Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
If you’ve spent any time within a children’s church service you’ve likely heard a song that goes like this: “Father Abraham had many sons, Many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you. So let’s all praise the Lord.” Unlike me, my wife grew up in the church, and the song is sung often within our house. It’s cute, it’s catchy, but the principle it teaches should be abandoned as children grow into adults.
I’m not here nitpicking the song or implying we abandon teaching our children through music. I’m here suggesting that we exercise caution with our children in regards to their relationship with God. It is certainly a benefit for children to grow up with parents who trust and love Jesus. But we must never give them the false belief that being raised in a Christian home puts them in a right relationship with God. It has long been said that “God has no grandchildren,” meaning that God desires a personal relationship with everyone as a father to a son. No one inherits the Kingdom of God by being born into “the right family.” Whether a parent, a pastor or Sunday school teacher there is much we can do to serve children and model a life following Christ, but we cannot save them, only God can do that.
This is what John the Baptizer was getting at in Matthew 3 when speaking to the Pharisees. They were morally upright and traced their Israelite heritage back to Abraham. They believed God’s judgment would come only upon the enemies of Israel, not realizing that He wanted them too to exercise faith in Him and repent of their sins.
One of my deepest desires is for my own child (and future children) to come to know Jesus personally, to be redeemed and live a life marked by repentance. At the end of the day it is up to Jesus to do the “heavy lifting,” and I must trust Him to seek and save my son. God will likely use human means, but the end result is solely God’s doing.
I see this also with the youth I teach. Their parents care deeply about their souls and desperately want them to know Jesus. Many of them do know Him. Right now they live in good Christian homes, under the umbrella of their parents faith. A time will come when they will run out from under that umbrella into the storms of this world. They will get wet, they won’t be able to fall back on their parents faith. Their parents will keep praying for them, but they cannot redeem them. The child will have to find an umbrella of their own. They will have to come to Jesus’ cross independently. There the stains of sin will be washed by His blood, under His umbrella they will be made white. Without His covering, the storms and waves of this world will drown them in sin and unrepentance. As parents, this also puts us in the position of growing in our own faith. When our children become adults and dash out from under our umbrellas we can sit back anxiously out of fear they will get wet, or we can resort to prayer and entrust the God who holds us in His hand will graciously hold them as well.