First, we should clarify that the word discipling is not a proper English word. Although, it is understood that it means making disciples. Hence, we are talking this week about making children disciples of Jesus Christ. Let us first review the biblical definition of disciple. It means to: 1. abide in Christ and bear fruit; and to pick up your cross, forsake all else and follow Him. It would behoove us to learn more about following Him.
When Jesus said, "Follow Me" (a phrase that occurs 17 times in the Gospels), it was for the purpose of making them disciples. A similar phrase, "Come unto Me" (6 occurrences), has the same purpose, for one comes to Jesus to follow Him. One may come initially in response to the mysterious drawing of His Spirit, may be merely curious, and want simply to observe or inquire with no intent to follow. But as the contact occurs, the drawing and coming will lead to following if there is no resistance. Jesus is that charming! We were designed for that, and He has preserved in each the ability to sense His drawing, and agree with it. The Bible calls that faith.
It is in the coming and the following that the discipling occurs. One of the best known uses of "Come..." promises a gift--"I will give you...." And my coming and His giving leads to another dual invitation--"Take ... and learn...." That must be the essence of discipling--the ongoing coming, giving, taking, and learning. The resultant promise is redundant--"I will give you rest" and "you shall find rest." (Matthew 11:28-30).
Now, as we gathered from the verse, to come unto Him we must be invited or drawn to Him. Jesus said in John 12:32-33
John 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
John 12:33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.
What death did he die? "… the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8). Paul says in I Corinthians 1: 17 -18
1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
1Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
And, Paul says that the power of God – unto salvation – is the Gospel. The word Gospel means good news, it has the same meaning of the root word for evangelism. Thus evangelism is spreading the good news. Discipline is what happens when we respond to the drawing.
How does this apply to children? It must be significant that half of the "Come unto Me" phrases in the Gospels are in reference to allowing the "little children" to do so! Jesus' heart was open to their openness. His simplicity found fellowship in their simplicity. His invitation we considered of "Come ... and learn" described the curriculum--"I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29). In teaching children to be disciples of Jesus, could we also be in school to learn the childlike traits of Jesus Himself from them? Ellen White seems to agree with this in the following quote,
"I would have humility of mind, and be willing to be instructed as a child. The Lord has been pleased to give me great light, yet I know that He leads other minds, and opens to them the mysteries of His Word, and I want to receive every ray of light that God shall send me, though it should come through the humblest of His servants." (Ellen White, 1888 Materials, p. 163).
It is of these that Jesus said, "Have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise" (Matthew 21:16). This is why in Mark 10:13-16 Jesus asked to let the children come to Him. Let us read the passage,
13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.
15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it."
16 And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.
Ellen White gives some insight on this incident,
In the children who were brought in contact with Him, Jesus saw the men and women who should be heirs of His grace and subjects of His kingdom, and some of whom would become martyrs for His sake…He knew that these children would listen to Him and accept Him as their Redeemer far more readily than would grown-up people, many of whom were the worldly-wise and hardhearted. In His teaching He came down to their level. He, the Majesty of heaven, did not disdain to answer their questions, and simplify His important lessons to meet their childish understanding. He planted in their minds the seeds of truth, which in after years would spring up, and bear fruit unto eternal life.
We too need to be as little children. Let us read Matthew 18: 1 – 4,
Mat 18:1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
Mat 18:2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
Mat 18:3 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.
Mat 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Are we willing to humble ourselves as little children?