Sharing the gospel with your children

According to my baby book I officially prayed the sinner's prayer at 2 years and 8 months. Although God's work started very early in my life it wasn't until I was 21 years of age that God gave me a new heart.  Things have been radically different since that day.

Full disclosure. I don't believe people get saved simply because they say the sinner's prayer. If there is no long term fruit displayed by following in the footsteps of Jesus,  there is no reason to believe that person is saved, regardless of how sincere their original profession of faith. There are far too many people/parents who take comfort in the fact that someone said the sinner's prayer even though the Holy Spirit seems absent from their lives. Although this may give us personal comfort, the other person could be in mortal danger. Now, as a parent, I want nothing more than my children to have faith in Jesus Christ. I don't want them to rebel against God like I did, I want them to trust in Jesus as early as possible.

Every week it seems my oldest daughter asks me about death and how to get Jesus in her heart.  On the one hand, I am glad she asking these questions, but on the other hand I want this to be a real change in her heart. Right after she asks these important questions about life she changes thoughts to Paw Patrol and other things kids think about at that age. Does she really understand sin? Does she understand what it means that Jesus died for her? Does she actually trust in God or does she just not want to go to the bad place called Hell? I don't want to take comfort in her being saved, if she really isn't. But, more importantly, I don't want her to think she is saved if she really isn't.

Growing up, I prayed the sinners prayer more times than I can remember and assumed that I must be saved. The problem is that I always doubted because my actions and heart did not line up with Jesus' words. Therefore, I spent the first 21 years of my life wondering if I was saved. It never occurred to me that I wasn't saved and I needed to make a decision for myself. This leads me to wonder about how we should teach our children about the gospel. Is it better for your children to think they are saved and always wonder if they really are, or is it better for them to think they are not saved and that they need to make a decision for themselves?

To be honest, I don't have a good answer to this question. Emphasizing changed behaviour as an indication of salvation could make them think they need to work for their salvation. On the flip side, thinking that saying a prayer is all that is needed regardless of actual faith is just as bad. As of right now, my thoughts go as follows:

  • Don't discourage children from praying a sinners prayer or believing that they are going to heaven.
  • Live out faith in your own life. Demonstrate that you trust in Jesus instead of money or works. This will give them their best understanding of the gospel. 
  • Talk about faith with them, so they understand that it is not works, nor an incantation.
  • Let them bring up the idea of being baptized. Baptism is public and requires some amount of courage. If they are willing to do something public they are most likely able to take up their cross and follow Jesus.


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