Why do we have Vacation Bible School every year in so many churches across our state? Are we just trying to entertain our children during the hot summer days?
No, we expend so much time, energy, prayers, and creativity because of hardening of the heart, not hardening of the arteries — which is a medical/physical condition that I deal with every day in my medical practice. Hardening of the heart is a spiritual condition common to all men. It is a progressive condition just like the aging process that marches inexorably onward.
I’ve been practicing medicine for 38 years, and I observe the effects of aging on my patients who have been with me all of this time. Once-fair skin is mottled and easily bruised. Strong backs are bent and stooped. Vision and hearing diminish. Mental faculties wane. All of this is the consequence of aging, which, in turn, we Christians understand is the consequence of sin. God didn’t intend for Adam and Eve to die — but because of sin, death entered in, so we gradually grow old and return to dust.
In similar fashion, our hearts grow old. I’m talking now about our spiritual hearts, the part of us that can communicate with and relate to God. Our heart doesn’t just grow old with time; it grows harder and less sensitive to the subtle prompting of Holy Spirit. We become like Pharaoh, who hardened his heart against God despite multiple opportunities to repent and obey. If any of you work with children, you will observe that younger children are open and receptive to biblical truth and receive it gladly. Older youth are cynical and skeptical and receive it reluctantly or not at all.
Why is this? It is because of progressive hardening of the heart common to us all, which is due to the effects of sin. The longer sin has a hold on our lives, the more skeptical of truth we become. In fact, we become blind to spiritual truth that children can perceive quickly and easily. That’s why Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me. Of such is the kingdom of God.” Jesus comprehended that children would accept the truth about Him far more easily than skeptical, cynical, hardhearted adults.
Statistics from George Barna for the American Culture and Faith Institute in November 2017 bear this out. Sixty-eight percent of believers are born again by the age of 18, with two-thirds of these occurring under age 13. Does that help you to see the importance of VBS, Awana, and Sunday school?
Most baptisms in the average church are children and teenagers. Why is that? Once again, it is because when a person is past 20 years of age, hearts become hardened, cynical, skeptical, and less sensitive to the voice of God calling out to us.
Pray for VBS. Pray desperately for your children and grandchildren to find Jesus there. Don’t let them grow up without Jesus. After age 20, it is difficult for them to come to Jesus — though not impossible, because, with God, nothing is impossible. They, however, may wander in the wilderness for years needlessly, and ultimately never enter into the Promised Land.
Sometimes a patient has such severe atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries, that I shake my head sadly and say to the family, “There is nothing more I can do for him medically.” After years of saying “no” to the pleading voice of Holy Spirit, after allowing a heart to become hard as stone, Holy Spirit will shake His head and say, “There is nothing more I can do for him.”
There is a line by us unseen,
That crosses ev’ry path,
The hidden boundary between
God’s patience and His wrath.
— Robert Jackson is an author and family practice physician in Spartanburg.