This is a guest post by Jeff Hutchings, the Pastor of Family Ministries at The Journey (Tower Grove) in St. Louis.
Among others things, my parenting generation is known for doting on our children. Multiple blogs and sermons regularly chide parents for indulging kids with things. Even though parents have good intentions by giving their kids what they didn’t have growing up, a love of materialism is often the result. Families are inadvertently leading children to value possessions and comfort. Most families would not identify their highest value as materialism, comfort, or keeping up with the Joneses, yet many are teaching their kids these values. The majority of parents I talk with just don’t know how to intentionally guide their families to value things such as thankfulness and contentment.
As followers of Christ, we declare what we need most is Jesus. We need His perfect life, His work on the cross, and His resurrection. We want everyone to know Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He is our greatest treasure. Christ is the greatest gift we give. We want our kids not to have a singular moment of “asking Jesus into their heart” but a life-long loving relationship with Jesus. This means telling them of Christ’s redemptive history: the past, present, and future. In teaching about Christ’s past, we proclaim and trust Christ has defeated the penalty of our sin on the cross. Presently, Jesus has overcome the power sin has over us, freeing us to love and obey Him. His future promises tell us He will one day forever defeat and wipe away the presence of sin in the new heavens and earth.
Teaching our kids Christ’s past practically means we profess to them Jesus has paid the penalty of sin. This was part of God’s redemptive plan from the beginning. The Bible calls parents to teach the next generation the greatness of God and to proclaim the great things He has done for His people. This is not limited to the Gospels or the New Testament. Jesus was not God’s “Plan B.” Jesus was God’s plan from the start. God has been working to redeem since the beginning of time. Psalm 78 calls parents to teach the coming generation. The psalmist then recounts the history of God’s involvement with Israel. Parents can use this as an example when teaching their children the greatness of God, striving to be intentional on teaching about the person of Jesus.
Parents can share with their kids how Jesus has defeated the power of sin in our present lives. What is God doing right now in their family, church, and small group community? This is a way to celebrate testimonies, acknowledging God is active today and is bringing people to salvation, healing people and restoring relationships. Parents sometimes don’t share what God is currently doing in their lives, confining Jesus to the Bible. This can create a dichotomy in the child between how he or she understands the Bible and the reality in which the child lives and personally relates to Jesus.
Finally, we teach our children Jesus will eliminate the presence of sin as we move into the new heavens and earth. As a parent, I want my kids to place their hope in Jesus’ return. One day Jesus will come to make all things new. He will restore the brokenness in the world caused by sin. Our hope isn’t in things or people but in Jesus and living with Him for eternity. Helping your child know Jesus past and present will provide families confidence in their future. The same hope we have for ourselves and our children, we can also give to our friends and neighbors.
My prayer for myself, parents, and volunteers at my church is we would treasure Jesus above all things. May we strive to learn about and lean on the redemptive work Jesus has done for us past, present, and future. When parents raise their children to understand the redemptive history of God, it allows kids to have a deeper relationship with Jesus, seeing Him in every story of the Bible. Hopefully church leaders will be active in equipping parents to understand more of who Jesus is throughout the whole Bible. One wonderful resource is LifeWay’s Gospel Project. This curriculum walks kids through the Bible in three years and makes Christ connections to help kids see Jesus in every story. I would also suggest Long Story Short and The Gospel Story Bible by Marty Machowski. Long Story Short is a devotional covering the Old Testament. The Gospel Story Bible is a children’s Bible showing Jesus in both the Old and New Testaments. Last but not least, The Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones is an excellent resource written for kids, but even adults love how Jesus can be clearly seen.