When does spiritual life begin? From the perspective of the individual, spiritual life begins when we become aware of the idea of God. For me my earliest memories of spiritual life were attending church when I was four or five, saying my prayers at night, thinking about what heaven must be like, and wondering about miracles. There was an unfortunate incident where I thought I could fly if I had enough faith. I had heard that with faith all things are possible. Lucky for me the highest point I could find to test my faith was the swing set.
So my earliest recollection of faith comes from the age of about five or six, but from God’s perspective, spiritual life begins much earlier. We are taught in the Bible that people are spiritual beings from the very beginning of human life. Look how the psalmist speaks about himself. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Psalm 51:5
From the time of conception, we carry with us one of the defining qualities of what it means to be human, a sinful character and nature. We are spiritual creatures from the moment we are conceived and along with that, we carry with us a spiritual defect, a sin nature. This is something we inherit. We didn’t ask for it, but we have it none the less. Verses like this are why we respect life from the beginning to the end.
God’s perspective on our spiritual life is mind-blowing. He sees and knows us before we were even created. Here is one of my favorite verses. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:14-16
I often share this thought with parents who have undergone, the loss of a child, miscarriage or even abortion. Nothing is lost to God. We may not know the children we lose, but God knows them and loves them.
It is absolutely incredible to think that God has a plan for us and our children he has been working on before the Universe began. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1:4
The kinds of relationships God can have with a child are amazing. Jeremiah the prophet was chosen by God for a special purpose even before he was born. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5
John the Baptist reacted to the presence of the in-utero Jesus three months before he was born. John was filled with the Spirit at birth and even before. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:41
And “He will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.” Luke 1:15
Paul described his young protégé Timothy like this. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 2 Timothy 1:5…and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15
I don’t believe these are meant to be exceptional cases. God wants to have this kind of relationship with you and me and our children. This verse gives a picture of God’s heart “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” Matthew 21:16
Have you ever thought about the plan God has for you and your child? It’s awesome. His plan is wonderful. He wants to live in peace and fellowship with us forever, but what is sobering is that we can mess it up.
What you do has a great influence on your child. Your spiritual life will profoundly affect the life of your child. If you’re apathetic toward the things of God, then your children will be apathetic toward the things of God. If you are harboring a secret sin, you won’t be able to hide it. Your family will sense it and your children will react and your ability to be a Christian influence will suffer. Your children may find their own way back to faith, but you will be putting a stumbling block in their way. You don’t have to be perfect, but if you are not making healthy progress, your children will not either. One of the family patterns I’ve observed is that parents who are genuinely and humbly living out their faith at home and in public have children who embrace the faith of their parents, but if there is dysfunction in the family, even in a Christian setting, faith becomes problematic at best. We’ve learned from the study of human development that a child’s ability to trust, love, and empathize is largely determined in the first few years or even months. Abuse and neglect damage a child, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Every person no matter what age, needs God because we are sinful human beings. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
God knew this and provides for us through the sacrifice of Jesus that brings forgiveness and new life when we accept it. Jesus himself gave us a sign to mark the beginning of the Christian Life, baptism. Jesus commanded his disciples to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:19. The Scriptures tell us amazing and wonderful things are connected to Baptism. We are baptized into his name; we become part of God’s family.
Romans 6:3-6 Gives us an amazing insight into the effects of baptism. In baptism, Christians are connected to Christ’s death and resurrection. Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–
Exactly how the ritual of baptism connects us with the death of Christ is one of the mysteries of the faith. But we call baptism a sacrament, a means of grace, precisely because the gift of God’s love, help, and forgiveness, come to us when we believe what the sacrament promises. I hope you’re getting a sense of what a precious gift baptism is.
I’ll be writing more about how our faith plays a part in receiving God’s Grace soon, but for now, remember this. Baptism is the beginning, not the end of our faith journey. In baptism, God enters into a relationship with the one who is baptized. It is a covenant based on the promises of God in Jesus Christ. These promises are to be held on to. As adults, we must humble our hearts like a child and say yes I need what Jesus has done for me and accept the cleansing that comes when I am baptized into the death of Jesus. It’s not meant to be the final step, but the first. It’s where spiritual life begins.
- Pastor Steve