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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…)

Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet

Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet

We all know and appreciate the progression of a child’s ability to read and write. To begin with, it’s an informal process as infants and toddlers listen to the conversations of those around them and begin to pick up bits and pieces of language—words and their meanings. But at the same time, we also understand the need for intentional, age-appropriate teaching. For example, we help young children connect the objects they see with corresponding words. We speak to them at “their level.” Then more formal instruction takes place as we teach them individual letters. We demonstrate how to spell and sound out simple words. Next comes constructing sentences and applying the rules of grammar. On and on, step-by-step, this process slowly progresses. Over time, both the formal and informal instruction serve to produce a vibrant, functional literacy.

I think this example illustrates something very important about teaching the Gospel to children. There is a place and necessity for both informal and formal instruction. Children Desiring God curricula would be an example of formal instruction. By design, formal instruction will take a somewhat different (and much slower) approach. It incorporates an age-appropriate, step-by-step progression. But that’s where the misunderstanding and frustration may enter in. Take for example these concerns that are sometimes expressed about our curricula: (more…)

The HEART of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter

Complete the following checklist for your own children or the children in your class:

I want my children to…

  • Be attentive listeners
  • Act respectfully toward their teachers
  • Be honest and compassionate
  • Grow up to be responsible men and women
  • Have a good job in the future
  • Get married and have a family some day
  • Be actively involved in a local, Bible-believing church
  • Memorize Bible verses
  • Be biblically literate
  • Be able to recite the Catechism

If you checked all the points, you are probably not alone. What parent and teacher wouldn’t want this for their children? But is anything important missing from this list? Of course, and you probably spotted it—true saving faith, a heart that trusts and treasures Jesus above all. And what is tremendously sobering is that the above checklist can be achieved without sincere, life-transforming faith. Consider Jesus’ words: (more…)

The Call to Make Disciples

The Call to Make Disciples

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus gave every Christian in every century a commission with eternal significance:

…”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”—Matthew 28:18-20, ESV

Our calling is very clear—to “make disciples.” This is the greatest work in which to invest our lives! Christ’s mandate to us is to see spiritual interest awaken, new birth come forth, and then foster steady steps toward maturity in Christ…but it is a mandate wrought with privilege and true joy. (more…)

Teaching By Example

Teaching By Example

In her seminar titled, “Teaching Children the Fear of the Lord,” Sally Michael reminds us of the importance of teaching from a heart that loves and embraces the truths being taught.

Like so many spiritual things, the fear of the Lord is better “caught” than “taught.” Children very often pick up our attitudes—those we respect, they tend to respect. Our attitude toward God is also sensed by them—not so much by our words, but by our actions, and our heart affections; it is very easy for them to sense what we feel, to honor what we honor, and to disregard what we disregard.

So the first step we must take in helping our children to fear the Lord is to examine our own hearts. Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves:

• Am I humble and contrite before the Lord, respecting His authority over me, and recognizing His infinite greatness?

• How seriously do I take the word of God? Do I tremble at God’s Word? Do I diligently apply it to my life, obey its commands conscientiously, take its warnings seriously, and heed its teaching? Do I take in the whole scope of Scripture, even the hard truths and stories? (more…)

Helping Children Understand the Cost of Following Jesus

Helping Children Understand the Cost of Following Jesus

Years ago my son stepped through the doors of an Army recruitment office. He was given a wonderful and glorious picture of army life—one filled with financial benefits and exciting adventures. You’d be crazy NOT to join up. But, unbeknownst to the recruiter, our son had been given a prior “recruitment” talk by a good friend and mentor who had been in the army for 20 years (including two, year-long deployments into war zones). He gave our son a much more realistic and truthful picture. It was with this latter understanding that our son signed up. He counted the cost and joined because he was committed to a cause he believed in, knowing that hard work, self-sacrifice, suffering, and war was ahead.

I wonder sometimes if we are prone to a subtle type of recruitment mentality when we present the Gospel to children. Please don’t get me wrong—the Gospel IS the most glorious news of all, and we should be gladly sharing with our children and students the truth of the incomparable benefits and all-satisfying joy of trusting in Jesus and following Him. Jesus alone is “the way and the true and the life.” But, do we also help them understand that there is a cost in following Jesus? (more…)

Do they See Jesus as Master and Lord?

