Archive - Theology RSS Feed

Why Stay “Hitched” to the Old Testament?

Earlier this year, controversy swirled around pastor Andy Stanley when he said in a sermon that Christians should “unhitch” their faith from the Old Testament. In a podcast interview with Jonathan Merritt last week, he tried to clarify what he meant by expanding on his earlier comments. He said, “I am convinced for the sake of this generation and the next generation, we have to rethink our apologetic as Christians, and the less we depend on the Old Testament to prop up our New Testament faith the better because of where we are in [the] culture.”

But we see in Psalm 78 precisely the opposite:

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.

He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
7 so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;

For the sake of this generation, and all the generations, we must tell them about the mighty deeds of God, including the ones recorded in the Old Testament. We must not hide them lest the children — the upcoming generations — be like their fathers, who did not believe in God and who were destroyed.

If we hide the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done — the very substance of the Old Testament — we will cut our children off from one of God’s primary means for setting their hope in Him. In Truth78’s family devotional, Glorious God, Glorious Gospel, the chapter about knowing God’s promises answers the question, “Why teach children the Old Testament?” It says,

The Old Testament narrative is an amazing testimony to the faithfulness of God in bringing about His sovereign purposes. Throughout the varied stories, themes, and events of the Old Testament, we see one overarching storyline — the progressive revelation of God choosing and redeeming a people for Himself, a people who are to be set apart, “holy” to the LORD. A people bound, guided, and protected by the promises of God. Promises made by God are always shown to be promises fulfilled by God. God always does what His says He will do. No one is able to thwart His purposes. All creation, whether rock, water, bird, or man, serves God’s grand design and plans.

Why teach children the Old Testament? Because

it is within this context that they can better understand and appreciate the Gospel. The Gospel is the culmination of God’s promises and purposes for His chosen people. Every promise in the Old Testament provides an unshakable foundation for understanding and trusting in the Gospel. Every Old Testament promise points forward to the meaning and necessity of the perfect work of Christ. God’s good and wise providence over the people of Israel is the same providence acting to save His sinful people through the death of His beloved Son. Recounting these past promises is meant to give God’s people — children included — confidence for the future as we anticipate Jesus’ return, our resurrection unto eternal life, and the establishment of His everlasting kingdom.

Stanley hopes to downplay the Old Testament, thinking that will lead people closer to God. But doing that will block their way to God. And this effect will be most pronounced on children, the very ones God commands parents to tell.

Albert Mohler talked at length on his blog about what Stanley said and the many reasons believers should be concerned about it. He said Stanley’s apporach is not a new way of thinking about the Bible. It is very similar, he said, to the ancient heresy of Marcion, “who argued that the Old Testament must be repudiated by the church.”

So it is that every generation is in danger of failing to disciple the next generation. Though most believing parents still affirm the goodness of teaching the Old Testament to their children, we are no less in need of the warning, and hope, of Psalm 78. Our temptations to hide God’s mighty deeds from our children can take subtle forms. Whether it’s regular family devotions crowded out by the start up of school, sports schedules, and friends; the pull of entertainment, screen time, and endless electronic distractions; or the timidity of not knowing where to begin, we need to carve out and protect time to tell our children and the coming generations the glorious deeds of God.

It’s easy to read the history of the Israelites in the desert and wonder how they could be so foolish, so repeatedly disobedient, so ungrateful for all God had done for them. In light of their desert wanderings, it makes sense that God would warn them repeatedly not to forget Him and all His mighty deeds. But we are just as prone to forgetfulness and folly, to distraction and neglect. Writing in the New Testament, Paul urged the believers in Corinth to remember their history. Writing about the idolatry of ancient Israel, he said, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

The Old Testament was written for our instruction. May we, by the grace of Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, and to the glory of God, heed His warning. And may we also glory in God’s mighty deeds, teaching them to our children so that they might set their hope in Him.


Wondering where to begin teaching your children the Old Testament? Glorious God, Glorious Gospel, the interactive family devotional, is designed to help parents instruct the mind, engage the heart, and influence the will of their children.

It answers the questions Who is God and what is He like? Why do I exist? How am I to act toward God? What is my greatest problem and need? What has God done to solve this problem? How can I be saved? and How should I now live? 

