All Christian parents long for the day their child receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. “Mommy, I asked Jesus to be my Savior,” brings tears to our eyes and joy to our hearts. As parents desiring God’s abundant life for our children, we should be overjoyed to hear those words. However, as wise shepherds over their hearts, we should be very cautious.
Leading our children to Christ involves much more than guiding them in a simple prayer. It’s living an example before them of what it means to walk with Christ on a daily basis.
It’s teaching them God’s viewpoint in every situation. It’s demonstrating forgiveness. It’s asking forgiveness. It’s living, breathing, and adoring the Word of God in the presence of your children, as well as in their absence.
Parents must be careful not to offer their children a premature assurance of their salvation. It’s normal to hope for our children’s salvation. Yet, we must not allow our hopefulness to hold on to simple words from their mouths that do not reflect a change in their hearts. We must not let our desire for peace of mind deceive or mislead our children into a false sense of salvation.
A well-respected pastor once stated that he could lead almost any child under the age of ten to make a profession of faith in Christ. This pastor wasn’t boasting in his abilities. He was making a point about the naiveté of children. A child can be easily deceived about the state of his soul. Most children will respond to a smooth-talking, convincing adult with very little prompting. However, a mere profession is very different from a true conversion. A profession is declaring your faith. A conversion is demonstrating by living out your faith. Profession is “talking the talk.” Conversion is “walking the walk.”
Children who grow up in church have witnessed the power of God in the lives of others. They trust in their parent’s confidence that God is real. They have listened to the truths of God’s Word preached from the pulpit Sunday after Sunday. Is it any wonder they would believe in God and know exactly how to profess that belief? However, it is a dangerous assumption that your child is truly saved simply because he has a knowledge of the Scriptures and professes his belief in God. It is foolish to offer assurance to a child based on knowledge alone. James warns, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19)
Am I saying a child cannot experience a true conversion? Certainly not. I am saying we must be very careful to consider the intellectual immaturity of children and how that plays a part in their readiness to understand and receive Christ.
Am I saying we should put them off each time they speak of salvation and baptism, telling them to wait until they are older? Absolutely not. We must urge them to come to Christ now and not delay. A heart that rejects the prompting of the Holy Spirit can become hardened to responding in the future. We must encourage them to recognize the temptation to “think about accepting Christ later.” To put off trusting in Jesus as Savior and Lord allows the devil time to weave his wicked web around the hearts of our children, tightening his grip as he sucks out all the tenderness.
Understanding the naiveté of children, the hopefulness of parents, and the crafty schemes of the great deceiver can help us remain sober-minded and keep us from risking the tender souls of our precious children.
Now that we are aware of the danger of leading our children into a premature assurance of salvation, next week we will explore practical ways to encourage them in a strong and confident relationship with Christ.
This blog is adapted from Ginger’s book, Don’t Make Me Count to Three