First Steps: A Free Resource for Teaching Your Child Biblical Truth

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Over the years I’ve counseled many parents who want to lead their children to Jesus, and I’ve found that they have two common concerns:

  1. Does my child understand the truth?
  2. How can I know my child really believes the gospel?

Question one concerns knowledge. Your child must posses the proper concepts and truths of the faith before they can profess genuine faith in the gospel. What is sin? Who is God? Why is Jesus important? These represent the kind of questions your child needs to be able to answer.

The second question tries to dig into the heart, and it’s far more difficult to answer. Many children understand the concepts and truths of the Christian faith. But knowing the truth saves no one. James told us that even demons know who God is, but they are, nonetheless, fallen (James 2:19). Let’s make sure we don’t simply foster minds that know the gospel, but hearts that love the sacrifice of Jesus and hope in the gospel. This booklet contains a plan to address question 1: does my child know the truth?

While most parents know they need to teach Biblical truth to their children many don’t know where to begin, which truths to teach, or how to go about teaching them. In the following pages you will find an edited version of a child’s catechism. It’s a manual of basic Biblical truths in the form of questions and answers along with scriptural supports.

In my family we began using this tool in the car, at the dinner table, or even during play time. I’d ask a question from the catechism then supply the answer. Over time your child will memorize the answers and you can also use the scriptural supports for further study/discussion in God’s Word.

Remember, knowing these truths doesn’t bring anyone into the Kingdom. You are simply using this tool as a plan for transferring basic Christian doctrine into your child’s mind.

As your child begins to assimilate Biblical truth you must constantly remind them that Jesus doesn’t just call us to know him. He wants us to love him. Here are a few thoughts on aiding their heart awareness as you are instructing them in truth.

  1. Continually talk about the love of Jesus and his sacrifice for sin on the cross.
  2. Pray that the Holy Spirit convicts and leads them. It’s not your job to pile on guilt. Don’t rob the Holy Spirit of his role. Be patient and know that God’s plan/timing is better than yours.
  3. Don’t ask leading questions, or yes/no questions.
  • You don’t want to go to hell do you?
  • Don’t you want to go to heaven?
  • You know you’re a sinner, right?
  • You believe that Jesus died for you, right?

No 7 year old wants to go to hell. These questions assume the correct answers and don’t allow you to assess their heart.

  1. Realize that the new birth is internal. Salvation isn’t change in behavior. It’s the new life of God coming into our life. Many parents long for certitude of their child’s salvation, but because it’s internal you will struggle to see it at times. Don’t feel like you need to see a convincing moment of conversion.

I pray that this guide gets you started on the right track to leading your child to know the truth. I also pray you’ll trust Jesus to lead you and your child both to him. Always remember, that I’m  more than excited to meet and talk about these things with you.

Download the free resource here.

-Pastor Jonathan

 

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Hope for a Worried Heart: Philippians 4

downloadBefore reading on grab your Bible and read Philippians 4.

How do we rejoice when our hearts are full of worry? The Philippian Christians knew what it was to worry. They were believers in an increasingly hostile land. Their mentor Paul, the apostle who brought them the gospel, was in jail, and he might never get out. And yet Paul told them to rejoice always and to never worry. Seriously? Rejoice always? This from the guy who is in jail. This from the guy who is going to die very shortly. This to the church that is experiencing trials and tribulations. Rejoice always?!?

When you throw out a theological bomb like that, you better be prepared to provide a robust answer to objections, and you better be prepared to explain how asking people to rejoice when they are suffering is even a reasonable request much less a logical one. Really, it sounds almost cruel.

What is Paul’s hope for a worried heart? How can Paul ask them to rejoice always? In Philippians 4 Paul delineates three truths that are essential for the Christian life.

In verse 5 he tells us to think like Jesus is coming back, because he is. For Paul this is the hallmark of his theology of suffering. We have seen this in every chapter of Philippians. If you asked Paul when he was saved, you’d get a complicated answer. Paul was convinced that his salvation was secured at the cross, decades before, when Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. Paul, however, was also convinced that he was saved on the Damascus road, where he met the real Jesus for the first time and believed in him. But Paul was sure that his salvation would not be complete, would not be fully realized or really real until Jesus accomplishes what his resurrection promised, actual eternal life for all those who are in Christ. And for Paul that will only happen when Jesus returns. That is what the coming of Jesus represents: the Lord is at hand! And when believers are certain that their rescue is at hand, it frees their hearts from worry. Christians can rejoice through anything, if they know that their rescuer is right around the corner.

Not only should we think like Jesus is coming back, because he is; Paul tells us in verses 6 and 7 that we should also pray like we have a heavenly father who cares about us, because we do. The subject of prayer and worry is tricky business. Many Christians experience what it is like to not have their prayers answered. Many Christians have wondered why God seemed so silent from heaven at seemingly the most important of times. If we read widely in Paul’s writings on prayer, we see that Paul is convinced of three things. First, he is convinced that prayer really does change the world. Paul is clear; there are things that God will not do if we do not pray and ask him to do them. There are also things that God only does because we pray, and sometimes only because we pray with regularity and fervency. That is a mind-blowing reality. Isn’t God unchanging? Doesn’t God know all things in advance? We don’t know the mind of God, so we will likely never know what God is doing in every situation, but Paul’s admonishment is clear. If you are anxious, pray!