Each of the 15 chapters builds on the previous one, providing a logical flow of thought from the Old Testament (chapters 1-8) to the New (chapters 9-15). It covers the progressive unfolding of God’s redemptive plan so crucial for understanding the person and work of Christ, and presents a clear, succinct summary of the Gospel.

 

 

Does Every Lesson Need to be a “Jesus and the Cross” Lesson?

Much has been said in recent years about teaching the Old Testament from a distinctly Christian perspective — seeing  Jesus and the Gospel in all of Scripture. But in this video, John Piper raises an important concern about turning this perspective into a type of simplistic interpretative formula. He says,

… the danger in making a beeline to the cross too quickly and too methodically and regularly is, number one, it’ll start to sound artificial. It’ll start to sound monotonous. It’ll start to be fanciful, because you’ll come up with really clever ways of doing things that aren’t really there and it’ll keep you from seeing important things that are there.

I believe Pastor John’s concern needs thoughtful consideration. I fully share his appreciation for the renewal of Gospel-focused preaching and teaching in the church. As a Sunday school teacher and parent, I experienced firsthand the gospel-less, deadly moralism that characterized so much of children’s Bible curriculum. But with this wonderful renewed focus on Christ and the Gospel, comes a new pitfall we need to avoid when teaching children.

Piper’s example of Elisha and Naaman serves as an excellent example. We need to give our children and students the proper Bible study tools so that they can dig deep into the text — mining it for its treasures. This takes time. It takes step-by-step training. But by doing so, we are giving our children a priceless gift; a gift that will serve them for a lifetime and will provide a wonderfully rich foundation for making them wise for salvation through faith in Christ.

At Truth78, we structure our lessons to foster these essential Bible study tools. We slowly and carefully lead children to discover the meaning of the text — asking questions, looking at context, drawing conclusions, etc. Once we’ve done that, we then point the students toward Christian application. In a lesson on Elisha and Naaman we might ask:  What does this story tell us about God’s character? What do we learn about man’s heart? How does the text apply to your own heart and life? Do you ever have a proud spirit? What does this look like? Is this pleasing to God? Why not? Has God provided us with an even greater blessing than physical healing? What is it? What does God call us to do in order to receive salvation through Jesus? etc.

This approach is more time-consuming in the classroom. And it requires teachers and parents to take the long view: We’re introducing children to the God of the Bible — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We’re helping build a solid Gospel foundation beneath them. We’re helping them learn to mine the immeasurable riches of the Word of God for a lifetime. We’re doing this because we want them to be able to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

We may not be making a beeline to Jesus and the cross in every lesson, but we are diligently training children as we acquaint them with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

As we teach the whole Bible, we pray the children in our classrooms and in our family rooms will be made wise for salvation so that they may, like Timothy, be faithful to continue in faith.

——————— 

To learn more about our approach to teaching the whole Bible, please see these resource:

The Theological and Philosophical Foundations of Truth78 Teaching Resources

The Great Story and the Single Verse by John Piper

Jesus in Every Old Testament Passage? Parts 1 and 2 (The author discusses the merits and cautions of a “Christ-in-every-passage” approach to studying and teaching the Old Testament.)


Video Transcript (lightly edited)

You asked whether every lesson needs to be a Jesus lesson. Like if you’re in the Old Testament with Elisha, does it always have to go to the cross? That was the gist of the question. And it’s the same with preaching. I just wrote a book on preaching and I’m concerned about this. The Gospel Coalition is evidence of a renewal of gospel focus in the church and a lot of pastors think you’ve got to get to the gospel even if you’re preaching on tithing or something. I would say the danger in making a beeline to the cross too quickly and too methodically and regularly is, number one, it’ll start to sound artificial. It’ll start to sound monotonous. It’ll start to be fanciful, because you’ll come up with really clever ways of doing things that aren’t really there and it’ll keep you from seeing important things that are there.

Let me give me give a quick illustration right off my front burners. I’m reading through the Bible, and this morning I’m reading in 2nd Kings 4 and 5, the story of Elisha and the leper Naaman, and Gehazi. Here’s the gist of the story. This little servant girl says, “You should go to Israel and get the Prophet Elisha to heal you from your leprosy, Naaman.” And he goes to his king [of Syria], and the king writes a letter to the king [of Israel], and sends Naaman, and the king [of Israel] says, “I’m not God that I can heal this leprosy” – which  gives you a clue what the story is about – and Elisha hears that, and he goes to the king and says, “I’ll show him there’s a God in Israel.”

