Five-year-old Ezra is concerned, lately, about every death. (We all should be a lot more thoughtful about the appointment with death and judgment that 100% of us will keep!) He’s especially concerned about whether or not people who’ve died have gone to be with God. Recently, his parents visited Mount Airy, North Carolina, the home of Andy Griffith and the model town for the fictional town of Mayberry. As they were telling Ezra about going to Floyd’s Barber Shop and the drugstore and the Sheriff’s Office, He asked them “Did you see Andy Griffith?”
When they told him that they couldn’t see him, because he’s dead, Ezra immediately asked “But did he obey God?”
Last week, while Ezra was visiting with us for a few days, he “tromboned” a few bars of “Seventy-Six Trombones.” A little taken aback that he would know that song, his Papa said “Ezra, do you know what that song is about?”
“Actuawy, I do.” Ezra replied.
“Do you know what movie that’s from?” Glenn asked.
“Actually I do. It’s from De Moosic Man.”
“Do you like that movie?
“Yes. I love it!
About this time I interjected that his parents were a little bit worried about the hero of the story—the fact that he was a conniving swindler promoting sin at every turn. Glenn answered, “But didn’t he repent at the end?”
Ezra quickly chimed in “No, he did not wepent. Dat’s de pwoblem.”
I’ve been asked to speak in an upcoming lectureship about how to raise our children to be evangelistic. In thinking about how to frame this lesson, I’m reminded that Ezra is right. Sometimes we think about all of the anti-Biblical messages in the world that draw people from God: atheism, denominationalism, worldliness, etc….We think about the huge propaganda that Satan has successfully spread about the non-essential nature of baptism. All of these (and more) are huge roadblocks to salvation in our modern world. But all of these are surmountable. I’ve seen people overcome each of these obstacles to live full and rich lives and go home to glory when they died. They did it by repenting: changing their minds about a particular course of action and following a different course.
But Ezra is right. When people are unwilling to repent, that unwillingness is the obstacle to salvation that cannot be overcome. That’s the pwoblem.
Repentance is the absolute hardest part of God’s plan of salvation. It’s the part that takes boldness, stamina, perseverance and self-control. It’s the part that makes you keep on confessing Him for life and it’s the part that makes you determined to get to the water and have your sins washed away. It’s the part that, once out of the waters of baptism, keeps you heaven-focused. It’s the part that makes you never, ever give the world a longing look again.
If we can put the concept of repentance in our kids—both its difficulty and its attendant blessings—we will raise naturally evangelistic kids. We do this by using the word “repentance” when we are punishing them. We do it by talking about hearts when we watch movies like The Music Man. We do it by stressing the concept of coming to one’s self when we are talking about the Prodigal Son or David and Bathsheba in family Bible time. We do it when we read the story of Beauty and the Beast or Pinocchio or any number of tales in which people changed their minds and actions in a positive direction. We do it when they hear us pray that our hearts will be tender and change when we find out we are wrong. They do it when they hear us petition Him in behalf of specific people we name, who need to change their hearts. We do it when we explain to them the difference between Peter and Judas when the cross put them to the test. We do it when, at very young ages, we keep spanking that hand over and over until we get a contrition after disobedience. We do it when we show them compassion after the contrite heart rights a wrong.
We saturate our children with the truth that salvation is about hearts. It’s about obedience resultant from penitent hearts.
Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.