Take the salvation/conversion of kids. Often eager to hear a profession of faith, parents can push the process along until the child does what he thinks dad and mom want him to do: Ask Jesus to come into his heart.
But, is that a genuine conversion or merely the result of coercion, however well intended?
Merely saying words never saved anyone.
Getting “Johnny” or “Jay Lynn” to say certain words does not result in salvation. Only genuine repentance does that.
Can young children really understand what Jesus did and truly repent?
A few nights ago, Lisa and I along with our older children were ending the day as we always do – sitting for a few minutes over a cup of herbal tea brewed by our 16 year old daughter. It’s like clockwork. Only this evening was different, and not only because we were savoring an awesome new drink (Crio – ground cocoa beans, brewed like coffee. It’s great! Click Here if you want to check it out) sent from the Bentleys, our friends from Virginia.
I was a bit distracted, trying out the new brew, when I saw our youngest (8 years old) looking from across the room – his brow uncharacteristically heavy.
He made his way over to me, looked me in the eye and asked, solemnly, “Dad, can we talk . . . in your office?”
The office . . . must be serious.
When in private, he struggled to speak, began to cry a little and then said, “Dad, I want Jesus to come into my heart.”
I looked into his eyes for a moment, considering that it had been at least a year since the subject had come up near the time of conversion of his older brother. Not wanting him to “jump on the bandwagon” at the time – what I deemed his interest at the time to be – I encouraged him to wait until he could tell me why he wanted to become a Christian.
“Why do you want to become a Christian?” I asked gently.
“I know I need Jesus in my heart. I need to be forgiven for my sin.”
Saying those words “my sin” he cried more as I hugged him, thrilled that he desired to repent and receive the free gift of God’s mercy and grace. Lisa and I never push our kids toward the cross. We (very imperfectly) strive to live out our faith and teach our children what the Word says but orchestrating conviction of sin and the moment of saving faith isn’t Dad & Mom’s job.
That job belongs to the Holy Spirit.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: John 16:8
Our son was being convicted, in his young heart, of his need to be forgiven – of his need of the Savior.
“Son, would you like to pray?”
He nodded yes and we knelt down together but he struggled to get started. I looked at him, and suddenly asked a question that came to mind.
“Would you like your brothers (10 & 12) to join us in prayer?”
Soon, the four of us were kneeling, and praying together and my youngest began . . .
“Dear Lord, please forgive me for my sin . . .” and the flood gates opened as he unburdened his heart and received the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Immediately, I was reminded of the man in the temple:
And the publican (tax collector), standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. Luke 18:13
Much rejoicing in the Jacobson house those few nights ago, and next door, where Grandpa is on hospice care: “The Lord allowed me to live long enough to see my youngest grandchild come to know him!”
So, can young kids be truly saved?
Absolutely! Because anyone who truly repents is truly saved, regardless of their age.
God grant you the wisdom and discernment to hear the Holy Spirit when he is moving in your family.
Matt Jacobson is the founder of FaithfulMan.com a biblical marriage, parenting, and discipleship ministry providing written and audio teaching, as well as couples marriage coaching. He is the co-host (with his wife, Lisa) of Faithful Life Podcast and is author of the bestseller, 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. Matt is pastor of Tumalo Bible Fellowship and is married to Lisa, founder of Club31Women.com (they have 8 kids!).