Now that’s the point of the story: “I’ll show him there’s a God in Israel. Tell him to come to me.” He goes to him; Elisha won’t even go out the door. He sends a messenger out to tell this big shot from Syria, “Go wash in the Jordan, see you later.” This guy’s ticked and he will not go. Now I think we ought to teach kids “pride keeps you from getting blessings.” I think that’s in the text and intentional, because his sidekicks argue, “Look, he’s asking you just a little simple thing. Would you just humble yourself and do it?” And when he comes up out of the water, it says his skin is like the skin of a child. This is about childlikeness receiving blessings from God.

So that’s lesson one that you might miss if you say, “He got washed in the Jordan from leprosy; Jesus will wash you from a worse disease,” end of lesson. Not a good way to end the lesson and miss all the points.

Here’s the second point: As soon as he sees he’s clean, Elijah says, “I’m not taking any money for this. We don’t sell good news here.” Now you’re going to talk about gospel preachers on television with these kids, ok? “We don’t sell we don’t sell the gospel. I’m not taking anything from you — you go back and worship the true God.” Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, says, “that’s crazy,” and he runs after him and says, “My master said he did, by the way, want some clothing and some of your silver.” And he says, “Oh sure, give it to him.” And when he goes back, Elisha says to him, “Did you think this was a time for getting silver and clothing?” And Gehazi had leprosy for the rest of his life.

Greed. Greed and pride. The story is about greed and pride. And if we run to the cross from the dipping in the river, before we see the point of the story, and tell these kids, “You’ve got to be childlike, you’ve got to be humble, if you’re gonna know God, you’ve got to not love money, and if you know preachers who preach for money, they’re not real preachers.” You’ve got to say that. Now when you’re done you can say – I mean the three songs you sang at the beginning of  Sunday school might have been all about Jesus. That may be all you need. We’re about Jesus every weekend in this room. Nothing comes to you but with Jesus – if you say, “How do you become humble? How do you become free from greed?” Then you dig into sanctification, and the cross, and the blood, and the power of the Holy Spirit, and the glory of the Father.

So my caution with that movement, in preaching on Sunday morning, and in teaching kids is – there’s a real good impulse behind it because we’re not mere Jews and we’re not mere Muslims, therefore we shouldn’t read our Old Testaments and interpret them in a way that a Muslim and a Jew would be happy with our interpretation. Which means we’ve got to be Christian. And so you do get there. But how you get there – please, don’t miss the awesomeness of Deuteronomy or 2nd Kings.

 

Who Is the Most Important Person?

We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done (Psalm 78:4).

This passage instructs us to lay before our children the glorious deeds of the Lord—how strong and powerful He is, and the wonders that He has done. This concept reaches its apex at the Cross; a place where the gloriousness and the powerful reality of God converged, as God willingly sacrificed his son—to the wonderment of the world—and the wonderment of all of the universe. The challenge we face is that this message is either set in the context of a culture that is inclined to reject it, or that the message of God’s glorious deeds is never even heard.

As great as the vision is of telling children the glorious deeds of the Lord, there is a counterbalance in this verse of what must not be done: We must not hide these things from our children. Hide means to conceal. It means to cover. It also means to deny. You can hide something by simply denying its truthfulness. Every child, every adult for that matter, but particularly every child, needs to have the truth of the Scriptures brought to bear on his or her life because there is a false and natural narrative that children embrace from the very beginning of their lives. If nothing is done to alter that, the false narrative natural to children will serve to counteract and to deny the true gospel that can save them.

The truth is a necessity because of the denial that naturally exists within the heart of every child. Following are four of the false beliefs children are born with:

It’s All About Me

Every child is born into the world believing they are the center of the universe. No one had to teach a child how to say the word mine.

I remember one time when I was getting on a bus in Ukraine. I saw a child getting off the bus and his mother put her hand out to stop him, and he slapped it and said something in Ukrainian. I don’t know Ukranian, but I knew exactly what that child was saying. That child was saying in Ukranian, “I do it!”

I Am the Best

The narrative born in the heart of every child is that “you are the best; you are better than others.”

My wife teaches our kindergarten Sunday school class and she comes back on Sundays with the most unbelievable stories, and the most beautiful illustrations of the depravity of man. Part of her lesson involves teaching the Ten Commandments. Her main aim is to help children understand that they’re sinners. This is sometimes a very challenging task. In one lesson she asked some children if they were sinners. One boy raised his hand and said, “No, I’m not. But my sister sure is!”

