Something is clearly wrong when a child who “gave his heart to Jesus” strays from the things of God. It is therefore essential that we understand about the pitfalls of steering our beloved offspring into a false conversion.
True and False Conversion
The Bible speaks plainly of false conversions many times, particularly in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8). Jesus referred to this category of people as “tares” among the wheat, “bad” fish among the good, “foolish virgins” among the wise, etc., and warned that on the Day of Judgment many would cry out, “Lord, Lord,” and He would say to them, “I do not know you . . . Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity” (Luke 13:27). The word “iniquity” means “lawlessness.” These are professing Christians who have no concern when they transgress God’s Law (the Ten Commandments). They don’t keep their word. They take things that belong to other people. They don’t guard their heart when it comes to lust. On Judgment Day, they will be found by God’s Law to be lying, thieving adulterers at heart. They will expect heaven, and instead find that they end up in hell. What a fearful thing to happen to anyone—let alone your beloved children.
So make sure that you understand the true nature of sin, and that you yourself have repented and been genuinely saved. The double tragedy with false converts is that they are deceived into thinking that they are saved, when they aren’t. The Bible cautions us to “examine” ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).
I frequently receive letters from distraught parents who say something like this: “Johnny gave his heart to Jesus when he was four, but now that he’s grown up, he’s on drugs and living with his girlfriend.” In Luke 9:62, Jesus warned that if we even “look” back from following Him, we are not fit for the kingdom. Those who fall away don’t just look back, they go back. So something is clearly wrong when a child strays from the things of God. It is therefore essential that we understand about the pitfalls of steering our beloved offspring into a false conversion.
Leading a child in what is commonly called a “sinner’s prayer,” when there is no understanding of the true nature of sin, can do great damage.
God only knows how many others have had the experience of seeing false professions of faith from loved ones. When these false converts fall away, they become bitter, and their latter end becomes worse than the first (see 2 Peter 2:20). They are inoculated against the truth.
When we teach children that salvation is as simple as saying a prayer, it often results in the terrible tragedy of a teenager being “gospel hardened.” He thinks he “tried Jesus” when he was a kid, and it didn’t work. It also reveals shallow theology on our part. It is an absolute necessity for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin, because if there is no conviction of sin, there cannot be any repentance from sin. And without repentance there can be no salvation. Although we may work with the Holy Spirit, salvation isn’t something we can in any way manipulate or create.
The way to work with the Holy Spirit is to use the Ten Commandments to bring “the knowledge of sin.” Your children will never appreciate the cross until they understand the demands of the Moral Law. Why on earth did Jesus die? It was primarily to fulfill the demands of the Law (Matthew 5:17).
Going for the Jugular
The temptation for us as parents is to tell our children to come to Christ because He’s their friend and will always be there for their every problem. All they need to do is talk to Him in prayer when they have a problem, and God will provide the answer. While this is true, there is one big qualification. Consider this analogy.
A child was once running through a wooded area when he fell onto a sharp stick and pierced his jugular vein. His father immediately scooped him up, held his thumb on the child’s bleeding neck, and rushed him to a nearby hospital.
As they burst into the emergency room and a surgeon approached them, the small boy lifted his hand. When he fell, a tiny splinter had penetrated his thumb and he wanted the doctor to take it out. Of course, the good doctor ignored the child’s plea, and immediately began work to stop the life-threatening injury to his neck.
In its ignorance, modern evangelism (as opposed to biblical evangelism) preaches a message that causes the sinner to hold up his splintered thumb to God, rather than that which is truly life-threatening. It tells the world that Jesus will fix the splinter of a bad marriage, drug addiction, alcoholism, loneliness, etc., when the real reason a sinner should come to the Savior is that his life’s blood is draining from his neck. God wants to first deal with the fatal wound of sin—our spiritual problem—before He even looks at the splinter of our temporal problems.
The fact of sin is an eternal issue. The problems of this life, painful though they may be, are merely temporary. This is why it is important not to fall into the trap of modern evangelism’s methods. It is easy to bring our children to a “decision for Christ” by telling them that Jesus will help them through life. But when we paint a pleasant picture of God as our children’s friend, we fall into this trap.
The reality is that they are not God’s friends, but His enemies, and are under His wrath because of their sin (Romans 5:9,10). This thought is perhaps contrary to what you yourself have been taught to believe. But think of this—how can children find a place of biblical repentance before the God they have offended (angered), if all they have been led to believe is that they have His jovial smile? What then do we tell them about God?
What we should be telling our children is that without the righteousness of Christ, they will perish on the day of wrath. And there is a way to do it without terrorizing them.
Don’t merely tell your kids, “Jesus died for you on the cross.” Teach them the reality of sin. The swift current of Eternal Justice was sweeping all of humanity into the very jaws of hell, but Jesus gave His life to redeem us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us. Teach the Law to your children and you will help them appreciate what Christ did for them on the cross.
Adapted from How to Bring Your Children to Christ…& Keep Them There.
- 1.How to Bring Your Children to Christ (Part 1)
- 2.How to Bring Your Children to Christ (Part 2)