by Ray Van Neste
(This article was originally published in The Baptist and Reflector, October 17, 2007.)
Not long ago I heard a pastor tell about his young daughter who had not professed faith, asking him if she was headed for hell if she did not accept Christ. He confessed that he was caught off guard by the question and did not have the heart to tell her yes. We ought not be caught off guard by such questions. Indeed we should be teaching this truth very clearly to our children on a consistent basis. It is not pleasant to think of this reality in regards to our children, but we must speak the truth to them if we desire their salvation. How can we speak such truth to a stranger if we will not share it with our own kids?
This was brought back to my mind recently as I read an address to children from John Brown of Haddington. Brown was a powerful, godly preacher in Scotland in the 18th century. His evangelistic earnestness in relation to children was clear in this address. He spoke to the children of his day in a clarity and frankness which we would do well to learn, even if our manner of speech has changed.
His address opens calling for the children to consider the issue of their eternal destiny.
My dear young people, for whom my heart’s desire and prayer to God is that you be saved, let me beseech you, … while you read your Bible or hear its precious truths preached to you, to “hearken and hear for time and eternity to come.” Now in the perfect season of youth, “get wisdom as the principal thing,” and with all your “getting, get understanding” of the infinitely important concerns of your salvation.
He presses the importance of this topic by reminding them that they possess “immortal souls, worth inconceivably more than ten thousand worlds; souls that are capable of enjoying an infinite God as their everlasting All in All; souls which must and shall, before long, enter into an eternal state of either inconceivable misery or happiness.”
No gospel plea makes sense unless the hearers know their need of rescue from judgment. Brown makes this very clear, expounding this point at some length. Here are some brief excerpts:
“Having no holiness, you have no hope and are ‘without God in the world.’ Being children of the devil, your heart is filled with all unrighteousness, pride, deceit, malice, and hatred of God.”
“eternal destruction is ready at your side. God is angry with you every day; His wrath rests on you; His sword is drawn and His arrows are set to destroy you. The sound of your approaching condemnation roars loudly at every warning of His word, if only you had ears to hear it. Even while you read this, hell stands open to receive you…”
Brown’s bluntness may shock us, but what he says is true. However we state it we must make clear to our children that though it is a blessing to grow up in a Christian home, they are outside of Christ until they themselves are converted.
The reality and dangers of sin and judgment are not the full message of the gospel however. Having clearly made the point of our desperate condition, Brown turns to the remedy of the gospel (much like Paul’s pattern in Rom 1-3) extolling grace in glowing terms and calling for the children to repent and believe.
The call to faith makes much of what their parents have found to be true of God.
“My dear young people, know the God of your fathers We parents tell you, our children, that this God is our God, forever, and that He ‘will be our guide even unto death.’ We never found him a barren wilderness or a land of drought. We have found infinitely more satisfaction in this God, given to us in His Word, than could balance all the pleasures, all the wealth, all the honor of ten thousand worlds…. There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who pardons iniquity, transgression and sin, and who delights in mercy. If wisdom’s ways are so pleasant even on this sinful earth, what will it be like to enter the joy of our Lord forever! “Come, taste and see that our God is good.”
We Christian parents need to speak to our children in this way. Our wording may be different, but these truths with this passion must be communicated. We need to be able to present to our children that we have in our own experience found God to be faithful. They need to see in us people who find their delight in God. We need to be clear that they, like all other people, are lost outside of Christ and need to hear the gospel. May they hear it from many sources, especially from their parents who watch over them and provide for them in all the other areas of their lives.
– Ray Van Neste, Associate Professor at Union University writes about books for children at www.childrenshourbooks.blogspot.com