As a member of our youth ministry staff I am frequently reminded of the battle of souls and of God's grace in saving me personally and in drawing my family to Himself. This is not because I am so special, but because He is so gracious. We have had many professions of faith in the last year or 2 in 128 and as I think about lives that have been transformed it truly is amazing the work He does.
Creation itself is God's power on display. Those who look at creation and attribute it to evolution or whatever else they can conjure up, are small thinkers and have elevated themselves to a higher place than God. Pretty stupid.
But, think about those you have known who have lived a pretty rebellious life and the change that came after salvation. That change is no less amazing than all of creation. Probably millions of souls saved by grace and transferred into the Kingdom of His marvelous light and all by His work.
This brings me to my intended point. Why do many parent's continually point to some, tiny in some cases, change in their child's life and hang their eternal destiny on that one point. Sample conversation;
Me;"Do you think Jimmy is really saved? In small group, when he shows up, he doesn't really participate in the discussion, he sleeps through much of the sermon time, he doesn't sing, and when asked about his personal Bible reading and prayer time, he always says he's not doing very well".
Parent; "Well, Jimmy has been going through a lot right now and his choice of friends is not really what we would want. He doesn't really like coming to 128 because nobody really likes him there. He is sort of a shy kids and that may be why he doesn't talk too much in small group, but more than that he just doesn't fit in with those kids."
Me; "Yes, but is he saved?"
Parent; "Well, he has changed quite a bit since snow retreat. He seems to be a little nicer to his sister than he used to be. It's hard to know. People are so judgmental and I don't think they should always be trying to figure out if Jimmy is saved. They should just love him and let him figure it out on his own".
Me; "Do you see Jimmy making time to read his Bible and pray? Do you see him selecting friends who are those who are walking with the Lord? Do you see his concern with the sin of the friends he is hanging around and confronting them on it? If darkness and light have no connection, and Jimmy is a Christian, then why would Jimmy not want to come to small group or 128? If given he choice why would he-every time- choose sleeping in over coming to church, video games over Bible reading, hanging out with "the wrong crowd" instead of those who love the Lord? If Jimmy is not increasing in his love for the things of the Lord, then why would you say he is a Christian? Why would you risk his eternal destiny on 'he seems to be nicer to his sister'? Maybe she has a cute friend that he likes".
It is hard to imagine how many times a conversation like this has happened in our ministry. If you are a parent reading this don't be Jimmy's parent. You are the first gate keeper of your child's soul. I-as a small group leader- am not going to be held responsible before God for Jimmy's soul nearly as much as you are. Ask hard questions. If Jimmy were to be accused of being a Christian is there enough evidence to convict him? In this last conversation there is not.
What should you look for?
Love for the Word. Do you see your child reading their Bible? Is their Bible under a big stack of stuff and it only comes out on Sundays and Wednesday? Are they learning something from their Bible reading? I have asked many kids "How is your Bible reading going?" and they say they are reading, but are they learning anything from it? It is your responsibility to ask them what they are learning. God has given you this stewardship opportunity- how are you doing?
Devoted to prayer. There is no relationship that can survive without communication. There is no proud person who is a Christian. Prayer requires humility and if we are not praying it could be because we are too proud to ask God for His will to be done in our lives, or we don't see a need to pray. If your friend never talks to you-ever- are you really friends? If your spouse never is interested in talking to you, how would you say your relationship is doing?
Fellowship with other believers. How do you know you are a family? Is it only because you have the same last name? Do your kids enjoy hanging out with all of your family? Take that to the next step. Your eternal family- the ones we will spend eternity with whether that is Heaven or Hell- are often the ones we enjoy hanging out with right now. If you, or your child, likes to hang out with non believers much more than believers then there is room to question.. Darkness and light have no fellowship together.
Side note here; None of the people I hang out with are perfect. I know that might be a shock. I am not perfect- not a shock. There are always going to be issues that come up as long as we are here in our earthly tents. I have some really good friends that are unbelievers- people I work around or with. But if I can choose who I most want to hang out with, it is always believers. I need to be in the world sharing the Gospel, but I get the most joy and encouragement from being around other believers. We have one very large thing in common- Christ. What righteous, holiness inducing, glory proclaiming conversation will come up when a group of unbelievers are hanging out together?
Fruit. Not one little piece of fruit but the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, should be evident and growing in their life. All of them. Love for other and God. Joy in trials as well as the good times. Peace in turmoil. Patience with those who are difficult- like their parents, small group leader, or pastor. Kindness to others that are different than they are. Good to others who are not good to them. Faithfulness to God and His Word. Gentle and not harsh when provoked. And maybe the hardest for young men, self controlled. Are they able to be controlled by what is inside them rather than what is on the outside? Does "peer pressure" get them into trouble? As a parent do your friends "make you do things" that you know are wrong? Are you constantly defending your child's behavior by including "If Jimmy didn't hang out with Johnny he wouldn't do those kinds of things"? We, as adults, don't hang out with people who make us do the wrong thing- that is called a gang. Don't let your kids hang out with people who "make them" do the wrong thing either. They should be seeing the consequences of their choices and choosing a different route next time. Sure, we all make mistakes, but are they making the same mistake over and over again? Let them suffer, and suffer long and hard, for their sin now, because if you don't they will be suffering in a prison somewhere, if God is gracious enough to wake them up, or if they get away with it too long, they will suffer in Hell for all of eternity for their sin that you helped them get away with.
Sorry for the long post. Souls are at stake. When you see other parents struggling, or kids struggling, don't just let someone else talk to them. In love and meekness go and say something. You may be the only one saying something, but God loves it when we are concerned enough for souls that we step out of our comfortable place and say the hard things. Don't talk yourself into believing that they might be saved when you see ZERO fruit. Satan has you exactly where he wants you. Don't be a tool of the devil, be a sharp tool for God.