Q. 36. What benefits in this life go with or come from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
A. The benefits that in this life go with or come from justification, adoption, and sanctification are: the assurance of God's love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, and growing and persevering in grace to the end of our lives. ~Training Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Shorter Catechism, Starr Meade
"I don't know if God loves me."
His words came out in a quiet, ashamed sort of way as we finished our daily reading for the catechism question.
Caught off guard, I gave an incredulous look to the air in front of me and said in an exasperated sort of way, "Of course, you do. You know that the Bible tells you that God loves you." It was not my best moment at all. I kept going, sputtering and trying, very aware that my words were not helping and our voices were sounding frustrated with each other. Now in a full blown panic inside my head, I am frantically and silently praying for help and rummaging around in my cranium for something helpful to say.
Still at a loss, I finally blurted out, "God loves those who belong to Him. And it is those who believe who belong to Him." Quite sure, he could take confidence because he has professed to believe, I waited to see what he would say next.
"Sometimes I don't know if I will go to heaven."
Clearly my prayers are being heard as I begin to find my place in this conversation, "If you believe that Jesus was punished for your sins, then you will go to heaven."
With a bit of wonder in his voice, he said brightly, "Oh, I believe that."
Unsure if he understood what the difference was, I went on. "The ones who believe that they are sinners and deserve to be punished by God, but instead believe that Jesus was punished in their place, they are the ones who go to heaven. The ones who do not believe that they are sinners and did not need Jesus to be punished for them, they are they ones who go to hell."
Clearly relieved, he exhaled and said, "I get it now. People who believe that Jesus died for their sins go to heaven and if you don't believe you need Jesus, you go to hell."
He gives a little smile and says, "Now I'm fifty percent sure I'm going to heaven!"
I slump in my spot next to him on the couch.
"You mean you only half believe you're going to heaven?" I ask completely discouraged.
"Uh, no, I'm 100 % sure!"
Sagging with relief that it appears to be just a mathematical mistake, I smile and tell him how glad I am that he understands and knows.
Our conversation goes on, the books in our laps forgotten as he wants to talk about what he will do when he grows up. It's a wonderful conversation about his interests and economics and God's kingdom and his future wife.
We come to a natural close and return to our Morning Time routine having settled something very important for him. Just how important was to be revealed later that evening.
More than half way through our dinner that evening, I had stepped away from the table and was out of sight in the kitchen when I heard his voice say nonchalantly to Shane, "I know for certain I'm going to heaven now."
Shane, surprised by the conversation starter, quickly looks right at his face, while I quietly hurry back into the dining area but still out of sight of Seth. I smile knowingly at Shane as he looks up at me with a questioning face. I nod my head and wait for Seth to speak again.
"Yes, Mommy and I talked today and I know I'm going to heaven because I believe that Jesus died for me."
Shane responds with an encouraging smile and says 'That's great to hear, Seth."
And then looking for further context to this abrupt announcement, he asks him, "Is this something you have been struggling with for a little while?"
Completely open now, he answers easily, "Oh yes, for the last one or two years."
Shane trying not to looked shocked, but failing completely, says, "Oh, that long."
Still just listening from my post by the kitchen doorway, I wonder what will come next.
Seth keeps going, "Yes, I didn't know, but now I do."
It is a wonderful moment and I am rejoicing quietly in my heart as I see Shane's face reflecting my own thoughts.
It would continue to be a thoughtful evening for Seth.
Coming into his room, I found him on his top bunk, in his pajamas reclining on one elbow with his opened Pokemon album in front of him. Slightly irritated that he is not reading one of the two assigned books still unfinished for this week, I ask him why he is not reading.
With a truly thoughtful, subdued voice, he informs me that he is thinking.
He is thinking of what he would tell someone if they didn't believe in Jesus.
Completely chagrined and feeling about the size of a worm, I ask what he would say to them.
Rattling off a whole exchange complete with rebuttals and evidences of Jesus' deity and the historicity of Adam and Eve, I am amazed at his level of intensity.
Wishing to challenge him with other answers that he might be given by these hypothetical unbelievers, I remind him of the conversation Mr. Pipes has with a German university student in the book we had read together earlier this school year. I ask him if he remembers what question Mr. Pipes asked the student. He can't remember right now although at the time of our reading, Seth had been so intrigued by Mr. Pipes' discussion with the student that he had started to write down the questions on a small piece of paper to keep in his wallet he said, in case he found someone who didn't believe in Jesus. That was another wonderful moment, but obviously forgotten right now.
"He asked the German student what he thought about Jesus, " I tell him.
And the student told him he thought Jesus was a good man, a good teacher.
"So Mr. Pipes asks him a question that C.S. Lewis wrote about in his books, "If Jesus was a good man, a good teacher, why did he claim to be God?" Mr. Pipes wanted the student to consider what this good Jesus was claiming about himself. I walked Seth through the discussion a bit, but I could see he wasn't following all that well. I finished quickly, encouraged him to keep thinking and asked if he was ready for me to pray with him.
We prayed and I said goodnight and I turned out the light for him. He sounded quiet when he said goodnight and I prayed for him as I left his room.
Later that night in bed, Shane asked me what had prompted Seth's conversation and beginning with the week's catechism question, I briefly recounted parts of our previous discussion. With hearts full of wonder and gratefulness, we fell asleep in the warm darkness.
*I know that this is not the most grammatically correct writing. Please overlook my mixing of tenses and other potential punctuation problems. I don't think I can rewrite it any better right now, but I felt it was important for me to write this down before I forgot our conversations from this week. I write to remember, not to be remembered as a writer, if that makes sense.