No one had to teach him to say that. His mom didn’t get in the car and say, “When you’re asked today, tell them your sister’s a sinner, but you’re not.” That is baked into the fabric of our humanity—tragically so.

I Deserve to Be Happy

I remember my children riding in the back of our van telling me, “You don’t make me very happy, Dad.” That created a great teaching moment for me to remind them that my ultimate aim in life is not their happiness.

Nothing Should Stand in My Way

This is prevailing in our culture: whatever you believe that you are, you must be. And don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not who you believe you are on the inside. This false narrative is doing incredible damage as little children are trying to determine their identity and trying to find it inside themselves. How tragic is it, that we would ask a child to define for themselves who they really are?

We’re all born wanting what we want. That’s the problem. Our “want” is broken; so broken we’re willing to do just about anything to get what we want.

One Sunday I asked my wife, “How was Sunday School today?” She said, “It was a little awkward.” I said, “Why?” “We have a contest going to help the kids memorize the Ten Commandments,” she said. “When they do, I give them an award.” I said, “OK, what happened?” She said, “Well, we had a little girl lie about memorizing the Ten Commandments.” That’s challenging.

This brokenness is bound into the heart of our humanity. Whenever I begin to talk about this, I hear a particular song in the back of my head—it’s crazy. Part of the reason I hear this is because when I was growing up, I used to watch Captain Kangaroo. And there was a public service announcement that was often broadcast in the mornings and there was this song. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgdFMIk38Ms) I want you to hear the narrative of this song.

The most important person in the whole wide world is you and you hardly even know you.
The most important person in the whole wide world is you come on, we’ll show you.
Let’s find out more about the things you feel and do cause you’re the most important person in the world to you.

They put that in a song and sent it to millions of children in the ‘70s. That’s why I’m so messed up! This is the sort of narrative the gospel comes into.

Why do we need to tell children the glorious deeds of the Lord, and of His might, and of His wonders? Because hiding these truths from them is not just the difference between information and lack of information, or truth and ignorance. It’s the difference between a path that produces life and a path that produces death.

The gospel narrative says you’re not the center of the world, God is the center. It says not that you’re the best, but that God is the one Who is glorious and He is what is truly best. It says true happiness is not found in yourself, but rather, eternal happiness—and happiness even now—is found in your relationship with God. The gospel tells the truth: That God is a gracious, loving creator who loves you, redeems you, and rescues you—from what? From yourself.

We must not hide these truths from our children. We must help them to know that they are not “the most important people in the whole wide world.” But instead, the most important person in the whole wide world is God. Truth78 exists to say, “Come, let me show you. The most important person in the whole universe is God. So gather round. Let me show you.”


This article was adapted from the message Mark Vroegop gave at the Truth78 launch event in April, 2018. You can watch the full event here.

Why Children Need a High View of God

I still remember reading A. W. Tozer’s book, The Knowledge of the Holy, back when I was in my freshman year of college. In the preface of that book, Tozer writes, “The view of God entertained among evangelicals these days is so low, so beneath the dignity of God as to constitute idolatry.”

How important it is to know God rightly.

What is needed for children to see how true and how glorious, how joy producing is the Christian faith? What will produce in the next generation faithfulness, strength of character, willingness to serve sacrificially—a willingness to go anywhere the Lord might want them to go to be witnesses for Him? What will it take to bring this about in them?

There are many answers to that question. But there is one that is of the upmost importance if children are to grow and have the strength of faith and a joy in the Lord. Consider six reasons why we must pass on to the next generation a high view of God.

First, it’s true.

Do we not want our children to grow and to know God as He is? And not present God in barely bigger than human terms? We want them to see his majesty, His glory, His independence. We do not want them growing up thinking, Boy, it’s a good thing that God has me on His side because I know He needs me to get the work done that needs to be done.

We want them to realize from their very earliest years how much they need God, but how He doesn’t need them at all. My goodness, the privilege that it is to be related to this God who loves them so deeply. So, indeed, to know God rightly, is to know Him both as other than us and near to us. Both as transcendent in the glory of His holiness, His Majesty, His power, His dominion, His sovereignty. And, amazingly, to recognize His love and goodness and kindness and mercy, His forgiveness, His tenderness. It’s true that God is great and it’s true that God is majestic and merciful.

