Preaching the Gospel to our Kids: Pointing to Christ's Obedience as Their Substitution

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Preaching the Gospel to our Kids:
Pointing to Christ's Obedience as Their Substitution

After a conversation last night with a dear friend of mine up north, I thought it would be encouraging to post a particular part of our phone conversation. It regards how we must preach the gospel to our children. And more particularly, how aspect of the gospel message is most fitting for them at this time in their young lives.

A fundamental element of the gospel is substitution. Christ was our substitution. He is the only acceptable sacrifice to God. Therefore, it is only when we are believing that He is our acceptable sacrifice to God, that we are trusting in Him to save us.

Consider, then, for a moment how Christ's substitutionary obedience affects us. Whether we look at a snapshot of our lives before or after conversion, we will probably see some tainting of disobedience in that picture. But the gospel teaches us that we are not acceptable to God because of our obedience, nor are we acceptable to Him only in those times when we obey. The gospel teaches that we are always and only acceptable to God through the substition of Christ, and in this particular area, only because of Christ's obedience to the Father.

Now apply this to our children in two ways. First, what do we tell them when they disobey? I used to fill my children's ears with talk of repentance, confession, obedience, Ephesians 6:1, OT examples of children who didn't obey their parents, etc. Are all these things biblical? Without a doubt. But the missing and most fundamental element is the gospel. My kids can't repent and confess and obey all the time. They will fail whether purposefully or unwittingly. So the message they need to hear is that (1) Christ is the only one who perfectly obeyed His earthly and heavenly father, all the time, even when He was a little boy, and (2) God forgives our disobedience because His Son was punished for it.

This leads to the second application, namely, how we treat them when they disobey. Do we treat them with anger, irritation, and frustration. Do we make them feel like their disobedience is an huge inconvenience to us? Do we fill their ears with how much it makes us suffer and the pain it causes the family? If the gospel element of Christ's substitutionary obedience is the message we want to get across to our children when they have disobeyed, then they aren't going to get that message amid tones of anger, irritation, and frustration. They need to see Christ, high and lifted up, seated on His throne...seated there because He has finished His substitutionary work of obedience and sacrifice. And God makes that available to our children each time they sin. Pretty soon, as they grow older, they will get the message that they don't just need Christ's substitutionary obedience when they sin, but they need it every second of their lives. It is in this way that we will be teaching our children the gospel by teaching them to trust and believe in Jesus' obedience and sacrifice on their behalf.

So let's teach them substitution each time they disobey. And let's not cloud that beautiful and glorious message with our own disobedience! But if we do, let's take heart that Christ's substitutionary obedience still and always will be standing for us just like it will be for our children.

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