The Preacher and I went out for a quick little date last night after the kiddos went to bed. We shared a plate of nachos at our neighborhood Mexican joint.
There's nothing better than looking each other in the eye after a long day (or several!) and sharing what's on our minds and in our hearts. Our conversation last night landed on the topic of our children's salvation. You may remember that two of our children expressed concern for their souls during our first week home from the hospital. Our oldest, who has made a profession of faith, was expressing conviction and sorrow for not reading the Word of God with sincerity. That kid. He blesses me. He said that night: "I just don't know if I've seen any real change in my life." Did I mention he is 9? We had the privilege of walking him back through the truth of the Gospel, and how it is that we know we are saved--not the event or moment of "praying the prayer," but rather, the genuine repentance and submission to the Lordship of Christ. We encouraged him to: "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12b-13)
My second eldest came under conviction that same week, during a conversation in the midst of a discipline. (If it surprises you that a child would connect his disobedience with his need for the Gospel, this book, this book, and this book are great resources.) Rather than quickly ushering him into "The Sinner's Prayer," we chose to let the Gospel continue to marinate within his thinking, to press upon him until one day it is clear that he has been transformed by the message of Grace.
There is nothing simple about this process, as there are no formulas or strategies that secure our children's salvation. And yet, there is the simplicity of trusting to the work of the Holy Spirit, to truly believe that it is God who leads us to repentance and He alone that can cause our children to trust in the saving work of the cross.
Dennis Gunderson reminds parents in his book, Your Child's Profession of Faith, to urge Chist-centeredness rather than profession-centeredness:
...explain to [your child] that true conversion can be a very difficult thing to recognize, especially in a child, and that rather than worry about making his profession public, he should instead concentrate on pursuing Christ with all his heart. If he thinks otherwise, he is in danger of forming a concept of the Christian life which is man-pleasing, concerned more with people's assessment of his conversion than being assured in his own mind that he has met the Lord.
"And what is our part, then?" I asked last night, as we finished our plate of nachos. I love the answer my dear husband gave to me:
"Keep sharing the Gospel," The Preacher said, "and do it by loving the Gospel ourselves. We want our kids to say, "My dad loves mountain biking and guns...my mom likes to blog and cook...but you know what they really love? They REALLY love Christ." If we want them to love God above all else, we need to model that for them."
Amen, and rest assured.