Second, a high view of God enhances our understanding of his love and His mercy and His grace.

Here’s what happens if you approach the love of God without understanding the glory and the greatness of God. When the words come to your ears, “God loves you,” what do you think? Well of course He does! Aren’t I worth it? I mean, who wouldn’t love a wonderful person like I am?

We live in a culture that is so filled with a sense of entitlement that we bring it into the Christian faith. We start thinking that we deserve this love of God that we hear about. I think one of the biggest problems we have in our churches, broadly speaking, is we have this rush to the divine immanence. We rush to talk about the love of God, the grace of God, the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God—all of which are true—all of which are glorious. But because people typically do not have a high view of God, they hear those things and they think in terms of entitlement: Well of course.

But if you realize God is holy, that He is perfectly pure in all of his ways, then you hear the love of God very  differently. You hear it the way Isaiah must have understood it in Isaiah 6, after he saw the glory of God’s holiness, His majesty, His power, His might, and His purity. Then realized his own sin before God as the basis by which God then came and brought to him forgiveness and grace and mercy.

What a difference that makes! This is not entitled mercy; entitled grace. (That’s an oxymoron, by the way. Grace is unmerited favor.)  But you stand in awe and wonder that that great God would deem it good and right to love the likes of me.

Third, it promotes deep and authentic humility.

We do not want our kids growing up thinking, How great I am. We want our kids growing up thinking, How great God is! We all need so much to understand how little we are, how weak we are, how foolish we are. But incredibly, God in His mercy and grace, through His son Jesus, has brought us to the One who is great, who is wise, who is knowledgeable, who is able to provide everything we need out of the infinite fullness of His bounty. A true humility is grounded in a high view of God.

Fourth, it strengthens living and vibrant faith.

One of the most important elements of faith is a confidence that God is able. Nothing could thwart His power. Nothing could hinder Him from accomplishing whatever He chooses to do. This big view of God that sees His strength and His might—His sovereign majesty—is one of the resources that is absolutely necessary to believe in God. If you don’t think that He can do it, you’re going to look elsewhere. You’re going to go horizontal quickly and look for help from this or that other person, this or that other scheme. What will lead us to go vertical is the conviction that God is the one who is able to bring about anything that He chooses to do.

In addition to being certain that God can powerfully bring about what He chooses, faith requires knowing that He always chooses the best. He knows perfectly what needs to be done, and no one can match His wisdom.

The third ingredient necessary for faith in God is a confidence that He is for us; that He really does love and care for His people. Confidence in the power of God, and the wisdom of God, and the love of God is necessary for faith. A high view of God is absolutely critical then for a living and vibrant faith.

Fifth, a high view of God provides the resources necessary for times of suffering and affliction.

I don’t know what people do during times of suffering, whether for themselves or close friends or family members, if they don’t have a confidence that God’s ways are best, and that He is working through the suffering to bring about the good that He has designed to come to pass. That’s everything. I’ve heard so many people say, “When you’re talking to someone going through suffering, don’t bring up Romans 8:28.” And my response is, “Why in the world not?”

Why hide from them one of the most glorious teachings in the Bible that has everything to do with strengthening the faith of suffering Christians? God works everything together for good. Wow. He can do that? Oh yes He can!

A high view of God enables us to believe that God is in our suffering for good. We may not see all He is doing in this life, but we know His character. We know that He will never fail in accomplishing any of the good ends that He has designed. So indeed, we believe God during those times because we know who He is. Like the song says, “When we can’t trace His hand, we trust His heart.”

Sixth and finally, it elicits genuine and sustained worship of the God to whom alone belongs all glory.

To realize why it is that God alone should be worshiped requires a high view of who God is. Otherwise, our tendency is to think that something else out there ought to be receiving our worship, or perhaps, I ought to be receiving it.

Whatever there is that is worthy of worship, is what we ought to worship. Whatever is truly honorable, ought to be honored. Whatever is praiseworthy ought to be praised. The only way we can answer the question, “Who is it that deserves praise, that deserves honor, that deserves worship?” rightly is by knowing who God actually is. He alone is the One worthy of that honor, and glory, and worship. And when we know who God rightly is, and we worship Him, we are changed.

