Have you ever been deeply disappointed by your young children? The Bible has some pretty graphic words to describe their heart’s condition. If we take these warnings seriously, we’ll never look at our job the same.

“I can’t believe it—our son looked me straight in the eye and lied! After all the time we put into reading great books and training him to be obedient, responsible, and honest, his behavior is really disappointing.”

Why is this situation so common? And why are we shocked when it happens? The Bible tells us the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Really, we should never be surprised when the true nature of our child’s heart is revealed.

We should never be surprised when the true nature of our child’s heart is revealed.

It goes back to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were created without sin, but Adam rebelled against God. Since Adam is the head of the human race by God’s decree, all of his descendants—all of humankind—have inherited the natural inclination to hate God and rebel against Him (Romans 8:7; James 4:4). If we forget this sobering reality, we can become complacent and content with outward obedience to the family “rules.”

We often fail to consider what is motivating our children’s good behavior. If they are motivated solely by avoiding punishment or gaining rewards, they will not be able to maintain their obedience. However, if their hearts are directed toward God’s holiness and justice and the love and mercy He revealed through Jesus Christ, they will begin to develop a lifelong desire to please the holy God they know and love.

This means as your children grow you must be vigilant! The sin nature they have inherited from Adam is tenacious, and fighting it is a lifelong battle. The fact that they are “good” today does not guarantee they will be “good” tomorrow.

But God’s grace and the truth of His Word are more than sufficient to change your children’s hearts. Begin teaching them the entire gospel—including the critical fact that we inherited a sin nature from Adam—while they are very young. Warn them that they can’t trust their own hearts. They’re probably not hearing that anywhere else—even in church. Be aware of what they are learning in school and watching on TV so you can effectively combat the error they may be exposed to.

Also, model your fear of God and love for Jesus, and sincerely demonstrate your gratitude for His work in your life. Show your love for God’s Word by reading it in your own quiet time and regularly with your family. And pray fervently for them (James 5:16).

Do not underestimate what you are up against in combatting Satan for the minds and hearts of your children. But at the same time, do not underestimate the sovereign Creator God of the universe, who can accomplish miracles through His Word.

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear (Isaiah 59:1).”

Cindy Malott served as director of children’s ministry in Ormond Beach, Florida, before coming to Answers in Genesis. She is children’s writer and editor for Answers Bible Curriculum and contributed with Ken Ham to the Answers Book for Kids, volumes 1–4.

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