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What, then, are some reliable signs that someone has experienced true conversion? The great American preacher and theologian of the early eighteenth century, Jonathan Edwards, who preached in some of the revivals of the First Great Awakening, examined this question. In his work The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, he found in 1 John 4 that the apostle points out five traits of an authentically converted believer. In modern language, such a person:
1. Acknowledges and exalts Jesus as Lord and Savior (1 John 4:2–3)
2. Recognizes the evil of sin in his or her life, the world, and the devil and seeks to overcome it (1 John 4:4–5)
3. Has a growing understanding and love for God’s Word (1 John 4:6)
4. Seeks for and discerns the truth in all things (1 John 4:6)
5. Loves God and others (1 John 4:8)
These five marks of true conversion will be present in the life of every true believer, although the marks may evidence themselves somewhat differently in the life of a child compared to an adult. (Immaturity and stages of development must be taken into account.) So how do these translate into the life of your son or daughter? Here are some questions to consider:
1. Is there a genuine affection and love for Jesus in your child’s life, or is your child just parroting your religious language? In other words, is your child in love with Jesus as evidenced by an infectious enthusiasm for the Lord? Does your child enjoy talking about Jesus and demonstrate sincerity in the worship of Jesus as seen in prayers and corporate worship?
2. Is your child truly sorry when he or she does something sinful or harms someone else? Does he or she get upset when bad things happen to others and have a desire to do something about it? Is your child’s conscience working in a way that leads to repentance—a change in actions and desire to live like Jesus?
3. Does your child enjoy reading Bible stories, and is he or she growing in the understanding of Scripture? Does your child seem interested in knowing more about God, and does he or she ask appropriate questions?
4. Is your child growing in wisdom, and is he or she better able to discern good from evil as evidenced by what he or she enjoys doing and choosing? For instance, does a child turn away from media choices that are offensive, recognize and make comments about the bad behavior of adults or peers, stand up for a friend being bullied, and confront or walk away from negative peer pressure?
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