I know today’s blog will hit painfully close to home for some of you. You are the parent of a child or children that you have raised in a Christian home. You made sure they went to church and memorized Bible verses in Awana or Pioneer club; you sacrificed to send them to Christian school or to home-school them to give them the best possible influences.
However, if you are really honest with yourself you question if all that you poured into them actually stuck. What began as a little nagging question in your mind has over time become a roar of concern as you watch your kids make one worldly choice after the next. They are not little kids anymore who do what you tell them. They are pre-teens, teens, or young adults whose language, music, clothing and friends all reveal ungodliness. You are shocked and dismayed as you see your children, who professed Christ at one point in their lives, now happily living a worldly lifestyle.
When you confront them, their words assure you that they really meant it when they got saved and that there is really nothing wrong with what they do. Somehow, they twist your concern around and you are criticized for “judging.” Invariably, you hear yourself defending your own words and actions. Your expressions of love and concern turn into arguing, withdrawal, and angry silence. The reality is many homes have become battlegrounds for the sake of Christ and salvation.
How do you address kids and young adults who “prayed the prayer,” walked an aisle, or recommitted their lives to Christ at youth camp one summer and don’t live their profession of faith? How do you reach them when they have heard it all before and can parrot the gospel back to you, even though it seems to mean nothing to them? What do you say to your teen who posts Bible verses on their Facebook or Instagram account but lives an otherwise immoral and godless lifestyle?
Begin by clarifying their understanding of salvation versus the biblical understanding of salvation. Many kids and youth “get saved” because someone wanted to scare the hell out of them. A special speaker, youth leader, or camp guide presents the gospel under threat of going to hell and uses the Bible to reach their emotions. The sad truth is their heart may not have been affected at all. It is one thing to intellectually assent to the truth and quite another to believe it.
Remind them that their salvation is not evaluated by something they have done in the past (pray a prayer, walk an aisle), it is evaluated by the present. In the examination process, there must be evidence of a new life, there must be something to convict them of being a Christian beyond their words. Challenge them with what Paul said in 2 Cor. 13:5: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith, examine yourselves!” Sadly, many people want to be saved “in their sin” and not “from their sin.” The message of the post-modern church is, “Come as you are, and stay that way.” In far too many churches a person can go to church and hear a few carefully selected Bible verses that will confirm that while he or she may not be perfect, they just are not that bad. The preacher might nudge his (or her!) church attendees in the direction of seeing their mistakes or bad decisions, but little to nothing is said about sin. The message given is that it is okay to keep living as you are as long as you are sincere about what you believe. Few churches will confront even obvious sin such as sexual immorality or unbiblical divorce or living together. The idea is just, “get saved” or “ask Jesus into your heart” and keep on living your life the way you always have. They say God understands, He is a God of love, He wants everyone to be happy.
Conversely, when a person professes Christ and it is a true conversion, there WILL be a change in their life. 2 Cor. 5:17 tells us that there has been a transformation inside; the believer is a new creation, the old has passed away, and they have become new. There will be evidence in their lives of their claim such as an ongoing desire for holiness and an increasing hatred of their sin (Rom 7:15-25). They will be grieved over sin and desire to repent of it. When there is a vertical change, where the old has been made new positionally in Christ, then there will be a horizontal changes. They will live differently, have different desires and thoughts. If your child’s behavior is consistently carnal and there is no conviction, grief or sorrow over sin, they may not really be regenerate. Anyone who says a Christian can continue living the way they please, with a lifestyle full of sinful practices and activities is self-deceived. If their life is characterized by sin and disobedience it is possible they are living as disobedient Christians, but it is far more likely they are not saved at all. They (and you) have to face the fact that they are not truly a Christian.
This is the hardest for us as parents because we hope beyond hope that we are wrong and they really are saved. The feelings of grief and sorrow go so deep when parents realize a beloved son or daughter is lost and in eternal danger. It breaks the hearts of parents who have poured their lives into their children and raised them according to biblical principles to see their kids reject Christ. Hope remains alive as long as they draw breath. Continue to pray for them and point them back to the cross over and over. Continue to challenge their thinking and lifestyle; not with your own preferences, but by the standard of God’s Word. By all means, let them know you love them despite how they behave but confront their sin.
Remember, you are not responsible for their decision regarding Christ. Your job as Mom and Dad is to present the truth to them about the gospel of Jesus Christ accurately and live the truth of the gospel as well! God, in His sovereign will and purpose, determines who will be saved. Not you, not me, not your pastor or youth leader, and not even your child. Ephesians 1 makes that crystal clear.
...just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, Ephesians 1:4-5 (NASB)
If God chose them, they will come. No one can resist His calling on their life; you can be comforted in that truth.