The sinner's prayer...

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This article by Dad (Joe Bayly) was published in his monthly column, "Out of My Mind," which ran for twenty-five years in Eternity magazine. Originally published in December 1966, the article was titled, "Is There a Parallel Between Infant Baptism and Early Decisions for Jesus?"

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Have you ever considered the possibility of a parallel between infant baptism or "confirmation," on the one hand, and early "decisions for Christ" on the other?

Most of us evangelicals fear an act of religious formality early in life that may be trusted in the absence of conversion. “Of course I’m a Christian—I was confirmed at the age of twelve” rings an alarm in our minds. But “Of course I’m a Christian—I raised my hand in a children’s meeting” doesn’t set off the same alarm.

Some parents and teachers go even further, trying to convince the doubting teen-ager that he’s really a Christian, because “you asked Jesus to come into your heart in the primary department.” Assurance comes from the adult who remembers an act, rather than from the Spirit who may—or may not—indwell the life.

Not all doubts are bad....

Doubt may be God’s instrument of conviction, and to turn it off by reminding the doubter of a prior act—whether confirmation or hand-raising—may be to perform eternal disservice to his soul.

Even in Christian homes, there are individual differences. Not all children will necessarily trust Christ in childhood. Historically, Polycarp (martyred when he was over 80) and Jonathan Edwards (spearhead of colonial America’s Great Awakening) knew Christ before the age of ten. But Augustine, son of godly Monica, and John Wesley, child of the parsonage and of strong Christian parents, were both around 30 years of age when they converted. For Adoniram Judson, the occasion was a summer between college and seminary.

Somehow most of us feel that if the crop isn’t harvested at least by the teen age, there’s not much hope. And many Christian parents would settle for the comforting assurance that their child “made his decision when he was 13,” even if a life of spiritual mediocrity followed, rather than go through the hurt and blind faith in God until their child comes Home from the far country with true spiritual power.