"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 Cor. 5:21 When it comes to discipleship, as parents, we need to remember that everything else is a moot point unless our children have come to grips with the Gospel message. Without it, the Bible is a storybook and our discipline only results in good behavior but an unchanged heart. Not that we wait until our children understand the Gospel before we read the Bible to them or discipline them, but we need to make this our first and primary goal in all that we share with them.
So What Exactly Is The Gospel?
Despite how complicated we humans make it, the Gospel is actually very simple. Basically, there are four important truths: 1. God: He is our holy Creator, and as Creator, has the exclusive right to rule our lives. Because He is holy, He cannot close His eyes to sin. Unfortunately...
2. Man: As human beings, we inherited a sin nature that has turned our hearts away from God. As a result, all that we do is steeped with sin. Every single human born on this earth is inflicted with this disease from the moment of conception (Rom. 3:23; Ps. 51:5). It is more than just bad behavior; it is a heart orientation that lives in rebellion to its creator. The penalty for this rebellion is death. (Rom 6:23) The price for restoration with God: sacrifice of a perfect life. Tragically, because we all have this nature, there is no human being on earth who can save himself. (Rom. 3:10-12).
3. Christ: God's Son, Jesus---perfect God, yet completely human. As holy God, He is without sin. As completely human, He perfectly identifies with us. In love, He willingly bore the burden of our death sentence, even though He has done nothing to deserve it. After his death on the cross two thousand years ago, He was buried in a cave and then rose from the dead in three days. (1 Cor. 15:3, 4) He now lives with His Father in heaven where He rules over all. (Eph 1:20, 21)
4. Response: Through His death, Christ substituted His life to pay our death penalty. The decision each person has to make is---Do I accept this substitution or will I reject it? We cannot save ourselves by our own merits for our sin nature taints even our very greatest works. However, when we confess our complete inability to save ourselves and place all our faith in Him, He not only removes our sin completely, but He gives us a new nature and a new destiny. (Eph 2:5, 6) Those who believe are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13, 14) and can look forward to eternal life with Him in heaven (John 3:16).
How This Affects Our Discipleship
As parents, this is the very first thing we must plant into our children. Every Bible story points to Jesus. But as I have shared in the first post, we need to begin by letting this truth sink into us. The truth of the gospel needs to affect all that we do, say, and think. It cannot just be a mental assent.
Here's a challenge for you: Consider each of the components of the Gospel message. Evaluate your beliefs and understandings of each. If any one of these is missing, we have a distorted Gospel. For example, if God is not truly holy, then sin isn't a big deal. If we are able to save ourselves, we don't need Christ. If salvation was given merely as a free-for-all, then faith is not necessary. Where have we believed half truths? How have they impacted us? On the flip side, how would belief in the true Gospel affect how we live? How must it affect us?
As simple as the Gospel is, it will take us a lifetime to truly understand all that Christ has done for us. But don't let that stop you from sharing it with your kids. As God continues to unveil and reveal Himself to you, keep sharing those insights and discoveries with your kids. Your enthusiasm and excitement will speak volumes. If we have a ho-hum attitude about the Gospel, so will they.
Our Greatest Work
Even when our kids are young, they can begin to hear the Gospel: God made you. Jesus loves you. We all sin. Jesus died for our sin but is alive again. You and I need Jesus. These seeds sown into the hearts of our children are the beginnings of an awareness of God, His Son, our sin, and our great need.
Little by little, the Holy Spirit can take these truths and start illuminating the minds of our children. It is not our job to convict, but it is our job to sow. Conviction comes at different ages for each child. Some can be three, some much older. But diligent sowing of the Gospel, liberally watered with prayers of faith is our part.
The greatest mission field is the one in our own homes. We often think of far-flung lands and forget the ones who need to hear it the most may be sitting around our dinner table. As parents, this is one of the greatest joys and privileges we have.
The Gospel: Learn it. Love it. Live it. And then share it. There is no greater work.