Model Lesson for Teachers (Synopsis of Come Ye’ Children – Chapter 12)
In this chapter, Spurgeons offers 5 lessons for Children’s Ministry teachers on teaching kids about morality. Spurgeon utilizes Psalm 34 as the basis for these lessons and begins the chapter with the following verse:
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. [Psalms 34:13-14 ESV]
In order for kids to understand the holiness of God, we must teach them about morality. However, we must be clear in our teaching that leading a moral life is not the way to salvation. Instead, Children must be made to understand that Christ and Christ alone is the means unto our salvation. Once salvation through the blood of Christ is obtained, only then does God gives us a thirst for moral living. In Spurgeon’s words:
“I have always found that the gospel produces the best morality in all the world.”
As we work with kids in Children’s Ministry, we are in a special position to talk to them about their sin and their need for a savior. Spurgeon offers the following advice:
“I would have a Sunday-school teacher watchful over the morals of the boys and girls under his care, speaking to them very particularly of those sins which are most common to youth.”
In talking to kids about sin, it is important that we be very specific. Talk to them about the sin of disobedience. Explain the sin of lying. We must give kids clear examples of sins (as David did in this Psalm) while making sure that they understand that God’s focus on sin is the attitude behind the action and not necessarily the action itself.
Spurgeon proceeds from here to offer five practical lessons about teaching kids morality.
Lesson #1 – The Tongue
The first bit of advice in this Psalm is to:
“Keep your tongue from evil”
Children must be taught the power for both good and evil that the tongue possesses. James explained the power of the tongue this way,
“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” [James 3:5-8 ESV]
We must teach kids that what they say, and how they say it, is important. The old adage with which kids will be familiar that “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” could not be further from the truth!
Lesson #2 – Look After the Whole Conduct
Spurgeon argues that morality, in and of itself, is relatively small thing. The ultimate goal is to teach kids godliness:
“Morality, however, by itself is comparatively a small thing. The best part of what you teach is godliness. I said not, “religion,” but godliness.”
There is a risk in giving kids a list of rules that they must follow when teaching them about sin. The risk is that they may start to focus on the external appearances rather than internal heart issues, and if you are not careful you will do nothing more than teach them how to be hypocrites. Spurgeon explains,
“He who does not respect God, pray to God, love God, is an ungodly man, whatever his external religion may be.”
We must remind kids that God knows their hearts and is not fooled by exterior appearances. They must always have an eye towards God and know that he is watching them. Spurgeon argues that this is fundamental to working with kids:
“No Sunday-school teacher discharges his duty unless he constantly lays stress upon the fact that there is a God who notices everything that happens.”
Lesson #3 – The Evil of Sin
Understanding the evil of sin is a prerequisite to learning the way to heaven. When working with kids, we must teach them that sin is abominable. Spurgeon explains:
“If the Holy Ghost does not teach us the exceeding sinfulness of sin, we shall never know the blessedness of salvation. Let us seek His grace, then, when we teach, that we may always be able to lay stress upon the abominable nature of sin.”
Spurgeon points to a later verse from the same Psalm:
“The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. [Psalms 34:16 ESV]”
We must not be afraid to teach kids the full consequence of sin. Spurgeon relates a story of a father whose son died prematurely. Convinced that his son had not gone to heaven, the father tells his others children when asked about their brother, “I fear he is in hell. You knew his life and conduct, you saw how he behaved; and now God has snatched him away from his sins.” He proceeded to tell them about hell and begged them to shun it. Many in that circumstance might have proclaimed, “We hope he is in heaven,” but this father, understanding the solemnity and seriousness of the situation, was frank with his children. If the father in this story had not boldly proclaimed the truth of his dead son’s destination, his other children likely would not have seen any reason to repent of their own sins and turn towards God. Likewise, when we shy away from telling kids about the consequences of their sin, we risk that they will not appreciate their need for a savior and turn to Jesus. Sometimes, Spurgeon explains, in the face of eternity, honesty of purpose is more important than tenderness of heart. Spurgeon further explains:
“Be honest, then, with your children, and teach them, by the help of God, that ‘evil shall slay the wicked.’”
Lesson #4 – Absolute Necessity of A Change of Heart
The prior lessons are insufficient without an understanding of the fourth lesson regarding the absolute necessity of a change of heart.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. [Psalms 34:18-19 ESV]”
In teaching kids about sin and salvation, we must make certain that this truth is always before them. The Lord is with those who have a broken heart. Indeed, for many who become Christians, it is exactly when we are most broken-hearted, contrite and humble that we are finally shown our need for God. Kids must understand that no amount of good works or outward gestures will make them right with God.
“Be sure, whatever you leave out, that you teach the children the three R’s,—Ruin, Redemption, and Regeneration. Tell the children they are ruined by the Fall, and that there is salvation for them only by being redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit.”
As Spurgeon explains, when we keep these truths before kids, we get the honor and “pleasing task of telling them the sweet subject of the closing lesson.”
Lesson #5 – The Joy and Blessedness of Being Christians
The final lesson is the blessedness that comes with being a Christian. Spurgeon goes to the final verse of Psalm 34:
“The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. [Psalms 34:22 ESV]”
Indeed, any of us who have tasted of the grace and love of knowing Jesus should find sharing this aspect of the Christian faith with kids quite easy. We must teach kids that those redeemed by God are blessed here below and blessed for eternity in Heaven above. That said, we must also teach them that being blessed here below is based on God’s idea of blessedness and not some human view of blessedness lest they fall under the mistaken notion that accepting Christ as Lord always leads to material blessings. The most effective way to teach kids the joy and blessedness which comes from knowing Christ is to let them see it in you. We must model the peace and joy and blessedness that comes from accepting Christ in such a way that the kids will see and take notice.
Keeping Things In Perspective
Finally, Spurgeon offers the following quote to keep things in perspective and remind us that despite what we do, or don’t do, God is always in control:
“You are simply at pen; God can write with you, but you cannot write anything of yourself. You are a sword; God can with you slay the child’s sin, but you cannot slay it of yourself. Be ye, therefore, always mindful of this, that you must be first taught of God yourself, and then you must ask God to use you to teach; for unless a higher Teacher than you work with you, and instruct the child, the child must perish. It is not your instruction that can save the souls of your children; it is the blessing of God the Holy Spirit accompanying your labours, May God bless and crown your efforts with abundant success! He will surely do so if you are instant in prayer, constant in supplication. Never yet did the earnest teacher or preacher “labour in vain in the Lord,” and often has it been seen that bread cast upon the waters has been found after many days.”
Teaching kids about sin involves a lot of balance. We must teach them what sins are in very practical specific ways, but we must be careful not to give the impression that sinning is simply a list od dos and don’ts. I wrote about this topic in a recent series called 5 Things Kids Must Know About Sin.
Links to Complete Text
If you’re interested in reading the complete text of “Come Ye Children,” it can be found on at: http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/cyc.htm
The complete text of Chapter Twelve can be found at: http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/cyc12.htm
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