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Friday, February 03, 2006

The Gospel According to (Our) Matthew

An amusing tidbit and then something more serious...

We've previously noted that (almost-four-year-old) Matthew has been learning some of the worship hymns that we enjoy. I sing to him every night and he's eventually caught on. One of his favorites is Before the Throne of God Above. He's more or less mastered the first stanza, so he's now trying to put the second to memory. The second half—which is a perfect statement of the gospel—goes:
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the just is satisfied,
To look on him and pardon me.
Well, leave it to the active but vocabulary-limited mind of a 3+ year old to come up with a variant on this portion of the song that actually has amusing theological implications (don't worry, we'll correct him sooner or later):
Because of sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted three;
For God the just is satisfied,
To look on him and part of me.
When I heard this I started cracking up, realizing that the last line is actually the (bad) theological understanding of many false gospels which require works of men to gain approval before God. 'Twas amusing. I'll correct him soon enough...

On a more serious note, this evening, as I was tucking him into bed, I noticed underneath his bed an array of papers. Apparently, he'd covertly taken a perfectly usable small notepad and pulled every sheet off the pad (leaving a number of blank sheets in a mess). Now, this whole day, he's had a rather poor attitude, so my first instinct was to raise my voice and demand to know why he'd done so obviously a foolish thing (he knows it's not his to mess with and he's got a bad habit of messing with things). But—by God's grace—I restrained that initial response and bought some time by calmly telling him to collect the papers up neatly and give them to me.

In the meantime, I sat down on the floor. After he collected the papers, he sat on the bed watching and awaiting my reaction. I knew full well the reason he'd taken apart the notepad: his sinful and fallen nature prefers to do things that are "fun" irrespective of others, including their property. To merely rebuke him for doing it was pointless and even counterproductive: as parents, our job is not to be mere legalists, requiring perfection of our children; but evangelists and heart-shepherds, leading our children to see their need for Christ.

So instead of asking why he'd done it, I told him why: "Do you know what this means? The fact that you took apart mommy's notepad, knowing full well it was against her wishes, shows the wickedness of your heart. You did a wicked thing because you have a wicked heart."

Now, we've just begun memorizing memory verses together, and he'd just memorized Psalm 1:6, which reads, "For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish." So we'd actually talked about what the word "wicked" meant last night and I'd told him that he had a wicked heart, as did all men, apart from Jesus giving them a new heart.

So when I said this, he immediately said, "You have a wicked heart too, Daddy." Not maliciously or with ill will, but as a matter of fact.

So I responded, "Actually, Matthew, I don't. I had a wicked heart, but Jesus has given me a new heart—a heart to love Him and obey Him and love others."

He thought about that a moment and said, "I want a new heart too."

After that, I took a few moments to attempt to convey the real meaning of having a new heart. In other words, it's not like getting new shoes, simply something you acquire with the right amount of asking or money. It's something God gives in the context of conviction of sin and repentance and faith. Mostly, I just told Matthew that I too want him to have a new heart, but it's not as simply as simply wanting a new heart; but also him coming to feel horrible about the wickedness of his current heart. Then, in closing, I prayed that God would give him a new heart—something I pray for him nearly every day—that would hate evil and sin and wicked things, and love Christ.

If you have a moment, I welcome your prayers on his behalf as well. I give thanks to the Lord for helping me tonight not to preach legalism but the gospel of hope.