While growing up in a Christian home is a tremendous blessing, it’s not without its dangers. How can parents affirm their children’s profession of faith and help them cling to Christ for a lifetime?


Intro
The “Gospel Shaped Home” podcast is a family discipleship resource from Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. It aims to equip you and your family to be on mission with God, to the end of the street and the ends of the earth.

Andy Owens
Welcome back to another episode of “Gospel Shaped Home.” I’m Andy Owens, pastor of Family Discipleship here at Providence. And again, I’m joined by dear brother David Michael from Truth 78. David, welcome back.

David Michael
It is my pleasure to be here again with you.

Andy
Well, last episode we talked about prayer, kind of you introduced yourself and talked about your family, whatnot. So, maybe just to, again, introduce yourself a little bit to our listeners who probably haven’t met you, do you have any favorite foods or any hobbies you want to share with us before we dive in?

David
Well, favorite foods. Well, I love ice cream and Handel’s ice cream here in Indiana is the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. And so-

Andy
You come on down to Raleigh and I’ll give you some Two Roosters. That’s a Raleigh specialty here.

David
Oh yeah?

Andy
Yeah.

David
I actually have had Two Roosters ice cream. I forget where it was, they must be a chain, aren’t they? Anyway.

Andy
Maybe by now it is, but yeah, it started here.

David
Maybe. Anyways, but Handels, that’s the first thing that came to mind. If I thought about it, I could probably come up with some other ones.

Andy
Nice.

David
And what was the other question you asked?

Andy
Any hobbies?

David
Oh, hobbies.

Andy
These questions were a surprise for you, our listeners just… he wasn’t prepared for this.

David
I’m a homeowner and I’m in now the third home that I’ve owned. My first one was built in 1880.

Andy
Oh wow.

David
And I grew up in a home that had its needs and my dad was kind of a home handyman, fixer upper, and I adopted a lot of his interests and skills. So, I love actually fixing things and making broken things better. And so, usually in my spare time I’m working on some kind of project in the house or that Sally has for me.

Andy
In that case, we definitely need to get you down to Raleigh to eat Two Roosters ice cream and to help me with some house projects. I’m not quite as handy as I need to be. We’re first-time homeowners and we have a new leak. Well, thanks for being back again, brother. And today we’re actually, we’re going to talk about guiding kids. As parents, most of the people listening to this podcast, you’re a believing parent and you are intentional about teaching your kids the gospel, and you want them to know the Savior. So, how as parents can we guide our kids through these early childhood spiritual experiences, early professions of faith, recognizing that while growing up in a Christian home is a tremendous blessing there are also some dangers associated with being really familiar with the things of God and maybe overly comfortable with the gospel. David, maybe that’s a good jumping-off point. What are some dangers associated with growing up in a Christian home?

David
Well, maybe just to give you a little context here. So, I grew up in a Christian home, godly parents, and I thank God every day. Almost every day, for that blessing. I realized, the longer I lived, just what an extraordinary blessing that was. And yet, a lot of my concerns about children growing up in a Christian home has grown out of my own experience as a child. I think there are, you speak of dangers, that’s probably a good word, risks maybe, to a child growing up in a Christian home. Number one, the risk of giving lip service to faith without genuine heart change and parents putting more confidence in what a child says rather than evidence of genuine faith reflected in the heart. So, that would be one. Second is, it’s easy for children growing up, going to church all their life, growing up in the Christian home, for them to gain knowledge so they know all the right answers.

They know all the questions that are asked they can give good biblical, well good answers to, or at least the answers that they know that their teachers or their parents want to hear but lacking understanding. What is the truth that is beneath that answer? And I think that’s especially with regard to the gospel. Every child knows that it’s important to ask Jesus into your heart. Every child knows that Jesus died for their sins, but you start asking questions like why is sin a problem? How does Jesus’ death solve that problem? What does it mean to ask Jesus into your heart? I mean, good grief, how do you understand that? And I’m talking to adults who have grown up in Christian homes who can’t get much beneath those basic concepts that they learned. So that, I think, is a huge concern.

And then the third is, I struggled as a kid. I accepted Jesus into my heart at age seven, as far as that’s what my mother told me and wrote it in my Bible. But I struggled with assurance for years. Did I really know what I was doing at age seven? Am I really born again? I better raise my hand at this invitation or walk this aisle just to be sure, because I struggled for years, even into young adulthood. I would say with confidence in the fact that I was born again, and it was from just really not understanding what salvation is and where do I find the evidence of it in my life.

