Have you ever struggled with how simple the Gospel is? As adults, we tend to complicate matters or add extra steps to a process. Perhaps this is one of the reasons our kids are more readily eager to accept the good news of Jesus — kids like simplicity. Salvation’s uncomplicated nature is advantageous for our children. Maybe this is why Jesus said in Matthew 18:3-4, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Children don’t tend to stumble over preconceived notions. Instead, they understand and resonate with God’s basic invitation. But how do we help our children hear and accept that invitation? Romans 10:14 poses this question: “How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” As parents or caregivers, it’s our responsibility and joy to be missionaries in our own homes. We cannot leave this task to the world or even well-intentioned teachers or leaders. Who Jesus is and how to follow Him are lessons best learned in our homes.
Romans 10:9-10 gives a simple two-step instruction for salvation. It says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”
This is where, as adults, we often trip or stumble. We want to add stipulations or additional requirements — but God includes no conditions. Declare, believe, and be saved. But what do these words really mean, and how can we explain them to our children?
“Declare” can be an abstract word for a child. However, you can explain that it simply means “agree with” and “give thanks.” Every beautiful thing we see in creation does this naturally. Psalm 19:1 uses the same word: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.”
You can stand with your child beneath a star-struck sky and read them Psalm 19:1, then explain how “declare” means to praise and celebrate! The sky celebrates how wonderful God is and how beautiful He strung the constellations across the vast expanse. Something lights up in our spirits when we see the wonderful things He has made. We know He is good and that He takes care of all He has created! Like the sky, we can declare — or agree with, praise, and celebrate — that Jesus is Lord. He is in control, and we invite Him to be the leader of our lives.
A child usually is familiar with the concept of “believe.” As they grow older, they discover some things they believed in as a young kid turned out to not be real. Our children are constantly developing their worldview, or what they believe to be true, and how those beliefs affect how they live.
Reading your child Romans 10:9-10, you can explain that the word “believe” has deep roots. It’s not a simple “belief” like whether or not they believe a movie character is real. Instead, “believe” in this verse is very active — it requires our spirits to move in a particular direction: that of trust. “Believe” here means to “commit to.” We are choosing to live on Jesus’ side. It means to have confidence in who Jesus is and how He loves us. You can explain to your child that as they trust in Jesus, this confidence or boldness will grow over time. Similar to a plant, we must nurture our faith. We do this by hiding God’s Word in our hearts and spending time with Him in prayer. As our faith roots grow and strengthen, we become healthier and stronger.
Similar to how kids like simple explanations and processes, they also like to see immediate results. If your child chooses to follow Jesus, you can encourage them that faith is a lifelong adventure! They have been made right with God, which means that in God’s eyes, no matter what your child does, they are clean, new, whole, and complete. God’s love is like a giant magic eraser that removes all the sin scuffs and ugly marks from our hearts. Nothing we do can change how God sees us because, on the cross, Jesus paid for all of our sins, even those we’ll struggle with in the future. However, because we live in a world broken by sin, we still struggle to make right choices and follow Jesus. Jesus and His Spirit are our helpers. The moment we declare and believe, we are saved, and then Jesus goes to work, changing us more every day to be like Him. Our salvation is entirely secure. Our roots are planted in Christ and cannot be torn out. Planted in Him, we get to grow stronger. You can write out and hang up 2 Corinthians 5:17 where your child will see it often: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”