Revive Our Hearts Radio

Keeping the Good News in Our Children’s Stories

Leslie Basham: Here’s Barbara Reaoch.

Barbara Reaoch: What we really need to be messaging is that God prevails in His plan regardless of imperfections in people, and His promises prevail no matter how powerful worldly leaders appear to be.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Surrender, for July 24, 2018.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Did you know that Revive Our Hearts has a blog? It’s called The True Woman blog, and you can read it for yourself each day at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Last year, the most-read post on that blog was by a woman named Barbara Reaoch. The topic was, “Teaching the Gospel to Younger Children.” Well, that post obviously hit on a need that parents are feeling about how they can effectively pass on to the next generation the truth of God’s Word, and today we’ll hear from Barbara on that same topic.

Yesterday she shared with us how important it is to be honest with kids about an important biblical truth—that is: we are all sinners. We can’t do good or be good on our own.

I’ve been in the church all my life, for which I’m thankful, and I’ve seen a lot of children’s Bible story books and children’s curriculum in the church. One of the problems with some of it is that the emphasis for children is on our external behavior. But Barbara has reminded us of the reality that we are dead in sin, and on our own, we really can’t be good.

Now, if we stopped right there, we’d all be in a hopeless mess. And that leads to Barbara’s second point, which she’s about to share.

Barbara heads up the children’s outreach for Bible Study Fellowship, BSF, and we’re listening to a message that she gave to children’s leaders. Here’s Barbara.

Barbara: Here’s tool number two: Teach about God’s plan for sending Jesus. A Bible lesson or a Bible story that is gospel centered is one that teaches about God’s plan for sending Jesus.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you turn every lesson into a story about Jesus and the cross, but our kids do benefit from hearing how this slice of Scripture that you are in right now fits into the big gospel pie. They need to be reminded of the big picture view of God’s plan through Christ, and it runs all the way through the Bible. So as you study you will find it, and you will be able to highlight it.

So here’s a simple way of remembering the main points of the gospel plan for sending Jesus. We’ll just use J-E-S-U-S to help you remember that.

J is for Jesus left His home with God in heaven to become a man and show us who God is. Jesus shows us that God is our loving Father who rightly tells us to live for His honor.

E is that ever since the first man and woman, Adam and Eve sinned, all of us are born into this world with sin in our hearts. We do not honor God because we want to honor ourselves more than anything.

S is for sin. Sin in our hearts separates us from God. We can’t know or love God when we are separated from Him and deserve His just judgment of hell. Only God can help us, and He does. God loves us so much that He sent Jesus. Jesus lived a sinless life in our place, and Jesus died in our place as He took the punishment for sin by dying on the cross. And then three days later . . .

Up He came. He came back to life. Jesus rose from the grave and came back to show us that He is stronger than everything, even death, and God promises that everyone who turns to Him and trusts in Jesus is forgiven of the sin in their hearts. They will never be separated from God again, but spend eternity with Him in heaven. And He gives a special gift to them now.

S is for Spirit. The Holy Spirit from God is Jesus right with you all the time. Everyone who turns to God and trusts in Jesus has the Holy Spirit living in them. That’s how close He is. And the Holy Spirit teaches you about temptation and gives you the power to say “no” to sin and “yes” to what is right.

So as you prepare, ask yourself:

What do I see about God?

And what am I seeing about God’s plan for sending Jesus?

Okay, here’s a little sidebar: Guard against just saying “gospel” when you want to kind of throw that in your Bible story or Bible lesson. We don’t know what to say, so we’ll just call it that. We assume that everybody knows it, but no, that’s not it. So avoid just popping in that word “gospel” and letting that account for what you really want to say.

Don’t rely on a pamphlet—as good as they are and as wonderful as you want everyone to read the “Am I Sure?” pamphlet, because it is very helpful and a wonderful tool, but don’t rely on it.

Don’t use catch phrases like, “Ask Jesus into your heart.” Know the gospel for yourself so that you can teach the important connection in this passage of Scripture that you’re studying this week to some truth that you know about Jesus Christ.

As you prepare to teach, ask yourself: What is it in this passage that lets me know about God’s plan for sending Jesus? And it will come out. You will be able to communicate.

Now, let’s go on to the next part.

Kids strive to be accepted. The world plays on this need by using behavior modification to create acceptable kids. We talked about that earlier.

But we do, too. We do it very subtly by making kids feel that God’s love and acceptance is based on whether they behave or not. Kids are wired to want to figure it all out and then just do what they have to do. It’s kind of like they are saying, “Just tell me what I have to do to get to heaven and avoid hell, and I will do it—no problem.”

They get into that works mentality and just figure, like with everything else in their life, they’re going to have to work to earn it.

But here’s the moralistic statement that they end up saying about themselves: “I obey God, and therefore, I’m accepted.” Or they think that they couldn’t ever possibly do it right, and therefore, they will never be accepted by God.

