Helping Children to Understand the Gospel: Preparing Children for the Gospel Part 4

4. How do we sow, tend and harvest?

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

         A.Preach the Gospel at every turn Romans 10:17

1. Tell the bad news!

 

2. Tell the good news!

 

3. Tell the bad news and the good news multiple times daily.

 

4. Pray and speak blessings over your children.

 

 

         B. Be discerning as to the kind of “soil” our children are and train them accordingly

 

First, we have to be discerning. How does that happen? Well, some may be gifted by the Spirit as a discerner to serve the body. Some are just naturally born in the image of Father, Son and Spirit with a discerning nature, such as women. However, all of us can develop a sense of discernment that serves the church, our families and others.

 

An example of discernment at work is that strange sense that you should not let your kid do something and you obey that urging and it turns out there were reasons. That is Holy Spirit discernment leading you to discern good and evil.

 

Hebrews 5:14 “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

 

What is the solid food that trains the powers of discernment? Verse 13 gives the answer. It is the “word of righteousness”. What is that? It is the Gospel.

 

The Gospel is the sounding board for good and evil, right and wrong, honor and shame. The gospel is the ground of all things and the foundation of truth. The Gospel is the grand story of the whole bible. When we train ourselves in the Gospel we can easily spot lies and sense when something is not right.

 

Next, while practicing discernment, we must train our children as individuals and not train them all in one way. This will make parenting challenging because we have to know our children well enough and discern the intricacies of their makeup to know how to best train each one of them to hear, understand and respond to the Gospel.

 

Jesus mentioned four kinds of soil in this parable, and it is vital that we understand that only one type of soil in this parable produces the fruit of salvation, and that is the good soil.

 

1. Path – hardened and uninterested in the Gospel

Perhaps this best describes adults or older children / teens who have not been exposed to the Gospel from their conception. These are the people who have zero interest or clue in anything transcendent. These are the ones who are deceived and intentionally remain in spiritual deceit because of the rebellion and their fallen willful repression of the truth.

 

How do we break this kind of soil up?

Jesus did not tell us that, however, there are some tools we can use to help break down hardened hearts due to false teaching, lies and life experience.

a. Apologetics – this is not the silver bullet, but it is a tool to show the validity of

Scripture, evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible etc.

b. Patience – working with this kind of person requires much patience and hit and run

evangelism rarely works. Usually it pushes them farther away.

 

2. Rocky – quick reception of the Gospel but difficulty causes them to turn away

This, in my estimation, may be the majority of my generation. We hear some semblance of the good news, however, with no bad news and expectation that Jesus is rescuing me from his eternal condemnation, difficulty is a far cry from my expectations. So, when difficulty does happen, this person begins to question the partial message they received and they become apathetic or even antagonistic to the Gospel.

 

How do we break this kind of soil up?

Again, Jesus did not tell us that, however, there are some gardening tools we can use.

a. Proper proclamation of the Gospel – make sure we communicate that Jesus does

promise ease or freedom from difficulty, rather, Jesus promises that we will have

difficulty but that this difficulty is not without purpose.

b. Be ready to deal with the challenge of evil and suffering – know, embrace and

be able to articulate the sovereignty of God over evil, his use of evil for our good

and his glory and the promise of the eradication of evil in the coming age (Joseph

in Genesis, Job, Jesus, Revelation)

 

3. Thorns – hearing the Gospel but concern with “greater” and more “important” things choke out the message of the Gospel and there is just nothing there. This person may show some interest in spiritual things but wax and wane in their pursuit of Jesus. This person is always looking for some spiritual fix while trying to have as their most vital pursuit something else.

 

This person will sacrifice the church for the sake of their ambitions or false conceptions of the church and therefore find themselves outside of community and therefore choking out the Gospel.

 

This person shuns repentance and buys into a cheap and easy Gospel with no hell and only a heaven to be gained if they do enough good.

 

This person pursues their ambition to the exclusion of the people, Kingdom and the King.

 

How do we break this kind of soil up?

Once again, Jesus does not say. However, there are some tools in our gardeners belt that we can use.

