FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 17, number 18, May 10, 2018
“For the promise is for you and your children. . .” -Acts 2:39
Evangelizing Your Children
Perhaps the most grievous thing to me in all my years of ministry is to see children of the covenant, those who were baptized as infants, who were catechized by their parents with the Westminster Shorter Catechism, who received morning and evening family worship, who attended Sunday morning and evening worship, having listened to two thousand or more sermons, who often attended Christian schools for twelve years, and perhaps even another four years of a Christian college, at some point in their twenties, denounce the faith of their fathers. In other words, they have apostatized from the faith.
Why does this happen and what should we do about it? It is true that parents have sometimes been too hard, too rigid with their children. It is also true that parents have sometimes been hypocritical and children “see through” the hypocrisy. It is also true, as Paul the Apostle says, that bad friends corrupt good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33) and sometimes children follow the wrong crowd at school. And we can also add that children are sometimes ill prepared for college and lack a solid Christian worldview and thus are unable to stand against the secularism and skepticism of their college professors.
However there is a much more basic and fundamental reason why covenant children apostatize from the faith. They are born, as we all are, with the imputation of Adam’s sin. Due to Adam’s fall into sin (he who is our covenant head), we all have sinned in him (Romans 5:12-14). Thus, to borrow from Jeremiah, our children are born with a deceitful and wicked heart (Jeremiah 17:9). King David says our hearts work unrighteousness, we weigh out violence with our hands, we are estranged from the womb, we go astray at birth, we have venom like the venom of a cobra (Psalm 58:3,4). We all rejoice when we hold our precious new born children in our arms. However those wonderful bundles of joy, some fifteen to twenty years later, often devastate us with all manner of rebellion. When they were young they warmed your heart, but perhaps when they grew older, they broke your heart.
The problem with much of our evangelism, especially as it comes to our children, is that we use a “justification only” approach, urging them to “accept” Christ, to pray a prayer to ask Jesus into their hearts. The problem, however, according to Jeremiah 17:9, Psalm 58:3,4 and many other passages is that Jesus does not want their hearts. Why? Because they are deceitful. They are like a cobra. Their hearts work unrighteousness and weigh out violence. The poison of asps is under their lips. There is no fear of God before their eyes. Their feet are swift to shed innocent blood. No, asking Jesus into their hearts will never work. Jesus does not want to enter their corrupt, wicked, vile hearts. Instead He must kill their wicked hearts. How? By exterminating them on the cross of Jesus. If you found a copperhead snake in your bedroom, what would you do? You would kill it, even if it was a baby copperhead. You cannot live with a poisonous snake in your house. God will not reside, by the Holy Spirit, in a corrupt, deadly heart.
So, let’s assume for a moment that your children are older, out of the home, and they have rejected all you have taught them all their lives. What then? Well, you have probably said all you can say. They probably do not want to listen any longer to you, so you must pray. But what, specifically do you ask God to do? You ask Him to kill the cobra heart residing in your grown children by regenerating them by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. They do not merely need more information. They must be born again. You keep praying daily, without ceasing, until you die or they are saved.
But what if your children are still living at home? What if you are a grandparent and your grandchildren give evidence of faith. They seem to enjoy Sunday School, worship services, memorizing the Shorter Catechism, etc. What then? Do not assume they are in Christ. Until they are born again, until God miraculously kills the cobra heart and gives them the heart of Jesus in regenerating grace, they are as lost as anyone who has never heard the gospel of grace. Yes, they have the benefits of baptism and growing up in a covenant community, but they are still lost. They still have a rebellious heart which is deceitful and wicked. So, you pray daily for your children or grandchildren and pray very specifically. Ask God to regenerate them, to do a mighty work of conviction of sin, moving them to call on the name of the Lord to save them, by causing them to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
But what is the tenor of your prayer? You must understand what the Syrophonecian woman of Mark 7 and Matthew 15 came to understand about her daughter whom she referred to as cruelly demon possessed. She knew her child was in utter darkness, under the control of a demon. No doubt the mother had tried everything she knew to relieve her daughter of her demonic possession but nothing worked. She came to understand that only Jesus could remedy her daughter’s situation. The mother was totally dependent upon God.
Do you really understand that this is your situation with your apostate child or grandchild? It is not that he or she is merely hanging out with the wrong people, or has been adversely affected by a secular professor. Your child or grandchild is in darkness. He is under the control of the evil one. She is living according to the course of this world. He is indulging the desires of the heart and mind. She is under the wrath of God and there is absolutely nothing you can do in yourself to change the situation.
Therefore you must have a sense of despair. Unless God shows up then she will continue in this state and die and go to hell in due time. Therefore the only thing for you to do is totally to surrender to God’s sovereign grace and mercy, asking for the Holy Spirit to do what you cannot do-give new life. And while you have a sense of despair and surrender totally to the Lord’s work, you live not as one without hope. My dear friends, as I often say, there is always hope in Jesus. Never doubt what He can do. Pray, asking, expecting Him to regenerate your child or grandchild. Pray until you receive the answer. Never, never give up.
It should go without saying that beating yourself up for failure to catechize or have daily worship times will do you no good. All of us could do better, and if you need to do so, then by all means make the effort. But remember, this is God’s work. He must cause your child to be born again. Pray, seeing the darkness and despair unless He shows up. Surrender to Him. Wait on Him to do His gracious work.