Your church has a curriculum and program designed to help your children enter into a relationship with Jesus as Lord. But, parents often wonder if the classes, conversations, and teaching really did the trick.
You’re not alone. Most parents have questions. Did our children accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, or did they just work through the curriculum they were presented? Were they baptized as a testimony to their faith, or were they baptized because a sibling or good friend made that choice? How old does a child need to be, to accept Jesus as their Lord?
I remember when our oldest son, Ryan, came home from church and told us he wanted to make a commitment to Christ and be baptized. He was six years old. I hugged him, told him I thought that was wonderful, and then said, “Let’s talk about this when Daddy gets home.”
The wheels in my head were racing. Was his Sunday school teacher sitting at lunch and telling her friends, “I helped lead the preacher’s son to Christ this morning?” Was a friend of Ryan’s getting baptized, and he wanted to do the same? Or, was it simply because Ryan had been in church every Sunday of his life? That he had been prayed with and prayed over? Or that he had listened to Bible stories every night before bed? Did those factors hurry his decision? He was six! Wasn’t that a little early to understand a big thing like salvation?
Notice that my thoughts were completely void of anything that God might be doing in his heart.
Part of my problem was that I was an interdenominational Baptist preacher’s wife. I went to the Methodist church when I was little. I sat in some special church classes one summer, got dressed up for a party at the preacher’s home, and then was “sprinkled” the next Sunday. My only real memory was the party at the preacher’s home because we were only allowed in their backyard. But the cookies and punch were good.
I was Presbyterian for the first couple of years of high school, and I remember being very interested in what they were saying about Jesus. But, truthfully, I was more interested in the boys sitting near me. We moved again, and my family joined the Disciples of Christ Christian church down the street. That was the first church that taught me that accepting Christ was a personal decision that everyone had to make individually. They said that baptism should be by immersion only. So, I agreed to their plan for salvation as well.
Suffice it to say that when I started attending a Baptist church in college, I was a little confused about the doctrine of salvation (or, in my case, “doctrines”). I joined that church and was re-baptized to meet their doctrinal requirements. A revival preacher was in town and said (or, to be honest, he shouted), “If you can’t name the date, the time, and the place where you accepted Jesus as Lord, you are probably not saved.” Those words were a little disconcerting for a girl who had been in church most of her life and was currently dating a future preacher.
If someone asks me when I was saved, my honest answer is, “I’m not exactly sure.” I believed what my Sunday School teachers told me about Jesus. I believed what I learned in those special classes. I trusted what I learned in high school, and my commitment to Christ grew during those years. I also sat in that revival in college and realized that the evangelist was incorrect. I knew I was saved, but I had no idea when my salvation took place. After a lot of thought, I came to this conclusion.
I was about ten years old when I was riding my bicycle through a park. I found a Bible tract lying on the ground. It was dirty, but I didn’t pick it up right away. Instead, I rode around the park several times until I was sure no one was coming back for it. I picked it up, brought it home, and went to my room where I read every word several times. The back cover said, “If you want to be sure you are going to heaven, pray this prayer.” I wanted to be sure, so I prayed. I imagine that is the moment Jesus became my Lord and Savior.
The classes, the lessons, and the sermons had tilled the soil, but I believe God planted the seeds that day, and my relationship with him has been growing since that time. There were dormant seasons and there were growing seasons in the years ahead. But, I belonged to God—and I knew it.
When will your child understand Jesus is Lord?
Ryan was six. I was probably about ten. My husband, Jim, was fifteen. Everyone’s story is a little different. But there are some concrete ways you can help your child understand their need for salvation:
For preschoolers: Everything they need to know is in the words, Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. If your preschooler understands that, they are on the road to knowing Jesus.
For school-age: Our Father, who art in heaven. Honored be your name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive others. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever. If your child is of school age, they are old enough to understand that Jesus is their King—and their life is to be lived knowing that relationship matters more than any other.
For every age: Fill your life with the word of God. Love your children and others with the love of Christ. Allow his Holy Spirit to be present in your decisions, your prayers, and your priorities. Fill your home with his music and with his love. Jesus will find your child just like he found me in the park that day. The point is to make sure your children know that when Jesus invites them, they want to say yes.
How can you know if your child has accepted Jesus?
Look for the evidence of God’s Holy Spirit in his or her life. Look for Jesus in your child’s character. Look for an increased interest in Jesus and spiritual things. Look for the conviction and compassion of the Holy Spirit in your child. Don’t allow the regular appearances of the old, natural self to cause you to doubt your child’s salvation. The old, natural self will pop up in all of us on a regular basis. But, if all you ever see is the old, natural self, keep going until you see the character of Christ evident in your child.
I had some real concerns when my six-year-old said he wanted to receive Jesus as his Lord. I didn’t need to. Ryan received Jesus early and grew up with him as Lord. Both of my boys met Jesus at a young age, but each of them had an individual story of sanctification.
When can your child understand Jesus is Lord?
The best answer I have for that question is this: the sooner, the better. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). Surround them with the knowledge and presence of Christ as their Lord. They are never too young for that.
And . . . you might consider leaving a few Bible tracts lying around. You never know who might pick one up!