 

a. Exhortation to repent – Hebrews 3:13 “But exhort one another every day, as long

as it is called today, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

 

b. Model a life of setting biblical priorities – show this person how to set spiritual

priorities and help them schedule activities that feed the soul

1. Personal devotional life in reading and meditating on Scripture

2. Church attendance

 

4. Good Soil – regenerated by the Spirit, Gospel message properly communicated, Gospel received and repentance flourishes in a self-less pursuit of the King and his Kingdom.

 

This person was dead, and by the miracle of the Gospel, this person was awakened to their state of condemnation by the Holy and Triune God, in humility, because they cannot save themselves or be good enough, they see and savor the glorious cross where their justice was taken by Jesus on their behalf, and rather than receive justice forever in hell, they receive the love, goodness, grace and kindness of the King in repenting of their self-effort and embrace and run to King Jesus for the purpose of living a life that worships Father, Son and Spirit forever even if it costs them life, career, status, education, money, fame and time because Jesus is better than life.

 

a. Good soil produces at various levels, but does not change the fact that it is good

soil, therefore, each child has various levels of potential for production of Gospel

fruit and should be expected to only produce what the Lord made them to produce.

We may look at this as distinctions among gifts. Not all gifts produce the same

results. Therefore, it is vital to celebrate the fruit that is produced from good soil

not the amount as being superior or inferior.

Helping Children to Understand the Gospel: Preparing Children for the Gospel Part 2

2. What is the seed?

We are answering questions introduced last week to help us prepare children for the Gospel.

 

1. Who is the sower?

2. What is the seed?

3. What kind of soil is in the hearts of children?

4. How do we sow, tend and harvest?

5. How do we lead a child to salvation, and what are the evidences of saving faith?

 

We discovered in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 that the sower of the seed is the 1. Triune God of the universe himself and, 2. we are his ambassadors.

 

Remember, the transformation of our children by the Gospel is not going to be a one-time event where they raise their hand and pray some magic prayer and never grow in the Lord. Our children’s transformation is a journey that begins the day they are conceived and culminates the day you pick the ripe fruit of their salvation in their submission to the Lord and our baptism of that follower of Jesus. This is a long haul proposition.

 

This is going to require:

1. A long-term attitude. Marathon not a sprint.

2. Patience

3. Much communication to the child

4. Much question answering and you will need to know the bible well enough to answer

5. Discernment to know the fruit of the Gospel as opposed to the fruit of a moral culture

 

This is why we are doing this series and getting you these books. This is why we do RK the way we do it.

 

This week we need to answer the question, “What is the seed?” What is the “seed” that we are to be “sowing”, using Jesus’ agricultural parable.

 

The very obvious answer to this question is the Gospel.

 

Father, Son and Spirit have created all and intend to fellowship with Adam and Eve and enjoy their worship as they enjoy the Lord himself.

 

However, something catastrophic has happened. There has been a rebellion in the angelic hosts of creation and one of those creatures has taken up the prideful lust of his rebellion and propagated it on our parents in the garden.

 

Our parents believed the lie that our great King was holding out on us and that we could be “god” and know all that Father knows, therefore, he gives us rules to follow to hold us down.

 

So, ignoring the plea that if they eat of the one tree there will be death, destruction, disease, separation, lies and a host of other horrible things they eat and from that day on they and all of their descendants all the way to you and I have been cut off from the presence of Father and put under the sentence of death to receive justice for rebellion.

 

Justice is part of the glorious reality of the Gospel. “God engineered the Gospel to reverse the effects of the fall.” – Farley

 

We all must admit that we love justice. We want justice to be done. That is not the problem. We just don’t believe we are truly guilty of anything deserving justice. We believe we are good enough and smart enough and well liked enough that we deserve to be treated like royalty. Our culture believes we are basically good (some 70% of Christians surveyed do not believe in original sin).

 

Hitler, give him justice.

Stalin, give him justice.

Pol Pot, give him justice.

Mao Tse Tung, give him justice.

