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How Two Little Boys Stopped Fighting

I was raised in a home where both of my parents loved and wanted me, and they held high values which they were anxious to pass on to me. In spite of this, I was born with something in my heart which was not at all in harmony with what I was taught or the example held before me.

Since I was the oldest child, I did not have to share my childish privileges with anyone for about three and a half years, and the selfishness in my heart took full advantage of the fact. When I was informed that someone was coming to be a fellow child with me, I reacted with characteristic selfishness. Mingled with an unworthy delight that perhaps this newcomer would be arriving mainly for my benefit (I had been lonely for a playmate) was a fierce and implacable unwillingness to relinquish or share anything of my privileges or place. Any manifestation of these unholy feelings was firmly discouraged by my parents and I was put to shame, but I was unrepentant.

My brother arrived, and I faltered between being fascinated and being enraged. At one point, disgusted by the lack of ability to “play” that this new arrival had manifested and irritated by his crying, I earnestly and sincerely suggested to my parents, “Let’s take that baby and throw him in the river!” Surely the evil that was inside of me was not any less than the evil that was in Pharaoh’s heart when he commanded that all the Israelites’ sons should be slain.

The evil that was in my heart suggested that my brother was to blame for many things, and I resented him. As many another person who blames his inward troubles on outward circumstances or other people, I rationalized that life was better before he came. This underlying attitude was frequently manifested in mean and treacherous behavior toward my brother. Since his heart also was defiled and evil, he reciprocated, and at times our parents were hard put to keep a semblance of peace in the home. They knew better than to imagine that we were just “boys being boys,” and they yearned that we would find something better than what we had. If discipline and watchfulness, love and conditioning could have changed us, we would have been changed. But we remained the same—hateful, and hating each other.

From this account, you may imagine that we were always little monsters, but such was not the case. At times we showed a loving disposition and an interest in doing right, and there was an innocence in us, for we were not consciously choosing to do wrong with a maturity of will sufficient to hold us accountable in God’s eyes. But we “were by nature the children of wrath.”* (Ephesians 2:3)

The perverted sense of self-interest within me was very strong, and it seemed natural to develop a warped and perverted view of the world around me.

The story is told of a grandmother who was serving ice cream to two of her little grandchildren, a brother and sister. The little boy thought that his grandmother was serving up his sister’s portion, and his heart prompted him to protest, “Not so much, Grandmother! Not so much!” Whereupon his grandmother said, “But this is for you.” And then he replied, “My, such a little bit!”

This was the case with me. I viewed everything through the perverted sense of self that was within me.

As I grew older, I became more conscious that something was wrong with me. The Lord had great mercy on me, and sent His Spirit to strive with my heart and conscience (John 16:8; Genesis 6:3).

We lived in a house that was elevated from the ground in such a manner that we boys spent many hours playing in the dry ground underneath the rear section. But we were afraid to go farther under the house for the far reaches of the home were not well-lit underneath. We imagined, in our childish thinking, that dreadful things awaited whoever was foolish enough to get too close to those areas. The very worst of these dark places was under the front porch which was formed of a concrete shell and appeared to be as dark as a cave. Of all things which both of us boys feared, this was the most awful, the most horrifying. And one day, as I was employing all my arts of persuasion to get my brother to move closer and to go farther toward these dark places in hopes that these things that I believed were there would get him, I was struck by a great consciousness in my mind that what I was doing was wrong. I was suddenly and overwhelmingly convinced that my inward motive was wicked, that I had hatred in my heart for my brother just as Cain had toward his brother, and that God knew it and condemned me in it.

As a poet said,

“Oft in the noonday, the evening,
And in the stillness of night,
Sounds in the bosom this warning:
‘Turn from the evil, do right.’ ”*

This was my experience, also.

“Yet is the voice still unheeded,
Though it is Jesus who pleads,
Calling the wandering sinner,
Offering grace for your needs.”

Although I was convicted in my heart of sin, I went on. But from then on, a certain consciousness that I was wrong before God and doing wrong was never entirely absent from my thoughts, and deep inside of me, I knew that I would have to answer to God (Romans 14:12; 1 Peter 4:5). I rapidly grew to dislike these thoughts and “did not like to retain God in [my] knowledge,”* (Romans 1:28) for I did not really love God and was not really interested in obeying Him. I did want some of the blessings that come from obedience, and I was afraid of the consequences of not obeying Him, but I was not interested in doing whatever was necessary—not even enough to seriously think about it. Had the Lord left me alone at that point, there would have been no hope for me. But He did not.

