Parents ask many questions, but the second most important question you can ask your child is often completely missed. Join AMBrewster as he discusses the question, the answers, and how you can parent your children through the most important decision of their lives.
Click here for Episode 45 Notes.https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/truthloveparent/episodes/2017-04-10T22_00_00-07_00
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Recently we’ve seen the power and importance of asking the right questions as we seek to understand our children and apply God’s Word to their lives.
Today, we look at the second most important question you can ever ask your kids. And, we might talk a little about the most important question, but something tells me, you already know what that is.
But more on that in a minute.
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And now to the topic at hand.
I made a profession of faith when I was five years old, and I was baptized shortly thereafter.
Fast-forward four years and you’ll find me and my mother standing in the living room of our house in Apple Valley, Minnesota. I don’t remember much from the conversation, but the gaps have necessarily been filled by my sanctified imagination:
It started with my mom telling me,
“Aaron, I’m not God, and I don’t know your heart, but I don’t think you’re saved.”
I remember my nine-year old self being taken-aback and middle offended.
“Christians aren’t perfect, but for the most part they want to live for Christ. They’re not sinless, but they do sin less and less as they grow. Aaron, you prayed and asked Jesus to save you when you were five, but since then you haven’t changed. It seems that everything you do is motivated by your own selfishness.”
Again, I don’t know if my mom remembers the conversation going down that way, but that’s what the years have left me with. And, you know what? By God’s grace I became a genuine follower of Christ later that year, was baptized for the first time (cause — you know — the other time I just got wet), and slowly but surely started understanding what my mom meant about living for Christ and not myself.
Now, I’ve never been the perfect example of a believer. My teens years — in fact — were a pretty abysmal wreck at times. But God was genuinely at work in and through me during that time – and that’s the key.
As you can imagine, the most important question you can ever ask your child is this: “Do you have a relationship with God?”
Now, before we move on to the second question, I do want to address the terminology we utilize to discuss this topic.
Think of all the ways we describe being Christian –
“So my friend just became a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven when he asked Jesus to be his Savior and come into his heart, and now he’s a follower of God and a Spirit-filled Christian who’s been regenerated and born-again because he was saved into Christ and is now a believing child in the family of God!”
And there may be more I missed. The point is, what does all of that mean? Some of those concepts are actually biblical and others like “asking Jesus into your heart” aren’t only confusing but also not found anywhere in the Bible.
When discussing the single most important reality in all the world, we must be clear and biblical. I prefer “born again,” “follower of Christ,” and “relationship with God.” I like born again because that’s the phrase Jesus Himself used in His conversation with Nicodemus. It’s so pregnant with meaning, and generally doesn’t get accidentally used by people who don’t understand it — like “Christian,” “being in the family of God,” or “one of God’s children” do. Of course, it still needs clarification. Nicodemus himself was stumped when Jesus used it the first time, but Christ helped him understand.
I also like “follower of Christ” because far too many people believe that salvation is like an insurance policy. If I sign on the dotted line, I can go about living my life; the only difference is that now I don’t have to worry about Hell. The term “follower of Christ” communicates the reality that we’re supposed to be growing and being transformed into His image — going where He’d have us go, doing what he’d have us do, and speaking what He’d have us speak.
Lastly, I enjoy referring to a person’s “relationship with God” because it encompasses both the idea of being born into God’s family as well as an intimacy that far exceeds a contractual agreement.
But these are just my personal preferences.
Regardless of the verbiage you employ, please make certain your children understand the truth behind their relationship with God because Jesus warns us that in the last day, there will be many people who honestly believe they’ve been born again . . . who aren’t. They believe it so much they’ll try to convince Jesus Himself by listing out all the spiritual things they did. But Jesus will look at them and say,
“I don’t know you. Depart from me.”
And they’ll be ushered into the Lake of Fire.
If that doesn’t shake you to your core, I have to wonder about your relationship with God. Have you ever considered that you might find yourself in that situation? Can you imagine having believed your entire life that you’re a Christian only to find that you missed the key component?
Can you imagine that happening to your child?