This is how teaching can be twisted toward moralism in both our pre-school and our school program, Bible stories, and Bible lessons. Let me just give you a couple of examples, because when we go to the Old Testament, I think we find it the hardest.

We want to teach about the characters. We want to tell them about Noah and Abraham and Moses. It’s really easy to get focused with our attention on what these characters did right, what they did wrong, or use the passage to teach a moral lesson.

Now, the kids translate that to mean: “Okay, if I’m good, like Noah, God will think of me as righteous,” or “God is pleased with me, or not pleased with me, based on how I act.” And what we really want to message is that God did not choose these people because of their character but because of His grace—just like the rest of us.

The Bible in fact is very faithful in recording the scathing sins of each one of these people. That typically makes us feel pretty uncomfortable if we’d relied on these people to give us good moral lessons because: Noah gets drunk. Abraham lies. Moses gets angry. And what we want to realize is that God is faithful to tell us about their weaknesses because it underscores His grace in saving and using sinful people.

What we really need to be messaging is that God prevails in His plan regardless of imperfections in people, and His promises prevail no matter how powerful worldly leaders appear to be.

So the point is that when we teach these Old Testament passages about Noah, Abraham, Moses, whoever—Joshua, whoever—remember that God is always the hero. People are always imperfect, and God is always the hero.

Now, when we teach about Jesus, it may sound kind of funny to say this, but it is possible to teach about Jesus and never teach the gospel. It is surprisingly easy to talk about Jesus and connect His life to moralism instead of gospel-centered teaching.

We tell kids things like, “You need to act like Jesus, just love like Jesus, just forgive like Jesus, just tell the truth like Jesus.” Kids end up connecting the dots that, “Okay, I’m right with God as long as I imitate Jesus—imitating leads to pleasing God.” And the reality is that we will fail on every count of trying to imitate Jesus because of our issue in our heart. Jesus did not have sin in His heart. He lived perfectly. We will not.

So the gospel-centered teaching says, “Jesus is the one who lived the perfect life. Jesus pleased God for us. He loved perfectly. He forgave perfectly. He never lied. He never cheated. Jesus never sinned. He did for us what we can never do ourselves.

When you teach a child about Jesus in this way, they begin to delight and glory in Jesus as their substitute. They learn to draw into your teaching about what it means to be in Christ and to be part of God’s family.

Now, obedience to God’s commands are to be taken very seriously. Knowing that disobedience has serious consequences, we do want to be faithful about teaching that. But obedience to God’s commands is based on being in Christ and living in the power of His Holy Spirit, not on trying to imitate or trying to act like Jesus on my own steam. But with God’s Spirit living in us, which is what happens when I am in in Christ, I am then transformed by His Holy Spirit and given His empowerment to then live more and more like Christ with the eventual lasting changes in my behavior.

Then, in the Epistles, like we are studying this weekend in Colossians, and we are teaching about growing in Christ; we have to get it straight in our minds first, or again, we will teach kids that Christianity is about what we do. Then our applications focus on religious acts—Bible study, consistent attendance, church membership. Now, these are spiritual disciplines, and they are tools for growth in Christ. They are not tools to measure our spirituality or our worth in God’s sight.

So gospel-centered teaching says, “I don’t become a child of God through religious acts. But once I am God’s child, He gives me His Spirit to mature me, and I grow to be more like Christ.” Just as in the way healthy food helps my body to grow, the Holy Spirit uses Bible study, prayer, going to church to help me to grow in Christ.

So a gospel-centered statement that a student might say would be this: “God accepts me because of Jesus, and because of His love, I want to obey Him, and I have the power to do so from Him.”

So here’s tool number three: Listen to yourself speak and teach kids. Then ask yourself:

  • How does my teaching come across?
  • Will my words promote moralism or the gospel?

How do I even begin to develop questions or comments that I would speak to my children in my classroom or my students that are more gospel centered and not moralistic?

Here’s a tip regarding application questions. Listen closely to a point of clarification.

Questions that put an emphasis on something I must do to earn God’s favor are moralistic. “If I do this, God will be pleased.” And you can remember that by: M stands for me.

Questions that put an emphasis on what God is doing in my mind and heart are gospel centered. So you can remember that with a G, for God.

So we started with a principle: God chose Moses to be His leader.

  • What characteristics do you have that please God?—M.
  • How is God using you to glorify Him?—G. Focuses on God.

All right. Peter sacrificed greatly to follow Jesus.

  • Are you willing to give up ten minutes each day to work on your Bible lesson?—M.
  • When have you sacrificed watching a video to study the Bible and found that God gives you something so much better?—G.

If you feel like you could improve on that question, I will give you that challenge—and you might. Believe me, there’s a lot of room for improvement. But you’re getting it, and that’s the most important thing.

All right. Moses was a leader whose passion for God grew over time.

