how young is too young for a salvation decision?

in the past week i have several opportunities to have a very similar conversation with totally unrelated people.

when that happens, there is usually something more going on. something i’m supposed to pay attention to. in this case, something i’m supposed to write about.

perhaps by now you are wondering what i’m talking about. i hope so, because that means you’re still reading. it’s the relationship we have with Jesus.

i’ve talked to several families who have young children that want to answer the call they hear in their heart from God… but their parents didn’t think they were “ready” or they just wanted to make sure. (i have a theory on this that i’ll get to in a minute). to be honest, it wasnt until i really dealt with this issue with my youngest child recently that i  sort of broke it down in my brain about what i think. although, if i look back, i know what i believe about it.

•i believe that when Jesus says let the little children come to me, he actually means it.

•i also believe that a personal relationship with Jesus – is just that, a personal relationship. its not something we can do for our child, though we wish we could… but given this idea,  i wonder why some parents think they need to stand in the way of it.

here are some ways to think about this whole idea that I think will help you understand that it is not about you, but about your child and the fact that they are able to hear God’s call:

-we begin to expect our kids to understand rules and obedience at an early age. at 1 1/2 or 2 we really expect them to understand our expectations and meet them. this expectation continues to increase as they mature

… why then, would we question whether they can understand the gospel when we present it to them repeatedly as part of training them?

-we know that our own relationship with Christ is personal, and not facilitated or allowed by another human – it is our personal decision to believe the truth in the Bible

… why then do we think that their personal relationship with Christ would be between you. them. and God?

-we worry about saying the wrong thing when we do talk to them about salvation

… why do we think this is different than anytime we are asked to share our testimony with anyone else? why do we think it has so much to do with US and OUR WORDS and stop trusting the Holy Spirit to be able to handle counseling our child (which is a child that God has allowed you to raise, but is His child first)

-we know that Jesus said let the little children to come unto me, and desires that we have “faith like a child”

… why then, when our child shows up with this faith that God himself talked about in the Bible, do we dismiss the validity of their decision or understanding?

-we tell them the truth of the Bible and the need for Jesus Christ as a Savior from the earliest lessons learned in preschool “GOD LOVES ME” to the progression of truths we share with them as they grow “I AM A SINNER and NEED A SAVIOR”

…why then, when they want to embrace this promise of heaven and freedom from the sting of death do we want to stave them off?

-we claim concern that they are only making a decision out of their fear of hell, instead of their desire for Christ

…can we agree that the Bible says that fear is the beginning of wisdom and that the disciples didn’t sugar coat the consequences of not receiving Christ. They were sharing with people about Jesus to rescue them from an eternity in hell. wasn’t your own decision to follow Christ born out of your desire to avoid hell? if that didn’t figure into your decision at least on some level, then we probably need to get together and chat… i have good news for you. Jesus came to save you from hell and give you access to heaven with Him. In this case, fear of not choosing God is a very healthy fear and a legitimate reason to choose to follow Jesus, it’s a fear He wants to see you.

Yes, life as a believer is a better life, but largely because of the peace that we get by knowing our eternity is secure.

This is one of the primary things that I think causes us to try to “hold off” their salvation decision: we had a time of questioning our faith in our own walk. we carry that memory and somehow think that maybe we our personal decision too soon, and didn’t know what we were doing, and that was what caused us to question. this is a subconscious thing that can create this reaction, but do you see the failed logic? do you really think it hurt you that early in life you had a tenderness and understanding of your need for Jesus… and this somehow thwarted your growth? i would say that the early decisions begin an eternal relationship that we will continue to grow and understand as we age. it has never hurt someone to have a personal experience with the God of the Universe. Think about this: you are a more mature believer now than you were 5 years ago, and hopefully in 5 years from now you will be an even more mature believer. So, too, will their understanding grow… but as a believer they have the power of the Holy Spirit to counsel them.

i heard the story this week of a child who expressed her desire to enter into a relationship with Christ and was told she wasn’t ready by her church leaders. they took it upon themselves to determine the spiritual state of her heart and the goal in this case was that the child began to hate going to church. she stopped telling her parents she loved them because she was learned from this experience to think that she wasn’t capable of understanding her own feelings.

i’m sure we can all agree that this doesn’t sound like something that would ensure that she would understand better later on, but rather hindered her growth for the whole time. she believed that she was in danger of going to hell for all of that time because she wasnt allowed to “pray the prayer”. i would contend that when she expressed her desire in her heart to follow Christ – that was the moment that she said yes and became part of the forever family of believers. it wasnt recognized or celebrated at the time, and caused an unnecessary time of pain and frankly endangered her relationship with the church.

now, i’ll tell you the story of my youngest child – she  was 5 on the Christmas day that this story begins. early that morning, before anyone came downstairs to see what Santa had brough, her sisters shared the gospel with her and told her they wanted to know she would be in heaven with them. she decided then that she wanted that assurance and the girls prayed with her. later they related this to me, but frankly, i discounted this experience, primarily because i didn’t witness it myself. (the older kids had made decisions at early ages, so it wasnt that i didn’t believe it was possible, i just didn’t see it happen so I doubted it).

