I remember the day my firstborn made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ at age 4. It was a day of much rejoicing in our household, and in the households of grandparents and other extended family members as the news spread. But was my child really saved?
Yet, in the midst of our joy and for many days afterward, my husband and I remained prayerful, very much aware of these sobering words spoken by Jesus:
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. 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?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
Jesus is teaching here that it’s possible to be deceived about our salvation. A serious consideration for all of us, it seems especially so for those who make a profession of faith at a young age.
After all, how much do they really understand?
Do they have enough information and awareness to “count the cost” (Luke 14:25-34) of following Jesus?
How can we best shepherd our children in the wake of a decision to surrender to Christ?
These questions were important to me and my husband after our daughter first prayed a prayer of salvation. Perhaps the steps we took will be helpful in your parenting, as well.
Helping Your Child Find Assurance of Salvation
1.) Pray for your child.
God does not want anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). So we can infer that He doesn’t want earnestly seeking people to be deceived about the state of our hearts before Him.
Ask Him to lead you and your child, and beckon His Spirit to either convict their heart that they’re not saved, or confirm that they are.
2.) Look for fruit.
Matthew 7:15-20 teaches that true Christ-followers are distinguishable by our fruit, those qualities that are evidenced in our attitudes, words, and actions. Keeping in mind that you’re looking for growth, and not perfection, what spiritual fruit are you seeing in the life of your child? Some of these include:
- Repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10-13)
- Obedience (John 14:21)
- Good works (James 2:14-17)
- Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
If you see these proofs of God’s work in the heart of your child, let them know! This will affirm to them they are part of a real relationship with a real God who does real work in His people. If you don’t see these fruits, continue in prayer and in the next two steps.
3.) Converse willingly.
It’s typically not helpful to openly express doubt about your child’s salvation. If they come to you with doubts of their own, accept their invitation to have conversations about what’s bothering them. Point them to specific Scriptures as much as possible.
In the meantime, trust that the Holy Spirit will do His work of conviction (John 16:8), and prepare yourself for discussions that will happen when your child is ready.
4.) Study 1 John together.
This little book toward the end of the Bible offers an invaluable description of what a Christian’s life looks like. It’s not meant to be a “to-do list” as a means of earning our salvation. Instead, it’s a vividly painted picture of what a Christian becomes by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.
Join your child in examining each verse. Pick up a spiral notebook and help him record in his own words every description of the Christian life. Depending on the age of your child, this will likely require several weeks or more—that’s okay! Take whatever time is needed to investigate the book thoughtfully and thoroughly.
For example, the entries for 1 John 1:6-8 might look like this:
- 1:6 – Christians do not walk in darkness.
- 1:7 – Christians walk in the light, have fellowship with other Christians, and are cleansed from their sin.
- 1:8 – Christians don’t deny their sins, but admit them.
When you and your child finish this exercise for the entire book, go back through the list and prayerfully consider each element together. Help them compare their life to the one described in 1 John. What are the consistencies? What are the discrepancies?
Continue conversing with them, and guide them in caring for any unfinished business God reveals by His Spirit through His Word.
Let God Strengthen Your Faith
After about a year of praying for our daughter without seeing fruit in her life, she began sharing with us that she was doubting her salvation. This was a direct answer to our prayers.
When her first fleeting remark became more persistent questions and worries about whether she was saved, we were able to tackle this issue together over a period of several weeks, through which the Lord revealed to her that she had not actually been saved before. This, too, was a direct answer to our prayers.
How thrilled my heart was when she made a more informed decision and began developing spiritual fruit soon thereafter! Yes, another answer to our prayers.
I’m sure you, too, have seen God’s trustworthiness in your life and in the life of your child. Let His past faithfulness inspire your confidence in His care for your child’s soul.