“Growing up Christian” is a process that revolves around a relationship between people. In most cases, you have the parents on the one hand, and you have the child or the children on the other. And, as the Scriptures plainly teach, growing up Christian is a cooperative effort. It is something that the parents are actively engaged in doing, but it is also something that calls for godly and intelligent responses from the child. And so it is that we are going to spend a few Sundays on how to be a Christian kid.
“Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right” (Proverbs 20:11).
Summary of the Text
We will begin with the obvious meaning of this passage, which is that even children are to be considered moral agents. While we do need to make some adjustments for age, a fact recognized by Scripture in the use of that word even—“even a child”—the fact remains that young children live in a moral universe. There is an up and a down. There is a right and a wrong. There is purity and impurity. Even a child is known by his actions. His actions can be pure or impure, and his actions can be right or wrong. And this being the case, at bottom, there can be love for God and His ways, or a distaste for Him and His ways. Even a child is attracted to holiness or repelled by it.
The First Distinction
If we are going to talk about being a Christian kid, as we are, the very first thing to do is define what that means. What do we mean by Christian? We are necessarily dealing with two senses of the word here.
The first sense has to do with the fact that, like it or not, you are part of the visible church. You are baptized. And when you were baptized, it was in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are in the church. You are a member of the covenant. That is the first sense. You are a Christian in the same way that you are not a Muslim, and not a Buddhist. You are being brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), as the Scripture requires. But to put it crudely, you are a Christian here because someone brought you here, and you didn’t really have a choice. And when you were baptized, right here, we all stood up and said, “and you, still, know nothing of it.” Nobody asked your permission. So it is important to note that your central loyalties and obligations are assigned to you—not all individual obligations are the result of individual choices. But the obligation to be faithful is not the same thing as actually being faithful, which sets up the problem.
This brings to our minds what Corrie ten Boom once said, which was that “a mouse born in a biscuit box isn’t a biscuit.” This has a good point to it, and it is one we should always remember, but it is still a tad simplistic. A traitor born in America isn’t an American . . . ah, but he is. That’s what makes him a traitor. A husband who cheats on his wife isn’t a husband . . . ah, but he is. That’s what makes him unfaithful.
So the second sense of the word has to do with whether your heart is right before God. Are your loyalties in the right place? It was possible, for example, to be a Jew in the sense of not being a Buddhist, and yet still to not be a true Jew. A true Jew was one who was one inwardly, who had been circumcised in the heart, by the Spirit (Rom. 2:28-29).
Now, since everybody we are talking about (in this message) is in the covenant, in the visible church, how are we supposed to tell the difference? So, just to be clear, how do we not tell the difference? As a Christian kid, you are not required to have a convulsive religious experience, in which you hear all the angels singing, and your mother cannot even approach your bedroom because it is suffused with a numinous and golden glow. And if that ever did happen, she would probably pound on the door and say, “Honey, stop it! We’re Reformed.”
Even a Child
So when we are evaluating the actions of a child, we should make sure to use the biblical weights and measures. And when you are evaluating your own actions, as a child, you should be doing the same thing. Don’t measure your life with the wrong yardstick.
If someone is truly converted to God, this shows up in their thinking and actions. We do not produce such fruit in order to become the fruit tree, but if we have been transformed into a fruit tree, then there is going to be fruit—a particular kind of fruit. Make sure you get this in the right order. First the tree, then the fruit, and then the fruit inspection. This being the case, what should you be looking for? The problem with morbid self-examination is not that people check their own hearts (2 Cor. 13:5). That by itself is a good thing to do. The problem with morbid self-examination is that it uses standards of evaluation that are entirely made up—e.g. “I must not be a true Christian because I was tempted to sin once.” But we are looking for a genuine sincerity, not absolute perfection. Even a child can be sullen or sincere.
Loyalty at the Center
So let me ask you a few questions in three basic areas.
The first is this. Do you love Jesus Christ? Are you loyal to Him? “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). In short, what do you make of Jesus Christ? What do you think of Him? His name is on you—that is what your baptism did. What do you make of that? Is that what you want? Or do you resent it?
The second has to do with your attitude toward Scripture. Are you hungry to hear about the things of God? “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). When you were born physically, you were born hungry. That is a good sign of life—a desire for more food. When the people were first converted at Pentecost, they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42).
And last, do you love and honor your folks? This is a command from God, and it is a command with a promise. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1–3). Notice that he says more than that you should simply do this. He says you are to do it “in the Lord.” We will have more to say about this passage in the remaining messages.
You are a Christian kid. You are part of this body. Moreover, you are an essential part of this body. It is our desire to have all of you, as part of this body, to be a healthy part of it, and not a neglected or diseased part of it. And as part of the body, it all goes back to your relationship to the Head, who is Christ.
The hospitality of the gospel is a welcoming message. We say, every week, “come, and welcome to Jesus Christ.” As a new covenant community, we have made a point of extending this welcome to our covenant kids. When we first started doing this, some of your parents were little kids, and now you are worshiping together with them. God’s promises are true and good. This is why we want to extend this welcome, in the words of Jeremiah, from “the least to the greatest.”
But just as we expect adult members to come in a true and sincere faith, so also we expect Christian kids to worship God sincerely in just the same way that everyone else does. You have sins to confess, so confess them. You have psalms to sing, so sing them. You have Scripture to hear, so listen. You have things to learn, so take them all in. You too are being knit together with the Head, who is the Lord Jesus.