God has so designed us that we instinctively, naturally seek to become like whatever we esteem most highly. Did you know that about yourself?  Look at what you love; you adore; you treasure. Guess what you’re looking at? You’re looking at a reflection of what you are becoming. God wants us to see Him as eminently worthy of our deepest affections, our genuine love, our highest worship. In so doing, what happens to us? We long to take on the character of the One we adore.

May God help us to be tools in His hands in the life of the next generation, to see them develop a high view of God; to know Him rightly and to enter into the joy and the truth of the Christian faith, that they might in turn pass that on to the generation that follows.


This post was adapted from the message Bruce Ware gave at the Truth78 launch event in April, 2018. You can watch the full event here.

 

Should Children Be Taught the Wrath of God?

Truth78 had the privilege of having a Q & A session with John Piper at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference in June. One question he answered dealt with Truth78’s first grade curriculum, The ABC’s of God. That curriculum features a lesson on God’s wrath. Listen to the specific question and Pastor John’s answer:

So yes, we must teach children about the wrath of God. They need to be taught early on that God is very angry at sin, and is right to punish sinners. Every one of us deserves God’s wrath. This is an essential gospel issue. But it is also extremely important that we consider how we teach children about God’s wrath. There is an age-appropriateness in how we explain it and the tone in which we use. Furthermore, God’s wrath should be taught within the context of His other divine attributes.

For example, in The ABC’s of God curriculum, here are some attributes of God that children are taught before the lesson on His wrath,

Eternal, Creator, glorious, wise, almighty, sovereign, provider, self-sufficient, understanding, attentive, faithful, happy, love, omnipresent, refuge, unchanging, omniscient, good, jealous, righteous

And in the lessons that follow, they are taught that God is patient and merciful and sent His Son into the world to deliver His people from His wrath. You can view the lesson on God’s wrath here.

For further reference, here are some previous articles we’ve written on this important topic:

What Our Children Need to Know about God’s Wrath

Are There Threats to the Gospel in Our Classroom?
The Gospel Alphabet Series:

The Three Ds of Deuteronomy 6

When it comes to understanding and articulating cultural shifts in light of biblical truth, Dr. Albert Mohler is a welcome source of clarity, exhortation, and encouragement. Joe Eaton wrote a summary of Dr. Mohler’s message Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform from our last National Conference, which pointed to three Ds from Deuteronomy 6 that we, as parents and teachers, can take to heart. 

The dominant culture tends to replicate itself in each new generation. This is why Paul calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12). The last thing that should surprise us is that our children are going to grow up to look like the culture around them…unless a great work is done. Deuteronomy 6 tells us how we can influence our children biblically to remain steadfast in an ungodly culture. Three key words guide us through this text.

1. “Doctrine”
What this passage teaches us about how we must teach is that teaching must be inescapably theological and central. Another crucial aspect of teaching is what narrative you are teaching. We need to make sure that we teach our children that we are not here by accident; God did a saving work that brought us into being, and a saving work that brought us into covenant with him. This is the narrative we must teach. If we don’t know that our redemption story is infinitely greater than worldly stories, we will not effectively reach the hearts of our kids.

2. “Discipline”
We are facing a situation in which our children are going to become Canaanites if we don’t impart truth to them in such a way that helps them own it, and sometimes that will mean going against the culture or their own desires. Helping our children learn discipline in this way will serve them always.

3. “Diligence”
Every opportunity is an opportunity to teach your children, whether effectively or ineffectively. Don’t give up; you’re going to have to teach your children the same things very often, because your children don’t always retain things very well.

Cultural Pressure to Conform
The cultural pressure to conform to the evils of our culture is so pervasive that Christians have begun to underestimate the urgency with which we ought to fight it. This pressure has always existed and has grown since the Garden of Eden.

Whole Counsel of God
We need to be teaching our kids that God is God, and his Word is ultimate no matter what our culture says. We need to be diligent to teach our kids the truths that are particularly disputed in our culture right now, because those are the truths that will become hardest for them to believe when they face cultural pressure to conform.

Holding Fast
Don’t spend time lamenting what we believe might have been lost in our culture. Remember that Jesus is going to hold us fast as we seek after him. Let’s hold fast our confession, and teach our children to do the same.


Indestructible JoyThis message is included in the book Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations, which is available for purchase in print or as a free download for anyone who signs up for the “Joy for the Next Generations” e-newsletter.

