In this chapter, Spurgeon looks at what kids should be taught about Jesus and the doctrines of the Christian faith. Far from shying away from teaching kids doctrine, Spurgeon demands they be taught and explains why they are foundational for faith in Christ beginning with what he see as the most important concept – redemption!
More than just a doctrine which should be learned, Spurgeon views redemption of the lens through which we should view all of life. Spurgeon explains:
“It makes a wonderful change whether you view Providence from the standpoint of human merit or from the foot of the cross. We see nothing truly till Jesus is our light. Everything is seen in its reality when you look through the glass, the ruby glass of the atoning sacrifice. Use this telescope of the cross, and you shall see far and clear; look at sinners through the cross; look at saints through the cross; look at sin through the cross; look at the world’s joys and sorrows through the cross; look at heaven and hell through the cross.”
We must do whatever we can to keep the doctrine of the atoning sacrifice of Christ always before men. It is the lens through which we were meant to view our lives here on Earth. After all, as Spurgeon points out,
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. [2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV]
Next, Spurgeon points to a series of verses which should be familiar to any parent or worker in Children’s Ministry:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. [Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV]
Spurgeon notes that even our view of Scripture changes when taught and viewed through the lens of redemption:
“The law in the hand of Christ is not a sword to slay us, but a jewel to enrich us. All truth taken in connection with the cross is greatly enhanced in value. Holy Scripture itself becomes dear to a sevenfold degree when we see that it comes; to us as the redeemed of the Lord, and bears upon its every page marks of those dear hands which were nailed to the tree for us.”
Presentation of the Bible to Children
Spurgeon “jumps” from a discussion of redemption to a warning on how to teach the Bible. He turns to a series of verses found later in the chapter of Deuteronomy for inspiration:
“When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day.” [Deuteronomy 6:20-24 ESV]
Our goal in Children’s Ministry should never be simply to tell kids Bible stories. We must take the revelation of God and find ways to help them make it their own. We must encourage them to get excited about it, dig into it, and ask question about it.
I can imagine one of these men who watched God part the Red Sea and drown the Egyptians behind them wince as they listed to a monotone retelling of the story..something like:
“Then God moved to the back of the people as a cloud and protected them from the Egyptians so that they could not hurt them. The people did not know what they should do. So, God pushed the water to either side so the Israelites could walk through on dry land. Then God caused the water to drown the Egyptians. The End.”
No! He would proclaim. You must tell the story with the fear, the excitement, and the overwhelming awe at the awesomeness of God. How dare we take stories of the great and miraculous workings of our God and make them boring for kids!
We must encourage their imagination and their sense of wonder. We must prompt them to think about hoe the truth of God’s Word applies to their life. We must help them to view things through the lens of Christ’s death on the cross, not because we say so, but because they understand that is the only accurate way to look at things. We must be excited about the Word, convey our excitement and help the kids to catch that excitement. We want them to read their Bibles because they want to, not because we tell them to!
Some kids are anxious to ask questions. Other seem indifferent. We must deal with both kinds. Many times this involves prompting questions, or asking leading questions. While back I wrote a post called Teaching Kids How Think Not What to Think that addresses exactly this questions.
Teaching the Sacraments & The Cross of Christ
Spurgeon explains that it is important that kids learn and understand the meaning of the sacraments given in the New Testament, namely Baptism and Communion and expressed regret that kids do not see the ordinances more often. The sacraments should both be done in the presence of kids. If they never witness these acts commanded by God, they will never have the chance to ask why we do them, and O’ that they would ask that question! What an opportunity to explain the grace and power and love of God. How wonderful to explain the symbolism of baptism to a child! It is the ultimate word picture given to us by God to show his salvation and our rebirth. The Lord’s Supper affords us the opportunity to talk about the atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Explain to them that baptism and communion are merely symbols of the awesome work of a really big God!
Spurgeon explains that the Lord’s Supper sets forth the symbol of the death of Christ. Spurgeon explains the importance of kids understanding and being confronted by the death of Christ as it is the basis for our redemption. He explains:
“dwell much and often in their presence upon the sufferings and death of our Redeemer. Let them think of Gethsemane, and Gabbatha, and Golgotha, and let them learn to sing in plaintive tones of Him who laid down His life for us.”
