Preschoolers And Salvation
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Children have many great characteristics that enable them to readily gravitate towards God. Most important is their ability to believe. The younger they are, the better and readily their inclination to believe. When it comes to salvation, a child’s heart is a fertile field to believe in and receive Jesus as their Saviour. When we concretize and simplify the theology of salvation,
even the littlest child will believe in Jesus. No wonder, Jesus said, “The truth is, you must change your thinking and become like little children. If you don’t do this, you will never enter God’s kingdom—Matthew 18:3 (ERV).” When we think of it, belief is the only prerequisite to salvation. In Acts 16:31, we are told, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved (ERV).”
The preschoolers will not fully grasp the concept of sin and the theology behind the sacrifice of Jesus to be saved, and they don’t have to. There is nowhere it says in the Bible that we need to understand the gospel to be saved. Most adult who are new believers cannot articulate the gospel of Jesus because they do not fully understand it; so why do we expect that of little children?
Because of erroneous assumption that one must understand the gospel to believe it,
many children have been ignored in, and even discouraged from, taking the step of faith to be saved. When we see the same children say the prayer of salvation over and over again, we then conclude that children can’t be saved.
However, our duty is to share the good news about Jesus with everyone—adult and children. Age should not be a barrier. In sharing the gospel with children, we need to simplify it. The younger the children, the simpler it must be. We must base the gospel on God’s Word,1 and this must be seamlessly done. It is important that you pray and trust the Holy Spirit to guide you in sharing the good news with the children. The truth of the matter is, regardless of one’s age, it is the Holy Spirit who grants conviction to the heart.2
The Good News About Jesus
When you are sharing the good news about Jesus with the children, make sure to personalize it to them. The key points of the good news (stated in bold text) with the explanations (for you, not the child) are below:
Your sin heart makes you far from God.
The Bible tells us that “all have sinned”3 and “no one is righteous.”4 We are sinners because we inherited the Adamic, sinful nature; and not because we do bad things. Being a sinner and having the sinful nature can be summed up, for the preschoolers, as sin heart. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death 5 (or spiritual separation from God). To the preschoolers, who do not have the baggage of sin most adults have, sin should be explained in terms of its effect—separation from God.6 Hence, in a simple language, their sin hearts have made them far from God.
Note: Avoid associating sin heart with doing bad things to prevent casting confusion in the minds of the children. Saved people do bad things and it is not because they have sin hearts.
The good news is that God loves you and He sent Jesus for you.7
With the hopelessness of sin from the resultant separation from God, the love of God is indeed good news! And this love is expressed by God sending Jesus for us.
Everyone desires love. Children’s understanding of love is usually equated to what they are given. To the child: “My mummy loves me because she bought me a toy.” In telling children that God loves them, it should be tied to the fact that God sent Jesus for them. As Romans 4:2 states, it is God’s goodness that leads people to repentance.
Jesus died to take away your sin heart,8 and Jesus rose from the dead to give you your Jesus heart.9
The death and resurrection of Jesus are the very essence of the gospel. And both must be presented jointly in sharing the good news about Jesus with the children.
Jesus died to save us from our sins. “Saving from sin” is too abstract for the preschoolers. Therefore, Jesus’ death is explained in terms of the removal of the sin heart: Jesus died to take away your sin heart.
Introducing the Jesus heart shifts the children’s focus from sin to Jesus. At the same time, it explains the purpose of Jesus’ resurrection: Jesus rose from the dead to give you your Jesus heart.
The Bible says that God wants you to believe in Jesus.
While it is good for the children to know the above three points, they need to apply the knowledge. Tell them that God says in the Bible: This is what God commands: that we believe in his Son, Jesus.10 (If possible, “read” from a Bible to give a visual.) Using this Scripture verse serves three purposes:
1. It serves as a bridge: sin heart > believe in Jesus > Jesus heart.
2. It demands a positive response
3. It grounds the response in God’s Word.
Soliciting an immediate response from the children is necessary. Unlike adults, preschoolers are not thinkers, they are doers. Their attention span is very limited. Most children will respond positively to the invitation and this should not be belittled or discouraged because it is the work of the Holy Spirit. However, there will be children who are hesitant or will not respond. That is okay as well, you should not force them.
