Has Your Child Made Their Faith Their Own?

October 12, 2023

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In this episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast, Elizabeth Urbanowicz addresses a concern close to the hearts of many Christian parents: discerning if a child has sincerely embraced their faith. Elizabeth underscores the notion that true knowledge of a believer's heart belongs only to God. Yet, she identifies several indicative behaviors parents can observe, such as an unprompted interest in divine matters, noticeable conviction and repentance, and a growing embodiment of the fruits of the spirit. Elizabeth cautions, however, that these behaviors are not absolute confirmations of genuine faith. Join us for a discussion on nurturing and recognizing your child's spiritual development.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast, where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "How can I tell if my child has made his faith his own?". That's a really important question for us to think through as we are discipling the children that God has placed in our care.

Before we dive down deep into answering that question today, once again I would ask that if you have found the content of this podcast beneficial, please make sure you like and subscribe so that you never miss any future episodes, and also ask that you would invest time or writing a review so that more people can find this content and we can equip as many children as possible to understand the truth of the biblical worldview.

Now, as we think through, what are the evidences of a child having made his or her faith their own, this is really a tricky question because ultimately, whether we're talking about a child or a teen or even an adult, we can never be 100% certain that someone has repented of their sin and been reconciled to God because only God knows who is genuinely a follower of Christ. However, we can look for fruit in the lives of our children and we are wise to do so, but we do need to do that with an understanding of we can never be a hundred percent certain that our children are Christians or that our children have made their faith their own. I mean, even scripture is clear about this. Think about the New Testament where Jesus is clear that not everyone who cries to him "Lord, Lord" is actually his follower.

Then think about the parable of the soils. There are some soils where the seeds actually take root and they grow and they mature into plants. There's other soils that are hard and rocky. Sometimes in people's lives, it's easier for us to discern when someone's hard, rocky soil because those seeds never take root. But then when we think about the thorny soil or the soil that, oh goodness, I'm blanking out on the fourth type of soil, oh, the soil where the birds come and eat it. We can never be a hundred percent certain because those soils, it looks like someone is actually a Christian, but then as time passes, those seeds are either choked by the cares of the world or they're eaten by the birds. And so we want to be careful that we're not thinking like, "oh, my child shows these evidences, therefore they're a Christian. I don't need to worry about them anymore".

Even think about the apostle Paul and the people that he wrote about in his letters, in his letters to the church at Colossi and the Colossians, and then his letter again to Philemon. Paul gives greetings to his audience from a follower of Jesus who he thinks is a follower of Jesus named Demas. Yet then in second Timothy, Paul writes to Timothy and says, "for Demas in love with this present world has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica". So here to the church at Colossi and then to Philemon, again, Paul gave greetings from this man named Demas and then eventually Demas deserted him.

And we see examples of this in the modern church. I mean, think here's a prominent example, I'm sure there's thousands and thousands of small scale examples we could think of, but think even of the example of Joshua Harris who has recently deconstructed his faith. I am quite certain that when he was a bestselling Christian author, when he wrote, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye", when he was a pastor at a very large church, when he was a very prominent figure in the Gospel Coalition. I'm pretty sure that his parents, along with the rest of us in Christianity, thought that he was a believer where now he has deconstructed his faith.

So I'm going to go into a little bit of the evidences that we can look for to see if our children are showing fruit, that they have made their faith their own, that they genuinely are Christians. But I want to start off with just this warning, that is a biblical warning, that only God ultimately knows who are those who have been reconciled to him and saved from their sin. And also just something really important for us to think through is that we should always, always be praying for our children. Whether our children are in utero, whether they're just toddlers or babies, whether they're growing up in our home, whether they're in college or adults, even if they have eventually one day when they're married and have their own children, we should still be praying for them because they are constantly in a spiritual battle as we are as well.

And we need to make sure that we don't buy into naturalism or materialism and just thinking, "oh, everything we can see - that's what's real" because scripture is very clear that we are in a real spiritual battle. I think the first passage of scripture most of us think about when we think about spiritual battles is the sixth chapter of Ephesians. And in Ephesians chapter six, verses 10 through 13, Paul writes "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm."

And so this is the real spiritual battle that we and our children are in daily. And so we need to make sure that we are praying for our children every single day because the enemy of their souls does not want them to be reconciled in their relationship to God. And once they are reconciled in their relationship to God, the enemy of their souls wants to keep them from growing in that relationship and bearing fruit.

A few things that I think we can look for as evidences of, is my child genuinely a Christian? Has my child actually made their faith their own? One thing that we can look for as an evidence is does our child desire the things of God? Does our child actually desire the things of God? When we do family scripture reading, is our child a willing participant? Does our child participate in prayer? Does our child pray on his or her own? Is our child actively a part of corporate worship? So does our child actually desire the things of God? And if the answer is no or we're not sure, we should be praying that God would soften his or her heart and stir the affections of their heart toward God. That they would desire the things of God. If our child demonstrates evidence of desiring the things of God, we should be praying that they will continue to desire these things.

Another question that we should ask ourselves is, is our child easily convicted of sin and quick to repent? Is our child easily convicted of sin and quick to repent? Now, we can have a child with an overactive conscience who struggles with perfectionism and that conviction of sin and quick to repent could stem from perfectionism, but it could also stem from genuine conviction of the Holy Spirit. And so if our child is easily convicted of his or her sin and comes and confesses and repents even when they're not caught in that sin, that is good evidence that they have made their faith their own, that they are genuinely a believer.

