Since I’m on vacation, I’m taking a break from posting for the rest of the week. In the meantime, I’m going to repost a few articles from the archives. This post was first written several years ago when David was a toddler. I’d probably add to it now, but no time, no time today.
I’m somewhat fascinated at the lack of attention some give to the idea that there is no good thing in us, unless God puts it there. Now, theologians can talk for hours about this, particularly in how it relates to our salvation, but somehow this doctrine gets lost when we talk about pre-salvation children.
Here is what I mean. In theory, David has no power as an unsaved child to do right. He can “do the right things” but he is motivated for sinful reasons. I laughed when I thought about telling David if he pooped on the toilet without being told (like he does with pee), then I wouldn’t make him sit on the toilet after each meal (something he doesn’t like to do). Suppose he understood me and decided I was right. Now, instead of being motivated by a desire to control (I’m not going to do what mommy wants), he’s being motivated by… a desire to control! No heart change has happened. Take a very well-trained pre-salvation four year old. He’s nearly perfectly obedient, but is he spiritual? Not if we understand our theology right. We cannot please God as an unsaved person, right? All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, the Bible says.
So as wonderful as it is to see David choose to obey and submit, I have to remind myself that that is not the goal. I think understand total depravity of a toddler helps me not to despair when I consider how little my training seems to change David’s heart. I am teaching him to comply, I’m teaching him that I always win, and I hope I’m teaching him good habits that will eventually become godly habits. All of these are important goals for the formative years. None of these things, however, change that he isn’t a “good boy”– he is a wicked sinner in need of a Savior.
p.s. David is remarkably well-behaved for a [nearly] three year old. I am thankful for his sweet disposition. But I am aware that good behavior does not equal godliness.
Diane Heeney says
Ya know, my heart has ached for my son when he found himself sucked into a depravity vortex…he was at a loss (literaly) regarding how to get a handle on his sinful behavior. He would weep out of frustration when he had done hurtful things to others, things that are not characteristic of his loving and sensitive nature. I think this “coming to the end of one’s self” on kid-level is what contributed to his profession of faith. I like the point that Tripp makes in his book about this…our children need to see themselves as morally bankrupt…they don’t have any answers outside of God’s sufficiency.
And, this exercise (helping Michael thru this) I hope enhanced my own sensitivity toward my own sinfulness and desperate need for the Lord’s intervention continually in my own life…as well as helping me to understand afresh the sinful world around me. It is so easy to throw up my hands in despair when I feel surrounded with injustice, disregard for “what’s right”, compromise, and plain flat-out wickedness as my family rubs elbows with our community…until I remember that these folks simply can’t help it. It is not fair for me to expect them to act, interact, react biblically. They don’t have the resources! They may not be sensible of it (not yet…but believers in my town….our family included….can play an important role in helping them understand that their behaviors flow out of their hearts and are, largely, not the result of a “syndrome” or their sad upbringing –think of the trophies in scripture who came from lousy homes– or “bad luck” or a host of other excuses). My heart should go out to them. I need Christ-like compassion, pity, mercy (there’s that word again!)…starting at home, and then blossoming out into “our Jerusalem”.
Thanks for these thoughts, Diane. Good for me to read today.