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 self-focused 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 understanding 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.
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