And again, if our child is not easily convicted of sin, if when they hit a sibling or they lie or they do something that we've told them not to do and they deliberately disobey, or when they have a bad attitude, if they're not convicted of that sin, even when you confront them, that's something again to pray that God would soften their heart. Because we do need to put in the hard work of making sure that we are implementing the things of God in our homes, and we do need to make sure that we are holding our children accountable to the biblical standards of behavior. It is imperative that we do that. However, we cannot take a heart of stone and turn it into a heart of flesh. So if our child has a very hard heart, we need to continue to implement those things in our home and be consistently praying for them because we want to avoid the two extremes that Christian parents tend to go towards.

One extreme is just thinking that it's everything that we're doing that is going to help our children come to know Jesus, and we're living as if it all depends on us and not recognizing that there is the working of the Holy Spirit. So we want to avoid that extreme where we also want to avoid the other extreme, which is just let go and let God, and we completely abdicate any responsibility in the formation of our children's faith. That we want to avoid both of those extremes and recognize that yes, we have important work to do to be faithful to our calling, to bring up these children in the fear and instruction of the Lord, and we also have to rely on the work of the Holy Spirit because there is a work that only he can do.

Another evidence that I think we should look for is, does our child seek the things of God without our prompting? Does our child read scripture? Does our child pray? Does our child seek to serve others without our prompting? For those of you who have gone through our "Foundation Studying the Bible Curriculum" with the kids that God has placed in your care, you know that that's what we're trying to do throughout that whole curriculum is we're trying to set them up with the skills that they need to soundly, read, interpret, and apply scripture so that they are equipped to seek the things of God without our prompting. So that's again that balance that we need to make sure that we are giving our kids the skills that they need to soundly, read, interpret, and apply scripture. However, the developing the affection for that and the desire to do that on their own without our prompting, that's something that only the Holy Spirit can develop in them. So again, does our child seek the things of God without our prompting?

The next thing that I think we can look for is our child growing in the fruits of the spirit. As we look at our child's life this year, do they demonstrate those fruits, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Do they demonstrate those fruits more this year than they did last year?

Now, I don't mean are our children perfect because I don't know when the last time as you looked at your life, but I know the last time I looked at my life, I'm very, very far from perfect. I have a lot of room for the Holy Spirit to grow me and love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. However, when I look at my life this year, I know that I demonstrate those fruits more than I did at this time last year and more than I did at this time two years ago and five years ago and 10 years ago and 15 years ago. So is our child consistently growing in these fruits of the spirit?

And sometimes it's hard for us to recognize this in the here and now. I mean, think about when you go and visit family who you haven't visited in a while, and those family members are like, "oh my goodness, your son is so much taller than the last time I saw him". Or they can notice all of these things that are changes in your children that you don't really notice because you were with them 24/7. And these changes happen very slowly and gradually. And so sometimes it's the same with developing the fruits of the spirit that we might not notice this change in our child because we are with him or her every single day.

So this is another thing. You can be praying that God would develop these fruits of the spirit in your child and that God would also open up your eyes to ways in which your child is growing in these fruits. Because sometimes we just naturally don't notice them. So just be praying, God, if you have been growing my son or my daughter in the fruits of your Holy Spirit, would you please open up my eyes to that and let me see. And if there really hasn't been any growth there because my child maybe is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit yet, please open my eyes to that as well.

And then a final thing that I think we can ask ourselves is our child over the age of eight. Now, that might sound like a little bit of a strange thing to ask ourselves, but I do genuinely believe that children can be reconciled in their relationship to God at very young ages. I myself, I became a Christian at the age of six, and I know that it was real. I know that that's when I understood and believed the gospel and repented of my sin and trusted in Christ, and I know that it really did happen. And so there are children who will be reconciled in their relationship to God before the age of eight.

However, I think before the age of eight, it can be very confusing knowing whether or not our child is actually a Christian because from the ages of eight on down, our children have a natural desire to please us. Now, our children will have somewhat of a desire to please us all throughout their growing up years. However, that desire is very, very strong in those early formative years.

Also, children do not start to develop critical thinking skills really until they are at least the age of eight, when they're able to start considering some perspectives outside of their own. So whatever we tell them, they are going to view as true. So it's usually wise for us to wait until our children are at least eight on up to be able to really discern, "okay, has my child genuinely repentant of their sins and trusted in Christ, or did they just say that because they were excited because I told them about that and they believed everything that I said" when they were four or when they were five or when they were seven? So I think it's generally wise to wait until children are ages eight or older to really begin to discern, "okay, does it seem like my child actually is a Christian and actually loves the things of God?" Or maybe was this just part of a natural developmental stage when they were 3, 4, 5, 6, 7?

These are just some general principles that I think are wise to think through. Again, I want to reiterate, as I said at the beginning of this podcast, that we can never be a hundred percent certain that our children genuinely are followers of Jesus, and we need to be praying for them at every single stage. Even when we feel like, "yes, my child really loves the Lord, my child is doing Bible study by himself on his own, is really excited about participating in family worship and in corporate worship, desires to serve." Those are amazing things, and we want to make sure that we're praying that God would continue drawing that child to Him because we know from examples that not all people who demonstrate faith at the beginning stay the course through the end. And then if we have a child that really has a hard heart or does not desire the things of God that we need to continue implementing these things, these practices in our homes, and praying that God would soften that child's heart because only God can take a heart of stone and turn it into a heart of flesh.

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But if you have a question that you would like for me to answer on a future Foundation Worldview Podcast, you can submit that question by going to Foundation Worldview.com/podcast. As we leave our time together, my prayer is that no matter the situation in which you and the children and God has placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.

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