How Do We Know our Children are Saved?
In our ReformedWomen group, one of our sisters asked an excellent question regarding salvation of our children and 1) what qualities we might expect to see in a young person who loves the Lord and 2) how much interest in the world shows an inordinate love of the world. These are questions all of us as parents ask at some point as we train our children. By request, my answer is below and I thought it might be helpful to you who read my blog that have often asked or thought about this question.
This is truly a hard thing to discern and especially for those of us who came up in churches where salvation was accepted as part and parcel of our decision-making. Having been on the Arminian side of the fence in my early years, it was more what a teen or young person did “outwardly” in profession rather than a “heart attitude” of submission to Christ. We cannot judge the heart, only our God can, but He does give us the tools and command to be judges of believing fruit in not only our own lives but those of our children and family. This, of course, does not mean that because we sin or our children sin (either young children or teens), that we are not believers but, as the Word of God teaches, we will not “continue in sin” because a continuance in sin is a public acknowledgement of an unbelieving heart.
Our children, many times are taught, as well they should be, the Bible, Catechisms, Christian literature, homeschooling from a Christian world and life view perspective and, from the day-to-day life of living in a Christian home and thus living and acting like a Christian is normal. Sadly, many times the profession is only what they have learned and obeyed but it is not a real heart-changing, life-changing position in Christ. It sometimes reveals itself early in the teen years and other times after the teen has left home to college, marriage, career or life on their own. I have personally counseled many, many women (and counseled families with DH) and have been saddened many times by the percent of children who are “outwardly” the perfect Christian children who later are revealed to be in unbelief. I have seen it in my own family and I am experiencing it now with a nephew. One of my dearest elder friends had two lovely Christian daughters and both were just “perfect” in walk, talk and Christian profession who went off to Christian colleges, met young men and ended up leaving the Christian colleges for secular ones and eventually married these men who were practicing Catholics and they later became Catholics themselves and brought much pain and suffering on their parents and grandparents. It is a story that you hear in church, in women’s groups, in families often and one in which I am sure, as the Bible teaches us in its personal stories, one of great pain and suffering for the family. I am reminded often of Romans 9:13 ” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” thus showing God’s election to salvation even in families of God-loving believers. Thus we are reminded that God chooses His elect and ordains them to eternal life and as His children we do not know or are not promised if all, any or some of our children or family members will be saved. God is perfect in His election and we know that all that He does is good, just and right for our good and His glory. Having said this, we are then to “examine” the fruit of our children, as you are doing here, and looking for help in doing so that you are a good steward of your responsibilities as a parent and as a sister-in-Christ for other women.
One of the ways I believe we can examine our children’s fruitfulness is their “heart” attitude in all that they do. Some questions to ponder:
- Do they love God above all else?
- Love His Word, music, worship, praise, people, church, activities and application of Christian world and life view to everything?
- Do they want to spend “quality” and “quantity” time in the things of God?
- Do they want to please their parents and do what is “just and proper” in the sight of God?
- Do they have generous spirit and giving heart?
- Do they obey those that rule over them, including their parents?
- Do they respect their elders and those older than themselves?
- Are they kind, tenderhearted, humble and forgiving?
- Is their love shown in what they say and do?
- Do they love God more than the things of the world, i.e., the lust of eyes, flesh and pride of life?
- Is God in their future plans in education, career and marriage?
- Have they made public profession of faith, exercised their faith and witness to others of their faith?
- Are they obedient to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper?
These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself as you examine fruit. Jesus has clearly said, “you will know them by their fruit” meaning that we will most assuredly know, as we are given to know, our spirit with their spirit, that they are the children of God by this examination. We cannot know “perfectly” as only God knows who His elect really are but we can be assured in that we can say “this child has the fruit of a child of God” and thus we consider him/her God’s elect child. These are hard things because sometimes those that we believe so much to be children of God prove themselves to be strangers to the family of God in later years.
Then we have the case of the disobedient child that does not bear any fruit of believing or obedience and it signals us that this child does not know Christ and we have the blessing of being able to pray for this child and witness Christ in life, word, love and deed. So many believers come from the “Legion” camp of unbelief, whether professors at an early age, or a total apostate who Christ had mercy on and gave new life to, or had no Christian upbringing. In my family alone, all five of us professed Christ all through our early years and then as adults left off to do our “own thing.” By God’s mercy and grace, as He promised, all of us have come back to the fold and have a true profession of faith and serve Christ. Thus, because we are obedient as children or teens, or if we are not obedient, is not a total test of our future in Christ. Christ is the Saviour and we are saved by His perfect obedience, not anything we can, have or will do will change that position as it was determined in Christ “before the foundation of the world” and thus is a surety forever. This should give us much hope for our children and loved ones whether they be professors or not. Christ has said, “now you are washed, now you are clean” and it is His cleaning, His washing that is in view and is what we, as the believers must pray for without ceasing for our children and loved ones. God’s deliverance is what we desire more than anything else for them and as He has said, “today is the day of salvation” so we pray for them, for their walk, for their love of Christ and for all those things mentioned above that God will have mercy on them, open their hearts and minds to the love of God which is the greatest and most important thing in their lives.
Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” A child of God will seek Christ and His Kingdom first. He will “love not the world and the things of the world” and will not have an inordinate love or desire of the world. He will look for Christ and Christ’s Kingdom and His coming again. He will look for those things that the Bible teaches and are good for his soul and that delights the Lord. This does not mean that he does not participate in the world, i.e, career, enjoy the blessings of it, seek education, music, the arts, etc., but it means that they will not be his heart’s desire or life. Christ will be his life and these other things will be secondary. The old adage works…”you are what you do, read, enjoy, seek, love” and this defines us. If we love the world and spend most of our time thinking about it and all it gives, brings, etc., we must question our own hearts and “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”
I pray this helps parents as they train their children in righteousness and help them “make their calling and election clear.” These are difficult things as I have said many times. God is the only justifier and knower of the heart and we see through a glass darkly in all these things but perhaps they will help you in your desire to do what is good on behalf of those you minister to.
Blessings in Christ, for His glory,
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Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.