Mitch Jolly, well, um. He’s a pretty good ole fella.

 

Father is not giving justice simply for deeds done, but because the deeds come from a nature of rebellion that produces the fruit of deeds (more on that next week).

 

We are guilty and justice will be done either at the cross in a glorious substitutionary act of love and kindness or in hell forever.

 

The Gospel is the “good news”, however, the good news is only good news when it is presented in light of the bad news.

 

Last week I told you a little bit of my story. I told you how I attended an event for children at a church and hell was presented and heaven as the escape by just praying a prayer.

 

My problem on this side of that is not that hell was talked about. Jesus spoke more of hell than anyone. It’s that hell and heaven were disconnected from the whole story of the Gospel. Why hell? What is hell? What is heaven? Why heaven? What makes hell, hell and heaven, heaven? Who is God? Why does God send people to hell? Why is God angry? What is the problem? Can God fix the problem?

 

The Gospel is only the Gospel when we tell the whole story of the Gospel. You often here me call this the metanarrative (a narrative about a narrative).

 

The reason this word is so vital to the Christian is that metanarrative assumes that there is a reality that explains the narrative of this life (this was assumed until the enlightenment).

 

Without the metanarrative of the Gospel to explain life mankind comes up with some crazy stuff such as Secular Humanism (Naturalism: no God just the natural world therefore man needs the metanarrative of evolution to provide him some explanation for how we came to be here), Cosmic Humanism (pantheism: many “gods” in nature, including man).

 

We have to tell the whole story of the Gospel to our children: 1. Creation 2. Fall 3. Redemption 4. Consummation

 

All of this is the “seed” that Father, Son and Spirit is sowing and we, as Father’s ambassadors, are sowing as well.

 

Now, if we are not sowing this entire story, we are failing. If we just tell our kids that Jesus came to save us without telling them what he came to save us from (fall and subsequent judgment) we will create lukewarm, passive and passionless moralists who have no reason to die for issues that are worth dying for when it comes to being a Christian.

 

Even if we teach all the right things about the person of Jesus and leave out why he came and what he did to make the good news “good” then all we do is make following Jesus a list of optional rules to help us feel better about his dying for us so that we can not feel so guilty about it. Following Jesus, in this scenario of good news with no bad news, fixes our guilt from statements such as “he died for you so you can certainly live for him.”

 

We have trouble reconciling the bad news with the good news because in our culture we have been sold a “good news” that contains no bad news.

 

A. What is the bad news that makes the good news good that is an integral part of the Gospel of the Kingdom Jesus says is being sown? In other words, what is the Gospel seed we are to be sowing?

Creation / Fall / Redemption / Consummation

 

We are going to highlight the bad news first because it’s how Paul begins all his messages. Take note in Acts 17 at the Areopagus and Acts 24 before Felix that Paul starts telling about the bad news first. From 1 Thessalonians to Galatians to Corinth there is bad news that comes before the good news.

 

This is vital. Now, let’s look at Romans 1:16-3:20 at a glance to see Paul’s most crystalized statements on the  bad news and the good news.

 

1. Romans 1:16 – 3:20

From 1 Thessalonians to Galatians to Corinth this pattern is seen in Paul’s

proclamation of the Gospel and he goes to great length in 2 Corinthians to

explain how it has gotten him beaten, imprisoned, stoned by angry mobs and

left for dead. Here is a nugget for you: For those outside the bad news may

make people angry and make then hate you, but for those who have believed,

the bad news makes you happy beyond your ability to contain it!

 

a. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes 1:16

                            (a summary statement on the good news)

b. Bad News: The wrath of God is revealed from heaven 1:18-3:20

1. Passive wrath (three times mentioned “God gave them up”) 1:24, 26,

28

2. Jew and Gentile alike are storing up active wrath on the day of

judgment through unbelief and sins that are the fruit of sin 2:5

3. Mankind will be judged by their works 2:6-11

 

Romans 2:6-11 casts a hypothetical scene: what if someone who existed who sought God with all his heart and lived righteously? Paul concludes that the person’s works would save him. But later, in the third chapter, Paul makes it clear that, short of Jesus, this person does not exist. He reminds us that “no one seeks for God (3:11) and that “none is righteous, no, not one” (3:10). God’s judgment will be impartial and according to works. It will not help to be a Jew, a member of a certain Christian organization, or the child of a well-known Christian. The basis of God’s judgment will be the same for everyone (2:11).