Do they See You as Master and Lord?

Submission to authority is one of the primary disciplines that parents must teach their children. Even in submitting to the seemingly little commands of parents, children learn important truths that will better prepare them for a fulfilling and happy life. However, the main reason we should teach our children about submission is to help them understand the necessity of submitting to Jesus and His absolute, good, wise, and loving authority. Furthermore, we must teach and model that submission to Jesus and His ways does not quash our joy—it enables our joy.

As parents and teachers, we ought to be very careful and intentional in communicating this important concept to our children and students. As we rightfully impress upon them their need for Jesus’ redeeming work—trusting in Him alone as Savior—we must not neglect to also highlight Jesus as Master and Lord. All who truly trust in Jesus are called to learn from Him, submit to Him, and follow in all His ways. This is a life-long endeavor for the Christian. It is a call to grace-dependent, Spirit-empowered discipleship.

Getting Practical—Here are a few texts to read and discuss, and questions to ask your children: (more…)

Not Merely a Death on Behalf of Others

Not Merely a Death on Behalf of Others

Here are a few questions to ask your children and students (elementary age and older):

Why did Jesus die on the cross?

Why would it be wrong for God to simply pretend that your sin is no big deal?

How does Jesus’ death on the cross show that God is right in punishing sin and forgiving sinners?

What did Jesus experience on the cross? Why is this important to know?

Why is it also important that Jesus gives His people His own perfect righteousness?

If you were to appear in a courtroom today in which God was sitting as the judge, what verdict do you think He would pronounce over you, “Guilty” or “Not guilty”? Why? (more…)

They Need More than a Cheerleader

They Need More Than a Cheerleader

Melissa Kruger wrote this article for her sisters in Christ, but it also hit home to me as a teacher, parent, and grandparent. The same tendency to reduce Jesus to the role of spiritual cheerleader in ministries and resources aimed at women can easily, and oh so subtly, begin to pervade our children’s Sunday school classrooms and our parenting.

Please, please read the entire article, “Sisters, Jesus Is Not Your Cheerleader” in order to properly understand what she is saying and what she is not saying. As you read this excerpt from the article, think about how her points readily apply to teaching children and parenting in general.

They Need More Than a CheerleaderAnd, to be clear, Jesus does encourage. He offers words of strength to the weary and comfort to the hurting. In a world where we so often feel we don’t measure up, we need his encouragement daily. By focusing on only part of his message, however, I’m concerned that we’ve reduced Jesus to a spiritual cheerleader. And, in turn, that’s what we’ve become to one another. We offer words of affirmation, but not rebuke; words of forgiveness, but not repentance. We rightly celebrate his grace, but often forget to mourn our sin.

In doing so, we miss out on life-giving realities in our relationship with Jesus and one another. It’s the friends willing to call me out in my sin and say hard things whom I trust the most. They’re the ones I return to time and again for advice and wisdom—precisely because they recognize that who I am isn’t all I need to be.

Jesus speaks to us in a variety of ways—he teaches, commands, rebukes, calls, and exhorts. When we reduce Jesus to our personal rah-rah section in the bleachers, we miss out on the faithful friend we so desperately need. If you’re mainly hearing “you’re great!” (cue Tony the Tiger) from your devotional or women’s ministry, I invite you back to God’s Word, where we hear the voice of Jesus in a diversity of ways.

(www.thegospelcoalition.org)

Questions to ask in regard to our children’s and youth ministries in particular:

  • Do the resources we use—curriculum and other books—present the variety of ways that God speaks to us in His Word in a balanced way? Do they continually point to the greatness of God, or do they tend to make much of us instead?
  • In teaching children, does my teaching style tend toward the “rah-rah, you’re great” in an unhealthy and unbiblical way? How can I take steps to have a more balanced and biblical approach? (It’s possible to also teach with the other extreme—too little exhorting or encouraging. This is also unhealthy and unbiblical.
  • For my own devotional life, do I carefully select materials that bring me to God’s Word in such a way that I see the whole counsel of God being communicated through a diversity of commands, rebukes, calls, and exhortations? How can doing so better help me as a parent and teacher?

 

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