Going Through the Motions, Temptations Young People Face Growing Up in the Church
September 18, 2008
Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061

The following is by Dave Crowe, an Australian missionary to Papua New Guinea. It was sent to us by Buddy Smith, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Malanda, Queensland, Australia .


“Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him” (1 Samuel 3:7).

“Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:12).

The 23rd of March this year was the 25th anniversary of my Salvation. As far as I know, I was the first of a long line of unbelieving ancestors to call upon the name of the Lord. I am a first generation believer. As such, some might not consider me qualified to deal with the subject matter of this article. That could quite well be so, if it were not for the fact that over the course of the last 15 years my wife and I have had the privilege of rearing five reasonably normal and healthy children, all of whom profess to be Christians, second-generation Christians.

Through an amazing work of Providence, on the 23rd of March this year our son Samuel who is now 15, was also saved. Samuel was not saved from a life of drugs, drunkenness, and debauchery as were his parents, but rather from a life of religiosity and ritual, a life of outward appearances and conformity to a creed he knew well, but loved little.

This is the issue upon which this short article is based.

Samuel is a Home Schooled MK (Missionary Kid). Samuel arrived on the mission field at seven months old (in his mother’s womb). Samuel was born early Thursday Morning on the 17th December 1992, and was in church on Sunday, not yet three days old. Probably the first time Samuel ever heard his father’s voice loud enough to be recognised was from the pulpit in the local Baptist Church.

We could count, probably, on one hand the number of Sundays Samuel has missed since that day. Samuel will be 16 in December this year. At a conservative estimate, Samuel has been in church well over 3,000 times since he was born. If you count up Sundays, morning and evening, for 15 years, that brings you up to a total of 1,560 sermons, add to that the weekly prayer meetings, 780 of them, not to mention Sunday Schools, 780 of them as well.

A text from 2 Timothy 3:15 comes to mind when I think of my son Samuel. “And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures.” Samuel, like thousands of other kids growing up in Christian homes, has from a child been immersed in the Word of God. Besides his regular church attendance, Samuel has been home schooled from day one. He has memorised hundreds of Bible verses; he knows most of the major stories by heart, as do his four sisters, the youngest of whom is Hadassah, who is now 8. Hadassah can recite numerous lengthy portions of Scripture almost word perfect. All of our children are the same. They all attend church and youth group weekly; we have family devotions most days. If the Lord tarries, Hadassah, like Samuel, would have heard over 3,000 sermons by the time she is 15.

Does all of that make my children Christians? No, sadly not. In fact, despite all those sermons, my children can remain hardened sinners, too proud to see their real need to repent. Not even fifteen years on the mission field and 3000 sermons can make a child acceptable to God and ready for Heaven. No, according to John 3:3, they, like everyone else in the world, “must be born again.”

As we have found out by personal experience within our own family circle, it is possible for children to sit through, and endure thousands of hours of religious instruction, and still be none the better for it. “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” Until such a time as a child is truly and powerfully saved by a miracle of God’s Grace, even something as wholesome as sound Biblical preaching and the fellowship of the local church can become a source of temptation and a snare to him.

Boredom, Unthankfulness, Apathy, Indifference, Cynicism, Scepticism, Duplicity, Hypocrisy, Hardness of heart, even outright Atheism and Rebellion are only a few of the nasty and eternally destructive fruits that can grow almost undetected, right on the front row of our Sunday School Classes. How can that be?

Though my children are privileged and certainly blessed to have been raised in a Christian home, taught by their own loving mother, and exposed to sound and wholesome Bible preaching all of their lives, they are not exempt from temptation. Far from it! In fact, they are actually subject to some very serious and destructive religious temptations children from unsaved homes never face.

Temptation for my children is quite different than it was (and is) for me. I have struggled in my life with the seedier side of the flesh; my children face more subtle temptations, like Nicodemus or young Samuel in the Old Testament. I was an irreligious and naughty child; my children are mostly moral and good. I was corrupted very early in life; and to my great detriment and lasting regret, I became wise concerning the things that are evil. My children, on the other hand, are mostly innocent and, thankfully, quite naïve concerning evil, but they face a host of temptations that in some ways are just as dangerous and harder to discern and much more subtle.

It is important for us here to understand a very important Biblical precept.


“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man” (1 Corinthians 2:14-15).

“Therefore if any man
be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

There is a great difference between being religious and good and being a new creature in Christ. Nicodemus was a good man, but he certainly wasn’t a new man. Samuel in the Old Testament was a religious lad, a very polite and respectful boy, “but he didn’t yet know the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:7). Eli's sons served the Tabernacle but they were “sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.”

God recognised something about Samuel and the sons of Eli that few Christian parents discern today. They were in the right place, but not in a right spirit. Nicodemus in the New Testament was a good man, but a natural man still. His religion was based solely on the natural light of his ritual and outward form of religion, but there was no illumination. Samuel was the same.

