The Easter sermons and lessons have come and gone. Hopefully, our children and the students in our classrooms have been presented with a clear, compelling Gospel message in the past weeks. The sermons and lessons may have explicitly called upon our children to “repent and believe the good news.” And, Lord willing, there have been children who give evidence to true, saving faith. But here is a note of caution—not meant to cause despair—but to help us be discerning in order that we might guide and direct our children toward a biblical understanding of what it truly means to repent and believe the good news of the Gospel.
For example, consider these texts:
…“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).
As these texts and many others make clear, “trusting in Jesus” is not simply a one-time, mildly imposing decision. It is not akin to a life insurance policy protecting us against eternal damnation with the thought, “I’ll tuck the policy away in a drawer until I need it.” True saving faith will always be evidenced by continuing daily trust in His mercy and strength. It will also be evidenced by a deep desire and commitment to obey Him. For the Christian, the truths that “Jesus is my Savior” and “Jesus is my Lord and Master” are inseparable.
To the degree that God gives them understanding, even young ears and hearts must grasp these truths. In his excellent book, The Faith of a Child: A Step-By-Step Guide to Salvation for Your Child, Art Murphy gives us some help in assessing the spiritual comprehension of our children:
Children can memorize and repeat what they have heard their parents and teachers say, but that doesn’t mean that they understand it all. Neither does it mean that they are personally committed to those truths.
A few questions can determine where a child is spiritually.
- Can the child explain in his or her own words the basics of becoming a Christian? When explaining how one becomes a Christian, does the child use “good works” answers such as “going to church, reading the Bible, getting baptized, praying, being good,” etc.? Or do his answers mention his need for forgiveness?
- Does the child have an affection for Jesus or a strong desire to be close to Him? Does he show a passion to follow Jesus or just a basic knowledge of the facts about Him?
(copyright© 2000, pages 73-74)
Although not comprehensive or ultimately determinate, a child who does not see the need or the desire to daily follow Jesus and obey Him, may not truly understand the essence of saving faith.
Additionally, Pastor Dennis Gundersen offers these words:
How common will it be to hear a profession [of faith] from a child who is being reared in a Christian home, especially in a home where biblical instruction and exemplary godly faith is presented to him frequently, perhaps even daily, God giving your family grace! Should we then actually be surprised to hear him say that he believes the things his parents believe?…
In such a family climate, can it then be considered a remarkable thing that a child says he believes the gospel which has been held before him and taught to him for so long, in so many ways and with so many appealing evidences of its power? I think we would be shocked if he were to say that he did not believe it…So, it would be foolish to conclude that a child is saved merely because he makes the bare acknowledgement that these things are true.
Please then, parents: be wise enough to not speak assurances about eternal safety to your child’s soul based on such shallow grounds. Love your child enough to not be a misleading messenger to him, in ways that you would never mislead another adult professing the same beliefs. Is this not the most common deception, after all, among adults and children alike?—to presume that because I know and believe these facts, that I am saved. How many are among those multitudes who are presuming that a mere acknowledgement of the gospel, which never affects the heart and life, is enough? And of all persons, a child is perhaps the least equipped to know his own heart in this matter. Don’t help him fool himself.
(Your Child’s Profession of Faith, copyright©2010, pages 51-53)
Again, our child’s or student’s ability to fully communicate or articulate conversion is not ultimate in salvation—God is. But these words from these two pastors serve as very helpful reminders for parents and teachers to pray for and apply great wisdom when our children and students express a desire to repent and believe the good news.
(Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)