Jesus saved my son.

On Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018, Eli received the gospel of Jesus Christ and my son became my brother.

We waited to announce it publicly until now because Eli wanted to tell some people face to face.  He has always preferred quiet moments in which to share things.  I have loved watching him tell the story to others.  He desires to be baptized (to celebrate his rebirth-day) on his actual birthday and we are so excited.

In reality, Jesus saved my son twice.

The First Salvation (Life)

Jesus used the gospel on me years ago and completely changed my life around.  He used the gospel to save my wife as well.  As His Word continued to sanctify our lives (John 17:17), our perspectives changed.  Our priorities were altered dramatically.

  1. We understood that pure and undefiled religion involved caring for orphans who were afflicted (James 1:27).
  2. If God hears the cry of the orphan (Ex. 22:22-24), shouldn’t we?
  3. Doing good is bringing justice to the fatherless (Isa. 1:17).
  4. We are to do our part to give justice to the weak and the fatherless (Ps. 82:3).
  5. Job noted that regardless if other people ignored the fatherless, he wanted to help them (Job 29:12).
  6. God Himself upholds both the widow and the fatherless (Ps. 146:9).

God called us to adopt.  We said yes to the direction and trusted Him for the map.  He led us to the boy who He had predetermined from eternity past to be our precious son.  He was in bad shape in the orphanage, but our faith in Jesus caused us to believe that no obstacle could slow down God’s will for this boy.

Where would he if we wouldn’t have said “yes” to adoption?  I don’t know the end of that story,  but that version seems very bleak.  I do know that Jesus heard the cries of that little boy and He chose to answer them through us.  To see where He has come from to where He has been is an incredible testimony of God’s saving work in his life.  Make no mistake about it, Jesus saved and preserved his life.

The Second Salvation (New Life)

As Eli came into our home as a 2-year-old boy, one of the first books he ever had read to him was the Bible.  In our home, we try to make sure we don’t stick Jesus in the corner because we believe that He needs to be the centerpiece.  We talked about Jesus.  We prayed to Jesus.  We sang songs about Jesus.

Through the years, he grew in knowledge of the Scriptures.  When his brother received the gospel, we made sure we didn’t pressure him.  In fact, we did quite the opposite to make sure his decisions would be his own and at the right time.  Through the years, Eli would show signs of genuine gospel interest, but he would also be candid about his unreadiness.  He wanted to be sure.  We did too!

One funny encounter was when Obadiah told me in the driveway that he wanted to share the gospel with a non-Christian but he honestly didn’t know that many.

Eli circled around him on the scooter and said, “Yes, you do.  You know me!”

With a shocked expression, Obie replied, “Well, Eli, what are you waiting for then?”

“I’m just not ready.”

“It’s not about what you do, Eli.  Remember, it’s about what Jesus has done.”

I just sat on my tailgate and watched it go down with glee.

We continued to pray.  He continued to learn.  He could answer all the questions but was lacking genuine desire.  On truck rides together, I would tell him that he could ask me anything or tell me anything he was thinking without fear of shock or disappointment.  He honestly felt really comfortable with where he was and where we were.

Easter Sunday

We gathered our three children together to take the customary Easter picture.  We had a genuine excitement for the day.  We were heading out early to make some preparations and I noticed that my boys put a cross necklace around their neck.

They normally don’t wear those.  Looking back, it was almost as if God was preparing the cross around his neck to foreshadow the cross that would cover his heart hours later.

As I studied and prayed through Matthew 28 for the Easter sermon, I prayed that God would use that sermon to cause people to understand the gospel.  I wanted them to know that Jesus was eagerly willing to take their place.

During the final service of the day, I remember a moment when I was trying my best to explain the love of Jesus to those in attendance, and I saw the face of my son Eli on the front pew.  He had his Bible open, his notebook open, and his eyes open.

As our eyes locked, I just remembered sending out a quick prayer, “Lord, help Eli know when he’s ready to follow You.”

The services ended.  I never left the front steps of the platform as I talked with person after person.  My children hang around during this time and love spending time with their church family.  I noticed though that Eli wasn’t running around hanging out with friends like he usually does but he almost seemed like he was waiting at the back of the line of people wanting to talk with me.

As everyone left and it was just the two of us standing together, he said, “Dad?  So, today it happened.  I finally got it.  As you preached about the gospel, I finally believe it – Jesus took my place.”

We embraced and unpacked even more what was going on in that newly beating heart of his.  The exuding joy elicited the curiosity of his sister and his brother.

Gloria came up first, “Really?!  Wow!  You’re a Christian now?!”

As Obadiah came up, his eyes seemed curious but almost aware of what we were talking about.  Obie asked, “What are you guys talking about?”

When Eli said, “Obie, stay calm, but I just became a Christian…”

Obadiah’s eyes got big, his mouth dropped, his face turned red, and then he embraced Eli and started spinning him around.  He then proceeded to drop Eli abruptly onto the ground and said, “I knew it!  I knew it was going to happen today!  I got my Gospel Group to pray this morning that you would receive the gospel!  I just knew that was going to happen!”

The Appropriate Nature of It All

Amanda and I couldn’t have been happier.  It was such a special day to celebrate.  We have been blessed with three incredible children.  We are simple parents trying to make sure these children know they are loved extremely by their parents but even more so by a Heavenly Father.

For those of you who know my background and know what much of my seminary work focused upon, I think it is appropriately fitting that:

  1. for Obadiah, God used a Tuesday family devotion led by his dad, and
  2. for Eli, God used an Easter Sunday morning sermon from his dad in the church God called us to serve.

It’s not just the home or just the church, God uses both.

In these days, we are celebrating 10 years of life, 8 years of being home, and his rebirth as he begins to follow Jesus.  I couldn’t be more thankful for this boy of mine and couldn’t more grateful to this Savior of ours.

Travis Agnew is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. He serves as the Senior Pastor of Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is What God Has Joined Together.