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Teach God’s Testimonies So That…

Children Desiring God Blog // Teach God's Testimonies So That

If you have ever listened or watched David and Sally’s Michael’s three-part “Vision for the Next Generation” series, you know that Psalm 78 plays a prominent role in establishing a vision for faith in the next generations. Consider verses 5-7:

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,
so that they should set their hope in God

Pastor David Michael gives a brief summary based on this Old Testament text: (more…)

Teaching Children Law and Gospel

Teaching Children Law and Gospel

Here is an aspect of parenting and ministry to children that is crucial for a right understanding of the Gospel:

Children need to learn early about their creature-Creator relationship to God. They are under authority and owe God complete obedience to His commandments…

They need to be helped to think theologically about their failures to obey—that is, they need to learn to see their sin in relation to God. So being dishonest is not only an unkindness to others, it is also a violation of the ninth commandment. Taking something that belongs to another child is not simply carelessness or selfishness, it is breaking the eighth commandment. A child’s disobedience to his parent is not simply hurtful or disrespectful, it is disobeying God’s fifth commandment.

By pointing out these connections to children we can help them see their actions in the light of God’s law… (more…)

Going Deep in Knowing God

Going Deep in Knowing God

Here are two quotes I came upon recently that challenge us to think about the purpose and priority of teaching our children and youth the deep things of God:

If we want to love God more, we have to know Him more deeply. And the more we search the Scriptures, and the more we focus our minds’ attention on who God is and what He does, the more we understand just a tiny little bit more about Him and the more our souls break out in flame. We have a greater ardor to honor Him. The more we understand God with our minds, the more we love Him with our minds. (more…)

A Scandal in Our Midst?

A Scandal in Our Midst?

I am constantly amazed and alarmed by the impulse to minimize the Bible in our church classrooms. Consider a typical Sunday school classroom. Let’s say you have an hour’s timeframe. How much of that time is actually spent reading and studying the Bible text? How does this compare to time spent on other activities? How much time are the children (of reading age) spending with their Bibles open, personally interacting with the text? Yes, the latter is unrealistic for 5-year-olds, but by second grade and onward, children should be spending an increasing amount of the Sunday school lesson hour being taught directly from Scripture.

In his article, “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem,” Dr. Albert Mohler says the following:

Christians who lack biblical knowledge are the products of churches that marginalize biblical knowledge. Bible teaching now often accounts for only a diminishing fraction of the local congregation’s time and attention… (more…)

The Faith of a Child

The Faith of a Child

As parents, our greatest goal and joy for our children should be that they come to faith in Christ and live as His faithful disciples, for the glory of God. Therefore, clearly presenting and explaining the essential truths of the Gospel and demonstrating what it means to follow Jesus in daily life is our greatest duty and privilege as we teach and train our children. But trying to discern whether or not a child has truly understood and grasped the meaning of the Gospel is sometimes harder to assess.

Here are two pastors who offer some wise counsel for parents and teachers:

Children can memorize and repeat what they have heard their parents and teachers say, but that doesn’t mean that they understand it all. Neither does it mean that they are personally committed to those truths.

A few questions can determine where a child is spiritually. (more…)

The Gospel Alphabet—Jesus Saves!

The Gospel Alphabet - Jesus Saves!

One of the very first words my grandson learned to write was his name, “David.” Five letters of the alphabet, written in a specific order, and they now identify a little boy. Each letter significant. Each unique. Each letter necessary for his name.

In the past several posts, I have used the example of teaching children the alphabet to highlight the necessity of teaching children a type of “Gospel alphabet.” This alphabet consists of foundational truths—antecedents—that are meant to help our children properly understand the person and work of Jesus. In brief summary, children need to be taught…

Introducing these truths in a slow, step-by-step, progression is an important part of our children’s formal Bible education. These truths provide the necessary foundation for understanding these two words:

Jesus saves.

Two very short words. Only six distinct letters…yet incomparable in their greatness, worth, and meaning! But unless we have given children some antecedents for understanding these two words, their grasp of the riches of the Gospel and the glory of Jesus will be sorely deficient. (more…)

The Gospel Alphabet—Sin

The Gospel Alphabet—Sin

Read Part 1: Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet
Read Part 2: The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents”
Read Part 3: The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God
Read Part 4: The Gospel Alphabet—Who We Are in Relation to God

I love the scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King where Frodo and Sam are making their last, desperate effort to destroy the one ring in the depths of Mt. Doom. What makes the final destruction of the ring so incredibly magnificent and satisfying is the context. Before that, we have been taken on a long journey that has introduced us to the magnitude of evil, despair, and ruin brought about by the ring and its influence. You don’t simply go from a peaceful, idealistic life in the Shire to the triumphant destruction of the ring. The story would have lost its grandeur and appeal if author J.R.R. Tolkien had simply done the latter.

But now consider the story communicating ultimate reality to us as revealed in the historical narrative of Scripture, and consider these words from D. A. Carson:

There can be no agreement as to what salvation is unless there is agreement as to that from which salvation rescues us. The problem and the solution hang together: the one explicates the other. It is impossible to gain a deep grasp of what the cross achieves without plunging into a deep grasp of what sin is; conversely, to augment one’s understanding of the cross is to augment one’s understanding of sin.

To put the matter another way, sin establishes the plotline of the Bible.

(more…)

The Gospel Alphabet—Who We are in Relation to God

The Gospel Alphabet—Who We are in Relation to God

Read Part 1: Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet
Read Part 2: The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents”
Read Part 3: The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God

“I can do it all by myself” is a comment we hear increasingly from our 5-year-old grandson. Whether it is brushing his teeth, getting dressed, or buckling himself in his car seat, he is slowly but surely moving toward a healthy type of independence necessary for adulthood. As parents, we strive to progressively instill this in our children.

However, as good as this goal is for our children, we must at the same time help them grasp and pursue a greater level of dependency. “I can do it all by myself” can be dangerous and deadly! How so?

In the previous post in The Gospel Alphabet series, I spoke of the necessity of giving our children a robust doctrine of God. Understanding who God is and what He is like is crucial for children knowing who they are. For example, consider Genesis 1:1, which most of our children have easily committed to memory,

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (ESV) (more…)

The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God

The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God

Read Part 1: Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet
Read Part 2: The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents”

Consider for a moment what children can learn about the nature and character of God from the Old Testament:

  • There is only one God.
  • God is eternal and unchanging.
  • God is the Creator of everything.
  • God rules over everything and everyone.
  • God chooses a special people for Himself.
  • God makes special promises to His people.
  • God is faithful and always keeps His promises.
  • God is holy and righteous.
  • God is jealous and deserves all honor, love, trust, obedience, and worship.
  • God knows everything.
  • God is all-powerful.
  • God is everywhere all the time.
  • God is wrathful toward sin.
  • God is just.
  • God is loving, compassionate, patient, and merciful.
  • God is the Savior of His people.

These truths, taught to our children, lay the foundation for understanding the person and work of Jesus in the Gospel. Here is just one example of what I mean by this:

For in him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,—Colossians 1:19 (more…)

The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents”

The Gospel Alphabet - Teaching the "Antecedents"

Read Part 1: Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet

Here is a really important insight 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…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.

(Christianity and Liberalism, copyright©2009, pages 48-49)

For children to rightly grasp the biblical truth that “Jesus is God,” and also the meaning of His saving work accomplished through the Gospel, we must teach them some crucial “antecedents.” By way of illustrating this in relation to teaching children, let’s imagine these antecedents to be the alphabet. (See Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet) (more…)

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