When I was seven years old, my mother and I attended a revival meeting where sufficient truth was taught that conviction came on those in attendance. A number of people were seeking the Lord for mercy and pardon, insomuch that the normal places for those to bow and pray were filled, and individuals were praying all over the chapel. And then, to my inward horror and distress, all this baggage of wrong-doing and convicted thinking came back on me in fresh vividness just as it had happened before, bringing such shame and self-loathing that I still cannot seem to fully express it. It was the Spirit of God dealing with my heart again, and I fought it. I fought the tears, and I abhorred that anyone should know the condition of my sinful, shameful heart. I wanted to be thought of as a good boy, but I was painfully aware in my heart that I was not. I am so sorry to say that I was perfectly willing to be a little hypocrite, even to deceive others into thinking that I was better than God and I knew myself to be.

In spite of my best efforts, the tears flowed down. I actually reasoned that since I was seven years old, people might believe that I was crying because I had lost my Bible, so I went about crying from conviction and muttering, “Where’s my Bible?” to deceive any who looked on. I am now certain that if any were looking on, they were not deceived by such a pathetic attempt at such a time to evade God’s dealings as was manifested by my desperately sinful heart (Jeremiah 17:9).

I came out of this experience with a hardened heart, more determined than ever to do as I pleased. This naturally brought me into conflict with those who were responsible for me and were charged with my restraint. They became quite concerned about my condition and began to pray for me.

A number of months passed in which I manifested more and more the increasing hardness of my heart. On a family trip together, my advancing state of sinfulness showed itself in the inability of my brother and myself to share a back seat of the car peaceably. My folks remonstrated with me, speaking of my need to be saved. I doubt that their admonition seemed to them to have much effect on me, but in reality the Spirit of God carried every word that they said to my heart.

As we returned from our destination on that trip, my parents decided to attend a campmeeting at Hammond, Louisiana, for one evening. Songs were sung, and a message was preached by someone, and then a number of songs were sung to invite anyone who wanted to get saved to seek the Lord. And it came again, that same visitation of the Spirit of God to my heart, convicting and reproving me. And I was tired of fighting, so tired of guilt, so tired of being shameful and ashamed, tired of the emptiness and the pride, the falseness and the hypocrisy. I looked up at my dad, the tears running down my cheeks, and he asked me, “Do you want to go pray?” I nodded my head, unable to speak, so great was my misery and the turmoil that gripped my soul. “Do you want me to go with you?” he said again, and I nodded once more.

He took my hand and walked with me to a bench up front, but I quickly lost consciousness of him. Someone else came to agree with us in prayer, but I scarcely remember him or her now, either. For in walking to the bench, I was surrendering to God, and He came in spirit to meet me there. I lost sight of everything else, and a clear, definite remembrance came up before me of a sin that I had committed before God. I sorrowed over it; my very soul wept within, for I was sorry that I had done it and grieved Him, and I begged for forgiveness. It went away in my remembrance, and my attention was focused on another with the same response, and so it went while I wept and repented. And finally the remembrances stopped coming. Somehow I knew that none had been missed, and I hesitated a moment, not knowing just what to do. Then what I had been taught concerning Jesus came to mind. Somehow I knew and accepted that He would take care of it, and instantly an absolutely incredible joy whelmed up within me. I knew at that moment, in a way that is light-years beyond head knowledge, that I was forgiven, I was the Lord’s, I was ready for heaven, I loved God and wanted to please Him more than anything.

Looking back on it after a little over thirty-six years, I still remember my amazement that there was something so wonderful, so good, of which I had not suspected even existed in spite of constant exposure to testimonies, Bible stories, etc. Surely, “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”* (John 3:3)

I walked about the campgrounds after that service with my soul so filled with glory that I seemed to be walking with my feet off the ground, and I seemed to be closer to heaven than to earth. Different ones came and spoke to me, including some that I feel certain knew the Lord as well, but so great was the work that the Lord Jesus wrought in my heart that night and so new was it to my soul and so overwhelmingly did it affect me at that moment that my sense of the reality of this world seemed dim and distant and the other world closer and nearer. Well said the apostle, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”* (Romans 5:1) “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?… And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”* (1 Corinthians 6:9,11) “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.”* (Revelation 1:5)

My sins were gone! Over and over, it ran through my heart. That which I carried about, had defended, had resisted even God Himself—He had forgiven! He had removed them! He had removed them as far as the east is from the west! He would remember them no more (Psalms 103:10-12)!

My entire outlook on life was changed. Truly, I was a different boy. I loved my brother. I wanted to obey my parents and do what was right. So great was the change in my life, that my brother (three and a half years younger than myself) stopped the services at the chapel the next Sunday, wanting to be saved, also.

In the sinful heart that I had, before the Lord washed me, was all the potential for the most awful life that has ever been lived. For in the mildest sin exists the potential for the worst sin imaginable. I was saved from all this. My Lord, who is able to save to the uttermost, saved me, and can save anyone who comes to God by Him (Hebrews 7:25). I thank the Lord for deliverance from murder, from adultery, from blasphemy, from idolatry, from drunkenness, from witchcraft, from envy, and from every other evil work.

“Unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.”* (Jude 1:24)