I have given six influences that are vital to impacting your child for his good. I saved the best for last. The greatest influence in the life of a person is Jesus Christ. I am referring to a personal relationship with God rather than being religious or being a church member.
When a person encounters God the influence on one’s heart is dramatic, we are no longer the same. Our motives, perspective, desires, and attitude have been transformed. Here is what the Bible says about a person that is an authentic Christian. Notice the areas that are different.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17)
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:16-17)
The common denominator of salvation is the word “change”. All behavior originates in the heart. Change the heart; change the person. This is why behavior modification by trying to change external behaviors does not last. The heart has not been affected. When Christ comes into a person’s life He changes the heart.
One of the challenges Christian parents have is to make sure their child is not just committed to Christian principles and beliefs, but to the Person of Jesus Christ. I grew up in church and learned the lingo, knew the songs, and enjoyed my friends in that environment.
However, it wasn’t until I realized that I had broken God’s law and looked to Christ and what He accomplished on the cross as the payment for my sin did my life change. I was nine years old, only a child. I didn’t have a cocaine business, wasn’t drinking or carousing, or bullying people, but I was lost and I knew it.
Up until the time I believed on Christ for my salvation (February 18, 1968) I thought I was going to Heaven because of my parents faith and that I was trying to be a good boy. On that day I asked the Lord to save me from my sins my life changed. For one thing, I stopped cursing. I was only in the third grade and I didn’t even know what some of the words meant, but I knew they were wrong. God dealt with my selfishness, too.
No, I wasn’t perfect, not even close. Salvation is not about perfection, but about direction. The direction of your heart changes and while you are not sinless, you do sin less.
This doesn’t happen if all our kids know is Bible stories, principles and other facts. Being a Christian is not giving mental assent to historical facts about Christ and the Bible, but resting upon what Jesus did as our substitute when He died. At that moment, the Spirit of God comes to live inside of our hearts and we are different (Romans 8:9; I Corinthians 12:13).
God not only gives us the desire to do right, but the enabling to do what is right. Religion is man reaching up to God; salvation is God reaching down to man.
Religion tries to affect behavior by self-effort (outside/in); salvation affects our behavior by reaching the heart first (inside/out).
Religion says to “do this and that and you will have eternal life”; salvation says “it has already been done when Jesus died on your behalf; all you can do is rest upon it”.
Religion says “you have to get better to get saved“; salvation says “you have to get saved to get better“.
When I was a youth pastor I noticed that a number of kids that had grown up in solid Christian families came to me for counseling because they were unsure of their salvation. Some of them were indeed already born again, but some of them were only parroting religious terms and trying to live up to a standard to which they didn’t have a desire or the enablement to do so. They didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ.
As young parents I told Paula that we were not going to push our children into receiving Christ, but I wanted them to come to us first. Here’s why. They were growing up in an environment that was saturated with Christianity. I wanted to make sure that their hearts were convicted of their sin and they had a genuine desire to repent and put their faith in Christ on their own.
And we practiced that. I still believe that is the proper thing to do, especially when your children are involved in church regularly. Remember, I was saved at nine years of age. I truly believe children can believe and repent and be saved.
The best thing you will ever do as a parent is to get your children to the cross. It will not only give them eternal life in Heaven, but will also give them a quality of life on earth.