Nathan and I spending an afternoon together would have been perfect, but we didn’t actually get to talk the day he wrote his question on a small green slip of paper. He was one of a couple of dozen kids writing their questions for God following a youth activity. I pray Nathan’s mom gets to read the answer I’d have given him, had we gotten to talk that day. Instead, I can only imagine it.
Continuing my imaginary visit with Nathan
The summer sun is lower in the sky now, casting long shadows over the track around the park. The air is cooler. Nathan’s brought a basketball to dribble as we walk. My pace won’t keep him busy enough, but I’m glad he wants to keep talking.
“When we are baptized, we become part of Christ forever. Just like when you were born, you became part of your family forever. But there have been kids who run away from home or treat their parents so badly that they can’t live with them anymore. That happens in God’s family, too. But He never stops hoping they’ll come back home.”1
“Oh.” Nathan’s tone of disappointment warned of his prior doubts resurfacing.
“Wait!” I laugh. “There’s more good news! When you’re saved, guess what that means?”
“You’re not going to Hell?”
“Oh, Nathan! Yes, but it means so much more than that!! Look at these verses!” I look at my iPhone Bible and point out phrases from Romans 6:
So, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the wonderful power of the Father, we also can live a new life. If we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. Offer yourselves to God as people who have died and now live. But now you are free from sin and have become slaves of God. This brings you a life that is only for God, and this gives you life forever.
So you see, Nathan, Jesus saves us from Hell, and He saves us for Heaven, but He also saves us from having a really bad life here on earth. He teaches us how to live better, how to love better, and how to stay away from what can destroy us. Jesus said it this way in John 8:12:
“Follow me, and you won’t be walking in the dark. You will have the light that gives life.”
“Oh wow,” was all Nathan could say.
“And Nathan, there is still more good news!” I couldn’t help being excited. “Jesus told His apostles that it was better for them that He leaves so He could send the Holy Spirit to help.2 When Jesus was here, He walked beside people. The Holy Spirit was going to live inside Christians to help them remember and grow and pray and not worry. Let’s look at one more verse. I think you’ve heard this one before, but bet you didn’t catch the last part.” I locate Acts 2:38 for him to read.
Then Peter said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Nathan jumps up and gives me a high five. “Wow! I never saw that before! So when we’re baptized, we get the Holy Spirit, too?!”
“Yes. The Holy Spirit moves right in beside your spirit, and you have all the help you need to become more and more like Jesus. And when you do accidentally mess up, Jesus’ blood washes that away, too, and the Holy Spirit helps you learn and grow stronger.” Then I put my hand on Nathan’s shoulder, softening my tone. “Nathan, you be certain to listen to God’s Word, keep learning His way to live, and your love will grow and grow. Then one day, you’ll be right where Jesus hoped you would be. At home with Him.”
Nathan’s smile told me he finally understood the Good News–the Gospel: Jesus loves us because God is love. We know He loves us because of all He’s done for us. Our feelings don’t determine how God feels about us. We will never deserve Heaven or ever be able to. We all sin, and death is the cost. Jesus, knowing that, walked beside us to teach us how to live, then paid the blood price for our debt to God for sin. Jesus then provided us the His Spirit within to lead us along to Heaven. All we need to do is commit to Him in baptism and begin our new life of being with God every minute of every day, never ignoring or pushing Him away. Truly, that is Good News.
“Thanks for the ice-cream,” Nathan says. “And thanks for answering my question. Now I know how Jesus loves me. And I know how to love Him back.”
“Thanks for the questions,” I reply. “I look forward to you showing Him how much you love Him.”
Yes, a day like that with Nathan would have been enjoyable. But God provides, and Nathan is searching. As for me, now, I pray.
1 – I Cor 10:12; Acts 5:1-12; Acts 8:18-34; I Tim 5:15
2 – John 16:7
3 – Romans 8:6-10;15-6; 26-27; 35-39
4 – Romans 8:9
5 – I John 1:7-10