 

Ten Essential Gospel Truths to Teach Children

In our desire to lead children to faith in Christ, parents and teachers can feel overwhelmed by all they want and need to teach children. Have you ever wondered what’s most important to teach children about the Gospel? Following are 10 essentials:

1. God is the sovereign Creator of all things.

Scripture: Psalm 19:1, Psalm 22:28; Psalm 24:1; Isaiah 44:24

Implication: God made you. You belong to God. God is your ruler.

2. God created people for His glory.

Scripture: Psalm 29:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; 1 Corinthians 10:31

Implication: God created you to know, trust, and love Him most of all.

3. God is holy and righteous.

Scripture: Leviticus 19:2, 37; Deuteronomy 32:4; Romans 7:12

Implication: God is holy and righteous. God’s commands are holy and righteous. You must obey God’s commands all the time.

4. Man is sinful.

Scripture: Romans 3:10-18, 20, 23

Implication: You have disobeyed God’s commands. You are a sinner.

5. God is just and is right to punish sin.

Scripture: Isaiah 59:2; Romans 1:18; Romans 6:23a

Implication: You deserve God’s punishment of death and hell. You are helpless to save yourself.

6. God is merciful. He is kind to undeserving sinners.

Scripture: Psalm 145:8; Ephesians 2:8-9

implication: You must depend on God’s mercy in order to be saved.

7. Jesus is God’s holy and righteous Son.

Scripture: John 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:15

implication: Jesus came into the world to save you.

8. God put the punishment of sinners on Jesus, so that His righteousness might be put on them.

Scripture: Isaiah 53:5; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24

Implication: Jesus died on the cross to be punished in your place.

9. God offers the free gift of salvation to those who repent and believe in Jesus.

Scripture: Mark 1:15; John 3:16-17; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9

Implication: God tells you to believe in Jesus and repent of your sins and you will be saved.

10. Those who trust in Jesus will live to please Him and will receive the promise of eternal life— enjoying God forever in heaven.

Scripture: Luke 9:23; John 11:25; 1 John 2:15; Psalm 16:11

Implication: If you are trusting in Jesus for your salvation, you must follow Him. Jesus has promised that when you die He will bring you to heaven to live with and enjoy God forever.

These essential truths are excerpted from the booklet Helping Children to Understand the Gospel which includes a fuller explanation of these essential truths and child-appropriate teaching of them. In addition this resource helps parents discern stages of spiritual growth and prepare the hearts of their children to hear the Gospel.

No More Gaps: Giving Children the Whole Counsel of God

It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I realized I had huge gaps in my theological education. I had had minimal exposure to the entire content of Scripture and a very limited grasp of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. Some doctrines were minimized, skewed, or missing entirely. Although a believer for 10 years, I was very immature and this immaturity tainted every aspect of my daily life, including my marriage and parenting. Theological gaps make a big difference in how we will think, feel, speak, and live!

At Truth78 we are earnestly and deeply committed to giving our children and students a theological education that equips them to become mature disciples of Jesus. We believe that involves acquainting them with both the breadth and depth of Scripture—teaching them the whole counsel of God.

In Acts 20:27 Paul writes, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

D. A. Carson makes the following observation about this text,

What [Paul] must mean is that he taught the burden of the whole of God’s revelation, the balance of things, leaving nothing out that was of primary importance, never ducking the hard bits, helping believers to grasp the whole counsel of God that they themselves would become better equipped to read their Bibles intelligently, comprehensively.

[Paul’s teaching] embraced:

  • God’s purposes in the history of redemption (truths to be believed and a God to be worshiped),
  • an unpacking of human origin, fall, redemption, and destiny (a worldview that shapes all human understanding and a Savior without whom there is no hope),
  • the conduct expected of God’s people (commandments to be obeyed and wisdom to be pursued, both in our individual existence and in the community of the people of God), and
  • the pledges of transforming power both in this life and in the life to come (promises to be trusted and hope to be anticipated).[1]

Acquainting children and students with the Scriptures in this manner will involve exposing them to the actual content of Scripture while also emphasizing a core set of essential truths (doctrines) regarding the Christian faith. In conjunction with this there must be a focus on a call to personally respond to those truths (relational). Both are important so we must stress both the doctrinal and relational aspects of the Christian life. Our teaching resources are designed to emphasize and carefully balance these two.

