Isaiah 1:5-6; Mark 10:22, 27)