so, fast forward to this spring (she is now 7, so she as at the end of being 6). blaikie told me she wanted to get baptized. i thought that was great but then i told her, well, there is something that needs to happen before you can get baptized. you have to acknowledge your need for Jesus and receive his gift of eternal life. she said she had. i said, well, i’m not sure about that. she started to bawl. she was devastated that i was questioning her faith decision. i regrouped and said, ok, tell me about it then (still with skepticism) and she proceeded to recount for me the moment that she said yes to Jesus. I said, ok, well, you have to tell Pastor Jason and then we will know that it’s  legit and we can see about getting baptized. she was irritated that i would ask her to take more steps before accepting the truth of her decision. i suggested that she write down her experience (for both of our sakes)

 

Last summer, I was leading a camp for some kids. In one group in particular, the parents specifically asked that we not share the gospel because they didn’t want someone besides them to be there for their kids’ decisions. I understand the parental desire, on one hand, but on the other hand… IT”S NOT ABOUT YOU, IT’s ABOUT THEM AND THEIR PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST.

if it was my kid and they had an opportunity to hear the gospel in a way that might reach them in particular, i want them to hear it.

the main thing is to make sure that they hear the truth as much as possible, and have every opportunity to embrace it for themselves.

she knew what she was doing. she said YES!

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3 thoughts on “how young is too young for a salvation decision?

  1. William says:

    Interesting – you may have caused me to let go of a little control on this issue. One thing I think does need to be addressed is kids that “accept” Jesus on a large scale, such as at camp. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t done out of it just being the “thing to do.” When you ask a child how do you know your saved? They know the simple answers, They hear them often at home and then every Sunday at church. They know how to repeat back what it is you’re looking for. They don’t want to be the one that’s the oddball – the one that’s not saved. That being said. All of my children except the youngest (she’s 6) have accepted at reasonably young ages and all but one was at camp.

    • rbcphotogirl says:

      You make a good point and that is why we make a concentrated effort with kidz at long hollow to deliver information and reiterate repeatedly this is not something you do because your friend does it. we are very selective about how and when we do the big salvation messages. at the same time, Jesus preached to the multitudes too, the disciples addressed large groups. clearly, there is a comfort in seeing that others are leaning in the same direction. i think being afraid that they are going to make a decision that isnt 100% clear isn’t a reason not to tell them or “allow” them to know our Jesus. I trust the Holy Spirit is big enough to sort that out. We are told to go and tell… not just to go and tell people that we deem ready, or go and tell people individually. if it is a friend’s example that gives someone the courage to be part of God’s family, I’m for that.
      when we do camp for k-1’s we don’t do any kind of altar call, we share and then direct them to talk to a teacher or parent if they want more information. with 2-5th grade we trust they can make their own decisions, and aren’t out just to please a leader. I think teens and adults are in the same position of being encouraged by seeing a friend make a stand for Christ. THanks so much for reading and responding.

  2. gary says:

    Lutherans DO believe that a person can make a Decision for Christ

    Lutherans believe that one CAN make a decision for Christ…but it is AFTER God has saved him!

    We believe that God gives the free gift of salvation without any assistance or even any cooperation of the sinner. In this way salvation really and truly is FREE! God lays the gift of faith and salvation into your “lap” and you believe and repent. We do not believe that there is any decision making in any of these actions. We view the believing and repenting as reflexive REACTIONS. When a doctor strikes your knee with a reflex hammer, your conscious brain is not required to make a decision for your knee to reflexively jerk forward.

    Now that the new Christian has the free gift of salvation, he does have a free will in spiritual matters, where before salvation he did not. The believer can choose to reject Christ, turn from him, and live a life of willful ongoing sin two seconds after his salvation or forty years later…and when he dies he will most likely wake up in hell.

    Lutherans do NOT believe in eternal security. Our salvation in not dependent on how many good deeds we do, but a willful rejection of Christ (eg. converting to Islam or becoming an agnostic or atheist) or choosing to live in ongoing, willful sin, can cause the Holy Spirit to leave a believer as happened with King Saul in the OT. If the Holy Spirit leaves the one time believer, he is no longer saved, if he dies without repenting and returning to Christ, he will go to hell.

    Human beings DO have the opportunity to make a decision for or against Christ AFTER they are saved…they do NOT have the ability to make a decision FOR Christ before they are saved.

    So Lutherans and Baptists/evangelicals actually end up at the same place: a person CAN make a decision for Christ, we just disagree when the decision can occur. It is this point of disagreement that precludes Baptists and many evangelicals from accepting infant baptism. You require a decision before salvation. You are absolutely correct, infants cannot make decisions…but infants can REFLEXIVELY believe and repent, in the same manner an adult reflexively believes and repents, at the moment that God quickens his spiritually dead soul. This quickening and reflexive believing and repenting will ONLY happen to the Elect. This is why Lutherans do not run everyone in the neighborhood through the baptismal waters.

    Gary
    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

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