The Doctrines of Grace for Kids – Part 1
Many of us are confused or intimidated when it comes to the doctrines of grace (otherwise known as the Five Points of Calvinism). These are rich truths from the Bible that have been used well poorly throughout church history. Used with grace, shining the light on Jesus and not our own knowledge, these are beautiful truths. Used harshly they can be the end of many people who feel the Bible is “over their head.” Over the next five weeks, I will be breaking down these doctrines, mining the riches of them, and hopefully learning something in the process myself! I will also be providing some helpful hints for teaching these doctrines to our children.
#1 – Total Depravity
This doctrine does not bode well for the self-sufficient person. Essentially, it implies that we are all a big mess and there is nothing we can do about it on our own. Many will preach and teach that becoming a Christian will make you a good person. This, however, could not be further from the truth. The result of becoming a Christian is that by placing our trust in Jesus and his work on the cross our sins have been fully paid for. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death. Romans 3:12, quoting Psalm 36, says that, “all have turned away,” and that,”there is no one who does good, not even one.” A change of heart such as the one that happens when one is truly converted and the subsequent refining of one’s motives may result in a changed sense of morality and even a desire to be a more morally upright person. However, we must understand that whether someone is a Christian or not, they will always seek and do what is evil.
But why is it important that we understand our state as sinners and our desire to do evil? Why can’t a Christian faith that rests on people sinning less and “getting better” survive? We find this notion all too often in children’s ministry. If the children’s pastor can just teach the kids enough good rules, they will be good Christians. This is precisely the thing that we do not want to do. As a children’s pastor, I want people to see Christ, see their sin, and see their need of a heavenly father. Really, if I am being honest with you, I want to deemphasize the rules. Jesus reminded a group of people who were trying their hardest to “do the right things” to get to God that, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44) Jesus was trying to communicate that no amount of rule keeping would earn anyone a spot in the kingdom of heaven. We all need a spotless lamb to die in our place because we are far too sinful to be that lamb. Jesus is that spotless lamb. He has died for you because you are totally depraved and he is not. Knowing our totally depraved nature keeps us in our lowly state and Christ in his highly exalted state. Anything that lessens our lowly state or lowers his high state is damaging to our conception of God and humanity.
So, now comes the fun part…how do we teach this to our children? Let me be honest in saying that some of your children will have no problem understanding this doctrine. They have very sensitive spirits. Some of your children, however, may have a tough time grasping this. The claws of modern-day humanism may have sunk in deeper than you know and they may think they are capable of near or full perfection. So, there are two responses, both of which can be damaging. Just because someone experiences sorrow over their sin does not necessarily mean they will look to Jesus. Likewise, someone who thinks they are capable of perfection may never look to Jesus. So…what to do?
As parents, you should be the biggest confessor of sin in your house. Your children need to know that you are imperfect. Share with them your weaknesses and apologize when you hurt them. Make sure that they know you are a sinner and will always be in need of forgiveness. Modeling this helps children to not look to you as the final authority, but to Jesus. It also helps them to know how to deal with their sinful nature. Instead of denying it, they will see modeled before them appropriate and healthy ways of handling it.
Another helpful thing for children is to gracefully help children know when they have done something they should not have done. Many of us prefer to make this a simple, short exchange of “don’t do that!” or “I don’t want to hear that again!” Though we may want to respond in these ways, we need to see these as holy moments where we can help our children understand their heart in what they have done wrong and to help them see Jesus as the ultimate solution to their sin. A parent who only scolds without lifting high the name of Jesus will create moralistic children who may have porcelain exteriors, but rotten hearts. Point your children to the Scriptures. Spend time with them in verses such as Romans 6:23; Ephesians 4:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 1:30; John 15:25; Luke 19:14; John 5:40; Isaiah 5:20; Titus 1:15; Deuteronomy 32:18; Hebrews 2:1; John 12:39; John 6:44+65; and John 3:18. Spend time praying for Jesus to change their heart.
In the end, we will not get this perfect. Our tendency will always be to want self-sufficiency apart from Christ. The world will pull us in this direction and a lack of attention and intentionality as parents with the Bible may cause our children to drift towards moralism and life apart from Christ.
Next week we will look at Part 2 – Unconditional Election