Christian parents have no greater joy than to lead their children to know, trust, love and follow Jesus. After all, our children are the only thing we can take with us to Heaven.
I had the privilege of performing the wedding ceremony for our oldest daughter this past weekend. It was centered around Jesus as we celebrated the difference Christ makes in marriage. The message from God’s Word provided spiritual power and biblical insights, along with, of course, personal anecdotes.
There were elements of fun and laughter in the ceremony, as both the human and divine components were united in one accord. The vows Sarah and Tim shared with one another were heartwarming, and the Spirit-filled ceremony overflowed with authenticity. The atmosphere was relaxed, but at the same time deeply spiritual and inspiring. You know, the kind only God can create.
The ceremony was actually a microcosm of what my wife, Tammy, and I have enjoyed with each of our four children who are now in their 20s. By God’s grace, our two daughters and two sons all rely upon the Lord for everything in life, and especially for their salvation. We have witnessed the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives in so many ways over the years. We have seen firsthand how God works directly through parents to lead children into a strong relationship with Christ.
In a 2017 CP op-ed, I shared the parenting approach that worked well in our home: “5 Tips for Raising Children Who Love Jesus.” Here is one of those tips:
Seize teachable moments every day as you bring the love of Jesus into the discussion.
When our children were between the ages of 2 and 5, they often heard about God's love for them. During these formative years, they began to know Jesus as both their friend, as well as their Savior who died on the cross for their sins. In this way, Christianity became the foundation of their entire life, rather than just a set of doctrines to believe, or an activity we do on Sunday because dad is a pastor.
When young children develop a warm and loving friendship with Jesus, it has enormous implications for their entire life. And when a child's trust in Jesus is nurtured for 18 years, it produces much love, wisdom, compassion, commitment, and eternal security that permeates every experience in life.
There is no doubt that Christian parents can lead their young children, as well as their older children and teens, into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Discipling your children begins the day they are born.
It has been a tremendous joy to pray the "Aaronic Blessing" over each one of our children thousands of times from the day they were born. I would lay my hand on the head of Sarah, Aaron, Hannah, or Jonah, and pray: "The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”
And I had the privilege to pray this same prayer over Sarah and Tim at the wedding. They now embark on the journey that Tammy and I began 31 years ago, and that my Christ-centered and faithful parents began 60 years ago.
Christian parents love their children and are able to tell them about Jesus, but only the Holy Spirit can convert children by enabling them to believe the good news of the Gospel (John 3:6; 1 Cor. 12:3). Salvation is a gift that comes by grace through faith in Christ. And it is amazing how willing a young child is to accept the love and message of Jesus.
These famous words from our Redeemer say it best: “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17)
There is plenty that parents can do to lead their children to Christ and disciple them in the home. Parents can pray daily for their children. And they can model Christianity in their daily lives through periods of confession and forgiveness. Children develop humility and a desire to behave better when they hear Dad and Mom tell one another, “I am sorry. It was wrong for me to do that."
Parents can articulate boundaries, while also giving their children enough room to “breathe” spiritually. And they can gather with other Christians at least weekly to strengthen the faith of their children.
You can absolutely lead your children to know, trust, love, and follow Jesus. Christian parenting is a full-time job from the day your child is born. Raising children to walk closely with Jesus requires as much love, focus, and dedication as it takes for you to become a committed and faithful follower of Christ.
It is relatively easy to become a Christian. After all, how difficult is it to receive a gift? The challenging part of Christianity is learning to say “No” to our self-centered impulses. And yet this is the only way to live as a committed follower of Jesus Christ.
And if you find yourself today with a wayward child who is not walking with Christ, just remember: “With God nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37). The Lord changed the heart of Saul who was persecuting Christians, (Acts 7:57-8:1), and turned him into the Apostle Paul. The same Lord can save your son or daughter.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children … (Acts 2:38).
The Lord wants your child to believe the Gospel and receive eternal life in heaven (1 Tim. 2:3,4; 2 Peter 3:9). And so be encouraged, my friend, as you cry out to the Lord in prayer (Psalm 50:15; Psalm 62:8). God is still in the business of redeeming lost people, and especially the children of Christian parents.
There is still time to reach your child for the Lord. The power of the Holy Spirit continues to guide and assist Christian parents in leading their children to Christ.
You see, God wants your child to enter Heaven one day even more than you do.
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.