I echo Pastor David Platt’s heart when he says this verse sometimes keeps him up at night.
I want you to hear what David has to say.
And hopefully you’re realizing that simply asking your child, “Are you a Christian?” isn’t a guaranteed answer. Because they may believe they are . . . when they’re really not.
So, how can a person know they’re born again? How can you know your child is a child of God?
And that’s where today’s question comes in.
The second most important question you can ever ask your child is this: “How do you know you’re born again?”
Here are the two most typical responses I receive when I ask this question of children and adults:
- Confused Responses – This includes, “I don’t know,” “What do you mean?,” and silent staring. This question doesn’t register on so many radars because the concept often isn’t discussed from the pulpit or explained by the individual sharing the gospel. From my experience in family counseling and evangelism, I wouldn’t be surprised if most professing Christians have no idea how to answer this question.
- Inaccurate Responses – It may sound harsh to suggest that any answer given in response to “How do you know you’re saved” could be inaccurate . . . but many are. The easiest ones to spot are the unbiblical answers — the ones we know don’t save you, for example, “I go to church,” “I was baptized,” “I’m confirmed,” “I read my bible, pray, give money to the church,” or “I’m a good person.” You don’t get saved by doing those things. But what if someone says, “I know I’m saved because salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I believe in Christ and asked Him to be my Savior.” That’s a pretty stellar proclamation, but is everyone who says that a child of God?
Here’s the problem – Are their people who have prayed and used the words, “Jesus, please save me” who didn’t mean it, who asked for selfish reasons, or who didn’t really believe it? Does simply praying a prayer or making an accurate statement about the reality of Christ guarantee salvation?
There are a number of Bible passages that should give us pause. The first is the one I mentioned before about there being countless people who thought they were saved who actually aren’t. Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23,
”Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
There’s also the situation with Simon the Sorcerer. This is a difficult passage because it’s hard to tell what Simon’s spiritual state was, but no Christian would want Peter saying to them what Peter said to Simon the day he tried to buy the Holy Spirit.
And speaking of Peter, Peter made many professions concerning Christ, performed miracles, and sacrificed everything he knew to follow Christ, and yet he wasn’t born again until after the resurrection.
The point is this, when I ask, “How do you know you’re born again?” and the person responds, “I know I’m saved because I prayed a prayer” — that’s like saying, “I know I’m saved because I’m saved.” It’s circular and doesn’t actually answer the question. The proof of our salvation cannot simply be that we asked.
I encourage you to ask your children this question and listen carefully as they answer. You may receive the confused or inaccurate responses, and that’s okay. At least you’re arming yourself with the knowledge you need to parent your children.
And I know this is difficult, and I’ve struggled devoting a mere twenty minutes to the discussion. No doubt there are some of you who are genuinely perplexed yourselves or even upset that I’ve suggested that there’s a possibility your child could pray and ask Jesus to save them and still be unsaved.
But I encourage you to heed the words of the apostle John. John was one of the first disciples to genuinely put his faith and trust in Jesus. He was also described as being the most loving and faithful follower Jesus had during His earthy ministry. If you haven’t read I John, or you haven’t read it in a while, I strongly encourage you to read the short five chapters. And here’s why:
In I John 1:6, John says,
“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
We could paraphrase it this way, “If we claim to be born again while we consistently and unrepentedly live in sin, we’re liars.”
I want to take a moment to share John MacArthur’s thoughts on this subject. He preached a sermon called “What kind of things do and do not prove the genuineness of saving faith?” I’ll link the article in the description, but I want to make some comments on it here. He identifies seven conditions that do not prove or disprove genuine saving faith, and then he names nine that do.
- Visible Morality – unsaved people can make moral choices.
- Intellectual Knowledge – unsaved people can know a lot, and know a lot about the Bible.
- Religious Involvement – unsaved people can participate irreligious causes.
- Active Ministry – unsaved people can even be involved in full-time ministerial service. Consider Judas.
- Conviction of Sin – unsaved people experience guilt because that one of the main three roles the Holy Spirit has in the world.
