Still pondering this issue of sin and the Holy Spirit.
Last night I thought a bit about our kids. When they’re good, I delight in their goodness. It warms the les of my heart to see them showing kindness to others and each other. I love to see them quickly obeying the first time I ask them to do something (especially when people can see, to be honest). But is it right to think of a child who is not saved as a “good” child? Aren’t his righteousnesses still far short of the glory of God? Aren’t they like filthy rags?
So what would be the ramifications of forgetting that the good in my child is not pleasing to God? I think perhaps (and I’m just thinking through this, no conclusions or dogmatism here) it’s harder for us to show them their need of salvation. I was saved as a kid; I don’t remember my life before salvation. I don’t have any personal concept of a “changed life.” I wonder whether parents might similarly be lulled into thinking of their children as Christian children in essence. For example, we teach children verses like “even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” and don’t tell them that God hasn’t forgiven them yet. Sure, when we talk about salvation with our kids, we make sure they know that they’re not saved yet, but I think in other contexts we probably forget it (unless they’re being quite selfish or obedient and then we remember).
We’ve tried to address some of this. That’s why instead of saying “You’re such a good boy” we say, “It pleases Mommy when you obey” (We do say “It pleases God when you obey” but I’m not sure about that). We try to teach them verses that are applicable (such as verses that show attributes of God or behavior by command or example) and either omit verses that could be incorrectly personalized, or explain that the verse doesn’t apply until they are saved. Sometimes I say “I’m glad that God helped you obey” and I do believe God is demonstrating common grace in some measure.
But when he is disobedient, what do I say? “You cannot obey without God’s help [but he has been obeying without God’s help].” So what’s the point of getting saved if God is helping him obey in the same way now without salvation? What’s the difference?