If you’d like to enter our drawing for one of two copies of God’s Gospel, please remember that the deadline is Friday, March 11. We will draw two names at random and announce the winners on Monday, March 15. To enter, please post your comment to the article titled “Helping Children Understand What Happened at the Cross + Free Giveaway.”
I am fully convinced that children can understand big theological concepts. And I believe that we, as adults, should introduce and explain big theological concepts to our children and students. One of these concepts that is of greatest importance is what really happened when Jesus died on the cross. Why was His death on the cross able and sufficient to save His sinful people? Here is an example of how you could explain the meaning of Jesus’ death by focusing on the meaning of two short verses.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness… (1 Peter 2:24a, ESV)
He is the propitiation for our sins, (1 John 2:2a, ESV)
Here is what these verses mean: Because Jesus always obeyed God and was sinless (righteous), He was able to be the perfect substitute for sinners. How? While Jesus hung on the cross, God took the sins of all the people whom He specially loved and placed them on Jesus. (Think of taking a bunch of icky garbage and placing it in a clean plastic bag.) So there was Jesus, now carrying many, many sins. What does God feel toward sin? Wrath. (Remember that wrath is fierce anger.) [Romans 1:18.] What is the right punishment? Death. [Romans 6:23a.] So even though no one could see it with their eyes, while Jesus hung on the cross, God poured out all His fierce anger at sin on Jesus. God punished His own Son to death.
Feeling God’s wrath and experiencing death was millions of times worse than all the mocking, whipping, beating, and nails that Jesus had suffered (the things people saw). But Jesus received God’s punishment willingly so that His people would never, ever, ever have to receive it. That way, God’s people would receive God’s smile, instead of His wrathful frown. That’s what the word propitiation means. Jesus received God’s wrath so that we could receive His smile. That is the most wonderful news in the whole world!
Unseen to anyone, Jesus took away the sin of His people and was punished by God in their place. Now God’s people could be completely forgiven, forever… [But when Jesus] died on the cross, He didn’t just take away something from His people (their sin). He also gave them something. What is it? His perfect righteousness (perfect obedience). Now God’s people would be able to live with God forever! From the very beginning, that is what God had wanted and planned all along!
This example is taken from my book, God’s Gospel (Making Him Known series, pages 103-104). The book walks children through the essential truths of the Gospel—beginning in the book of Genesis—by introducing key events and theological concepts, all explained in a child-friendly manner. (And yes, there is an entire chapter explaining the importance of Jesus’ resurrection, too!) Each of the 26 chapters also includes a “Learning to Trust God” section that offers parents additional discussion questions and/or activities to further spiritual conversation between parent and child. You can learn more about the book here.
Another helpful resource for families is Helping Children to Understand the Gospel. This booklet explores the following topics: preparing the hearts of children to hear the Gospel; discerning stages of spiritual growth; communicating the essential truths of the Gospel; and presenting the Gospel in an accurate and child-friendly manner. It also includes a 10-week family devotional to help parents explain the Gospel to their children.
We have 2 copies of God’s Gospel that we would love to give away. Simply post a comment below by Friday, March 11, and your name will be entered in the contest. We will draw 2 names at random and will announce the winners on Monday, March 14.
It was with mingled sadness and joy that I learned of Jerry Bridges’ passing at age 86. One of the great legacies he leaves behind that I have personally benefited from was his emphasis on the biblical call to a Gospel-centered, grace-fueled pursuit of holiness in the Christian life. Toward that end, his writings repeatedly direct our attention to a rich, deep, grand vision of God—a vision too often minimized in contemporary children’s and youth ministry. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from his book The Practice of Godliness—Godliness Has Value for All Things:
It is impossible to be devoted to God if one’s heart is not filled with the fear of God. It is the profound sense of veneration and honor, reverence and awe that draws forth from our hearts the worship and adoration that characterizes true devotion to God. (page 20)
In our day we must begin to recover a sense of awe and profound reverence for God. We must begin to view Him once again in the infinite majesty that alone belongs to Him who is the Creator and Supreme Ruler of the entire universe. (page 21)
In our day we seem to have magnified the love of God almost to the exclusion of the fear of God. Because of this preoccupation we are not honoring God and reverencing Him as we should. We should magnify the love of God; but although we revel in His love and mercy, we must never lose sight of His majesty and His holiness.
Not only will a right concept of the fear of God cause us to worship God aright, it will also regulate our conduct. (page 22)
The love of God has no meaning apart from Calvary. And Calvary has no meaning apart from the holy and just wrath of God. Jesus did not die just to give us peace and a purpose in life; He died to save us from the wrath of God. He died to reconcile us to a holy God who was alienated from us because of our sin. He died to ransom us from the penalty of sin—the punishment of everlasting destruction, shut out from the presence of the Lord. He died that we, the just objects of God’s wrath, should become, by His grace, heirs of God and co-heirs with Him. (page 24)
Now, think for a moment of our children’s and youth ministries—the Sunday morning classroom, the Wednesday night teaching and activities, and the various other programs. Do all these serve, in some measure, to encourage our children to be in reverent awe of God? Is a proper “fear of God” part of their classroom experience? Do we present the death of Jesus—the Gospel—within the context of both the love and wrath of God?