Second, when it comes to prayer Paul is convinced that prayer changes us, and as we grow closer to God and the knowledge of him and deeper in the gospel, our prayers change to be more in line with his heart and his mission.

Third, Paul is convinced that God answers prayers like a loving heavenly father and not like a genie. Many times, instead of answering the prayers that we pray, God answers the prayers that we would have prayed if we knew what God knows and loved what God loves. This means that sometimes our prayers are not answered because we have not asked consistently enough yet. It also means that sometimes our prayers are not answered because we are asking for the wrong things, and God is working to change our wants and thus change our prayers. But finally, it means that sometimes our prayers are not answered, because even though our hearts were right and we prayed ‘enough,’ God is not granting that prayer, because he, as an all-knowing, all-powerful, heavenly father, knows better. And he isn’t giving us what we prayed for. Rather he is giving us what he wants for us. So when we feel anxious, we must pray our hearts out, but our rest and our hope are not in that we “prayed enough.” What saves us from anxiousness and worry is resting in the knowledge that we are praying to an all-powerful, all-knowing heavenly father, who has promised us a rescue in the return of his Son.

After encouraging us to pray like we have a heavenly father who loves us, Paul tells us in verses 8 and 9 to protect our minds by dwelling on godliness, because God wants you to have peace. Here, Paul is clear. There is a direct correlation between what we dwell on and our anxiety level. When we train our minds (“practice these things”) to think on the gospel and God’s mission in the world—to think about what is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy, then the “God of peace” is with us, and we have peace and not worry. And, of course, Christ is all of these things. He is the epitome of honor, justness, purity, loveliness, commendation, excellence, and praiseworthiness. Dwell on Jesus and have the peace of God. Jesus was God’s peace brought to earth to reconcile all men unto himself.

 

  1. How would you feel if, while you were suffering through a major life-changing crisis (cancer diagnosis, loss of a spouse, etc.), one of your Christian friends said to you, “You should rejoice and not worry”?
  2. Everything in this passage is related to the central fact that “the Lord is at hand.” Write down how the return of Jesus shapes the way we:
  • Rejoice in the Lord always.
  • Display reasonable gentleness to all people.
  • Pray about our anxieties.

Finish by meditating on Man of Sorrows

“Man Of Sorrows”

Man of sorrows Lamb of God
By His own betrayed
The sin of man and wrath of God
Has been on Jesus laid

Silent as He stood accused
Beaten mocked and scorned
Bowing to the Father’s will
He took a crown of thorns

Oh that rugged cross
My salvation
Where Your love poured out over me
Now my soul cries out
Hallelujah
Praise and honor unto Thee

Sent of heaven God’s own Son
To purchase and redeem
And reconcile the very ones
Who nailed Him to that tree

Now my debt is paid
It is paid in full
By the precious blood
That my Jesus spilled

Now the curse of sin
Has no hold on me
Whom the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed

See the stone is rolled away
Behold the empty tomb
Hallelujah God be praised
He’s risen from the grave

 

One of the great treasures of my ministry was the time I spent serving alongside Ed Gravely. For close to 4 years we wrote small group curriculum for Christ Community Church. This blog series is adapted from my archive of curriculum we wrote concurrently with the pulpit ministry of CCC. If any writing in these posts is pleasant to read I’m sure Ed deserves the credit.

Other posts in this series:

Where is Your Hope? Philippians 1

Hope for a Troubled World: Philippians 2

Hope for a Divided Christianity: Philippians 3

Hope for a Painful Past: Philippians 3:12-21

Recommended Resources- Gospel of John

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Our church is in the middle of a 4 week sermon series in the Gospel of John. Here are my recommendations for studying the book for yourself:

Bible Dictionary:

Holman Illustrated Bible DictionaryThe Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary is my go-to Bible dictionary (I have 4-5). John goes out of his way to explain many cultural/geographical details to the uninitiated reader. It is, however, helpful to have a handy reference for terms, cultural practices, and geography.

Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, and Archie England. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, Tenn.: Holman Bible Publishers, ©2003.

Commentaries:

Devotional/Easy Read Commentaries

413HZF4lHKL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Hughes commentaries read like condensed sermons which makes them wonderful for devotional reading. Filled with explanation, illustration, and application I thoroughly enjoy reading these commentaries.

Hughes, R Kent. John: That You May Believe. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1999.

 

 

41qv2noa5HL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve found Dr. Towns commentary to be the one I remember most when I think through the gospel of John. That may be because it was the first commentary I ever owned for John’s gospel, but I also believe it’s because Dr. Town’s structure and writing is straightforward.

