As parents, our greatest goal and joy for our children should be that they come to faith in Christ and live as His faithful disciples, for the glory of God. Therefore, clearly presenting and explaining the essential truths of the Gospel and demonstrating what it means to follow Jesus in daily life is our greatest duty and privilege as we teach and train our children. But trying to discern whether or not a child has truly understood and grasped the meaning of the Gospel is sometimes harder to assess. Here are two pastors who offer some wise counsel for parents and teachers:
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?
- …Does the child demonstrate a personal need or desire to repent of his sin? Is the child ashamed of the sin in his life? Knowing what sin is, is not the same as being ashamed of sin. If a child is not repentant but goes ahead and makes a decision to become a Christian, then his decision is premature and incomplete.
(Art Murphy, The Faith of a Child: A Step-By-Step Guide to Salvation for Your Child, © 2000, pages 73-75)
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 acknowledgment 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 acknowledgment 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.
(Dennis Gundersen, Your Child’s Profession of Faith, copyright©2010, pages 51-53)