“When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.’” (Mark 10:14-15)
I remember how I first encountered the Lord as a child in kindergarten. I sure knew little history, vocabulary, and theology, but it was a simple love. He is like the imaginary friend that every child has, except I knew He is real.
As I grew older, realizing that I had become what was known as a “Christian”, my spiritual life became complicated. While I was distracted (and can still be) by many other worldly pursuits that came in the form of approval, education, and materialism, I was also distracted by things about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Don’t get me wrong. Things about Him and around Him can be useful, if they point us to the Lord. But I was off track because I was chasing and craving things about Him and things around Him, but not Jesus Christ Himself. Let me explain.
I tried to live my Christian life apart from Christ.
In other words, I chased the fruits of the Spirit without chasing Christ Himself.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Ever since I had been labelled as a “Christian”, I faced a lot expectations both from others and from myself. Then the WWJD culture made its way to the Sunday School I was a part of. To live is Christ suddenly became to seek what He would do rather than Himself.
So I tried hard to live up to expectations. I tried and tried with my own effort, and most of the time, I was either too proud to admit my failure, or I simply ended up trying harder. The same old bitterness, the same old jealousy, the same old lust. It was not until in college when the Lord slowly peeled off my old-self layer by layer via different means. He showed me how my “so-called” Christian life over the years had been completely self-sustained, self-centered, and self-entertained. In other words, I lived it apart from Christ.
“Apart from me you can do nothing” in John 15 comes in the context of bearing spiritual fruit. There is no way I can bear any good fruit if I detach myself from the true vine. Apart from the Spirit, any fruit that I “bear” is of the flesh.
Searching the Scripture for the Scripture’s sake.
“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39 NLT)
The Sciptures point us to real living Word, Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life-giving.” (John 6:63). In other words, we read the written word of God (the Bible) to know the incarnate Word of God (Jesus Christ) better.
But we often turn them into dead letter, “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3:6). The letter here may refer to the Old Testament law, but we can very well turn any scripture, be it of OT or NT, into dead letters.
It may come in a form of knowing many Old Testament stories yet not knowing they were foreshadowing Jesus Christ. That was me, struggling with names and terms that I had little interest in, because the O.T. was like a faraway history of God and Israel that I found difficult to relate to.
The most subtle form, however, is tricking yourself into seeking delight in knowledge but not in Christ. In the word of Marshall Segal, we think we are serving the Lord, but in reality, we are serving theology.
In short, we know the word to know the Word. If our focus is off, we may very well, even with our zeal, end up like the pharisees that, despite knowing all the Scriptures, had missed Christ when He appeared to them in flesh.
I am 24 now, and if I can use one sentence to summarize my current spiritual state, is that the Lord has brought me back to my first love, Himself. Not things about Him, but Him. I want to become like a child again. When the Lord says, “anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it”, it echoes with Matt 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” When we become like innocent children who only want Christ and Christ alone, we shall see Him. We shall find Him who reveals His unsearchable riches to those who seek with a pure heart. May all things be from Him, through Him, for Him, and unto Him (Romans 11:36).