We must teach them the weight of sin born by Christ on the cross. We must teach them about his suffering that he endured out of his love for us. We must explain why he had to suffer and what it meant that God himself hung on that cross. It all points to the cross! As Spurgeon explains, Children are most definitely capable of understanding the doctrine of the expiatory sacrifice because it was meant to be a gospel to the youngest. Spurgeon explains:
“The gospel of substitution is a simplicity, though it is a mystery.”
The words we choose must be age appropriate, but we have not done our job until our kids understand the fact, meaning and implication of Christ’s death on the cross. The cross of Christ is essential to all other spiritual teaching. It is the foundation that our kids will build their spiritual lives on.
Teaching Kids About Their Sin and Need For A Savior
In order to teach kids the cross, we must teach them their need for the cross. We must show children their sin and pray that the Holy Spirit would convict their heart. Last week, I published a series of articles on What Children Must Be Taught About Sin based on my participation in a Children’s Ministry Think Tank in which that was the question at hand so I won’t reiterate much of that here. However, as Spurgeon explains:
“Do not flatter the child with delusive rubbish about his nature being good and needing to be developed. Tell him he must be born again. Don’t bolster him up with the fancy of his own innocence, but show him his sin.”
We must show a child his sin and pray that the Holy Spirit would convict his conscience. We should not deal with the sin of a child any differently than we would deal with the sin of an adult. We must be thorough in explaining to them what sin is and why particular things are sins, and we must be honest with them. Despite their age, the consequences of sin are the same for young and old alike. In Spurgeon’s words:
“Do not hesitate to tell the child his ruin; he will not else desire the remedy. Tell him also of the punishment of sin, and warn him of its terror. Be tender, but be true. Do not hide from the youthful sinner the truth, however terrible it may be. Now that he has come to years of responsibility, if he believes not in Christ, it will go ill with him at the last great day. Set before him the judgment-seat, and remind him that he will have to give an account of things done in the body. Labour to arouse the conscience; and pray God the Holy Spirit to work by you till the heart becomes tender and the mind perceives the need of the great salvation.”
The Salvation of Children
When it comes to those teaching children, Spurgeon offers the following advice on approach and perspective:
“Go on, dear teachers, and believe that God will save your children. Be not content to sow principles in their minds which may possibly develop in after years, but be working for immediate conversion. Expect fruit in your children while they are children. Pray for them that they may not run into the world and fall into the evils of outward sin, and then come back with broken bones to the Good Shepherd; but that they may by God’s rich grace be kept from the paths of the destroyer, and grow up in the fold of Christ, first as lambs of His flock, and then as sheep of His hand.”
Spurgeon reminds his readers, yet again, that young believer are good for the church in general. First they bring a new life to the church:
“If He would bring into our churches a large influx of young people, how it would tend to quicken the sluggish blood of the supine and sleepy! Child Christians tend to keep the house alive. Oh, for more of them!”
And, secondly, in teaching them, we actually teach ourselves:
“There is no way of learning like teaching, and you do not know a thing till you can teach it to another. You do not thoroughly know any truth till you can put it before a child so that he can see it.”
We must teach kids about the redemption to be found only in Christ and warn them against false gospels. There are so many false Gods and false prophets in our world today, many who hold themselves out as Christians, that we must give kids a firm foundation in the truth while they are young in order to avoid the lure of these false gods. We must teach kids the doctrines of Christ for their own good, and to raise up a new generation of Christ followers to maintain and perpetuate the faith. Most parents pray that their kids will lead a better life than they have. As a church, we should pray that the children learning the gospel today are better stewards of that gospel than we have been.
I get excited about working with kids. I get really excited about teaching kids the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. That said, when people ask me why I work with kids, my answer is always the same. First, I work with them because I feel like that is what God wants me to do. And, secondly, I work with them because I have learned so much more doing that than I could ever hope to teach to them. In preparing lessons, I have deepened my faith and expanded my understanding. If fielding questions from kids and trying to both come up with the answers and words to convey the answer, I have learned to rely on God. In seeing, enjoying and participating in their child-like faith, I have come to realize why Jesus told his followers that we must have faith like a child. Indeed, they have, and continue, to teach me more about God than I will ever be able to repay!
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 Nine can be found at: http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/cyc09.htm
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