How old does one have to be in order to have a true conversion to Jesus Christ? Who knows for sure? Jonathan Edwards was four years old when he was converted. I myself was six and three-fourths (I was converted on April 5, 1942 and my seventh birthday was the following July 13th). I was baptized when I was ten.
I write this blog because today is a happy day in our family. Our grandson Toby came to the Lord today – almost the same age as I was; he will be seven next February.
This was totally unexpected. I was preaching my sermon “Total Forgiveness” at a church in Gallatin, Tennessee. During the sermon I took time out to explain the Gospel and – although I had no plans to do this – I decided spontaneously to invite people to stand if they prayed the “sinners prayer” which I had led them in:
Lord Jesus Christ, I need you. I want you. I am sorry for my sins. Wash my sins away by Your blood. I welcome Your Holy Spirit into my heart. As best as I know how, I give you my life. Amen.
Seated on the front row, Toby turned his grandmother Louise and said, “Grandma, I just prayed that prayer. I felt something come all over me inside. Can I stand too?” She said, “Of course you can”. He apparently thought this was only for older people. When I saw him standing I was overjoyed. I had no idea how carefully he was listening to me. It did not cross my mind that he would do that. After he sat down he asked his grandmother, “What just happened to me, Grandma?” She said, “You have just become a Christian”. His face lit up. “I have heard that word before and now I know what it means”, he said. He kept rubbing his chest with a big smile. I called Toby to the platform. I mentioned that the day before – October 3rd – was his brother Timothy’s third birthday, but today – October 4th – is Toby’s spiritual birthday.
When I was pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Lower Heyford, Oxfordshire, England, our son T. R. walked forward at the age of nine. I had not noticed that he walked forward during the invitation. I was about to close the service when someone shouted out, “Look who just walked forward!” I looked and there was T. R. looking up at me, smiling. I baptized him in the Headington Baptist Church in Oxford a few weeks later – in the winter of 1976. I distinctly remember how cold the water was; the temperature must have been barely above freezing! Our daughter Melissa was converted years later aged eleven – in May 1982 under the preaching of Arthur Blessitt – at Westminster Chapel. I baptized her in a much warmer baptistry at the Chapel several months later.
I will never forget a story a couple at Westminster Chapel told me. Many years before their son at the age of ten asked to be baptized. They said to him, “You’re too young”, and refused to honor his request. As the young man grew older he stopped going to church. Years and years later he was out in the world and quite unreachable. His mother and dad severely, bitterly regretted their decision to discourage their son from being baptized. I am not saying that their decision is the cause of him deserting the church. I am only saying that his parents would give a thousand worlds had they not discouraged him at that time.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the heaven belongs to such as these”, said Jesus (Matt.19:14).
I would never push for child conversions. Their minds are too easily influenced; I would not trust a child’s conversion who was put under pressure by a parent or preacher. That said, I would never discourage a child from making a profession of faith if on their own without any prompting they sought the Lord.
This week I received a letter from a prisoner. He wrote to tell me that I had baptized him at my former church in Florida many years before. As best as I can figure out, he would have been around ten years old. He is now in prison and will be there for a while. He wanted me to know that God has been dealing with him in the last year or so and he earnestly wanted me to help him.
Question: was this young man converted many years ago when he was a child – or was it a false profession? You tell me. There are at least two possibilities. First, he may not been truly converted or he would have persevered in faith and never have gone to prison. Or, second, he was truly converted but somehow got off the rails and landed in huge trouble. That could happen to any true Christian. It could be that the Hound of Heaven had been pursuing this man over the years and finally brought him back to the Lord.
We have a gracious God.
I have been praying for our grandsons Toby and Timothy daily since they were born. My prayer has been that these boys would grow up to be “men after God’s own heart”. I have good reason to believe that God has begun to answer that prayer.
RT, TR, Annette, Timothy, Toby, Louise Kendall.