Tuesday, October 27, 2015 is a day I will remember. It was the day when Jesus saved my son.
God would have his son to die in order that mine might live.
There are no words to express my gratitude. I have tried this week but have failed miserably.
I do want to share with you part of the story in order that it might encourage you to share the gospel consistently with people in your own life. The following account was a simple way of life moment. There were no frills. No expectations. No real creativity to it. It was the simple slow plodding along through the Scriptures and watching Jesus do the work.
We have prayed for Obadiah’s salvation since we found out we were pregnant with him. While we have prayed many things over him, his salvation was the number one prayer request.
Our gospel conversations have gotten more in-depth over this last year. Being 7-years-old means he can comprehend a lot, but we wanted to be very careful with him as well. I didn’t want him to desire to become a Christian because his dad is a pastor or because he saw a friend get baptized. We prayed that God would make it very evident that he was changing Obadiah’s heart.
Back in January, I had a few incredibly insightful conversations with Obadiah. At that time, I was suspecting that Obadiah had been converted, but I wanted to make sure. I didn’t want to rush through the process, and I wanted both of us to be absolutely confident. Our conversation that day amazed me concerning all that he understood and could communicate with me.
We still desired to examine him to see if he truly was in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).
It is so important to evaluate such a claim. The demons believe in Jesus, but that isn’t a saving belief (James 2:19). We wanted to see good fruit come from his life (Matt. 12:33).
In the months to follow, Obadiah wrestled with certain issues of faith. He is a deep philosopher. Many nights when I want him to go to sleep, he is lying awake contemplating free will, the existence of God, the exclusivity of the gospel, and so much more. I am not kidding. His questions keep me on my toes.
I even had a time when Obadiah was questioning the existence of God and we used Legos, baby teeth, and the Bible to address his concerns. That incident and others confirmed to me to take this process slow and pray for clarity.
On Tuesday of last week, I was leading our staff devotional on Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22. As I pointed out certain things about the story and how it points to Jesus, I talked about God’s incredible plan. I even mentioned how God’s plan had each of us in that room on that morning. His plan included the unique opportunities given to each of us to share the gospel that very day. And then we prayed to be faithful when those opportunities arose that day.
We concluded and I forgot about that prayer time until 12 hours later.
Jesus Is My Substitute
Amanda had a practice that night, and so after a very active night playing with the kiddos, I was trying to get showers done before bedtime. After hyping the kids up, sometimes this process feels like herding cats. As I was hurrying everyone up, I looked at my watch and contemplated not having family devotion that night.
Just as I was about to tell everyone to get in the bed because we didn’t have time to read the Bible, Gloria asked, “Daddy, are we going to read the Bible? Bubbas aren’t ready, but I’m all ready for bed.”
That was enough for me. As I found my place, the boys were running in the room to join us as they finished putting on their jammies.
Since our unified curriculum for the church and the weekly Bible reading plans go along with each other, we were discussing the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22. I decided to use a storybook Bible that night and turn to that narrative. As we reviewed what we had already learned that week, I was so thankful for this unified, concentrated approach with our church right now. All 3 children are retaining so much!
What happened next can only be explained by this:
We had church. And it got rowdy.
I began to point out the pictures and stated, “Hmmm, that’s interesting. A willing son is following his father up a mountain with wood on his back.”
Eli said, “Wait a minute…But I thought this story was about…”
“Alright guys, and let’s see, how long did it take them to get to where they were going?”
Obadiah read it aloud, “3 days. 3 days? No way!”
“Thankfully, Isaac had a substitute. A ram was caught in the thicket to take his place. What is a thicket anyway?”
“Yeah, but how did the ram get stuck in bushes?”
“His head was stuck in thorns. What? A crown of thorns! Look!”
Gloria asked, “Daddy, why is Isaac dead?”
“No darling, Isaac isn’t dead. He is about to die. He might as well be dead on that altar. But he isn’t dead in this picture. Not yet.”
Obadiah then points to the next picture where Isaac is no longer bound or lying down but standing upright facing his father. At this point in our conversation, the boys are literally yelling their answers at me. The excitement in the room is absolutely invigorating. Lightbulbs are going off and this story was “blowing my mind” as Obadiah described.
But when we got to the part of Isaac coming off the altar, Obadiah’s eyes got big and he whispered in amazement, “He rose from the dead.”
“Really? Wow. All of this stuff reminds me of someone…”
At that, all 3 children (ages 7, 7, and 3) exclaimed with loud voices: “Jesus!”
“Let’s turn over there and see if we see the similarities.”
As we read, we pointed out the beloved son, the mountain, the willing sacrifice, the wood upon his back, the crown of thorns upon his head, the three-day journey, the substitute, and the resurrection from the dead. As we went from page to page, image to image, verse to verse, my children were literally screaming in excitement.
As I began to share the gospel and how it was the plan with Abraham and Isaac and the Father and Jesus, I was interrupted by Obadiah.
