When we consider the work of Elijah the prophet and especially the ministry of John, (who came in the spirit and power of Elijah) we think of a call to repentance. We may consider repentance as something that we accomplished when we accepted the call of the gospel of Christ and were baptized into the saving name. Unfortunately, in the face of scripture, our birth by water was likely only a beginning, and we may never have been completely converted.
We are living in a time of trouble. These are perilous times and like the days of Noah and Lot, the earth is corrupt, and filled with violence. The wickedness of man great and the imaginations of the heart of man are evil continually. Jesus himself spoke concerning these final evil days by saying: " Nevertheless, when the son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?" The Apostle Peter adds to the concerns about these last days by telling us that there would be "scoffers, walking after their own lust, saying where is the promise of his coming?"
In consideration of the many words of prophecy condemning this generation we are still likely to be deceived by our own pride into thinking that repentance and conversion are beyond our own personal needs. We may want to believe that we all stand in God's favor, waiting for our reward in his Kingdom.
Peter reminds us in the third chapter of his second Epistle that "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).
It is encouraging to know that God wants us in His Kingdom, and that He is allowing us space to repent. We might wonder exactly what true repentance involves, and how we can help ourselves to that end. This article will deal with the concept of repentance under one of its other headings – conversion.
When we think about the Master's words he provides us with a significant clue about the desirable characteristics of a child. He tells us: "Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Children are humbled by circumstance. They live in a world that is controlled by grown-ups, and they have very little to say about their lot. They depend on their parents for food, clothing and shelter, and they are subject to their discipline, fair or not.
Children are not often allowed the privileges that adults enjoy, and they are often rejected from adult situations. An example of the treatment that they normally receive is found in Matthew 19:
One of the greatest obstacles to true repentance is pride. Grown-ups have developed the pride of life, but it is something that must be unlearned if we want to be "converted" and become as a child. We need to learn to follow the advice given through the prophet Micah: "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God" (Micah 6:8).
In addition to their humility, children are also very trusting. They have complete confidence in their parents to care for and protect them. They are often without fear, having absolute faith in others.
Children do not usually exhibit a respect for persons. Being prejudiced against other groups, nationalities, etc. is learned behavior. If we are like a child, we will unlearn some of these behavior characteristics that are not pleasing to God.
Little children are often found in situations that would be very alarming to an adult. They are unafraid. They are so trusting, so innocent, that they can easily be taken advantage of. Can we learn to be like a child, having complete confidence in our Father in Heaven to care for us?
Children are eager to learn. They soak up knowledge. They imitate their elders, trying to develop the characteristics that they observe. They are willing to accept that they are the student and that adults are their teachers. When we grow up, we begin to think that we know it all. We often close our ears to something new. Learn to be like a child again. Be teachable. Allow yourself to be molded into the characteristics of your Heavenly Father.
Little children are open and honest. There is no pretense, no artificial facade. They express their feelings without acting or playing a part. Such characteristics are easy for a child, but difficult for an adult. Can we become as a child again as our Master has asked?
Children do not normally hold a grudge. Their memories are short. They forgive and they really forget. Many of our problems as adults stem from our unwillingness to overlook another the weakness of another and give them a second chance. We must learn to forgive from the heart, without holding back, as a child will do.
Little children are usually very content with their lot in life. They accept what they have and enjoy. They have great imagination and a simple toy can become a real thing. They would never learn to struggle for vain ambitions and worldly position if they were not taught these traits by adults who have forgotten how to be content with such things as they have been given.
These are not just empty words. They tell us plainly what the Master requires. Set a child in your midst and learn. Watch him and notice his habits. When we learn to take on the wonderful qualities of a little child, we will be a step closer to the grace of God.