Friday, May 16, 2008

Children: Saved by Grace - Just Like Everyone Else

(Okay, so my fishing trip was cut short, and I'm back. Some day I'll learn that the best laid plans are almost always interrupted by other stuff.)

There is a common thought among Christian parents that the spiritual health (genuine Christian faith) of your child hinges on what YOU do, or don't do, as their parent. While I do believe 100% that we are to be involved in their lives and investing into their lives in all the right ways, I want to emphatically but simply declare one truth:

You can do all the right things, you can read all the right books, you can expose them to the gospel from the cradle, you can pray for their salvation (and you should) you can love your child with your whole heart, but ultimately, the spiritual health of your child is in the hands of God, and ONLY by His regenerating power, will that child love Him, serve Him, and follow Him.

Sometimes I find it a bit of a paradox when Christian people agree with this as it pertains to strangers, friends or non-family members (or other people's children) - but when it's their own children they seem to want to apply a different standard, or make exceptions, or assume in the positive. I suppose part of the reason for this has to do with the deep love that parents do have for their children and assuming the best is something we all really do want to do, but the very real danger there (for both parent and child) is to assume God has a different standard for our children in the first place. He doesn't - and He never has. I'm pretty sure most Christian parents understand that growing up in a Christian home does not seal the salvation of their children, but at the same time the topic does get a little fuzzy when it comes to our own children.

Resting in the sovereignty of God is easy to do when it's at a distance from your own life. When it's not so easy to do, is when Jesus' words ring true in your very home:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
Some years ago, I met a brother online who's four grown children had all turned away from the faith they were raised in. He and his lovely wife were both heartbroken for many years, as all four of their kids who once professed faith in Christ, were model "Christian teenagers" and brought them great joy as parents, dove headfirst into lives of sin and rebellion and denial of Christ. I had met him online, just as their first son repented of years of wicked living, and came to Christ. What this brother and his wife had discovered was that their children had only gone through the motions of making an outward profession, to please their parents, church, and extended church family. Despite raising them up in church, with the truth of the gospel in their home, daily family devotions, summer Bible camps for many years, private Christian schooling, constant prayer for them all; none of them knew the Lord in a saving way. While every parent grows and learns better ways of parenting, for all intents and purposes, this couple did all the "right" things in bringing up their kids in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

For this family coming to the realization that none of their adult children truly knew the Lord (coupled with the blatant, sinful lifestyles they were all living), it was a quadruple heartbreak for them. God, in His astounding grace and mercy however over the next few years, did eventually draw all four of their adult children to Christ and established a spiritual unity in that family that blessed them beyond what they ever expected.

For Christian parents who raise up children that are saved and do know Him, this is a truly wonderful thing. In fact, it is the deepest heart's desire of every believing parent that this will be the outcome of growing up in the gospel. Seeing that hope and that dream come to fruition is a joy and a blessing that has no real measure by this world's standards. The danger however is in the assuming. Assuming the profession of faith is legit, assuming if you do and say all the right things that they'll just get saved, assuming that it's ultimately up to you to begin with.

I certainly don't want to diminish the importance of a solid Christian upbringing because that does matter. In my own life, when I heard the gospel again for the first time at age 29, every gospel message I'd heard as a child in Sunday school, and all the talks I had with my mom about the Bible were all confirmed for me as true. In a type of memory-avalanche, every truth about Christ and Him crucified that I'd ever heard, came flooding back to me on that day when my eyes were finally opened. Having that Christian upbringing made a monumental difference in what I knew and what I understood when I was finally and genuinely converted to Christ. In a very real way, I had sort of a headstart that I am quite thankful for.

At Pulpit Live, there is a rather short, 2 part series called Evangelizing Your Children. If you haven't read it, I'd suggest that you do, and when you do, take these words to heart - because they know what they're talking about over there. In fact, make time to read all the parenting posts there, it will only serve to equip you and bless you.

Great Christian t-shirts and gift ideas for the whole family