There have been many Christians who attempt a list of those marks that distinguish true conversion from none, real believers from nominal believers, and so forth. Jonathan Edwards devised a list of marks that would distinguish real revival from spurious emotionalism, and the Resurgence has modified it as a set of marks for true conversion.
In short, the marks are:
1). you love Jesus
2) you hate sin
3) you love God’s word
4) you love truth
5) you love believers.
Loving Jesus, of course, is more than putting a fish symbol on the bumper of your car. It is also remembering his words “if you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Hating sin means hating your own, not merely that of the “bad folks” or that other guy who could have really benefited from the pastor’s sermon today. Loving God’s word includes, well, reading it. Loving truth means that we are not exempt from using our minds to think about things. And loving other believers means we should love those on the other side of the world, but also those on the other side of the table, in our own congregations.
Brian Croft has modified the list to help parents and pastors in discerning if children have experienced true conversion:
1) a growing affection and need for Jesus and the gospel
2) a heightened understanding of the truths of Scripture
3) an increased kindness and selflessness toward siblings
4) a greater awareness of and distaste for sin
5) a noticeable desire to obey parents.
Croft recommends steering a middle road between the extremes of recognizing conversion in children when they are too young and waiting too long to recognize it.
In addition, parents should avoid using these marks (or others like them) as something that children should parrot back: a child who says on cue “I have affection and need for Jesus and the gospel” or who claims kindness and affection for siblings while beating them up might not actually have a changed heart.
How do parents avoid teaching only to parrot or addressing behavior only as performance? Preach the gospel: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration or God, Man, Sin, Redemption. When the Holy Spirit has — through God’s word — changed a child’s heart, parents will notice.