True Saving Faith—When is a Child Ready?

Back during Holy Week, we highlighted the message of the Cross and the glorious Gospel of Jesus . We also noted CDG’s resource Helping Children to Understand the Gospel. In this booklet, we outline 10 essential Gospel truths we believe children should be taught. But it’s also crucial to recognize a child's spiritual readiness to actually embrace true, saving faith. Is there any way that we as parents and teachers can discern whether or not our children are genuinely understanding and embracing the Gospel, and not merely acknowledging the facts? In his excellent book The Faith of a Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to Salvation for Your Child, Art Murphy says the following:
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? (2000, pages 73-74)
He also adds this very important consideration:
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. Letting a child think he can become a Christian without repentance gives him false assurance. As a result, he may never repent and therefore never completely finish becoming a Christian. Loving Jesus is an important part of becoming a Christian, but that is not enough. If a child is led to think that he can be a Christian without repentance, he does not fully understand the need for a Savior. He may love Jesus but not feel the need for Him in his life. He may live his life thinking that everything is OK when it is not. (pages 75-76)
The entire book is a valuable resource for anyone who ministers to children. Pastor Murphy asks and answers thoughtful questions and corrects many misunderstandings related to faith and children. He acknowledges the decisive role the Word and the Holy Spirit, as well as noting the responsibility of parents and teachers. He provides valuable insights regarding a child's spiritual development. Furthermore, he explains and connects the important roles of parents and church.
Photo Credit: Andres Dean on Flickr
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