We should acknowledge up front that this is a question we should ask of ourselves as well. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Paul’s admonition indicates that the genuineness of our faith is something we should consider and reconsider often. That being so, it makes sense then that we should encourage our children to do the same — to examine themselves often, to see if they are truly in the faith.
This stands in contrast to much of the evangelistic methodology of the past hundred years where emphasis is put on “making a decision,” signing a commitment card, or saying the “sinner’s prayer.” We do not find any such method or language in Scripture. What we do see is the call to follow Christ: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). This is the essence of what it means to be a genuine Christian. If we want an evangelistic method, then Mark 8:34 outlines it: deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Christ — this is how one becomes a Christian. The problem is that true faith is difficult to measure. Many kids may grow up in Christian homes and never have “that moment” to which they can point to and say “that is when I was saved.” Does that mean that they are not Christians? Hardly. True faith is measured by lifelong perseverance, with different stages of Christian maturity and fruit bearing along the way.
So, what does that mean for me practically as a parent? Let me offer a couple of suggestions: 1) Resist the temptation to urge your child into making a “decision for Christ.” It may help us sleep a little better believing that our children are “saved” because they made a profession, but professions can be inauthentic. Instead, pray for their salvation regularly — even after they confess Christ as Savior. Pray for the genuineness of their faith and the strength to persevere in it until the end. 2) Remember the parable of the sower (Mark 4) and live by it in your parenting. Our job is to faithfully sow the seed (the word of God) into our children’s lives, but their salvation is God’s business and is best left in his sovereign hands. Lead them in regular family devotions and above all, model genuine faith in front of them. They need to see that you read your Bible, that you pray, that you are committed to the things of God — not out of some legalistic dread, but out of a vibrant love for Christ and His truth.