Towns, Elmer L. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. Chattanooga, TN.: AMG Publishers, 2002.

Academic Commentaries

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If I could only purchase one commentary on the Gospel of John this would be the one. Dr. Carson packs more information into this volume than I thought could be possible, and at the same time, it’s surprisingly accessible.

Carson, D A. The Gospel According to John. Pillar New Testament Commentary. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991.

 

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Carson 2.0. That’s how I think of this volume. Dr. Köstenberger studied under Carson and this volume represents an update to the predecessor. As a pastor, preaching is only part of what I do (even though I enjoy it the most) and, therefore, I can’t spend 35 hours pouring through 25 commentaries. In terms of academic commentaries for preaching, I love the Pillar series (above) and these Baker commentaries. If I only read these I would feel sufficiently capable to enter the pulpit.

Köstenberger, Andreas J. John. Baker Exegetical Commentary On the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2004.

 

Hope for a Painful Past: Philippians 3:12-21

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Last week’s lesson was probably some of the toughest material in all of Philippians. Paul’s harsh words for the false teachers forces us to answer some harsh questions. What are we worshiping? Where do we put our confidence? What makes us think we are better than other people? Is it our looks? Our ability to make money? Our fame? How healthy we eat? The success of our children? Is it our political views? Or maybe what we really worship about ourselves is seeing ourselves as the victim. Or the persecuted. We can find a way to worship even that.

Before reading on grab your Bible and read Philippians 3:12-21.

Philippians 3:12-21, then, is Paul’s commentary on the bombs he drops in Philippians 3:1-11. Paul spends those first eleven verses rabidly calling us to something better. He calls us to worship Christ and glory in Christ and put no confidence in our flesh. Paul explains that to the Christian, salvation is in one moment, the moment of faith, trading our record for the record of Christ, trading our accomplishments for the accomplishments of Christ, the one who was perfect, always obeyed God, and never sinned. For Paul, the gospel is trading away everything that gives us confidence for the confidence that the God of the universe loved us so much that he gave his only son to die for us, to take our punishment, and to give us eternal life right now. The gospel is that Jesus’ record, his resume, his accomplishments all became ours and our punishment all became his.

What Paul does then in Philippians 3:12-21 is unpack all that for the Philippians. In verses 12-13 Paul softens the blow by confessing that he too is still a work in progress when it comes to putting no confidence in his flesh and counting everything else as “dung.” In verse 13, Paul goes on to explain what it looks like for him, a person with a horrible (painful and sinful) past to give all of that baggage up, to follow Christ, and to put no confidence in his flesh. He says, “I forget what is behind.” The question we have to answer then is this: How can we Christians forget what happened in our past? To this point Paul has been clear. We can forget out pasts because we are justified. We have complete forgiveness in Christ and complete acceptance by Christ, and we are new creatures with renewed minds.

In verse 14 and then again in verses 20-21, Paul explains moving from the past to the present. He says that despite his past, “I press on toward the goal, eternal life with Jesus.” The question we have to answer then is this: How does the knowledge that eternal life is ours change the way we relate to our past and our present? Of this Paul is clear too. The certainty of our salvation puts everything else into an eternal perspective: what we think of as “reward,” what we anticipate as “best in life,” how we think about our bodies (life, death, health, etc.), and how we think about this world.

In verses 16-18 Paul shares just exactly how we are to go about giving up all things for Christ and counting them all as loss. He says, “Join in imitating me and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Paul is clear. Living the Christian life in a real Christian community gives us hope for escaping our past and following Jesus. In other people who follow Jesus we find examples, we find accountability, and we find encouragement.

  1. Can you describe a moment when all of the values /goals in your life changed significantly?
  1. Read Philippians 3:12. What is it that Paul is trying to obtain? The answer is found in the preceding verses.
  1. Read Philippians 3:12-14. As we try to be like Paul and “press on” in following Jesus we will fail plenty of times. Can you name a specific time you have struggled and failed as a believer?
  1. As we begin to realize our own struggles and become honest about those struggles with other people, what hope does Philippians 3:12-13 offer us?
  1. Read Philippians 3:14-21. How can these verses apply to your small group, church?

One of the great treasures of my ministry was the time I spent serving alongside Ed Gravely. For close to 4 years we wrote small group curriculum for Christ Community Church. This blog series is adapted from my archive of curriculum we wrote concurrently with the pulpit ministry of CCC. If any writing in these posts is pleasant to read I’m sure Ed deserves the credit.

Other posts in this series:

Where is Your Hope? Philippians 1

Hope for a Troubled World: Philippians 2

Hope for a Divided Christianity: Philippians 3

Everyone Has a Story: A Step-By-Step Guide to Sharing Your Testimony

Everyone Has a Story

This evening I walked my church through a step-by-step guide to sharing a personal salvation story. Next week I’ll write a few posts to elaborate on the content from the event, as well as to interact with any questions you may have. For now here’s a download of the resource in case you missed the event:

Everyone Has a Story: A Step-By-Step Guide to Sharing Your Testimony