  • How is your love for God growing as you study His Word?—G.
  • What can you do to show God you love Him?—M.

Paul prayed to God in every kind of situation.

  • Will you commit to daily prayer to God?—M.
  • When have you prayed and God turned your fear into joy?—G.

God had a plan for Moses’ life.

  • What are you doing to live according to God’s plan for your life?—M.
  • And how does knowing God has a plan for your life changed your plan for today?—G.

Jesus showed kindness to His mother while He suffered on the cross.

  • How will you show kindness to someone today?—M.
  • What does Jesus’ kindness help you understand about God’s love and care for you?—G.

So, now you understand the difference between moralism and gospel-centered speaking. It starts with your understanding. And, again, I invite you to keep processing this. Work with it. And get to the point where you help kids think about what God is doing in their life, not what they are doing to earn God’s favor.

You want to teach the truths of the gospel with all your heart to the next generation and to the glory of God. When the gospel is clear, a child will know that it’s not about feeling good about their behavior that saves or fulfills them. It is about God and His glorious plan of redemption through Jesus Christ.

So as you prepare, remember these three things:

  • What does the Scripture passage teach about God?
  • What does the Scripture passage teach about God’s plan for sending Jesus?
  • How am I going to develop application questions or comments that I will have in the classroom that are gospel centered and not moralistic?

And I’d love to close with just the final segment of this letter from the graduating senior that I began this talk with.

She goes on to say:

I just want to take a minute now to thank you who are my teachers. You are the ones who volunteered not only your time and your energy but also your hearts and minds and even your souls. That kid who looked like he was bored and ready to fall asleep, what you just said will waken in him the realization that he needs to get his heart right with God on a personal issue, that he feels like you are speaking directly to.

The kid struggling with homiletics this week, well they’re actually thanking God that there are people who still care enough about them to teach them how to read and analyze God’s Word. I know this because I’ve been in that seat, wondering when class would be over so I could feel comfortable again with my nominal Christian life.

But in class I had the blessing of your presence, your insight, and your love. You, my dear teachers, are the people who invested and poured into my life what I needed the most. Thank you for never giving up on me.

Perhaps the best thing I’ve gotten from BSF is God. There are so many Christian activities out there that give you the Bible teaching or give you Christian friends or give you euphoric feelings about Christianity but forget to give you God. And after growing up with BSF, I can confidently say that I know God and know His Word and know how to listen to Him in a way that I most certainly wouldn’t have without BSF.

And while it breaks my heart to close this chapter of my life as a student in BSF, I am thankful that God has given me a gift that has enriched and changed my life forever.”

May I pray for you?

Heavenly Father, thank You, thank You, thank You for being such a great God. Each one of us in this room knows that You are the hero. You have come and reached into our hearts when we were going our own way. By Your grace, You poured out Your love into each one of us and transformed us. This is the life-saving message that you have given us the privilege to pass on to those who are coming after us.

Father, would You bless and equip each dear one here who is following hard after You. And Your assignment to them for this phase in their lives to hold out the Word of Life to the next generation. Will You equip them and transform them and mature them even as they teach to magnify You?

And we do ask all these things in the mighty name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, amen.

Nancy: We’ve been listening to a message that Barbara Reaoch delivered to a group of children’s leaders with BSF, Bible Study Fellowship, International.

Barbara’s been telling us how important it is not just to share Bible stories with children, but to help kids see the big picture of the whole Bible, where those stories fit in. They need to understand how those stories in the Old Testament lead us to the gospel of Jesus.

And that’s why I’m excited about a book called, The Jesus Storybook Bible. I’ve recommended this book to a lot of parents over the years. For one thing, it’s just a great story book, introducing kids to creation, Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, and so on. And the pictures in it, the artwork, is so engaging and really helps the stories come to life.

But what I love most about it is that the author, Sally Lloyd-Jones, weaves the gospel into each and every story.

You may remember that some time ago, during the series on Revive Our Hearts about Noah and the flood, I actually read from this storybook. I read how the rainbow was like a bow pointed to the sky, showing that one day God Himself would take the judgment of sin upon Himself.

I recommend this book to every parent, every grandparent, to those who work with children in the local church, or perhaps, as Robert and I do, someone who has children over to your home from time to time.

We’d like to send you a copy of this book when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Your donation at this time, during these lean summer months, will be greatly appreciated. And be sure to ask for the The Jesus Storybook Bible when you give your gift by calling us at 1–800–569–5959, or visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Sometimes we experience unmet expectations. Janet Aucoin says our disappointment can be compounded by wrong thinking.

Janet Aucoin: I think that we actually believe, “If I were where I was supposed to be spiritually, I wouldn’t feel this way. Jesus came to bring me complete contentment. So I should not have unfulfilled longings.”

Leslie: Tomorrow, Janet Aucoin shows us what the Bible says about our unfulfilled longings. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth loves the gospel and loves to share it. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

Join the Discussion