Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Christian Parenting and the Salvation of Children

Some time ago, I caught up with some Christian parents who were once lecturers at a local bible college. Kindly, patient, God-loving people, they wouldn't think twice about talking about their Lord. But their kids turned out very different. Some were wild and uncontrollable, rebellious and intolerant of their parent's religion. Others were career-obsessed; well-respected at church and at work, they were embarrassed to be known as Christian. They played the piano on Sundays and paid lip service to their childhood religion.

Even Al Stewart, the CEO of Anglican Youthworks in Sydney, confessed that not all his own children were Christian.

I cannot imagine how terrible it is for a Christian parent to have children who do not believe and are not saved. Someone asked,"If your kid grows up turning away from God, hating God, rebelling against God, wouldn't your heart break that you have brought one life into the world only to have him/her condemned to eternal death?"

Children's Relationship with God
The Bible is quite certain that the children of believers belong to God, for God deals with people as family units. So in Abraham's day, circumcision was a sign of the covenant between God and him and his descendants after him), that inter alia, God will be his God and the God of his descendants after him (Genesis 17). And Abraham was circumcised as an indication of the righteousness of faith after he believed. But Isaac was marked with the same sign and seal of salvation before he believed. The continuing infant male circumcision was not a result of faith, but a sign for people to remember God's prior grace, God's previous promise, God's covenant with Abraham and his descendants.

And even in the New Testamental times, Paul noted that the children of believers are, a priori, holy (1 Corinthians 7:14. the same word is translated "saints" or the saved, elsewhere). And he also said to his gaoler,"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:31).

So Glenn Davies says of children of believers:
We treat them as being part of the covenant community from their conception. Our description of them is not dependent upon their first expressing faith, but upon God's gracious promises to be their God. We constantly teach them God's ways, because they belong to God. They, like us, are saved by Christ. Should they die, before they reach the age of being able to articulate their faith, we have every confidence that they are with the Lord. This was the confidence that King David had in the death of his infant, born to Bathsheba:"I shall go to him, but he will not return to me" (2 Samuel 12:23).
However...
we know from biblical history that not all of Abraham's circumcised descendants grew up to have faith in God. The Old Testament is littered with the poignant accounts of people who knew of the existence of God, his promises and what he had done for their forefathers, but rejected God and the covenant that their circumcision signified.
Belonging to God's family is not merely a matter of being born into the family of God; there must also be the response of faith and obedience to the God who has made them their own. Thus Jesus rejects the boast of the leading Jews of his day, who claimed God (the God of Abraham) as their father. True, they were descended from Abraham, but they had not believed in God as Abraham had. In Jesus' words, their true father was the Devil (John 8:39-47). Yet, if they had continued as Abraham did, in faith and obedience, they would have proved themselves to be true children of Abraham, true children of God. This is the essence of Jesus' warning in John 8:31-2,"If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
How then can we bring up a child to know continue in God's word and to know God's truth?
Christian Parenting as Ministry, and Teaching Children

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I. BabyChristian Parenting and Viewing Children
II. BoyChristian Parenting and the Salvation of Children
III. Collage-babystuffChristian Parenting as Ministry, and Teaching Children

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