4. Ignorance will not help 2:15-16

“The work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness…therefore on the day of judgment everyone who did not obey the sum of the ten commandments (love God and love neighbor), and none have obeyed them, will be without excuse.

 

c. God’s wrath is averted through the substitutionary work of Jesus 3:21-26

According to Luther, Romans 3:21-26 was the center of the whole bible. I would agree.

 

Our presentation to our children can’t be hell / heaven / choose in one single Sunday school event and we are done with it and satisfied. It is a daily barrage of sowing the Gospel into these little ears by telling the story on your part as a parent.

 

We have to begin to tell this story of the Gospel to our children early on and ingrain this reality into their little beings. We will get to some practical ways to do this, but I dare not give you methods without you knowing fully what those methods are intended to plant.

 

Our job is to sow the Gospel into the soil of their lives and work toward tending and harvesting the fruit of transformation.

 

Have you believed the Gospel?

 

It is no good for you to be telling this Gospel to your children if you have not believed it.

 

What does the totality of the Gospel produce in us as parents?

 

1. The Gospel keeps us focused on eternal things

 

2. The Gospel points us to the love and grace of God to crush the Son in our place for our sin

 

3. The Gospel keeps us zealous

People who don’t feel their need are usually lukewarm. People who see and know their need yet understand that they have been rescued from that abound with thanksgiving (Colossians 2:7).

 

4. The Gospel motivates us to go to the lost

 

5. The Gospel motivates parenting

“Someday our children will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Men and women who are sensitive to this truth make the best parents.” – William P. Farley

Helping Children to Understand the Gospel: Part 1

Note: We are using “Children Desiring God” and their book “Helping Children to Understand the Gospel” as a resource for our parents and points and wording from this post are taken from the book “Helping Children to Understand the Gospel” and are not original with the author. Books can be ordered from their website if you would like to order one.

http://www.childrendesiringgod.org/

Helping Children to Understand the Gospel: Preparing Children for the Gospel

Matthew 13:3-9; 18-23; John 6:44; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

First, I need to make it clear that my audience for this talk is parents. It is absolutely vital that we understand that Gospel work in the lives of children is not primarily done by the church as surrogates for parents.

There are occasions where that is the only option because of unbelieving parents who are absent but the child is brought to a church and this is the only location that the child hears the good news. Still then, I would argue that this instruction is best served coming from a person who loves them and serves as an ambassador to them of this glorious reality called the Gospel.

With that said, I believe most of our context is that we are made up of parents. So, that means that I’m talking to you Dad / Mom.

Radical Kids provides fuel for you and a phenomenal impetus for you to go and do the work of an ambassador making an appeal on behalf of Jesus Christ himself, but RK is not a replacement for you.

RK is not free babysitting.

RK is a priming (kids for communion with Father, Son and Spirit), equipping (students and families to collide with culture) and preparing (kids for community in the church) work of TRCC that is there to boost your work at home.

A child will get theology, OT, NT and so forth for their time in RK, but that is only to serve your work at home. I’ll say more about that in a moment.

The culture we have inherited in the south perhaps anywhere the church is in the United States, at least, has been influenced from the past.

We have a tendency to view our children’s reception of the Gospel as an end rather than a means to an end (we want them to go to heaven, so we do whatever it takes to make sure we feel sure they are going to heaven regardless of how the child feels). This is a devastating flipping of priorities.

Reception of the Gospel on the part of a person is not an end. Reception of the Gospel is the beginning of a glorious life that is then spent pursuing another world called the Kingdom of God and this Kingdom’s King, Jesus, and living a life here that is built on the foundations of that coming Kingdom that is sure to burst into reality when the King has finished making disciples of all people groups.