Andy
Yeah. There was a few things I thought of as you were sharing those things. And I remember being in college and a brother at a church I was a member of, the last part of my time in college, and he was doing like a Sunday school lesson and he said, “No one ever made much of grace who made little of sin.” If we don’t understand the depth of our problem, we are not going to…the weight of the cross and all this divine anger poured out on the eternal son. Him suffering in our place. It’s going to seem so disproportionate. Like, I don’t get it, what was the big deal? My understanding of the cross, even when I went to college, I was a professing believer but didn’t really understand the gospel.

It was something like, well look how much Jesus did for me, I need to live for him. But I really didn’t think I was as bad and my state was as bad as it really was. I actually read something recently talking about kids and it really kind of highlighted what you just said. And he says we don’t want our children to be stuffed with knowledge and starving for wisdom. Right?

David
That’s good.

Andy
Having these answers, oh yeah, we sinned, Jesus died for us, but without feeling the weight of those truths. So brother, what can believing parents do to guard against that risk, to mitigate that risk, and to help their children really feel the weight of these truths? Now, obviously there’s prayer. We just did that episode last week. That’s probably the first answer, but what else? I mean, or you can say that again if you want, but yeah.

David
For sure, yeah. Ultimately, it’s God who turns the heart and it’s God who opens eyes to see sin for what it really is. And it’s God who opens our eyes to see Jesus for who he is and to recognize our needs. So, absolutely prayer. And then, I think faithful instruction, formal instruction, where you’re sitting down, you’re helping, just opening the Bible to our children, helping them to understand their need, their brokenness coming into the world, in need of transformation, new life in Christ. So faithful, biblical instruction. And then, I think there’s a lot of instruction that we need to do. Deuteronomy 6 format where you’re walking along the way when you rise up, when you lie down. Lots of opportunities. I think one of the best opportunities God gives us in raising our children is family conflict. Conflict with brothers and sisters and moms and dads, where our kids sin. We sin against each other. And there you see, you get a glimpse of what’s going on in the heart of a child. How do they respond when they’ve sinned against someone? Where they’ve lied, stolen, hurt? What…

Andy
I mean, those things don’t happen in my family, but I’ve heard they do in other people’s families.

David
Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard too, yeah right. But Ken Sande wrote a book, “The Peacemaker,” and they’ve actually got a version of this and “The Young Peacemaker,” but that tool we just used with our kids where you’re getting them to acknowledge their… So, they sin against a sibling say, can they admit their sin? That’s huge. If I can learn to admit my sin against my brother, that opens the door to them admitting their sins against God. And in fact, in those conflict situations, we routinely helped our daughters understand, “Okay, you not only sinned against your sister, but ultimately you have sinned against God and you need to turn from that sin and you need to repent from that sin.” And so, I just think one of the reasons God gives us conflict in our homes is to point us to the gospel and what’s the root of forgiveness. So, teaching that offended sibling to forgive. And what does it mean when I forgive? And that opens the door for our children to understanding what it means for God to forgive.

Andy
That’s really helpful because, I think, even the first kind of danger you mentioned of giving of lip service to the faith without genuine heart change. When we obviously want to call our children again and again and again, to faith in Christ, but a recognition that biblical faith always goes hand in hand with repentance from sin is a helpful point here. Because there’s a certain type of faith that James talks about that’s doesn’t have works with it, that’s merely a verbal assent or declaration that doesn’t flow from a heart transformed by God’s grace. And biblically, a picture of saving faith is we recognize the sinfulness of sin and there’s an element of repulsion from it, of conviction over it, and of turning from it to God in faith and saying, “God, I need you. And I’m so glad that Christ is the sacrifice to cleanse me from this sin and to rescue me.” And so, those moments of conflict are a great opportunity to help our kids see what’s really going on in their hearts and what God is really calling them to is to turn from that to Christ in faith.

David
One of the things that probably happens in almost every home is, we say, “Okay, tell your sister, you’re sorry.” How they respond to that moment is a pointer to what’s going on in the heart. They just say, “Sorry,” Well okay, she said the words, sorry, but there’s no heart behind it. And that’s what we’re looking at spiritually is okay, you can tell a child, “Okay, tell God you’re sorry.” “Sorry, God.” But there’s no brokenness. There’s no repentance. There’s no sorrow. And there’s no plead, “God, I keep blowing it here time and again. I keep saying things that I shouldn’t be saying to my sister. God, help me. I can’t do this without your help.” I mean, a child who’s responding that way in a conflict situation, that’s a good indicator that there’s something spiritually going on in that child that’s giving them a repentant heart, a heart that is inclined to recognize to see their need, see what their sin is. See their sin for what it is, and a brokenness over sin which sets them up, I think, it’s a pointer to what’s going on in their relationship with God.

