I accepted Jesus as my savior when I was four years old. My mom had recently become a Christian and one night, as she was tucking in my older brother in the top bunk (I was on the bottom), she told him how everyone does bad things (we are all sinners) and that the punishment for doing bad things is death and going to hell. But that Jesus died for us, so we would not have to go to hell. Instead, we could live with God in heaven. All we had to do was pray and tell God that we believe Jesus died for our sins. I don't remember what my brother's response was, but right then and there I prayed in my little heart and truly 100% believed that Jesus died for me and that one day I would live in heaven with Him.
I'm pretty sure that I did not at all understand everything about salvation. In fact, my mother tells me that many times as a child I would come to her and excitedly exclaim that I had just asked Jesus into my heart. The thing is, I don't remember any of those times. I only remember that fall night when I was 4 years old. I believe with every ounce in my body and soul that that was the night I truly became a child of God. That was the night I was saved from my sin and from the punishment of hell. That was the night I was justified and the night God began my sanctification (if you like big theological words).
Fast forward to last year when my then 4 year old daughter began to ask lots of questions about Jesus, his death on the cross, and his resurrection. I was excited to see her desire to know and understand God's great plan of salvation. But when the day came that she actually said she wanted to pray and tell God that she believed Jesus died in her place, I doubted.
"Surely, a child this young cannot know what they are really praying. I mean really... they cannot understand all the aspects of salvation." Thoughts like this were running wildly through my head as I heard her little voice plainly and simply admit her sin and declare her belief. And the thing that kept tripping me up was thinking that the only reason she is praying is because she doesn't want to go to hell when she dies. There's so much more to salvation than that.
But is there really? I mean the simple, boiled down truth is.... We all sin. Sin = death/hell. Jesus = life/heaven.
Jesus said (Mark 10:15),
Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.A child does not over complicate things. They see the boiled down truth and accept it with all their hearts. It is at that point that their love and understanding begin to grow, but it is their initial, simple faith that brings them to salvation.
We are justified through faith (Eph. 2:8). The sanctification process of growth and deeper understanding and transformation comes only after we embrace the boiled down truth of the Gospel with childlike faith.*
How could I have ever doubted her? I am ashamed that I proudly thought little of the very thing Jesus proclaimed was the "greatest in the kingdom of God" (Mat. 18:4).
I should have known. After all, it was with the same childlike faith that I came to my precious Savior.
*For more information on the difference between justification and sanctification, you may find this article helpful.