Today on Renewing Your Mind, a story about darkness and light. So Charlie's mother gave him one last kiss, finished tucking him in, and then turned on the nightlight next to his bed. Just as she was ready to leave, Charlie said, Mommy, why am I afraid of the dark?
Well, that's a question that resonates with every parent and every child. Today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Sproul reads his engaging children's story, The Lightlings. And while we'll learn to be brave in the dark, we'll grasp even deeper lessons about the power of light over darkness. At the end of the reading, you'll hear an interview that our president and CEO Chris Larson conducted with Dr. Sproul.
But right now, let's listen to The Lightlings. One evening, in a house in a quiet neighborhood, a little boy was getting ready for bed. The boy's name was Charlie Cobb. And as his mother was tucking him in, she covered him with blankets to make him warm and cozy. Then she knelt by his bed and prayed with him. Finally, she stood, leaned over, and kissed him on the forehead. Charlie looked up at her and said, Mommy, please don't forget to turn on the nightlight before you leave my room. Mrs. Cobb smiled at him and said, Don't worry, sweetheart, I'll be sure to turn on the light.
I won't leave you in the dark. So Charlie's mother gave him one last kiss, finished tucking him in, and then turned on the nightlight next to his bed. Just as she was ready to leave, Charlie said, Mommy, why am I afraid of the dark?
She said, That's a hard question to answer, Charlie. I think we're going to have to save it for Grandpa. He's coming for dinner tomorrow so you can ask him then. All right, Mommy, Charlie said, I'll wait until tomorrow and ask Grandpa about it. The next day, just as Charlie's mother had promised, Grandpa came for dinner. And before they moved to the table, Charlie went and sat on his knee and said, Grandpa, may I ask you a question that's really bothering me?
Grandpa smiled and said, Of course, Charlie, tell me what you'd like to know. And so Charlie said, Grandpa, why is it that I'm afraid of the dark? And why do so many people I know seem to be afraid of the dark too? Grandpa looked at Charlie and said, That's a very good question. But did you know that not only are lots of people afraid of the dark, many people are afraid of the light. Afraid of the light, said Charlie.
Why would that be? Grandpa said, To understand that, I'm afraid I'm going to have to start at the beginning. In fact, at the very beginning. Charlie loved it when Grandpa told him stories, so he curled up next to him and waited for Grandpa to begin. Grandpa started his story the way he always did. Once upon a time, there was a great king who was the king of light. He lived in the light. He made the light. And his light was so perfect and so pure that he was called the king without a shadow. This great king of light made a group of people and he made them so that they could shine brightly just as he did.
He called them his little lightlings. He set the lightlings in a beautiful garden that he prepared for them. A garden that was full of bright sunshine. And the sun bathed the garden every day and helped the flowers, plants, and the fruit to grow in great abundance.
The bright light of the sun helped keep everyone warm in the garden. And the lightlings loved it when the king came to visit them at the end of the day. But then one day something terrible happened. The lightlings decided to do what they wanted to do instead of what their king had commanded them to do. So they disobeyed the king and they sinned against him. And the very second that they sinned, their light became dim.
And they were filled with shame and with great embarrassment. And so they ran as fast as they could to get away from the king. They didn't want the king of light to see them. They ran out of the garden and into the woods and hid themselves in the darkest place that they could find. From then on, they were afraid of the light because they knew that wherever the light was, the king would be.
And the king would see them in their shame. After the lightlings left the garden, the king began to remove his light from that garden. And the garden soon became cold and covered with weeds and thorns and sticky briars. And the lightlings moved further and further into the woods until they lived in a place that was almost completely covered in darkness. It was so dark that they had to grope around as if they were blind, feeling their way through the forest.
Often they would trip and fall, scuffing their knees and bruising themselves. It was awful living in the dreadful darkness all the time where the only light they ever saw was in barely lit shadows that danced in the forest. In fact, they couldn't tell the difference anymore between night and day. Then one night, or perhaps it was even day, far off in the distance, they saw a blinding light shining through the trees. They could see this light coming from miles and miles away, and they were frightened by it. They thought that the light meant that the king was coming to find them, to punish them for their sins.
So most of the lightlings began to stumble quickly away from the light. But some of the lightling children were so amazed and interested in the light that they decided to see from where it was coming. So they set off and traveled for many miles. It took them a long time, but as they moved, they saw the light shining brighter and brighter.
And finally they came to a clearing in the forest. In the middle of the clearing, they saw a father lightling, a mother lightling, and a little baby who was shining like the sun. The blazing light seemed to be coming right out of the baby himself. So the lightlings who saw it were shocked and surprised, and they asked the father lightling, Who is this baby?
Where did he come from? The father lightling answered, He is not my son. He is the son of the king of light. The king has given him to us as a special gift. He has been born for us, and when he grows up, he will be called the light of the world.
And there will be no darkness strong enough to hide his light, no darkness deep enough to send his light away. When they heard this, the lightling children knelt down at the baby's feet, and they began to worship him in fear and reverence. When they stood up again, their own faces were shining. But the light that was shining in their faces was not coming from inside them. It was a reflection of the light that was coming out of the baby. The lightlings were now surrounded with the light of the child they had come to visit. They rushed back to their homes, to their friends and their families as fast as their feet could carry them. And when they got home, they were still shining. The other lightnings were frightened at the sight of them.
