My heart leaped for joy. With a little help from my devious hands, I was able to peak through just enough of the brown paper to confirm my suspicions. I was getting a castle for Christmas. The plastic walls, the sticker adorned knights and the flimsy drawbridge would all be mine! With my head buzzing, I settled into my daily routine of chores and holiday festivities, feeling as if Christmas would never come. Could the days pass any slower? Finally December 25 arrived with lighted Christmas tree and wrapped presents. I ripped open my gift and behold the castle in all of its very limited glory. Oh, the excitement!
Though the box sustained me for a few days, I found the reality of having a castle much more satisfying (albeit by a couple of months, but still). In the spiritual world, Christ is also all about what’s on the inside. He is not impressed with confessions of faith, baptism, or even tears on Sunday morning if we keep living for ourselves by lying, stealing, gossiping, and lusting. The outside trappings of our religion do not impress God when they are divorced from the internal realities of our hearts.
If I had opened the box and found only the brown insides of an empty box, my little heart would have melted into despair. In the same way, God deplores giving, confession, and aisle walking that is driven by an empty heart. Quoting from the Old Testament, Christ says worship not driven by a love of God (even when exciting or emotional) is work, “in vain” (Math 15:8-9). In God’s eyes, such expressions are more worthless than an empty box at Christmas.
As our children express interest in following Christ, we should be more excited than an 11 year old boy getting a castle. We should encourage our kids to seek after Christ by teaching them and by praying with them. But as we come alongside of our kids, we should not to make faith about the motions. Yes, baptism and the other signs of faith are important. But having a heart in love with God is even more important. As John Piper notes, “Worship is essentially an inner stirring of the heart to treasure God above all the treasures of the world” (p. 206). As J.D. Greear says, “Repentance doesn’t mean we amend our behavior, it means we begin to pursue God’s will with abandon” (p. 80). Repentance and worship cannot be manufactured through physical efforts. When we see that our children love God by loving family and friends and by placing a high priority on church, the Bible and prayer, then we should encourage them towards the more public expressions of faith and worship. We should get excited about what’s in the box!
Greear, J. (2013). Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart. Nashville: B&H Publishing .
Piper, J. (2003). Let the Nations be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions. Grand Rapids : Baker Academic .