As A Little Child
By Fred Pruitt
(Another email exchange)
Good evening, Fred!
Happy Spring 🙂
I think I heard that you are moving to Louisville? If this is true, that is great because my husband and I live in Ohio. I’d love to come to one of your meetings/talks because I’d like to meet in you person.
Anyways, the Lord made this scripture pop into my mind: Matthew 18:3. This scripture basically says that “unless we turn to be like little children, we will not enter the Kingdom of God.” I was wondering if you could give your thoughts on this scripture because it has really resonated with me? I think this scripture exemplifies a lot of what your message is in the blog. I remember in one of your posts, you mention about how the scripture “The Father in me, He does the work” is a very simple scripture, but it is widely missed by many. I think that if more people approached that scripture “like a child”, they would “get” it.
Also, I have a question about the Romans 6-7-8 transition. Actually it may be more about double-mindedness…is double-mindedness something that we slip into time to time, or is there a final break of this double-mindedness? Is this kind of what you were talking about in “On Earth as it if in Heaven” about John Nash? He still “saw” things, but he never got sucked into them anymore? For example, sometimes I feel my “self” rise up through jealousy, comparison, anxiety, etc…do I still need to get rid of the “self”/double-mindedness or do I just plunge in via faith?
Thank you for continuing to write. Your blog has really been beneficial in helping me to understand God, Jesus, and life in general. I’m immensely blessed by Christ through you.
Thank you so much for writing and for being patient while we have been getting through this move. I am honored and flattered that you would want to come “hear me” in Louisville. This is no prediction of the future, but at the moment there is no place in Louisville where that is happening, but one never knows. As God leads us, though, we could come up your way some time, so we’ll see. John Bunting and I are planning a trip in the Fall that will include a visit to Ohio, perhaps in Columbus where we have some friends, but definitely in a little town called Fredericktown, about an hour north of Columbus on I-71. Where are you? Are you anywhere near there? We are usually there a day or two. We would also be open to come to see you or to your town, even if only for lunch or a cup of coffee! We’ll sort that out as the time comes.
Here is the scripture you asked about:
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3)
I think you have seen correctly when you say that if people approached “The Father that dwells in Me, He does the works,” as “little children” do, then they would “get it.” Yes, I think you have hit the nail squarely on the head.
There is a theme via Jesus that runs throughout the four gospels. It really is the foundation of the whole gospel as it relates to us in our personal unified life in the Spirit. That theme is that we have no “independent” life of our own, and that the only way to arrive at the “Something” of God is through the realization of the ultimate “Nothingness” (when compared to God) of ourselves. Jesus expresses this theme constantly, and it is taken up in Paul’s writings, too. Below are a few instances of this, and to me it is the same theme as being a “little child.”
“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33). See also Luke 14:26.
Why does He say this? Historically this has been interpreted to mean “worldly things,” i.e., possessions, houses, property, husbands, wives, children, etc. But ultimately, even if we could give away every one of our possessions, give up houses and family, we would still have the main “thing” left – ourselves! That is the rock-bottom “thing” that Jesus is talking about forsaking, our false sense of our own individual selfhood.
All of those other “things,” lands, houses, family, etc., are in a sense expressions of our selfhood, maybe projections of our selfhood, but they stand apart from us. We can give all that away or forsake it all, but the impediment of our misunderstood individual selfhood is still there. Not only is it still there, but giving away all that stuff, including family and friends, often produces the opposite effect God is looking for. Instead of “humility,” which we all know is a much-desired spiritual “quality,” pride of self can result because we forsook those things.
In general Christian spirituality has been thought by most to be a development of Godly characteristics in our being. We have been taught and believed for centuries that “our job” in the relationship is to develop Christ-like qualities, such as we see in the Jesus of the Gospels. “Act like Jesus our role model,” the preachers shout from the pulpits. It seems right – right?
So by our self-efforts we attempt to emulate the qualities of Jesus – to be loving, kind, humble, forgiving, etc., never realizing we can NEVER develop those qualities in ourselves, because they are God’s qualities and He does not give them to us as our possession. They can only be His forever.
Have you ever “tried” to be humble? I have, and the very “trying” itself to “be humble” produces the opposite effect. By thinking we can practice and develop our own humility is simply vanity, pride, even if we come across to others as being a “humble” person.
I was reading something by Norman Grubb a few weeks ago, and I came across a phrase I had never heard Norman use, regarding humility. What he said really hit home with me. He said, “Humility just means you’re not there.” These next two quotes from Jesus bear that out.
“Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” (Matt 19:17).
“Then shall ye know that I am He, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.” (John 8:28).
That first quote is from the famous “rich young ruler” story. Jesus told him to obey the commandments and the fellow replied that he had done so, since he was a child. He started by calling Jesus, “Good master.”
Jesus’ answer took it right down to the bottom rung, identifying humanity’s both problem and solution. Humanity thinks it can “be good.” All we have to do give it a little effort. But Jesus trounced on that idea once and for all, but for 2000 years only a few have understood it. Think of it – if Jesus, the Son of God, has no inherent “goodness” of His own, apart from God Who was within Him, how could we possibly think WE could have some goodness of our own that WE develop? It’s the silliest notion in the universe!
Jesus put it right down to the final brass tacks of the issue when He said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself.” That is the beginning key to everything, and ultimately true humility. When Norman said, “You’re not there,” he simply means we have an inner sense, call it an inner foundation or platform, in which we dwell as if we are “nothing.” (Paul said in Gal 6:3, “For if a man thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”)
I call it living by an inner zero. Lose your life to find it.
We do not go away, though. We are still there, but finally in proper perspective regarding who we are and who we are not. People have protested to me in meetings, saying, “If I did ‘nothing’ as you say Jesus did, then God’s work would not get done.” All we have to do is think of the One Who said it, and look at what He got done. When we see we do “nothing of ourselves,” THAT is when we begin to see the hidden life of God in us come forth and do far more than we could ever conceive or believe in our former mindset of “trying.” Jesus doesn’t just stop at, “I do nothing,” as if nothing happens, but adds, “of Myself,” and completes the picture of His inner reality by saying, “The Father that dwells within Me, He does the works.”
The end result of Jesus’ “doing nothing of Himself,” the Apostle John described this way in the last verse of his Gospel: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” (John 21:25).
I suppose I should bring home also the point about being a “little child.” I think Jesus’ use of the word “little” is the key. “Little” children do not know much of anything. They have no formed set of opinions about most things, and most children simply react to the current moment, whatever is happening. It is all “now” to them, and it is hard for them to imagine either the past or the future. They are malleable when they are “little,” and soak in information and knowledge (on their level) like empty sponges.
However, the older they get, the “wiser” they get, and lose that sense of innocence they had in those early years. They become harder to teach, and begin to have strong opinions themselves that challenge the adults who are involved with them. Little children are happily “nothing” in the sense I have mentioned above, but when they get older, they become a “something” in themselves, and that is the final end of their innocence. But that’s all part of the plan, and nothing God is worried about in the least! He has us all well in hand, and provides each person in the world every opportunity for grace and union.
I’ll stop there and answer your Romans 6-7-8 and “double-mindedness” questions next, since I think this is enough to digest in one day.
Thanks again for writing. I look forward to hearing back from you soon!
Love in Christ always,