Bonus Question for the “Ten Commandments Blog Award”: What is your testimony for Jesus Christ. I’d like to tell you how merciful God has been to me, how He brought me to a saving faith in spite of a lot of confusion. As you will see it was quite a process, which is why I’ve left it to the last. So here goes…
Back in the 1930’s a little Jewish girl stood in a crowd listening as the local Salvation Army church group played their instruments and sang several hymns. Then the Major began to preach to the people gathered round, mostly men. A bunch of hardened sinners, too, it seemed; not one of them stepped forward to be saved when the Major gave his invitation.
The tender-hearted child listened sympathetically as the Major again urged his hearers to receive Christ and be saved – and she was embarrassed that no one responded when he was trying so hard.
Yet again he pleaded with them; by now the girl was disgusted with their stubbornness. Why were they so unwilling to respond when the Major had given such a rousing speech and invitation? Why would they not want to be saved from the fires of hell he talked about? Well, she’d show them. So she marched right over to the Major, volunteering to be first one saved tonight. And “another soul was added to the kingdom of God.” Sort of.
This girl didn’t have a clue what she was getting saved from or what being saved meant or what being a Christian was all about. She was simply a willing child, wanting to put to shame all those hard-hearted gentiles who wouldn’t listen to their own people imploring them to mend their ways. She went on her way later and never gave it another serious thought; she was, after all, a Jew.
When I was young I didn’t have much more of an idea what being saved was all about than she did. We never went to church – my Dad F had no use for religion– but my Mom F (my aunt) had given me some Bible teaching when I was little and brought me up to be a Christian, so I was one, in the vague sense children have.
Then when I was eight years old and attending Summer Bible Camp, a speaker told us if we wanted to be saved we should talk to our bunk leader. And I was a willing child. I knew it would make my bunk leader, an older teen girl, very happy to save my soul.
I dimly remember the incident. I had no real concept of saved or lost at that point, but I wanted her to be pleased and feel good about coming to camp, so I went and talked with her. We prayed together; nowadays you’d say I prayed the Sinner’s Prayer, but we didn’t have such a thing back then. And I got saved. Sort of.
Not that I had any idea of making a total surrender to the will of God – or of the difference between my will and His. Not that I felt lost before. Not that I felt any different after. Nothing changed in me except that I came out of it with some resolve to read my Bible – which I did for several months before abandoning it. However, I certainly did want to be, and to act like, a Christian.
I had some sense of the need to save souls. At Christmas that year I tried to save my six-year-old sister, but she a rebel at that moment and declared quite firmly that she did not want to be a Christian. When I warned her of hell fire, she said she’d just go to hell. Oh, what a heretic!
Many years later I read that if you ask most small children if they love Jesus, of course they do. That little baby in a manger we sing about at Christmas – what’s not to love? We teach them to sing, “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know” and it means something to them; they have an understanding that Jesus in Heaven loves them. In their innocence the Holy Spirit gives them comfort and enough faith to believe and accept it. Jesus commends the faith of a child.
The article said if you ask a child with some Bible knowledge, “Do you want to go to heaven when you die?” few will refuse. They’ll usually admit to doing wrong things at times – so they must be a sinner. They will certainly not want to go to hell. If you ask a little child, “Don’t you want to be saved?” of course they will.
“So let’s pray this prayer. Great. Now you’re a Christian. All you have to do is act like one.”
Then they hit their teens, just like I did, trying to be a Christian. Trying to do what they’ve been taught is right. Trying to stay enthused about the Bible. Trying to shine for Jesus – but, like a lamp not plugged into the power source, it’s pretty tough going.
Yes, I had some clear limits of right and wrong. I didn’t smoke because I didn’t want my lungs to look like a tar pit. I didn’t do drugs because I didn’t want to blow my mind. Immorality was wrong. But my behaviour was very much coming from the “carnal man”; my heart was full of selfishness and pride. And because we never went to church, I didn’t have enough Bible knowledge or connection to real Christians to know how Christian life should be.
Jesus taught that children are innocent. We believe their sins are covered by His blood until God Himself lays it on their heart that they are sinners. They themselves start to feel a “call” or sense of insecurity that settles into a conviction that they’re lost. This seems to come after age ten, but sometimes as early as nine.
When children have this sense of being called of God or accountable to Him for their wrongs, then parents can step in and help explain, as Eli did to Samuel, “This is God calling you. He wants you to surrender your life to Him.”
However, when well-meaning people urge children to be saved before God actually does call them – before the child really understands what they are committing themselves to – it will bring serious confusion when God does call them. Worse yet, when the older child does start to feel that insecurity or conviction of being lost, counselors will often say, “Of course God has forgiven you. You just have to accept it by faith.” (Which is very true, as far as it goes.)
When I was nineteen I had a recurring dream for several weeks: the end of the world had come – Jesus was here, judgement had begun – and I wasn’t ready. I went to my pastor and he encouraged me to just believe. “Of course you’re doing what God wants you to do,” he said. So I settled back into my false assurance and the dreams stopped.
My husband and I were attending church at that time and were baptized not too long after by this same pastor; I stood before the congregation and told them I believed in God; I believed He was leading my life. And I was accepted as a born-again Christian. I didn’t know the scripture that says a general belief in God isn’t enough, that even the devils believe in God. (James 2:19)
My heart aches nowadays as I read the statistics: so many older teens or early-twenties give up on religion altogether. How many of them have had the same experience I had? They’ve tried being a Christian and had no power over sin. Without the Holy Spirit dwelling within, it’s just a life of have-to’s, trying by self-discipline to rule over the carnal flesh. Trying to cheer yourself with a self-manufactured joy.
When I was twenty-one, God decided it was time to straightened this thing out. He had to lose me so that I could properly be found. He started by putting His finger on my “image” and saying, “This has to go.”
To be continued…