I don’t think we go far enough in our teachings of Scripture to children, youth or adults.
It’s been modeled to me and I see it all over current curriculum that we teach and implore people to do better, to be more responsible, to try not to do something, and to keep working at it. We encourage our listeners to not give up. We end up placing the onus on us as teachers to keep having to bring up “relevant” issues otherwise our parishioners will forget. That’s why we have to have scope and sequences in our teaching content because we need to have a sort of strategic cycle so we can keep bringing up the important “moral” issues that Christians should be model examples of in this world.
- Managing Money
- Peer Pressure
Tonight in our VBS curriculum the topic was on serving your family. The curriculum offered a challenge that they dared the students to accept that they could work on.
It offered things like:
- Do the dishes without being asked.
- Read to your younger brother or sister.
- Feed or walk the dog without being asked.
This was an actionable step toward applying the story of Joseph feeding and forgiving his brothers… in other words: serving his family. The curriculum implored the students to do the same and work hard at being a good family member… after all, everyone should want that, right?
This is where the curriculum doesn’t go far enough.
Our teachings assume that children (or teens and adults) want to do good. In fact, Scripture teaches that in our flesh we don’t want to do good, and we can’t. We fail. Our works of the flesh will ALWAYS fall short of the glory of God. We, often unknowingly and with good intentions, make the same mistake as the Pharisees, to which Jesus chided that they were making their followers a second child of hell. They were lading down their followers with a burden that was impossible to carry.
We do the same thing!
We burden people with moral assents. We encourage lots of trying, and when you fail, to have a positive attitude and pick ourselves back up again and try again. This doesn’t go far enough.
This way of being a Christian, living the Christian life, and teaching other to do the same is NOT THE GOSPEL! It is actually the anti-Gospel! The enemy would love nothing more than allow us to continue to live the Christian life based on our own power instead of God’s power. This is the lie of the enemy from the beginning in the Garden with Eve and Adam. “Did God really say?” Questioning the heart and intentions of our Creator is the lie that the serpent speaks.
The Gospel is clear that it is the work of God in our life, not ourselves. We cannot attain our own salvation. “It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no man can boast” (Romans 6:23). However we often live our lives as if we can attain our own salvation, if only by working really hard at getting better. This is the lie the serpent breathes to Christians today:
So you asked Jesus into your heart… great… that’s good… now work hard at trying to be a good Christian. I’ll point out where you fail and you can keep trying. ‘Jesus will give you strength’ to make it through when you fail and he’ll encourage you to keep trying.
It sounds different coming from Satan’s mouth instead of our teachers, doesn’t it?
The Gospel is about our utter failure as humans to attain the glory of God. We fail. Even our choices are deceptive tricks of our humanity that dupe us into thinking we have salvation and to keep it is to go about being made holy by our own accord. Nope.
It’s only when we totally acknowledge how utterly sinful and desperately in need of salvation we are apart from our own efforts (our own righteousness, to use biblical language) is the intersection of faith and no faith. Believing the Gospel is trading our own righteousness for God’s righteousness. It’s laying down our own life for God’s life. It’s the continual belief and surrender that I’m not in charge of my life anymore, God is. Faith and repentance are the human actions I do in light of the lavishly grace-filled Gospel. But I can only believe and surrender if the Gospel is real and works and is not my own creation or out of my own sense of trying.
We don’t go far enough in teaching the Gospel in our churches and ministries and homes and in our own lives. We believe that character development and moral training is discipleship.
No it is not!
Believing the Gospel (God’s righteousness, not my own) and living in repentance (surrender) is discipleship and the fullness of the Christian life.
- Could you imagine if this is what we taught in our churches?
- Could you imagine the freedom that would come from idolatry and the trappings of this world being laid down?
- Could you imagine what our families would look like? Our marriages? Our children? Our communities?