from Jim Elliff’s Comfort for Christian Parents. Commentary by Howard Eames who is guest posting over several days on parenting non-regenerate children.
- 2. The miracle of the new birth is no less possible to God if your child is attentive to Him or running away from Him. Our child is like all other children when it comes to God’s grace. He is dead spiritually whether he is in church or not, whether he listened well to the truths we tried to teach him or did not, whether he has some interest in God now or has none at all. He may be converted in the pigpen or the pew, and we do not know in this case what is preferred by God.
My wife and I have often marveled at how little our boys seemed to have learned from a classical & Christian education. I have personally wondered if either boy ever stayed awake in my logic class, considering the airy fairy reasoning that I hear coming from their hearts. But again, it is a fallen world. Sin has unhinged everything. Thomas Aquinas was wrong! The mind is fallen and in deep darkness apart from the saving grace of God.
In 1844, Archibald Alexander penned the following “thoughts on religious experience” that have proven true in our experience:
There is no necessity for any other proof of native depravity than the aversion which children early manifest to religious instruction and to spiritual exercises. From this cause it proceeds, that many children who have the opportunity of a good religious education learn scarcely anything of the most important truths of Christianity. If they are compelled to commit the catechism to memory, they are wont to do this without ever thinking of the doctrines contained in the words which they recite; so that, when the attention is at any time awakened to the subject of religion as a personal concern, they feel themselves to be completely ignorant of the system of divine truth taught in the Bible.
So writes Alexander. But then we have witnessed this very fact. At one time or another, I have echoed the words of the apostle to the Galatians, “Who has bewitched you” . . . how soon you have departed from the gospel of grace presented to you in your childhood. Unconverted children are “bad soil.” They have no root in themselves. They are vulnerable to every wind of false doctrine that might come down the pike.
They listened poorly, and all that you have taught them seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. Now their poor listening skills have come home to roost and they have fallen prey to either false teachers within the pale of Christianity (broadly speaking) or something even more perverse. The sense of helplessness can be overwhelming. But then listen again to the wisdom of C. John Miller, a seasoned brother in this regard:
Your child may have presented for years an outward conformity to an orderly Christian family life. But a child can put on all the external forms of Christian life and behave in good order, and yet not be near God at all. This is perpetuated when parents fail to look below the surface and pass lightly over inner motivations. The result is often to let the child put a veneer over life. The inward person is left untouched, and when that happens the inward self can easily become hardened and embittered.
As parents, our grief can be intense when God strips away our façade of comfort and self-sufficiency. We had placed great confidence in moral Christian nurture in the home and in private Christian schools. But these means failed us. No one grows into grace through a Christianized environment alone. No one gets to God by moral self-improvement.
Donna and I had placed a great deal of confidence in having provided all of the supposedly required Christian tools for conversion. We had read the right books, taught the right doctrine, provided a Christian education and worldview. We had prayed fervently and frequently and had claimed the promises of God. And we had given our children to the Lord and asked that He work grace in their hearts. As Thomas Boston so ably wrote in his treatise on the sovereignty of God in the afflictions of men, “where you anticipated your greatest comfort in life, has now become your greatest source of personal grief.”
Satan would insist that the situation is fixed; these children will not change. They are becoming mighty oak trees of unbelief before your very eyes. You are helpless to change them and the direction they are taking. Nothing can be more overwhelming to a parent than these sorts of thoughts. You and I have a fixed negative image of our children; they are seen as unchangeable. This image may be powerfully reinforced by the recollection of the adolescent’s many failings: repeated acts of rebellion, words of rebellion, looks of rebellion and defiance. But allow me to reassert what Jim Elliff has said:
The miracle of the new birth is no less possible to God if our child is attentive to Him or running away from Him . . . he is dead spiritually whether he is in church or not.
God is able! God answers prayers! A true burden in prayer for your child is a gift of God. All true prayer finds its origin in the mind and will of the Lord Jesus Christ. Take heart! Be courageous in your prayers, beloved. There is great hope to be had. Our God is able to answer exceedingly and abundantly beyond all that you could hope for or even conjure up in your thoughts! Think for a moment about the quarry He found you in, and mined you from.