“But I am wondering if it is not so with the little children, that their hearts are not really closed to God. Why do little children more easily enter the kingdom of God than we grown-ups? Why do we read that unless we receive the kingdom as little children we shall not at all enter it? Why do we as adults have to become like little children in order to enter the kingdom? Is it not because a child’s heart is open so that God can fill it with his grace, shed his Spirit upon it, and regenerate it? When we grow older, it becomes more difficult, for then resistance begins; we are stubborn and evasive and shut up our heart by intentional sins. Not until the heart is opened in conversion have we become as little children-and then we can enter again into the kingdom.” He became silent, utterly surprised at his flow of words. But he had caught a vision, had glimpsed a solution to his search. In order not to lose it, he began to speak again.
“How is it now, friends? If faith means to receive God’s grace in our hearts, and if the child’s heart is always open toward God, it surely follows that the child is able to believe. It can, then, certainly receive grace. If, however, faith resided in our heads, in our thinking and understanding, it would not be possible. When we therefore bring a little child, with its corrupted nature, to God in baptism, what can hinder God from being gracious to it, taking it up into the kingdom of God, and giving it forgiveness of sins? Look,” he said, as he held out his hands in the shape of a bowl. “This is your heart, a vessel full of corruption, being born of sinful nature and having evil desires at its bottom. When you were born into the world, the vessel was open toward God. You were not for that reason a child of God, for the vessel of your heart was not that of an angel, but a bit of corrupted human flesh. Then you were brought to baptism. God poured his Spirit as a stream of grace into this vessel. It was still sinful, and evil tendencies lay within it, but it was all covered by forgiveness; over it lay a white cloth, the righteousness of Christ, the redemption of Christ. You were then a child of God, for Jesus’s sake.
Then you grew up. Perhaps you were guilty of intentional sins and lived in unbelief. It was as if your heart were covered over again.” Here he lifted one hand and held it over the other as a lid. “Then things were really bad. But you know that God took hold of you again, and there was penitence and confession and faith.” The and confession and faith.” The covering hand was removed, and the hands together again formed an open bowl. “This is your spiritual state today. The sinful nature still remains, and the struggle against sin and for sanctification of life continues. Some hearts become almost clean in this life, while others retain so much of the bitter dregs that it takes extreme watchfulness and care to keep it from flowing over into intentional sin. Yet, over us all shines the atonement, and all of us have exactly as great a portion in that which is the foundation and content of our salvation: Jesus only.
“And when you shall die some day,” he continued, with hands still extended, “and your consciousness is clouded, you may lay your broken vessel down, with all the darkness that is still within it, before the throne of grace and say, `I know whom I have believed.’ In the heart, evil may still bubble forth and wrong desires rise up and, though your mind is no longer active, your lips may perhaps form wicked words. What does it matter? It is only the old nature that is falling to pieces and letting the black contents run out. The new nature already rests securely on the Rock of our salvation, Jesus only.”
Bo Giertz. Hammer of God, Kindle Edition.