By: Barrett Johnson
We end up teaching the wrong thing because we have the wrong objectives.
This sentiment was stirred in me afresh when I read an interview with Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer. He was reflecting on how the “Christian message” he was trying to teach wasn’t Christianity at all…
“I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. . .
And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god.”
So what is your objective?
Do you teach your kids “be good because the Bible tells you to” or do you teach your kids that they will never be good without Christ’s offer of grace? There is a huge difference. One leads to moralism; the other leads to brokenness. One leads to self-righteousness; the other leads to a life that realizes that Christ is everything and that nothing else matters.
I want my kids to be good. We all do. But as our kids grow up, the truth of the gospel can easily get lost somewhere between salvation (where we know we need Jesus) and living life (where we tend to say “I’ve got this”). My experience is that the vast majority of parents are encouraging moral behavior in their kids so that God will bless their (usually self-centered) pursuits. It’s the American Dream plus Jesus. And it produces good, moral pagans.
Consider the key objectives you have for your kids. Seriously, take a minute to think about what would deem you a successful parent. If your goals are focused on your kids’ behavior, their happiness, or their accomplishments (but don’t include a dependence upon Christ and a submission to His will and work), then you might want to make some adjustments.
Because the world has enough pagans. Even plenty of really nice ones. What we need is kids who fully grasp the reality that they have nothing to offer, but who intimately know a God who has everything they need.
I completely disagree with this closing sentence.
“What we need is kids who fully grasp the reality that they have nothing to offer, …”
That is what Christianity is completely doing, and it is wrong.
Please do tell where God says he created us in his image and that Christ is in you…
And you have nothing to offer.
Genesis 1:26-27 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
Isaiah 64:6 6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
Genesis 1]27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Colossians 3:9-10 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Romans 7:18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.
He created us in His image to be in perfect fellowship with Him, but sin entered the world with Adam and Eve, and since, every person is born with a sinful nature. Christ is not “in” us until that moment in time when we hear the Gospel of Christ and receive Him into our heart bad life, trusting in Him alone for our eternal life from that moment forward. “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person”. (John 2:24, 25 NIV). Unless we have chosen to receive Christ and surrender to Him, we have nothing of eternal value to offer.
We have plenty to offer as God works through us on this earth. We are all wonderfully made and are of great value as God loves us. God the creator of all loves us, wants us to be His, and works through us with the guidance of the holy Spirit. Plenty of value there!
Maybe you have reacted a little too quickly? This is the strange paradox of the gospel….we are loved, highly valued, made in the image of God….and yet our righteousness is as filthy rags, He says to us, “your ways are not My ways,” and “there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
If anyone could have boasted of their gifts and calling, the apostle Paul could have. But he counted his lineage, his education, his influence and religious heritage as “dung” (or in modern vernacular – s*%t.) It’s trying to maintain a healthy tension between these 2 poles – God’s great love for us and our inherent weaknesses) that needs to be communicated to young people so that they can develop into living disciples of Jesus, not just good people or good church attenders or whatever.
Very well said. Thank you so much for this reality check. I certainly hope I dot sound blasphemous, but your words seem to come from the very breath of God.
I found your article interesting and I agree with it. However, I have a question. If you have three children, as I do, and you do your best to teach them all the right message and as adult children you have two believers and one pagan, does that mean the problem is in the teaching methods or their understanding/reception methods?
That is why I like the Jesus Storybook Bible so much… It focuses on Jesus not on mini lessons on how to ‘be good.’
Wonderful point! As a nation we are in a moral free fall, but morality is not the issue, righteous is the issue. Only through the fear of The Lord and the gospel is there hope for anyone.
I love this post but I can’t agree with “What we need is kids who fully grasp the reality that they have nothing to offer”. That’s just not true. They have TONS to offer. But the magic is that they have these amazing gifts to offer within the message of God’s incredible plan and his foresight to use them & their gifting within the context of the world they have been born into.
I think the point was from this point (referring to all humanity)… Romans 7:18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.
We ALL have something to offer in the natural sense, gifts, abilities, personalities, that God has created us with. But because we are born in sin (under the curse of sin), all the REALLY good stuff (aside from sin), can’t come out! without Christ we are nothing in that sense, not PERFECT. God helps us to be “all that we can be” and more!