It is widely known that the first 5 years of a child’s life have enormous ramifications. A child’s brain develops the most during these early years, but even more importantly, young children are exceedingly open to embracing the Gospel.
A 2019 survey showed 43% of believers coming to faith in Jesus by age 12, and 15% accepting Christ by age 6. A soft heart and an uncluttered mind provide fertile soil when planting the seed of the Gospel in the soul of a child.
Multitudes of young children over the centuries have joyfully accepted God's message of salvation, especially when presented tenderly and consistently by their parents. Often, my wife, Tammy, and I shared the simple Gospel message with our children. We witnessed this firsthand with our four children. We often asked them, “What did Jesus do for us?” By age 4, each one of them would confidently declare: “Jesus died on the cross for our sins so we can go to Heaven.” The assurance of salvation in their heart provided much comfort and power, even at such a young age.
You see, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Jesus said, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6). The miracle of spiritual birth is even greater than the miracle of physical birth.
Don’t ever think a 3- or 4-year-old child is too young to receive Jesus as Savior. In fact, the two years between ages 3 and 5 are massively important to a child's spiritual development. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). The Holy Spirit enables young children to trust Jesus and enjoy his constant companionship.
When parents immerse their children in the Gospel, young hearts and minds are shaped for a lifetime of Christian discipleship. Thankfully, young children are capable of understanding and believing the Gospel. Why else would the Lord place such an emphasis upon little children believing in him?
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Jesus also told his disciples, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
Author D.L. Moody said, “It is a masterpiece of the devil to make us believe that children cannot understand religion. Would Christ have made a child the standard of faith if he had known that a child was not capable of understanding his words?"
Praying daily for your children is a critical part of the process. Mark Patterson wrote, “You’ll never be a perfect parent, but you can be a praying parent. Prayer turns ordinary parents into prophets who shape the destinies of their children and grandchildren." It has wisely been noted that parents must talk to God about their children before they talk to their children about God.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Billy Sunday said, “To train a boy in the way he should go you must go that way yourself.” Parents who are rooted in the grace of God are able to gently lead their children to Christ.
It has been said, “If we don’t teach our children to follow Christ, the world will teach them not to.” Parental decisions in the spiritual arena ripple throughout eternity. Empowering our children with the Gospel is the high and holy calling of every Christian parent.
Jesus announced the glorious Gospel message: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The Gospel is a trillion times more valuable than anything else you could give your children. After all, what will it profit your children in the long run if you give them everything except the Gospel?
The psalmist declared: “We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders” (Psalm 78:2-4).
In a 2017 CP op-ed, I presented “5 Tips for Raising Children Who Love Jesus.”
“When our children were ages 2 to 5, they often heard about God’s love for them. During these formative years they began to know Jesus as both their friend, as well as their Savior who died on the cross for their sins. In this way, Christianity became the foundation of their entire life, rather than just a set of doctrines to believe, or an activity we do on Sunday because Dad is the pastor.”
Pastor Michael Youssef said, “When our children see us clinging to the promises of God, they will grow up trusting in his goodness.” When parents immerse young children in the Gospel, families are strengthened, souls are saved, and lives are changed forever!
No one receives the Gospel more readily than young children from their loving parents. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15).
Jesus loves little children so much that he willingly laid down his life on the cross for their salvation. God has given Christian parents the privilege of leading their children into the arms of the most wonderful Savior and friend they could ever know.
Perhaps you can relate to King David’s expression of wonder and awe at God’s goodness to him and his children. “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18)
What a gracious and loving God we serve!
When all is said and done, our children are the only thing we can take with us to Heaven.
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.