As Christians who are also parents, we like you pray for our children. We pray in all kinds of ways, but the center of it all is that God would do what only He can do – open their eyes to their own sinfulness and desperate need of Jesus. But here is the issue – we have pretty good kids.
They are mainly obedient, mainly polite, mainly kind, mainly most everything, and we are very proud of them. But being “mainly good” can be the greatest obstacle for being “completely saved.” These mainly good kids know the gospel, for they’ve heard the story since the day they were born. They can recite the facts related to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus almost without error. By this point, a couple of them can probably recite some version of the sinner’s prayer. But here’s where the rub comes in, for the question is not so much whether they know the gospel, but whether they believe the gospel to the extent that by faith, they have been born again into God’s family.
This is difficult. And there no “checklist” you can impose on the issue of heart change. Still, there are checkpoints or guideposts that I think are helpful for parents to consider when trying to discern the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of their mainly good kids. The list of those checkpoints are many:
- Does your child feel real conviction of sin on a regular basis?
- Do they show a desire to grow in holiness?
- Are they interested in God’s Word and living according to it?
- Do they have a growing affection for the things of God and His church?
But here is one other checkpoint that is a little off the radar, and yet might also be helpful to consider:
Is your child friends with anyone they might not ordinarily be friends with?
To put a finer point on it, are there any of your child’s friends that don’t look like them, talk like them, or act like them? The reason this is a checkpoint for gospel transformation is because the gospel doesn’t just reconcile man to God; it reconciles man to man. In fact, in the New Testament, one of the main apologetics Paul employs for the truth of the gospel is the fact that people who were once at odds with each other are now joined together in love as the body of Christ. Jews, Gentiles, rich, poor, men, women – all of these people who are not the birds of a feather that flock together now worship and serve alongside each other in the church.
This is because the gospel tears down the dividing walls of hostility that keep us from each other, whether the bricks of those walls come from race, economic condition, education, or background. When we believe in Christ, be we young or old, we suddenly have something far more significant and important in common than what divides us.
Of course, this isn’t the only checkpoint for gospel transformation, but it is one checkpoint. Are our children genuinely friends with anyone that they wouldn’t be friends with apart from Christ? Or are all their relationships based on the mirror image of themselves?
And while we’re at it, friends, let’s not reserve this checkpoint for our children. Perhaps this is one way we can evaluate just how deeply we ourselves have been changed by the gospel. Are we truly friends with anyone different than us? Or are we still confining ourselves to those relationships which are, in large part, the equivalent of loving ourselves?