Last night my second oldest child accepted Christ as her Savior. In my mother heart, I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that her eternal fate is settled joyfully. I think of Jacob, who at the end of his life was comforted and blessed in the knowledge that his beloved Joseph was alive. I am glad to know that Meredith will never know the harm of hell.
The way that led to this point in Mere’s life, and Natalie’s as well, has required tremendous balance. I have heard too many kids raised in Christian homes give a testimony of salvation at a young age only to question, doubt or realize it wasn’t real when they got older. The fear of that happening to my children has made me very cautious when it comes to praying for, presenting and accepting salvation in them. When my children get saved, I want it to be a real conversion that bears real fruit from the Holy Spirit.
So how do we get there with our churched-kids? Many parents who diligently teach salvation to their children are not sure when to know if they are ready or if they already have been saved, since it does not require us to be there to lead the way… especially when they know the Gospel forwards and backwards. So, here are some tips that have helped me in regard to leading children to the point of salvation:
It isn’t just praying for your child’s salvation, but how you pray for their salvation that’s important. I always tell fellow parents this: I do not ask the Lord to save my kids at a young age, but at the right age. Each child is different and understands at different rates. I want my kids to get saved when they fully understand the concept. Not just as a fire insurance policy. I want them to know that their sin separates them from a holy God. I want them to understand that Christ died to pay for those sins, and that they have to put their trust in what He did.
There may come a point where you know they understand the Good News, but don’t immediately accept it. My Natalie did this. Pray. Just keep praying because God has to do the work. We will discuss this a little more in a little bit.
PRESENTING THE GOSPEL
This is where finesse is required at times. Every child is different. You can never go wrong following Deuteronomy 6:7- Teach them diligently as you go about your normal life. You do not have to sit them down and preach to them. As they ask questions about salvation, answer. Ask them after if they would like to be saved. If they say no, do not make a big deal about it, but let them know that when they are ready you are there to help.
You don’t want to push them into salvation. It happens. The thing is when we push them into making a decision, then it really isn’t their decision. They just want to please you. That is not a true conversion.
But you also don’t want to ignore the topic altogether, or never initiate a discussion about salvation. By no means! When Natalie understood salvation but wouldn’t make a decision, I did something to make her think about it. Sometimes when she would disobey or sin in some other way, I would remind her *gently and with concern* that that very sin was added to her account against the Lord. It was just another example of why He had to condemn her. Sounds a little harsh, I know. But it helped her to realize in a real situation that she does sin and she does have a need to be saved from that sin.
WHEN THEY WANT TO BE SAVED
When your little one is ready, really ready, you will know. But there will be a shred of uncertainty. But you’ll know. Good thing it is their decision and not yours, huh? Go through the plan of salvation in simple terms. Phrases like “asking Jesus in your heart” can really confuse them. Is Jesus a tiny little person who is going to live in that organ in their chest? Be clear in your explanation. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to use the right words, words they will understand.
Also, use what they already know to your advantage. In Junior Church, the kids have been learning the Romans Road. Meredith can’t read yet, but she knew some of the verses, so I used what she knew.
What I have found to be confusing in leading kids to the Lord is this: having them understand that their prayer does not save them, but the faith behind the prayer. The trusting in Christ alone. Here’s the best way to illustrate it (that I have found): Romans 6:23 says that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Christ’s death was for us was a gift. But like any gift, you must do something to make it yours… you must claim it. As long as the giver is holding it, it hasn’t become yours. God’s gift was His Son Jesus. He wants you to take that gift, and you must let Him know that you are taking it. Several passages in the Bible refer to salvation as a gift… and children understand gifts. : )
ARE THEY REALLY SAVED…OR NOT?
This is the hard part for any parent. Only time will tell. I know Natalie is saved because I can clearly see the work God is doing in her life. She is responsive to God’s Word. She is not perfect, but there are evidences that the Holy Spirit is indwelling her. I have even had people tell me that they noticed the difference in her from before she was saved. Because it was genuine!
After they accept Christ, ask a lot of questions. “What did you just do?” “How did you get saved?” “Where would you go if you were to die today?” “Why?” If you realize that they didn’t understand what they were doing, or they were trusting in a work or something else to save them, come back to it another time and just let them think on it.
AFTER THE FACT
Do explain to your child that God wants a relationship with them – a friendship. Bible reading and prayer are a part of building that friendship. Also explain that God wants to make them more like Jesus, and they need to let Him do that work in them. Salvation is a privilege and a responsibility – we represent Christ here on earth. Let them know that there is more to being a Christian than just being saved. Help them start a pattern of personal time with God. Talk to them about baptism- it is an act of obedience that lets everyone know that they are saved. In short, start discipling your child.
DON’T FORGET TO REJOICE!!!
Be excited for them. This is the single most important decision they will ever make. Savor this time, and encourage them to tell others about it : siblings, grandparents, friends, EVERYONE!! Salvation is a wonderful miracle from our merciful Father.