This is an appeal to the children to respond to the good news about Jesus by recapping the four points and extending an invitation to pray with them for salvation.
“Your sin heart makes you far from God. The good news is that God loves you and sent Jesus for you. Jesus died to take away your sin heart. And Jesus rose from the dead to give you your Jesus heart. The Bible says that God wants you to believe in Jesus.
“Would you like to believe in Jesus so that God takes away your sin heart and gives you your Jesus heart? If yes, repeat this prayer to God after me:”
This salvation prayer is the personalization of the good news points. If possible, lead the children to Christ one-to-one.
“God, I know that You love me and sent Jesus for me. I believe that Jesus died to take away my sin heart. I believe that Jesus rose from the dead to give me my Jesus heart. I don’t want my sin heart anymore. God, give me my Jesus heart. I believe in Jesus like the Bible says God wants me to. Thank You, God, for taking away my sin heart and giving me my Jesus heart. Amen.”
Assurance of Salvation
After the prayer is a good time to ask the children to tell you what just happened to them. This is very important as the conclusion to sharing the good news about Jesus with children. Most likely, they may not be able to articulate what just happened. Whatever answer a child gives you, make sure you repeat it before summarizing what just happened to him by saying, “Hurray, you now believe in Jesus and have your Jesus heart.” Then add, “You are now a Jesus follower.” For this age group, being a Jesus follower is a tangible term of referring to the child as being saved. Explain to them that a Jesus follower is a person who believes in Jesus to have a Jesus heart to live for God every day.
After the children have received Jesus as Saviour, it is our responsibility to teach them God’s Word to ground them in their faith.
The following four points are helpful:
1. You are sure that you believe in Jesus because God says so in the Bible. God says in the Bible: This is what God commands: that we believe in his Son, Jesus.11 And this was what you just did when you said that prayer.
2. God has changed your heart. God says in the Bible: Through [Jesus], all people could change their hearts.12 God has taken away your sin heart and given you your Jesus heart.
3. God has made you a new person on the inside. God says in the Bible: God made us new people.13
4. God is always with you. God says in the Bible: [God] has promised that he will not leave us.14
Note: Going over these four points to instil assurance of salvation in the children should not be a one-time thing. After all, faith comes by hearing (continuous tense), and hearing by the Word of God—Romans 10:17 (NKJV).
Let the children know that they can live for God everyday by doing the following things: praying to God; listening to and doing what God says in the Bible; asking God to help them do good things for others; etc.
Encourage the children to tell their family and friends that they believe in Jesus and have their Jesus hearts. Keep praying for them.
1 - God’s Word is alive and working. It is sharper than the sharpest sword and cuts all the way into us. It cuts deep to the place where the soul and the spirit are joined. God’s word cuts to the center of our joints and our bones. It judges the thoughts and feelings in our hearts—Hebrews 4:12 (ERV).
2 - And when [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment—John 16:8 (NKJV).
3 - Romans 3:23
4 - Romans 3:10
5 - Romans 6:23 (NCV)
6 - It is your sins that separate you from your God—Isaiah 59:2 (ERV).
7 - For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life—John 3:16 (NIV).
8 - God sent him to die in our place to take away our sins... - Romans 3:25 (NCV).
9 - So, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the wonderful power of the Father, we also can live a new life—Romans 6:4 (NCV)
10 - 1John 3:23 NCV
11 - 1John 3:23 (NCV)
12 - Acts 5:31(NCV)
13 - Ephesians 2:10 (ERV)
14 - Hebrews 13:5 (CEV).
Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)
Copyright © 2006 by World Bible Translation Center
New Century Version (NCV)
The Holy Bible, New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
New King James Version (NKJV)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.