I have shared with you my fear about sharing the gospel. Maybe you have never struggled with this or perhaps you were so incredibly motivated by what I said that you are now living a reformed life and talk about Jesus with everybody you meet.
So what exactly are you telling them?
I ask because as the father of four kids I get to hear other people talk to them about Jesus and I think many of us are telling our kids the wrong message. We inevitably explain that the single biggest reason for them to come to know God at a young age is because it will make their life easier. It will save them from sin and trouble that they might otherwise succumb to as teenagers.
Perhaps you are so used to this line of reasoning that your brain is numb to the idea, but I hope you stopped and said, “What? Doesn’t this sound like a type of prosperity gospel? Are we telling kids that an easy life is the reason to know God?”
We typically explain to our children that if they become a Christian while they are young (and by young we usually mean before they are interested in dating or cigarettes or alcohol) then their life will be better in the long run. Right living in high school and college will give them a head start in life.
We are in danger of teaching them that what God is really interested in seeing them clean themselves up on the outside so they can be good people.
The reason we preach this as parents is because we want our kids to be successful and happy. Is this wrong? Probably not, but we have to be careful how we define success and happiness.
The typical goal of teenage parenting is to get through these difficult years without our child getting into too much trouble. By trouble I mean being arrested, getting pregnant, drinking or flunking out of school.
These are good goals and I am not discouraging them. But we are teaching our kids that in order to be happy, they just need to sin less, or at least sin less outwardly. Never mind the issues of selfishness and pride since those sins do not get anybody pregnant.
And what happens when our kids disappoint us? How do we respond when they mess things up? What do we say when someone does become pregnant or gets a DUI? What happens when young adults say they are Christians but they still fall?
If our efforts are primarily focused on sin avoidance, then most likely we will respond very negatively when sin does occur. And sin will happen. Sometimes it is big and sometimes it seems not so big, but our kids will choose sin. They already do.
And let’s face it, in general the church has a bad history of treating “wayward” teenagers with anger and disgust. For many the church becomes not a place for help and healing, but judgment.
The gospel, though is about being broken and sinful and being rescued from it. It is about being reconciled with God. Sin can make life very, very complicated, but the point of the gospel is for us to have a relationship with God, not to live moral lives.
At no point does Jesus ever really promise that following him will lead to happier, easier lives full of college scholarships and six-figure incomes. The gospel is not a means towards living the American Dream. If anything he tells us the opposite, that we will live lives that are filled with struggle and persecution and heartache. When we become Christians we must die to ourselves.
And when we die to ourselves, then we can truly live meaningful lives. Then we get to serve him and do his will which will provide purpose in life no matter how difficult it might become. As we love him more, we will become more like him, we will hate our sin more, and less sin will happen as a by-product.
The potential for a good life is not found in avoiding sin or owning a big house or not smoking or waiting till you are married to have sex, but rather in knowing God.
What kind of gospel are you preaching?
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