One way to evaluate whether or not we are teaching our children and students the whole counsel of God is to see if they can answer these crucial questions, with increasing biblical depth, as they grow and mature:

  • What is in the Bible? Who is the Bible about?
  • What is the main message of the Bible?
  • What are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith?
  • Why do we need to be saved? How are we saved?
  • How are we to live?

We have identified and incorporated the following five elements (theological disciplines) into our curricula scope and sequence and other teaching resources. We believe that these five elements, interspersed at different ages and emphasized to varying degrees throughout these ages, comprise an appropriate breadth and depth of Scripture needed for teaching the whole counsel of God.

  1. Bible Survey—a chronological overview of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. In our curricula this is first introduced in the preschool years, by a story-based presentation that introduces children to the key people, places, events, and themes of the Bible. Most importantly, it emphasizes God as the Author and main character of the Bible. This provides children with a fundamental biblical foundation upon which the other elements will be built. Addresses: What’s in the Bible? Who is the Bible about?
  1. Biblical Theology—introduces students to the main storyline of Scripture, whereby God progressively reveals His redemptive purposes, which come to their complete fulfillment in the person and work of Christ, for the glory of God. Students are taught to see that the Bible’s many diverse stories, written over time, all serve to communicate one main unified message. Addresses: What’s the main message of the Bible?
  1. Systematic Theology—a topical approach in teaching the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. Systematic theology presents the Bible’s teaching on various subjects, one at a time, and summarizes each topic based on the entirety of Scripture. Addresses: What are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith?
  1. Gospel Proclamation—an explicit and comprehensive presentation of the essential truths of the Gospel, leading to a clear understanding to the person and work of Christ and what it means to respond in true repentance and belief. Addresses: Why do we need to be saved? How are we saved?
  1. Moral and Ethical Instruction—acquainting students with the nature, role, and importance of God’s laws and commands, the wisdom literature, and the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus and the apostles. This instruction is necessary for understanding God’s character and standards and our need for the Gospel, and for guiding believers in righteous and godly conduct. Addresses: How are we to live?

For further reading on the importance of teaching the next generation the whole counsel of God, I highly recommend two chapters from our book Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations, “Declaring the Whole Counsel of God—What’s at stake for our children” by Mark Vroegop and “The Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God—From grand story to grammar, it all matters” by Bruce Ware.

You can also watch their corresponding presentations from our 2016 National Conference here and here.

[1] Preach The Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 177-178.

Harmony between the pulpit and children’s ministry


Thirty-some years ago I was a frustrated Sunday school teacher. Why? Because the majestic scope and depth of the glories of God that was preached so faithfully from the pulpit week after week was being dangerously minimized and skewed in the Sunday school classroom. From the pulpit we heard great truths proclaimed such as,

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24-25)

Yet the main point of a lesson on the Exodus I was to teach the children was, “God needed Moses to help Him deliver the Israelites from Egypt.” The pulpit and the classroom were on two different trajectories. One proclaimed a biblical vision of an almighty, self-sufficient God; and the other, a man-construed weak and needy “God.” I longed to teach the children about the all-satisfying delight of knowing, trusting, and treasuring an  almighty, self-sufficient God!

Watch as John Piper explains the importance of the pulpit and children’s and youth ministry being in harmony with one another and how Truth78 materials served to bridge the gap.

Don’t Toss Aside the Hull and Mast

Children Desiring God Blog // Don't Toss Aside the Hull and Mast

One of the things I’ve noticed about children’s and youth ministry in the past few years is a renewed and increased evangelistic impulse—an urgency to teach children about Jesus and the Gospel so that they might be saved. This is a wonderful change from the all-too-common emphasis on Gospel-less moralism of the past. My concern, however, is that sometimes for the sake of urgency—wanting our children to get saved as soon as possible (a really good desire)—we may be minimizing the very foundation on which that salvation depends. I found this illustration, from an article over at 9Marks, to be really helpful:

Let’s say, for the sake of illustration, that you are on a ship sailing to a faraway town to warn the people of impending doom. If you don’t get there in time, everyone dies. Needless to say, you want your ship to sail as fast as possible. You avoid any excess cargo that might slow your progress. You don’t waste time worrying about clean decks or polished brass. The urgency of the task requires you to operate with efficiency and leanness. (more…)

Page 1 of 1512345»10...Last »