I was asked to write on this subject for Saltshakers from the viewpoint of a youngteen who has grown up as a second-generation Christian. The subject suggests that there are a number of young people, whose parents were converted from heathen religions, and who have been raised in these new Christian families, who struggle with the assurance of salvation.
I had not realized that there were any special challenges involved in growing up as a second-generation Christian, and that young people in such a situation might struggle with knowing that they are children of God. However, after visiting Singapore and talking to some of the young people, I know that these challenges and struggles are real.
I can only write as someone whose family has been Christian for many generations and who may not fully understand these challenges. I ask you young people, therefore, that if I’ve missed anything here, you write me and let me know what I’ve missed or not understood. I would very much like to know more of what you are going through.
Thinking about being a second-generation Christian teen, I believe I can see why there are such struggles. It seems to me that the difficulties with assurance of salvation come because of all these young people have heard their parents’ experiences in being saved from unbelief and heathen worship and in becoming Christians.
Most of you have, I am sure, heard your parents and others talking about the huge change that took place in their lives, about the excitement of becoming a Christian, and even about the persecution they suffered. Since your experience is different and you haven’t gone through the same things, it might seem that you are missing something.
A person might begin to think that he is a Christian only in name and because of his parents and not because of God’s work in his heart. He (or she) might feel that he needs some kind of experience such as his parents had to “prove” that he is truly one of God’s children, and lacking such an experience, feel that he is probably unsaved.
It is not only second-generation Christians who feel that way. There are many in Reformed churches who think that without some kind of memorable “experience” they have no proof of their own salvation and no reason for assurance. So, this problem, though found among you, is not limited to you or to others like you.
What can we say about this? First, you young people need to know that God does not deal with all of us in the same way. There are some who are brought to salvation in the way the Apostle Paul was, suddenly and rather dramatically, but that seems to be a more unusual thing. Others are saved in the same way as Timothy who from a child knew the Holy Scriptures (II Tim. 3:15).
That second way, more common in families that have become Christian, is in many ways preferable. Someone who has become a Christian in that way has the very definite advantage of a lifetime of Christian teaching and training and knows from experience and example in home and church what it means to live as a Christian. I have met many new Christians, who for all their enthusiasm and knowledge of the truth, do not really understand what it means to be a member of the church or to be a Christian parent. They have to learn all that, but you, as second-generation Christians understand that better and have learned that already as children. I’ve seen that in you.
You are not, therefore, missing out on something, but have something your parents had to obtain the hard way, without an example to follow, and often by trial and error. I am sure that if you ask them, they will tell you of the struggles of trying to learn to be Christian parents and to raise a Christian family without any example to follow.
You have, by God’s grace, a definite advantage over someone who has just become a Christian, however suddenly and dramatically that may have happened, something that is very important for the church and for the family and that brings stability to both. You, as second-generation Christians are the future of the church and the hope of the family.
God brings into His kingdom new believers to remind us of His wonderful salvation and to keep us appreciating it, but He also brings in those who are born in Christian homes and families to give stability to His church and to our homes. Remember that we are not only to be rooted in Christ but also to be “stablished” in Him and in the truth.
The second thing has to do with the excitement of becoming a new Christian. You need to realize that even for your parents and others who were converted from heathen religions, the Christian life is not all exciting, but is the daily routine of serving Christ in the place and calling He has given us.
That routine can become wearying and even discouraging. The Word tells all of us not to become weary in well- doing (Gal. 6:9). Here again I am sure that if you question any first-generation Christian, they will tell you that they have gone through times of doubt and difficulty such as yours, wondering where the excitement and enthusiasm had gone.
They had to learn that living the Christian life is like a journey with hills and valleys and that we are not always on the heights. To use another figure, every Christian goes through times of spiritual dryness as well as times of great spiritual blessing and fruitfulness. That is the result of our sinfulness, but it true nevertheless.
It is during such times of spiritual drought that we must know how to deal with our doubts and fears and how God gives to us the assurance of salvation. That, however, is the subject of another article, perhaps more than one. The assurance of salvation, though, is a very precious gift of God and something that we should expect from Him as His children.
Written by: Pastor Ronald Hanko | Issue 10