I have to confess that I first thought this would be a fairly easy question to answer. I thought I would throw out a few biblical concepts interspersed with a couple of personal illustrations and be done with it. It hasn’t turned out that way. I’m 3 weeks overdue, our Children’s Pastor is breathing down my neck, and I realize that I can’t possibly answer the question in 250 words or less. So as we begin let me recommend that you take time to download some teaching we did on this subject last spring as it will give you a more thorough answer than is possible here. With that being said, here are 4 suggestions for parents of young children who are struggling with this question.
- Let’s move away from the language “accepting Christ into my heart” and use the biblical language of believing and repenting. We need to call our children to believe that they are sinners who are estranged from God by their sin and that God has made a way for their sins to be taken away by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. If they believe this then they will repent of their sins and follow Christ.
- Don’t think of your child’s conversion as a one time prayer but as an ongoing work of God’s grace that will become increasingly clear with the passing of time. Neither you nor your child should feel pressure to “settle” this issue before the Holy Spirit has made it clear. On the other hand we should never discourage our children from coming to Christ because they are young. Faith is not an intellectual exercise but a spiritual exercise. This means that your child’s largest obstacle is not a lack of knowledge but the deeper orientation of their heart that the Bible calls “sin”. Clear information cannot solve this problem. Spiritual blindness is a problem that can only be overcome by the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2). If this is true, then prayer for the work of the Holy Spirit in your child’s heart is as critical as teaching our children the Gospel.
- If a child is beginning to grasp the spiritual truths of the Gospel, they will begin to confess sin freely and desire to follow Jesus in how they respond to parents, siblings, friends, and teachers. This doesn’t mean that they will be perfect any more than you are perfect; it simply means that they will be sincere and they will grow in their love for God and others.
- Daily prayer is a wonderful opportunity to see whether or not your child is getting the Gospel. If their prayers reflect a growing sense of sin and a growing sense of God’s grace given to them through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, then you can know that God is at work in their heart.
There is no doubt that much more could and should be said, but this is a good place to start. May God give us all wisdom and grace as we seek to lovingly hold out the hope of the Gospel to the next generation.