They said, What happened to you? So the lightling children told their story. We saw a baby who was shining with light. He is the son of the king of light. The king has given us a child.
He's given us his own son to be the light of the world. The lightlings noticed that already there was more light in the forest. Now they could begin to see where they were going. They could walk without falling.
They could run and play without bumping into trees or rocks and getting bruised. Yet some still hid from the light. While others realized they didn't need to be afraid anymore. They saw that living in the light was much better than the darkness they were used to.
Grandpa looked at Charlie and said, You see, Charlie, we're afraid of the dark because we were made to live in the light. And someday all of us who love this son will live with him forever in heaven. And when we go to the dwelling place of the son who is now the light of the world, there will be no darkness at all. Not only that, there will be no moon. There won't be any stars or even a sun. There will be no night lights, no lamps, no lanterns, not even candles. Charlie said, Well, how can there be light if there's no sun or lamps or candles?
How can that be? His grandfather replied, In the place where the king's son now lives, the light that shines forever still comes from inside of him. He's the light of heaven. And all who come into his presence will never be in darkness again. Wow, Charlie said.
That sure is a wonderful thing to look forward to. And Grandpa replied, Charlie, let me make a suggestion. From now on, every time that you see the sun or the moon or the stars, or every time you light a candle or turn on your little night light, remember the story of the child that the king of light brought into the darkness of this world. And remember that he gave us this baby as a present.
Charlie, as long as you remember that, you will never, ever, ever have to be afraid of the dark again. R.C., it's clear that you delight to pack deep theological truths into these children's stories. Why is it important from your perspective to put good theology into children's stories?
I'd say two things. Partly, it comes out of my own experience of being a father and a grandfather, where as long as I can remember, I loved to try to regale little kids with stories that I would make up right on the spot and spin off the top of my head. And out of that experience of just having fun with stories, came this idea of using children's stories as a vehicle or a conduit to try to teach important theological truths to kids, but not only the kids. But I understand that most of these stories are read to their children by their parents.
And so I'm hoping that their parents will understand more deeply some of the principal truths of our faith because of these ideas. Now, I've been in teaching for over 40 years, and I used to say at the beginning of my teaching career that it was my job as a teacher to take difficult concepts and ideas and communicate them in such a way that the students could understand it. Because I said any professor could take his notes from graduate school and just recite them to the students and not worry about whether they understood it.
And so many times it seemed like the professor himself was just regurgitating information that he had taken in and now was putting it out, and he had never really digested it either. He was saying you don't really understand a concept until you're able to communicate it to a six-year-old child. Sometimes we hide behind abstract language and sophisticated verbiage to conceal our own ignorance, whereas the goal is always to be understood, to make the Word of God, which is already clear in itself, as clear as we possibly can when we communicate it to others.
And a good discipline to practice that is the discipline of trying to teach it to little children. There's a very well-known passage in the New Testament where children and the crowd are coming around Jesus, and as the children are coming, the disciples turn them away. And yet Jesus rebukes them and says, let the children come, for such is the kingdom of God.
How is what happened in that moment in the New Testament connected to what you want to do with these stories? Well, Jesus says it's the childlike mind that represents what the kingdom of God is like. Now, on the one hand, we are called to become as children. On the other hand, we are rebuked by the New Testament if we have a childish understanding of the things of God. So on the one hand, we're told not to be childish, not to be children, but to grow in our maturity to have an adult understanding of the Word of God. But in what sense are we to be childlike? Not in childlike ignorance, but in childlike innocence where we trust those who are in authority over us.
The five-year-old has no reason to doubt the truth of what his mother is telling him. It's not until we become more sophisticated that we begin to be skeptical and cynical of those in authority over us, our teachers, our parents, and so on. But we are to have an attitude towards God that infants have towards their parents where there's an implicit trust in what is being told them.
We're to trust God and His Word implicitly. R.C., as we close today, why is this particular story important to children and their parents? I created this little story for our children's service at our church for Christmas Eve. It's really a Christmas story about the coming into the world of the light of the world. And I hope that this will help little children and their parents reflect on the deep, deep, deep meaning of what took place that night in Bethlehem when the light broke into the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it.
And it's always good to remind ourselves of that, isn't it? We're grateful for Dr. R.C. Sproul's children's book that emphasizes this important truth. As we approach the holidays, we are reminded that children love stories. And this time of year, it's a great opportunity for us as parents and grandparents to share this story of the one who described himself as the light of the world.
All of R.C. 's children's books are beautifully illustrated, and children love reading them over and over. The book we highlighted today is The Lightlings, and we would love to get it into your hands for the upcoming holiday season. Simply call us with your gift of any amount, and we will send it to you.
You can make your request at renewingyourmind.org, or you can simply call us at 800-435-4343. Dr. Stephen Nichols joins me here in the studio. He is the president of Reformation Bible College and author of The Biography of Dr. Sproul. Steve, what motivated R.C. to write these children's books? Well, Lee, that would be his own grandkids. He wrote his first children's book in 1996. It was The King Without a Shadow. And his own grandkids, Lee, make appearances in that book as characters.