- The Feeling of Assurance – just like Jesus said, there will be many unbelievers who felt they were saved. Feelings are capricious, and they frequently lie to us.
- A Time of Decision – Dr. MacArthur goes on to say,
“So often people say things like: ‘Well, I know I’m a Christian, because I remember when I signed the card,’ or ‘I remember when I prayed a prayer,’ or ‘I remember when I walked the aisle’ or ‘went forward in church.’ A person may remember exactly when it happened and where they were when ‘it’ happened, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Our salvation is not verified by a past moment. Many people have prayed prayers, gone forward in church services, signed cards, gone into prayer rooms, been baptized, and joined churches without ever experiencing genuine saving faith.
“These are seven common conditions or tests that don’t necessarily prove or disprove the existence of saving faith. What then are the marks of genuine saving faith? Are there some reliable tests from the Word of God that enable us to know for certain whether one’s faith is real? Thankfully there are at least nine biblical criteria for examining the genuineness of saving faith.”
- Love for God
- Repentance from Sin
- Genuine Humility
- Devotion to God’s Glory
- Continual Prayer
- Selfless Love
- Separation from the World
- Spiritual Growth
Remember what Jesus said in Matthew, chapter 7,
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
Remember what John said,
“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” He goes on to say, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Now, please understand that this is not a proclamation to works salvation, but simply proof of salvation. Doing good works doesn’t save you, but if you’re saved, you will do good works. This is the beauty of the book of James. Under the inspiration of God, James proclaims, “Someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
It’s easy to say something, but it’s very different to back it up with your actions. I can tell you that I love roller coasters and believe with all my heart they’re not only the most exciting experience a human being could ever have, but they’re also 100% safe. But if I refuse to ride one, you’re going to rightful question my “love” for roller coasters.
My mom was right when she doubted my salvation. She doubted it because I lived day in and out with no higher motivation than my own pleasure. Christians aren’t perfect, but they cannot live consistently in that state of darkness.
Look at the world around you, if something’s not biologically growing, it’s either dead or it was never alive. The same is true with spiritual life. There are so many lists in the Bible of characteristics that Christians are to have and be growing in. I call them Sanctification Lists because as we become more like Jesus and live in the power of the Holy Spirit, we will continually be set apart from this world and set apart to God. That is the very definition of Sanctification.
Now, consider your children. If they haven’t made a profession of faith, you know what your foremost goal is. The most important question they need to answer is “What will you do with Christ?” In the future, I hope to discuss what it looks like to be an Evangelist Parent. Until then continue consistently living in God’s Light and sharing it with your children. Make the Gospel the centerpiece of your family.
If your child has made a profession of faith, you need to start training them what that means. As an Ambassador Parent, you’ve been called to introduce your kids to God and lead them in their conformity to His will. Helping them pray a prayer is just the beginning of your journey together. Now you have to “teach them to observe all that Jesus has commanded you.” That’s called discipleship. And here at Truth.Love.Parent. we want nothing more than for you to be an intentional, premeditated, disciple-making parent.
Your most important task is to introduce your children to God and pray that they choose to follow Him. Help them answer the most important question, “Are you a follower of Christ?”
You need to guide your born again children through the sanctification process by discipling them. If they can’t answer the question, “How you do you know you’re born again?” then you need to help them understand the doctrine of sanctification. I suggest starting in the book of I John and moving to James. Study them as a family so that everyone will understand that humans are saved by grace through faith, but true faith will always work itself out in conformity to God’s will.
I know I may have inspired more questions than answers. And I’m sorry if my frailty got in the way of God’s Truth today. Please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll do my best to explain what the Bible says. If I have to, I’ll do another episode to address your questions and concerns.
But to simplify the idea, here are the takeaways:
Please follow the link in the description for our episode notes — hopefully they will help.
And check out our next episode entitled, “How to be Jesus to Your Kids.”
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As always, you can reach us with questions, concerns, and comments at counselor@EvermindMinistries.com
God offers salvation to all, but only those who actually want what God is truly offering can have it. Don’t hang your children’s eternal destiny on a prayer; found it on the Holy Spirit’s work.