Missed the first 2 posts? Check them out here: Part 1, and here, Part 2.
One of the hardest things about teaching your children the gospel is that, unlike an adult who has never heard of Christ, they don’t always have that “Ah HA!” Lightbulb moment where the gospel makes all kinds of sense, and they just respond then and THERE!
Mostly it is a slow and laborious process where we teach it to them over and over and over and OVER again. It begins with us understanding their sin nature, and more importantly, that they understand their own sin nature. It is harder to tell a 2 year old who is in a state of 24/7 denial, that they are sinners, than it is to tell a remorseful 5 year old, who has only recently discovered that their actions have consequences. Often, difficult, and heartbreaking ones.
But we never know when their heart is tender, so we must preach the gospel to them
But how can we do this? At one point I thought “My kids will get tired of me beginning each morning with a recitation of Bible stuff they need to know.”
It isn’t as literal as all that. Best time to teach the gospel to your child? When their heart is soft, and their conscience is pricked, and if your children are as inherently sinful as mine, it will happen daily. At least. Not to say that every child is sorry every time they take their sister’s cookie, but that, in a moment, with the proper instruction, they will be sorry. And not in a mean “YOU’LL be SORRY!” kind of way either.
Here, let me tell you a story.
My daughter, Emma, is a sweet little girl. She loves others with a deep heartfelt kind of love. She is unique in every way, and the way she looks at the world is, well, different, but it is exactly what makes her so special and lovable. One Sunday, when she was particularly happy to be attending church, we sat in our pew, and the service commenced as normal. We sang together, she colored on her bulletin, and the children’s service was lovely. As soon as the children re-entered our pew, to settle in for the sermon, there was a scuffle over something tiny. I forget what, probably a patch of neutral pew that had a… ahem… territory dispute? Emma was upset, so she asked to move. I let her move. She sat next to Sarah, when another dispute arose. She asked to sit with Daddy, and I promptly moved her. Within 30 seconds, she was crying, loudly, to sit with Sarah again. At 5, she understands to be quiet, calm, and respectful during church. I took this moment to remind her that she is expected to, and often does a fine job of, sitting beautifully, coloring quietly. Today, She did not.
“I WANT to sit with SARAH. NOW!”
I told her to calm down, and just sit beside Daddy, the sermon was beginning, and handed her her coloring materials. This would not do. A hiss arose from beside me:
“NO. I will NOT sit here! I want SARAH!”
Uh oh. A no had escaped her lips. I will calmly deal with many things, but when my children say no to a direct instruction that is not only understandable, and normal, but within the scripture’s scope (think of others as higher than yourself = be quiet in church, please. Or: Be gracious in your speech= do not hiss at Mom.) all bets are off.
I informed Emma, this would not do, and we left the service.
It wasn’t calm, pleasant, or easy. She cried, and cried some more, about how she wanted to sit with Sarah. She yelled at me, she hissed at me, she said some not very nice things. But we sat, in the van, while I nursed Isaiah. After a long time, must’ve been only 10 minutes, but it seemed an eternity, she began to calm down. She was still crying, that she hadn’t gotten her way, but she was beginning to see that she had done wrong.
“Emma, what did you do, that I had to leave the service with you?”
“I was being loud. And I disobeyed you. I was bad.”
Tender heart. Tender soul.
Cue the gospel. The tender heart is there, the remorse is there. Repentance is a real, tangible thing in this moment.
This was my springboard. In the 5 minutes we had left, my sad, remorseful little girl had a firsthand lesson on unconditional love, sin as separation from God, repentance and what it means, and how Jesus can wash away our sin, because of God’s plan.
This can be as simple, or as elaborate as your child needs, but the simplest terms, for the littlest ones are this:
- You did wrong. (You took your brother’s toy, stealing is wrong.)
- Are you sorry?
- Then say you are sorry. (To God first for breaking his law. Then to your brother, and I)
- Jesus took your eternal punishment. (God is not angry with you anymore, because Jesus died on the cross to pay for stealing.)
- God forgives you, and he loves you even more than Mommy does. He can change your heart, if you believe that Jesus died and rose again to “win” against sin.
I know, simple, but every time your child disobeys, is a perfect time to bring them straight to God. The first offense is not against me for disobedience of house rules (stealing) Or even their brother for stealing. Their first offense is to a holy God, who hates sin, and justly, must discipline us for sinning.
Bring them straight to his feet to apologize there first. When they are at ease with their conscience, then to you, and then their sibling.
Teaching them the gospel is a 4 step process. 1. Sin separates me from God, 2. I know MY sin is deserving of God’s anger. 3. God has a way to forgive me. (Jesus) 4. I need to ask for his help, and believe (have faith) he can, and will change my heart.
But how do I know my child is saved? Well. You don’t. Hard to hear, but I can’t tell you how many times my children have walked through this with me. I figure, I will know they are saved when their behavior begins changing to reflect a change in their heart. When the Holy Spirit works in there, and it is clear to them, without my prompting, that they cannot earn salvation on their own, but that it is a gift of grace, through faith. Meanwhile, my job is to teach them: Sin separates, God loves, Jesus died and rose again, to “win”, we must repent, and believe.
Most importantly, we must model the gospel for them. Pray with them, Pray for them, show them your response to God and the gospel. Every. Single. Day.
Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, I don’t even play one on TV, check what I’ve said here against God’s Word. Go with God’s word, every time. It is right when I am wrong. And if you find scripture that conflicts with what I’ve written here, please share.