But even the dog made it in, so the dog they had is a character in the books. And so that was the real motivation, and that was what was behind it. And of course, the audience extended far beyond his own grandkids and to others as a way to just introduce them to the rich and deep theological themes that meant so much to R.C.
And the title of that first book is indicative of the kind of theology, the doctrines that R.C. was not afraid to convey to children, right? Oh, that's a great point, Lee. It's The King Without a Shadow. And God, of course, is the king without a shadow.
And he doesn't have a shadow because he's not like us. So here it is in his first children's book. He's tackling the doctrine of God and the transcendence of God and the grandeur of God and ultimately the holiness of God.
And this, of course, is so central to all of Dr. Sproul's teaching. It's central to our mission here at Ligonier Ministries. And he didn't want to leave this doctrine for Christians until they were older. He wanted to introduce it to them right at the beginnings of their lives and right at the beginnings of their Christian journey. So the very first topic he tackles is the doctrine of God in these kids' books. Reflective of his belief that theology should be presented simply, not simplistically, but simply, correct?
Oh, absolutely, Lee. I mean, this was the hallmark of his teaching. And it really was, I think, the gift to the Church. So often theologians write for themselves, talk to themselves, and we need that. We need those heavy lifting scholarly theologians. And Dr. Sproul himself certainly benefited from their work. But we also need to translate that, as it were, not to reduce it beyond recognition, but certainly to translate it to folks so that they can grasp it.
And more importantly, so that they can learn to love these doctrines and even just love these doctrines from an early age. He wrote several books. The Lightlings is the one that we heard R.C. read today. But there are other titles.
The Donkey Who Carried a King, The Prince with Dirty Clothes, The Prince's Poisoned Cup. And again, these reflect the key doctrines that he wanted to convey to these children, right? Yeah, absolutely, Lee. Those titles that you just mentioned, all in their own way, deal with that other crucial doctrine. That, of course, is the doctrine of justification by faith alone, the doctrines of grace.
And we all know, probably most of us first heard the solas from Dr. Sproul's teaching. And, of course, that central sola of sola fide, justification by faith alone. So essential, so central to the gospel. And so here, too, Dr. Sproul wants to tell the story of these doctrines in a compelling fashion with a great narrative.
And, of course, there's the challenge that the main character falls into, and that needs to be resolved. So we have these great children's stories to teach these cardinal doctrines. The Knights Map, of course, dealt with the doctrine of scripture, right?
It did. And, you know, Lee, of course, the interesting thing about that book is it just so fell to be the hundredth book from the pen of Dr. Sproul. But it goes back to something he was very involved in, in those early years in the 1970s, back at the beginning of Ligonier, of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. And now it's a crucial moment in the life of the Church.
And Dr. Sproul and God's providence played a key role. Well, here he is, his hundredth book, decades later, bringing that doctrine. And there's another sola, Lee, sola scriptura, the authority of scripture, bringing that doctrine in a very clear and in a very compelling way to children with that book. And, of course, he wanted to emphasize the importance of prayer, and he did that with a book about Luther.
Yeah, sort of killing two birds with one stone, isn't it? We've got a children's book on Luther, and, of course, he's going to want to introduce children to Luther, his hero from the Reformation. But he chose an interesting moment, and he chose an interesting text of Luther's. And Luther had a barber, and he'd go to his barber, and one day his barber asked him if he would teach him how to pray. And Luther wrote a little text on prayer that was a direct answer to that request from his barber.
Well, R.C. turns the whole thing into a wonderful children's story of the barber who wanted to pray. Well, Steve, I know that in writing Dr. Sproul's biography, you spent quite a bit of time with Vesta. And would you tell us about her interest in these books? Yeah, Lee, one of the things she said to me, she said, I'm so glad you put a spotlight on those children's books. She said, for two reasons. One, she just loved that R.C.
did that. Here he is writing these books that mean so much to adult Christians. And so she loved it that R.C.
would take the time to help children. And the other thing is, I think she just enjoyed the books. I think she, too, liked the story of the children's books. So they were important to R.C.
And as we might suspect, they were also important to Vesta. And children's books are important to you. You're the author of several children's books as well, right?
That's right, Lee. I was able to publish a few children's books, two on church history, which, of course, just as Dr. Sproul loves church history, wants to introduce doctrines to children, I wanted to introduce the story of the church. And the story of these wonderful figures from church history to kids. And I've got to say, actually writing a children's book is a lot of fun.
I might even say it's much more fun than writing books for adults. But we'll just leave it at that. Thank you, Dr. Nichols, for being with us. And again, if you'd like to receive a copy of the book we heard R.C. read today, The Lightlings, contact us with your gift of any amount. Our number again is 800-435-4343. You can also give your gift online at renewingyourmind.org. Renewing Your Mind is a listener-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. I'm Lee Webb. Thank you for listening, and I hope you'll make plans to be with us again Monday for Renewing Your Mind. Thank you.
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