Nicodemus knew the Scriptures by heart; he was a Doctor of the law, a ruler of the Jews, but he was unregenerate. The things of the spirit were foolishness unto him, and “he could not know them because they are spiritually discerned.”

Young Samuel heard the voice of the Lord three times and thought it was Eli; he hadn't yet had his heart opened by the Spirit of God.

So it is, I believe, with many of our children. They hear the voice of God and think it is the preacher or only their parents.

Most children in Christian homes profess faith at an early age. Our Samuel called on the Lord the first time when he was about six. We did our utmost to encourage his walk with the Lord, but over the course of the years it became quite evident to us that though Samuel was a good lad, he wasn’t a “new creature.” Like Samuel of old, “he didn't yet know the Lord.”

As he entered into his teenage years we began to detect a definite resistance to and disliking of spiritual truth. This greatly concerned us and because of that we challenged him a number of times concerning his salvation.

I have been impressed more and more over the years that the phrase “if any man be in Christ” in 2 Corinthians 5:17 also applies to children. It wasn’t only the Apostle Paul who used that phrase, The Lord Jesus also said in Luke 9:23, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

In actual fact, if you will look closely, you will notice that the word “man” in Luke 9:23 is not in the original. Jesus said, “If any will come after me let him deny himself...” That certainly includes children born into Christian homes. Why do we expect others to manifest a new life, but not our own children?

We ought not to be congratulating ourselves that our children are good kids and that at least they are in church. No, that position comes far short of Bible salvation. We ought to search out the matter and make diligent inquiry as to whether our precious children are truly born again; are they regenerate? Can we see Biblical evidence of a New Creature? Or are they just, going through the motions?

Children are creatures of habit. They can very easily adapt to their environment, especially if it’s the only one they have ever known. “Christian” children become experts at duplicity; they know all the right words to say at the most appropriate times. They can say their verses and get their awards. They know how to dot all their i's and cross all their spiritual t's, and all the while many of them are complete strangers to the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Often it’s not all their fault. Many Christian parents, even pastors and teachers, take much too much for granted when it comes to the souls of their children. There seems to me to be a great lack of discernment in hanging all of our hopes for our children’s eternal destiny upon some long gone profession of faith that has absolutely no bearing or impact on the general course of their present day lives. Salvation is a today issue.

Don’t ever forget that our children’s sinful natures will only be restrained for a time under the heavy yoke of the Christian home and church culture. Many Christian children in church are just doing what kids do naturally, conforming to the majority mindset around them. They are just going through the motions. That’s all fine and well whilst they are youngsters, but once the hormones begin to kick in and old Adam begins to assert his authority, Mum and Dad look out!

If children continually chafe, complain, and defy and even despise and rebel against the authority of the Scriptures and their parents, it is quite as likely as not that we are dealing with unregenerate offspring. This ought to challenge us, as it is quite obvious in Scripture that the Biblical criterion for salvation is not an empty profession of faith, but rather a new creature. If you doubt that read again Galatians 6:15, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”

If we take the Scriptures seriously we will understand that our children, just like adults, are sinners that need repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If there is genuine repentance, there ought to be genuine fruit. If after a Biblical evaluation of our children’s lives and testimonies we fail to see the evidences of a new creature overcoming the old, we need not despair. No, we need to go to prayer.

We prayed for Samuel his whole life, but we never really took up the matter of his salvation seriously, even unto fasting, until a few years ago. As I mentioned, as Samuel began to enter his early teenage years, old Adam began to make his presence known and it wasn't pleasant.

This was not the normal flesh/spirit conflict of the true Christian mentioned in Romans 7 and Galatians 5:17. We saw this very different spiritual conflict in our daughter Lydia, who was very clearly saved in the year 2000 whilst we were on furlough. She was only six at the time, but we have had no cause since then to doubt her decision, again because we have very clearly seen the “new creature.”

In Samuel we hadn't seen the new creature until just recently. Since Samuel was saved on the 23rd of March this year (he had no idea at the time that it was my spiritual birthday as well), we have seen a definite change. He himself has confessed Christ openly on a number of occasions; he has told me he now understands and gets fed from what he reads in Scripture. He is also experiencing the conflict with his old nature. He desires to be baptised and has expressed a very clear desire to go back to the mission field.

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature...”

Don’t settle for less. By making excuses for worldly-minded, unspiritual children, we are giving place to the devil and also encouraging deceit and hypocrisy. Look for the tell tale signs of dead religious observance, and pray against it for all your worth. Your child’s eternal well being could well depend on you being discerning enough to see it for what it is, unregenerate flesh.

“He that is spiritual judgeth (discerns) all things” (1 Corinthians 2:15).

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