Thursday, November 20, 2008

The God-Honoring Gospel

Part 5 in a Series
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

In Part 4 I told you about my son, and the dilemma I faced with wanting so badly to see him saved, but being unwilling to lead him in yet another "Prayer of salvation." If you haven't read that yet, or any other entries in the series, please do so. But I'm still going to copy the last little bit here, for the sake of continuity and clarity.

Like every misguided but well-intentioned Christian parent, I longed for something I could do to save my son. Something I could put my faith in for his salvation besides a miraculous work of Christ.

If salvation depends on the Holy Spirit awakening a dead soul, then what happens if He doesn't do that for my son? What is "Plan B?"

There isn't one. And finally coming to terms with that has helped me witness to my son more effectively than ever before, in a way that glorifies God instead of insulting Him.

At first it felt cruel, saying anything or reading any Scripture that might cause my son to doubt his salvation. But when the opportunities arose, I felt the Spirit nudging me to do it anyway. Not sitting my son down and bludgeoning him with my doubts, but rather giving brief, timely warnings as Scripture teaches us to (1 Co. 4:14, Col. 1:28, 1 Th. 5:14), and doing it in love. (I can't claim to have always had an exemplary attitude, but it's definitely something I'm striving for.)
  • Son, you just lied to me again. You do that a lot. I hate to say it, but I don't see any love for Christ in you, or any love for truth or righteousness. I see a great love for lying, and God's word says that Satan is the father of lies.
  • Son, you are very full of hatred for your brothers. Let's look at what the Bible says about those who hate their brothers (1 John 3:15).
  • Do you hear the incredible disrespect that you just showed me? That's something you need to be talking to God about, and asking Him to help you with.
Do you think that sort of thing came out of my mouth easily at first? But after those brief warnings would sometimes come times of prayer. My son would hear me praying for him, that God would give him a holy hatred for sin, and a love for Himself, and a new heart. And I also began explaining to my son, in simple terms, the work of the Holy Spirit in convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgment. And the more I did this, the more confident I felt that I was doing what God wanted me to do.

Then one day my son said to me, "I know I don't have the Holy Spirit."

My heart rejoiced to hear that! This precious boy was realizing that he truly needed to be saved!

Did I lead him in a sinner's prayer then? No way. Why quench the Spirit's work by pouring false assurance over it? Instead I told my son that this was a wonderful thing for him to realize, and that only the Holy Spirit could have revealed this truth to him. I encouraged him to pray for hatred for sin, for love for God, for a new heart.

"I've prayed that lots of times," he has whined more than once, "and it's never worked."

It would have been so simple to put my arm around him and say, "Oh honey, if you prayed that prayer, then don't worry about it! You're saved!" But that would have been the worst thing I could have done. Because, for one thing, my son's statement reveals where his faith truly was. It was in a prayer that would either "work," or "not work." It was not faith in the Living God, through Jesus Christ's atoning death on the cross (no matter whether or not those concepts were mentioned in this prayer on which he'd pinned his hopes).

So I began explaining to him that God might not give him a noticeable answer right away, but that that didn't mean He wasn't working to bring about changes. I explained that drawing someone is a process. Sometimes spiritual blindness takes time to heal (like what happened to the blind man in Mark 8:23-25.) "Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. If God is making you wait for answer, it's because the waiting, and the seeking, and the knocking are good for you. It's part of the process that He's using to bring you to Himself. If you're coming to Him in your desire to be saved, instead of looking to yourself or some other god, I believe that means God is drawing you to Himself (John 6:44). And Jesus has promised not to cast out anyone who comes to Him through the Father's drawing (John 6:37)."

Weeks and months pass. No major changes happen in his behavior, but conversation about the things of God becomes more real. He feels less and less need to be hypocritical, since Mom already believes he's not yet born again. Especially since Mom is encouraging him to keep seeking the Lord because the Lord is drawing him. Our talks fill with truth, and with hope. Real hope based on what God is doing, not the false kind built on religiosity.

Then new insights begin to come out of his mouth...not pompous pronouncements with spiritual emptiness, but sudden realizations of truth. We keep praying, thanking God for showing him these things, asking again for hatred for sin, for love for God, for a new heart.

He begins sometimes catching himself.
  • "I feel like I need to tell you that I just gave you a big dumb excuse that wasn't true."
  • "You know what my problem is? I always want to be in charge. That's why I was being so ugly with my brother."
This from a boy who never used to be wrong, never used to admit to anything! We praise God together for this evidence that He is at work. I don't tell my son that he's saved, because I don't know it yet. But I can tell him that God is at work in Him. He finds hope in that, and he seeks more and more because of that hope.

A little while ago we read from the Scriptures about godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Co. 7:10). My son pipes up, "Mom, would you pray for me that God would give me more godly sorrow?" He tells me he has begun praying for that as well. And we have begun to see some evidence of that work of the Spirit beginning in his life. Ironically, he's developing more joy and peace right along with it. (Though that's really not surprising at all, if you understand the truth of 2 Co. 7:10.)

Do you see how God is being honored here? My son is turning more and more away from himself, away from religious trappings, and toward God as the author and finisher of his faith (Heb. 12:2)! He and I are both finding our hope in God for his salvation, and what a beautiful place to find it! My son seeks God more, in joyful expectation. I've seen the joy on his face!

Do we still see plenty of rough edges? Of course! I've got plenty of those myself, and always will until the Lord takes me home. But the Gospel that honors God is the true Gospel, and this wonderful God is drawing my son to Himself through it. I believe the day will come when my son will tell me that he knows that the Holy Spirit has given him a new heart.

I'll see the truth of that in his eyes, and we will rejoice together, along with the hosts of Heaven.

(P.S. If you know any of my children, please don't mention this to them. I'm not sure the publicity/attention would be good for them...)

(Photo from Stock.xchng by jescobosa)


elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Such good mothering and spiritual shaping. I was over here earlier today but wanted to think further about your approach to your son's struggling faith. You are doing a good job, and I think your leading him to contemplate God is better than beating him over the head with the good book, although sometimes not a bad approach!

Thank you for sharing such a tender part of your family's story.


KAnnJ said...

I just popped over from the devotionals on Godlinked.
Wow! Such wisdom! I pray God would give me wisdom such as this to speak with my children.
Thank you for writing this.

Sandy said...

Just wanted to thank you so much for your comment on my Internet Cafe post today. Especially for the scripture you shared. I love that verse and had forgotten about it. I will use that in a future post for sure.

Sandy Cooper

Jennifer said...

This is excellent! It is so important, no matter who we are evangelizing, that we remember there is nothing we can say to convince another person to repent and trust in the Savior. It is totally of God.

Recently I was so burdened for someone I hadn't spoken to in years and felt a tremendous desire to share the gospel, but due to circumstances, contacting this individual would not be appropriate. It was tough. God showed me I was conceited enough to think I could be effective, and that this person would surely listen to me. In this situation, God is showing me I need to just pray. That is hard. I want to do more! But I know how important it is to be obedient. You are doing such a great job by restraining your desires and allowing the Holy Spirit to have free reign. I'll be praying for your son.

Betsy Markman said...

Thanks, Jennifer!

I am actually satisfying my desires, much more than restraining them. I guess I just have different desires now, that's all. Instead of wanting to lead him in a prayer that will make me feel better, I want to lead him to Christ. I am so grateful to have this opportunity! Who knows...the way this world is going, how much longer will we be free to share our faith with our own children?

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