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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…)

A Child in a Manger and the Truthfulness of God

Children Desiring God Blog // A Children in a Manger and the Truthfulness of God

Christmas is almost here, and many of us have been focusing on the birth of Jesus in our classrooms and homes. As we do this, let’s use this as an opportunity to also focus on how all the events and details surrounding His birth point to the faithfulness and truthfulness of God. For example, have your children consider these two verses written about 700 years before the birth of Jesus:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.—Micah 5:2

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.—Isaiah 7:14 (more…)

Celebrating the Miraculous Time of Christmas

Children Desiring God Blog // Celebrating the Miraculous Time of Christmas

It’s often said that Christmas is a “magical” time for children. But a more accurate description should be that Christmas is a “miraculous” time as we ponder the miracle of the incarnation. So as we think and plan toward how we will teach about and celebrate Christmas with the children in our home and church, let us consider the importance of the doctrine of the incarnation. Consider these words from Jared Wilson from his article “The Christmas Miracle of the Incarnation of the Omnipresent Word.”

Every year at this time as we celebrate the birth of baby Jesus to the virgin Mary, I don’t suppose it occurs to too many merrymakers that what they’re really celebrating is the Incarnation. All of the other miracles are in service of that central miracle: God became man. And in becoming, through Spiritual conception, the man Jesus of Nazareth, the Word of God did not cease to be God. Baby Jesus, from the moment of conception to the straw habitation of the manger, was fully God and fully man. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

(more…)

Thanking God for the Life and Ministry of R.C. Sproul

Children Desiring God Blog // Thanking God for the Life and Ministry of RC Sproul

My early 20s were marked by a spiritual tsunami of sorts. It came about as I read The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. God graciously used that book as a means to destroy my old, drab perceptions of who God is and what He is like. Sadly, even though I had been raised in the church my entire childhood and youth, I had not been taught the matchless splendor of God’s holiness. Sproul’s book was my first real exposure to the majestic holiness of God, a God who is worthy of all love, reverence, obedience, praise, and glory. And with that grand vision of the holiness of God, everything began to change. The authority of Scripture, character of God, depth of my depravity, essence of Christ’s redeeming work, and life in union with Christ, all came into clearer focus and have impacted every aspect of my life. (more…)

The Beauty and Ugliness of Christmas

Children Desiring God Blog // The Beauty and Ugliness of Christmas

Childhood memories leave a lasting impression on our lives. In walking down memory lane, here are some of my own childhood memories regarding Christmas (in no particular order):

  • a Christmas tree in the living room
  • special decorations, lights, and candles
  • singing Christmas carols
  • a Nativity set in which baby Jesus was placed in the center
  • presents!
  • family gatherings
  • yummy meals and treats
  • sitting by the fireplace with hot cocoa
  • the Christmas Eve service at church
  • celebrating the birth of Jesus

All beautiful and wonderful memories to instill in a child. But there is something very important missing from this list…something not impressed upon me as a child. Something we all need in our Christmas. What could this possibly be? Consider the following thoughts: (more…)

A Gift That Keeps On Giving for a Lifetime

Children Desiring God Blog // A Gift that Keeps on Giving for a Lifetime

As a child, I remember the excitement I experienced as I watched the growing number of presents being placed under the Christmas tree. How many had my name on them? What was in that huge one? Would I receive the gift that I had been dreaming of? And yet, years later, I don’t really remember any of those gifts. All those tangible, child-delighting things have faded from memory. I am sure they were readily enjoyed for a time, but they didn’t have any life-long impact.

Along with some fun gifts, have you ever considered giving your children something that will provide a means of greater and longer lasting joy? Then consider giving your children…a catechism! Yes, a catechism. Not at the top of their “wish list”? Probably not even on the list. But consider the following words from Sally Michael:

Perhaps the reason many people have a negative opinion regarding catechisms and doctrinal teaching is that there is a prevalent misunderstanding of catechesis. What so often comes to mind are thoughts like: “rote memorization,” “boring,” “dry,” “lifeless,” and “mechanical.”

(more…)

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