Parents and teachers: one of the great gifts we can pass on to our children and students is a life that magnifies and honors God by pursuing holiness and practicing godliness with increasing measure and joy. In this regard, Jerry Bridges was a gift from God to the church. May we raise up a generation of future men and women who follow his example.
Imagine a preschool Sunday school curriculum that presents 64 chronological Bible stories from the Old Testament…all of them focusing on the character of God. Is there something wrong with this? Something missing? Doesn’t the whole Bible point to Jesus? Shouldn’t we make clear that every story points to Jesus?
Before you respond to these important and valid questions, I would ask you to carefully read and ponder this quote from J. Gresham Machen:
…when men say that we know God only as He is revealed in Jesus, they are denying all real knowledge of God whatever. For unless there be some idea of God independent of Jesus, the ascription of deity to Jesus has no meaning. To say, “Jesus is God,” is meaningless unless the word “God” has an antecedent meaning attached to it…We are not forgetting the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” But these words do not mean that if a man had never known what the word “God” means, he could come to attach an idea to that word merely by his knowledge of Jesus’ character. On the contrary, the disciples to whom Jesus was speaking had already a very definite conception of God: a knowledge of the one supreme Person was presupposed in all that Jesus said. But the disciples desired not only a knowledge of God but also intimate, personal contact. And that came through their intercourse with Jesus. Jesus revealed, in a wonderfully intimate way, the character of God, but such revelation obtained its true significance only on the basis both of the Old Testament heritage and of Jesus’ own teaching. Rational theism, the knowledge of one Supreme Person, Maker and active Ruler of the world, is at the very root of Christianity.
(“Christianity and Liberalism,” copyright©2009, pages 48-49)
Could it be that, especially for preschoolers, it is crucial that we first focus on giving them a concept of God as revealed in the Old Testament? By introducing them to key truths regarding who God is and what He is like, are we not preparing young children to better understand the significance of what it means that “Jesus is God”?
As much as it is truthful to say that the whole Bible points to Jesus and the Gospel, we must not dismiss or minimize Dr. Machen’s point. Our children need to be taught a robust doctrine of God. They need to see “God” as He has revealed Himself throughout the Old Testament—His power, love, mercy, sovereign rule, holiness, goodness, faithfulness, etc. These are the antecedents that give meaning to the New Testament’s assertion that “Jesus is God,” and they provide the necessary foundation for understanding the message of the Gospel.
Don’t Forget to Reserve Your Conference Seminars!
We are excited to have are over 60 seminar options for you to choose from at our nation conference, including both classic favorites and brand new topics. You will be able to attend four seminars and receive practical training on the ins and outs of children’s ministry, teaching and parenting. Our incredible line up of seminar presenters include pastors, authors, teachers, children’s ministry leaders, youth pastors, parents, an engineer, missionary and college professor who are all passionate about teaching the next generation to set their hope in God…and equipping you to do you same.
Seminars seats are filling up quickly! If you are registered for the conference, be sure to reserve your seminars now to make sure you can attend your first choices. Seminar selections must be chosen by March 31.
Download the Scheduling Worksheet to help you determine your choices and plan your seminar schedule. Don’t know where to start? Here are some suggested seminar tracks to get you started.
Not registered for the conference yet? Register today and save!
For years, while the Children Desiring God leadership team pondered and prayed about future conference themes and speakers, I harbored the hope that someday we would be able to have Dr. Albert Mohler speak. It seemed a long shot. After all, he is not only president of one of the world’s largest and most influential seminaries, he is also a much requested speaker at numerous “first-tier” theological conferences. So, what a shock and a joy—and a testament to God’s gracious providence—that Dr. Mohler will be one of our plenary speakers in Indianapolis. And I believe that his message to us on Friday April 15, “Holding Fast the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform” will be especially timely in this day and age. Please consider joining us as we hope to be challenged and encouraged by Dr. Mohler.
Here is a little of what we have to look forward to:
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. serves as the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, one of the largest seminaries in the world. On his website, AlbertMohler.com, Al writes commentaries on moral, cultural, and theological issues. He also hosts two programs: “The Briefing,” a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview; and “Thinking in Public,” a series of conversations with the day’s leading thinkers. Viewed as a leader among American evangelicals, Al is widely sought as a columnist and commentator by the nation’s leading newspapers and news programs and has authored several books, including Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth. Al and his wife Mary have two children, Katie and Christopher and one grandson.