Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Monday, April 02, 2012

My four-year-old son, the gospel, and the problem we all face

From the time he wakes up to the time he goes to bed, my little boy is a Tasmanian Devil-like flurry of activity, so getting him to sit still and have a conversation (especially a conversation that is not centered on the Incredible Hulk's ability to smash things) is extremely difficult. Therefore, I will often use bed-time as an opportunity to ask Christian about his day and about his thoughts on the people and activities he has encountered during the day. Last night, after asking him about his various friends at church, I asked Christian what he learned in Sunday school. To my surprise, he remembered (this is, I think, literally only the second time he has ever remembered the Sunday school lesson: my four-year-old lacks listening skills): the lesson was about Jesus on the Cross.

"Do you know what happened after they hung Jesus on the Cross?" I asked.

"He died," Christian replied.

"That's right, buddy," I answered. "And do you know what happened after he died?"

Christian had no idea (I think his Sunday school teacher might have been saving that part for next week), so I went ahead and read him the resurrection story from The Jesus Storybook Bible (which is not much of a "Bible," but does, I think, provide a good explanation of the gospel). Christian seemed to follow the story quite well.

Then I asked Christian if he knew why Jesus had to die. Christian answered that bad guys killed Him, which I affirmed, but I added that Jesus was so powerful that the bad guys could not kill him by themselves, He had to let them kill Him. Then I asked Christian if he knew why Jesus let the bad guys kill Him; he did not know.

"Do you know how sometimes you do bad things, and I have to give you a spanking, or I do bad things, and I have to apologize to you?" I asked (I've lost my temper with Christian before, and have had to apologize to him for yelling at him).

"Yes," he replied.

"Well, everybody does bad things, buddy, and God says that anyone who does bad things has to die. But Jesus died in our place so that we don't have to die if we believe in Him."

"So if bad guys hang me on a Cross, and I believe in Jesus, I won't die?" Christian asked.

I explained that if he believed in Jesus he might still die, but that-- like Jesus-- he would not stay dead, but be raised from the grave.

"Do you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead?" I asked him.

"No," he replied.

"Why not?" I asked calmly, not wanting to coerce him into saying "yes" if he did not meant it.

"Because I don't believe anything!" responded the little skeptic.

I was a bit surprised by this answer, so I asked him what he meant. From what he told me, I realized that he was claiming that he does not believe in anything that he cannot see.

"Do you believe that I love you?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"Do you believe that 'God made all things'?" I continued (this was, basically, the first thing I had ever taught him).

"Yes," he said.

With these kinds of questions I helped Christian understand that he does believe some things he cannot see (my apologetics skills are spectacular when it comes to four-year-olds). Then I asked again: "Do you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead?"

"Yes," he said.

"Are you sure, buddy?"

"Yes!" he said, convinced.

In asking Christian these things, I had been thinking of Romans 10:9. Now I had to think about how to address the other half of that verse: how could a four-year-old understand the concept of lordship? Well, for some reason (perhaps because Abby and I have reprimanded him for being bossy toward his little sister and others), Christian often talks about wanting to be the "boss." So I told him: "if you want to believe in Jesus, you have to tell Him that you do not want to be the boss of your life, but that you want Him to be the boss of your life." Well, Christian did not like this idea at all. He asserted that he wants to be the boss, and not Jesus or his Mommy or me.

"Well, if you want to believe in Jesus, you have to ask Him to change your heart, so that you want Him to be your boss," I told Christian.

"Why do I have to ask Jesus to change my heart?" Christian asked.

"Because you can't do it yourself, because you want to be the boss so bad," I replied.

"I can change my own heart!" replied the cherub-faced Pelagian.

"You really can't, though, buddy," I said. "Do you mind if I pray for you and ask Jesus to change your heart?"

"OK," he said.

I prayed for him and wished him good-night. A moment later, as I was telling Abby about the conversation (she had only heard the very end of it and the prayer), we both realized that Christian has the same problem that every single one of us has: naturally, we want to be the boss over our own lives (and over the universe, if it were possible), and we do not want God to be sovereign over us.

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