When we view reception of the Gospel as the end, we leave growth in what it means to be a Christian out and we have lost generations to this flawed ideology and perhaps even their salvation has been missed. One cannot be a follower of Jesus and not live like his Kingdom is coming nor care that it is. Therefore, we have generations who wear the Christian t-shirt and possess the worldview of an atheist / Marxist / cosmic humanist and we wonder why the church is the west is in decline.

No, my brothers and sisters. Reception of the Gospel is only the beginning.

This ideology is more than likely the result of post great awakening revivalist preaching that put the emphasis on reception of the facts of the Gospel in the context of a large gathering of people. This was made popular by the great awakening’s method of Gospel communication and the culture’s embrace of the Gospel. However, it must be said that the Great Awakening’s preachers did not view reception of the Gospel as the end. That ideology has morphed somewhere along the way into what it is today.

Some evangelists, after the fact, continued to use this momentary strategy as “the” method of doing evangelism: facts, prove the facts, pray a prayer led by the preacher, Christian.

I would argue that although that was an effective method during the Great Awakenings, it was not intended to be the model for making disciples of children. It may be acceptable for grown men and women, but I would argue that children are completely different and must be treated differently.

So, how do we help children understand the Gospel? We need to ask some questions and provide some answers from Scripture.

I want to warn you, that the Scriptures never promise me that my children will be transformed by the Gospel. The Scriptures do tell me what the Gospel is, and they tell me who I am and they tell me how to imitate Father, Son and Spirit.

This may create a bit of angst in your chest. It does mine. And that angst causes me to work and scratch and fight with all vehemence and violence allowed to make sure my children at least get the Gospel story, their identity without the Gospel and what the Gospel demands. Beyond that, I trust the Lord. Children will respond differently to the Gospel, and we as parents need to be equipped to observe and discern what is going on and how to sow, what to sow, the kind of soil we are sowing into, how to tend and harvest.

Jesus addresses this and people’s response to the Gospel in Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23.

“Jesus’ disciples must have found it hard to understand how his proclamation of the kingdom of God, to which they had responded so enthusiastically, was not welcomed in the same way by all who heard it. This parable, with its four ‘scenes’, indicates that the response depends not only on the message (the same seed is sown in each case) but also on the readiness of the hearers to receive it. The three unproductive areas (the path, the rocky places and the thorns) are interpreted in vs 19–22 as representing different types of hearers: those who simply will not listen, those whose response is superficial and those who are preoccupied with other concerns. All three are familiar to any preacher of the gospel, then and now. The disciples should not therefore be surprised at the divided response to Jesus’ preaching.

The fault is in the hearers, not in the message. When the seed falls in good soil, it will be productive. In this way, Jesus assured his disciples that, despite the areas of hostility and inadequate response, there would be a harvest. Even in the good soil, however, there is room for some variation in the degree of productivity, a hundred, sixty or thirty times. In other words, disciples do not come in only one size or type, and there is room in the kingdom of God for the ordinary as well as for the spectacular.”

So, what are our questions?

1. Who is the sower?

2. What is the seed?

3. What kind of soil is in the hearts of children?

4. How do we sow, tend and harvest?

5. How do we lead a child to salvation, and what are the evidences of saving faith?

Today, we will answer the first question, then next week we will answer questions 2-5.

1. Who is the sower?

John 6:44

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44 ESV)

2 Corinthians 5:18-21

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21 ESV)

God, himself, is the sower and we are his ambassadors making the Gospel appeal through our labor.

What are we to do as his ambassadors?

1. Pray for the promise of the New Covenant to take root in your children

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (Jesus is referring to this passage when he is telling Nicodemus in John 3:5 that a person must be born of the water and the Spirit to be born again)

2. Teach Scripture to your children (Jesus Bible Story Book, Sally Lloyd Jones), and when they learn to read, use the Bible as a way to help them practice reading and do it strategically (start with the Gospel of John).

Deuteronomy 6:7

3. Live out a life of faith in front of your children. Show them that the Lord is trustworthy.

Deuteronomy 6:5