Andy
Yeah. I mean, it puts them in the position to receive grace from God when they recognize brokenness.

David
Right, exactly.

Andy
And need. And so, the other thought that I’d love to ask you to speak to quickly as we wrap this episode up, is the whole issue of assurance of faith. I think there’s a tendency often to try to make assurance kind of a cold logical syllogism, “Hey, you asked Jesus into your heart or you trusted Jesus therefore you are saved, don’t ever doubt it.” And obviously, we want to encourage kids to trust the faithfulness of his promise and that when he says, “I will not lose any of those who come to me, I’ll never cast them out. I will raise them up and give them everlasting life,” we want them to take him at his word. But, I think locating the ground of our assurance, not in a decision made at some point in the past, but in ongoing faith in Christ. So, any encouragement for parents in how to cultivate that mindset with their kids?

David
Yeah, I would, first of all say, I believe with all my heart that a three-year old can be saved, transformed out of darkness into light. So, I don’t minimize when a parent will come up to me and say, “Last Saturday night, my child came in, they were scared about, they got thinking about death and they were scared and I told them about why they don’t have to fear death and they accepted Jesus into their heart.” And I want to say praise God, but I want to encourage that parent to give thanks for bringing their child to that moment, to praise God and to rejoice with that child, that there’s evidence of a heart that is being open to the truth. And I would also say, let’s give this some time. Let’s be careful not to jump to conclusions with regard to their faith until we see more evidence of fruit.

I think so often parents jump too quickly there and assume, okay, my child is a believer, and then focus on sanctification when really, four or five, six years down the road where the child seems to have very little affection for God, very little desire to follow in obedience. And we wonder what am I doing wrong? Well, maybe the issue is the child is not yet born again. One of the things I encourage parents is to just look for evidence of grace, and every time you see evidence of God at work in your child, you should rejoice and praise God for that. So, don’t minimize those things. Just be cautious about giving…

Andy
A final verdict.

David
… yourselves or your child assurance because those things just take some time for a child to mature and for the evidence to come, be drawn, just for that evidence to appear.

Andy
Yeah, yeah. That’s good. That’s really helpful. Well, David, thank you again for joining us today. It’s a blessing to have you here. And obviously, we haven’t exhausted this conversation, so if some of our listeners want to think further about these things, you’ve written a little booklet, “Established in the Faith.” Do you want to give our listeners a quick overview of what that is and how it might be helpful?

David
Yeah, thank you. One of the challenges with a brief interview like this is that there’s so much more that I feel like I want to say. So that booklet, there’s more that we could have said in this time together, and you would find most of what’s on my heart with regard to this topic in that little booklet. We actually originally created that booklet for use in the church to help prepare young people for baptism. And it really walks through, it’s really a tool that parents can use, and particularly dads actually, where you make sure before a child is baptized, or if you just want to make sure, check-in to see where they’re at, you walk through basic understanding of the gospel, the whole issue of assurance of salvation.

You bring them to a place where they consciously, decisively affirm their faith in Christ. You explain the meaning of baptism, and it basically is a tool ideally, I think, for dads to sit down with their child and to discern, to help them discern, where they’re at spiritually around that 11, 12, 13, 14-year-old age where I think they’re most open in response to something like this.

Andy
Okay, great. Well, thank you for your labor in writing that. I hope that it will be a blessing to some of you, our listeners. I just want to wrap this conversation up by encouraging you that if your child is indicating trust in Christ, like David has said, rejoice with them, celebrate that, but don’t ever stop rejoicing most in Christ and glorying in his gospel and the good news that he came to seek and to save the lost, that he bought us out of sin by his blood. And keep making the main thing, the main thing, because whether it’s coming to faith for first time or persevering in faith for a lifetime, we need the gospel. We need the good news. So, the profession of faith in baptism, it’s not the finish line. It’s a huge milestone and we praise God for it, but ultimately keep proclaiming Christ and the good news. David, thanks again for joining. Glad to have you.

David
It’s my pleasure. Thank you.

Andy
And to our listeners, thank you. And I look forward to seeing you on the next episode. Bye.

Outro
Thanks for listening to this episode of the “Gospel Shaped Home” podcast produced by Providence Baptist Church of Raleigh, North Carolina. For more information and resources from Providence, visit us online at pray.org. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please consider subscribing and leaving a review on Apple Podcasts.