Becoming Like a Little Child Again
Shortly after God revealed to me legalism was my problem, I fervently asked the Lord, “What must I do that if I keep doing it, and doing it, and doing it, I will get better and better and better?” That night, glory be to God, I was able to fall asleep. It was 5:30 in the morning when an audible voice woke me up saying, “What must one do to go to heaven?” The voice began as a man’s voice and quickly transformed into a child’s voice. The child’s voice sounded a lot like my son Aaron’s, so I scanned the bedroom to see if he had come in. No one was there. Aaron would have been about six years old, and he had already received Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. I remember all Aaron knew then was if he had Jesus, he was going to heaven. That’s all he knew. He had Jesus, so he was saved, period. That morning, God showed me a foundational truth. He showed me the faith and disposition of a healthy Christian is that of a child: innocent, trusting, carefree. From that day on, I entered a journey to learn how to become like a little child again.
Someone who is innocent is free from condemnation, and someone who is trusting is free from care; he always expects to be accepted by his father regardless of his performance. Performance has to do with the outward execution of a task regardless of the heart’s motive. If the heart doesn’t matter, the deed becomes a mechanical act without real meaning. God isn’t interested in our religious perfection, He is interested in the authenticity of our love for Him and for others. That’s why all God asks of us is that we live at the level of conduct we have received and this, in turn, enables us to be genuine. Then, He is faithful to complete in us what He started, from glory to glory. God loves us so.
A child does not complicate things; a child does not reason things out. A child is very simple. A child is free to enjoy himself without having to first evaluate whether he deserves it or not. Because a child is innocent, he doesn’t spend his entire time focusing on himself, his failures and his shortcomings. His mistakes do not prevent him from approaching his parents. He forgets very quickly and happily moves on. The child’s responsibility is to trustingly obey his parents as they carefully and lovingly keep watch over him. If he doesn’t obey, he is chastised for his own good (not rejected); if he does well, he is praised (by parents who love him already apart from his works). But a child never fears to be rejected by his parents; it’s as simple as that. The Bible says in Matthew 18:2-4 we need to become like a little child.
He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
—Matthew 18:2-4 NIV
Just like a child is totally dependent on his parents for everything that concerns him, so the Lord has intended for us to rest in Him and to depend on Him. I wish I could tell you I became like a little child the moment God showed me my way out of legalism (and consequently of scrupulosity) was to become like a little child again. But it took time and steps of faith to become like a little child again. I wanted to figure my way out. I was trying to stop being legalistic, but the more I tried, the more anxiety I felt. I couldn’t seem to stop the evil cycle. I remember one night amid this, the Lord gave me a dream. In the dream, I was drowning, but I was desperately trying to save myself from drowning. Then, I saw on the shore a strong man, and I hoped he could come and save me. God was showing me I was powerless to save myself. The Bible says in Romans 5:6, “While we were yet in weakness [powerless to help ourselves], at the fitting time Christ died for (in behalf of) the ungodly)” (emphasis mine). This means we can’t save ourselves and every attempt will fail. God won’t accept any fleshly effort on our part to save ourselves. All our efforts are in vain. God will only accept the shed blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, as the payment for our sins; and nothing else will be received in His sight. The Bible teaches us that the only righteousness the Lord will accept is the righteousness that is of faith; He will not receive any self-righteousness as the payment for our sins or as a means to make us right with God. All of our righteousness is as filthy rag. Out of saving faith, works will follow. But it cannot be the other way around; faith must precede works, or our works will not be accepted.
I remember sitting on my bed. I literally stopped trying to figure it all out, and I placed myself at His mercy. I began to fix my eyes on Him and actively wait on Him. As I learned to do what Isaiah 40:31, Isaiah 26:3, and Psalm 62:1 say, the Lord really began to work on my behalf. Therefore, one of the key essentials that helped bring peace to my tormented, confused, doubting and analytical mind, as well as to calm all the confusion and fears I experienced from legalism was to become like a little child again. There is hope! There is a way out.
 See Philippians 3:7–9.
 See Isaiah 64:6.