“Hon, I couldn’t find it.”
That was me telling my wife that I couldn’t find the item she had asked me to get. This particular time it could have been the sugar on the storage shelf downstairs.
Or the steak in the freezer.
As I’d mount the top stair, she’d look at me with incredulous disbelief (and probably in her imagination roll her eyes) and say, “I’ll go look.”
And I’d smile — knowing that she’d come back slightly red-faced … empty handed … explaining why she had thought the item she wanted would have been where she said.
I usually only had to wait a couple minutes.
“What’s this?” she’d ask, holding up the item I somehow missed. “It was right up front.”
I’d sheepishly answer, “Well if you’re going to hide it right up front, how do you expect me to find it?”
Missing the obvious. Also known as blind spots.
It’s a malady we parents sometimes suffer from when it comes to our kids.
And that’s why one of my biggest concerns while raising my kids has been:
Will I recognize if my kids are professing a faith in Christ that looks good on the outside but lacks the fundamental heart change on the inside that leads to eternal life?
Whether or not our children have embraced a genuine conversion determines their readiness for baptism. The difficulty here is that sometimes our children profess a belief or attitude simply because they know we want them to. Left to their own devices, they might adopt something different.
In a case like this, where they are merely telling us what we want to hear, their profession is built on sand. It is unlikely to hold up when the storms of maturing intellect challenge their beliefs.
Now — let me pause a moment. It is not my purpose to raise undue alarm, to cast unnecessary doubt in your mind about your child’s belief in Christ.
But I would like to offer some ways that you can take a fresh look at your child’s profession of faith — to give you confidence that your child’s faith is her or his own. And that your child is ready for that next step of baptism.
The most obvious first step is to see if your child can explain, in her or his own words, what salvation is all about. The key components I’ve looked for in my children’s explanations are an understanding that
- We all sin,
- We all need a savior,
- Christ came to die for us and take away our sin,
- We all must trust Christ to take away our sin,
- They themselves have made a decision to accept Christ’s gift of forgiveness by believing in him and his sacrifice on our behalf.
(NOTE: If this explanation of having your sins forgiven is unfamiliar, here’s an in-depth explanation of how you can have your sins forgiven by God.)
Beyond this step I think it’s helpful to try to go a little deeper in my assessment by gently challenging their understanding. I’ve done this very thing with my kids, not necessarily all at once, but over time by bringing up common misunderstandings of how a person gets into heaven.
I call this a “challenge point.”
Then I see how they respond to the misunderstanding. For example, I might say something like, “So do you think someone can get into heaven if they’re really, really good?” If they hesitate or answer yes, I take this as an opportunity to remind them of the Biblical view of salvation.
If a challenge point shows a misunderstanding, I don’t automatically assume their faith has not been genuine. I instead just take note of it as one indication of where they might be spiritually.
And I watch for a trend over time.
If their misunderstanding of some parts of salvation is in narrow, isolated areas, I still give them the benefit of the doubt that their faith in Christ is sincere and genuine and just in need of some clarification.
However, if their misunderstanding would turn out to be broad in scope, I would be open to the likelihood that they have not made a personal, heartfelt, properly understood decision for Christ.
What If Your Child Seems to Misunderstand Salvation?
If your child seems to show signs of not having yet made a personal decision for Christ, don’t be alarmed. It may simply mean that your child needs more time to mature.
At this point I would pray … and trust God to bring your child to a personal faith in Christ. I would also consistently and patiently continue to train your child in Biblical matters, making sure that the different parts of salvation are occasionally discussed. Don’t press hard here, but just keep the conversations matter-of-fact.
This technique of challenge points is the method I used in Joey’s Baptism to help ensure a child preparing for baptism has a Biblical view of salvation. In Chapter 4, Joey, the main character, says, “Why doesn’t everyone get baptized? That way everyone could be forgiven of their sins.”
It’s a question that young children might wonder themselves.
Joey’s grandpa responds by giving a Biblical view of salvation.
For children who see the error with Joey’s view, Grandpa’s explanation strengthens their own properly understood view of baptism.
For children who have an understanding similar to the view conveyed in Joey’s question, Grandpa’s explanation gently corrects their misunderstanding as it re-enforces the Biblical view.
This challenge point in Joey’s Baptism creates an important final check to confirm that a child really is ready for baptism.
It’s inevitable that we will have blind spots around some areas of our children’s lives. This comes from the natural bias we as parents feel toward our kids; how can we possibly avoid all bias when it comes to the little people we love so dearly. But adjusting our focus and engaging in some simple discussion with our children can eliminate one important blind spot. Before you have your child baptized, take a final check of your child’s spiritual readiness by reviewing her or his understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ. This final check will serve your child well.
Coming Up: In our next mini newsletter article we will cover
Baptism – Is There Really Any Point?.