“Daddy! I believe! Woo! I believe! Jesus is my substitute!”
He ran over to me and jumped into my arms. With his arms squeezing my neck, he joyfully exclaimed, “Daddy! Thank you for teaching me God’s Word! I believe! I believe!”
He jumped back for a moment and then stated these words:
“Daddy, Jesus just saved me. I know it.”
The sheer joy could not be contained. The lightbulb had just been turned on. I do not have God’s eyes nor do I have his knowledge, but I know this: I got to watch a moment in which I believe God raised my spiritually dead son to life (Eph. 2:5).
In jubilant celebration, he then ran out of the room to an unknown destination. Eli looked at me and said, “Does that mean he gets to be baptized now?”
As we chased him down, he was looking for his “I’m a Christian Now” book that we had been talking through since January. Thanks to Eli’s help, they found the book and Obadiah began to erase a date he had written down in the back. He then wrote at the bottom of the page:
“On October 27, 2015, Obadiah Agnew became a Christian.”
“Dad, I thought in January I was a Christian. But I wasn’t sure. Daddy, I am sure right now. God just did something inside me. He just made me a Christian!”
What brought such relief to me in this moment was his focus on how God was doing the saving and not him.
He wasn’t asking what he needed to do, he was telling me what God was doing and had done. Jesus is the author and the finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2) and so he does the work of salvation – not us. Obadiah got that.
Help Me Be a Christian
As I got the other two tucked in bed, I wanted Amanda to be there so badly that I considered telling him we would finish up in the morning, but this moment was not something you could just pause. We went downstairs together. I recorded our conversation so Amanda could hear it. In it, I asked him to tell me what was going on inside. I didn’t use close-ended questions (“Do you want to follow Jesus? Did Jesus die for your sins? Do you want to go to heaven?”) but I used open-ended ones (“What made a difference tonight? How do you get to heaven? Why did Jesus die?”).
His answers were precious. The lightbulbs were clicking. He was articulating the gospel at such a glorious level.
I then asked him to pray. I told him, “I’m not going to pray for you or have you repeat after me. You pray what you are thinking right now. This isn’t to make anything happen. Jesus just saved you. Let’s just thank him for this gift.”
As we knelt down to pray in the family room, I was so thankful I had my phone recorder by the couch. There are so many things about this prayer that still amaze me. This highlights not only conversion but discipleship and leadership. This is what he prayed (I only took out the “umm’s”):
“Lord, please help me be a Christian and be a leader for you. Help me to learn all of it so that I can start spreading it and believe that even though I am young, I can become a Christian and still help to lead by doing my own part. And as we pray for now, I pray for you to keep working in my heart. I pray that I will never turn away from you…much. I pray for others as they go into Christian life. I hope you can help me become more of you.”
As we embraced that night before bed, his joy was contagious (not that I was lacking any at that moment).
The Joy of Your Salvation
The next morning, he came running down the stairs with a different type of excitement. It was different from how he comes down at Christmas or on his birthday. It was different from the morning after loosing a tooth. He came up running with sheer joy.
“Buddy, did you know that now I am your father and your brother?”
“Whoa. That’s awesome!”
Amanda was getting to love on him and I just loved her priceless comment,
“Obadiah, this is what we have prayed for since you were in my tummy. But this isn’t the end. It’s just beginning. Now, we get to disciple you. It’s just getting started.”
He rejoiced at such sentiments and I did too.
“Gloria, did you know that I became a Christian last night?”
With an expression that revealed the obvious nature of such a question, she replied, “I knew that.”
He has called all his grandparents and told them what happened. One of them commented, “He just shared the gospel with me better than most adults could.”
He has told his friends and his teachers at church.
He heard me tell a group of college students to be safe and he interrupted to say, “Speaking of safe, I got saved on Tuesday!” That’s evangelism, folks.
I love watching what Jesus continues to do in his heart. He is excited about being baptized in the coming weeks. We had some friends that made a cake to celebrate his conversion which he thought was just awesome. I have prayed that Jesus would do a mighty work in his heart and I believe that he is just getting started.
I have shared with so many concerning Obadiah’s joy and how I have prayed that for so many. Oh God, please restore to us the joy of your salvation (Ps. 51:12)!
This event all came about because I read the Bible on a night in which I thought about neglecting it. It came through the steady, plodding through Scripture. It was us huddled up around a bedroom floor.
For those of you who know me, you know that so much of my life and ministry over the last few years has been attempting to equip other parents to experience this moment. When I got to experience it, the moment was surreal. It was quite fantastic for God to bring all these things together the way he did.
Over the last week, I haven’t gotten over this thought in my head:
God would have his son to die in order that mine might live.
As I held Obadiah that night and could feel his heart racing against my hand, I just imagined the blood flowing through his body. And then I thought of the blood that was spilled so that Obadiah would taste salvation.
What a Savior! I love my son so much, and I love Jesus so much. I am simply a grateful father for such a love.