KIDS “IN CHRIST’
BY KEVIN NEWTON
The morning began with little difficulty for the father of a newborn. It was the first time he’d been left in charge of his baby boy. After a successful bath, the father’s confidence soared. Breakfast was no problem since formula was the only item on the menu. Everything was going smoothly . . . until 10:30, when the first sign of trouble appeared. Baby Boy was growing noticeably uncomfortable while Dad raced for rattles and a stuffed raccoon for a diversion. Panic set in by 11:00, for nothing would calm the child who had healthy lungs and a resolve to use them.
Even so, the proud father couldn’t bring himself to phone Mom for advice. Admitting defeat wasn’t on his favorite-things-to-do list. But soliciting help from Grandma was a different thing altogether. Within
minutes, the parenting pro arrived to rescue her son. It took only seconds to assess the problem.
“When was he last changed?” she asked, wrinkling her nose.
“Changed? You mean . . .” (he pointed to the diaper) “changed?
Well, gee, I uh . . . How often do you have to do that?”
“That’s up to him,” Grandma said, smiling at her grandchild.
In no time Baby Boy was clean, dry, and happy.
Babies don’t come with instructions, but parents aren’t without hope. God has given us the Bible, and it’s filled with instructions for good parenting, including teaching our children who they are in Christ. But it’s not enough to read the directions of the Bible; we must understand them as well. A great service we can provide our children is to give quality answers to the questions they ask, especially when they concern their walk with Christ: how they become a Christian, how they stay a Christian, and what God wants from them.
Today’s youth are growing up in a complex society with pressures that previous generations did not have to face. The media through television, movies, and music has a tremendous influence on this generation of young people. Parents must not abdicate their position, willingly or unwillingly. We cannot be responsible for an entire generation, but we must be responsible for our own children. If that means fighting off the world’s influence to make our own effective, then we’d better roll up our sleeves and prepare for battle.
Parents who really “parent,” who spend time and energy on their children, are becoming a rare breed. Too often parents look to teachers and youth pastors to instruct and influence their children. While other
adults can provide healthy role models, the responsibility unquestionably lies with parents.
This chapter will discuss who we are in Christ and will equip us to teach our children who they are in Christ, providing a foundation that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. They need to understand who they are in Christ, what God wants from them, and how they can approach Him. Such knowledge will make them less susceptible to worldly influences and more stable in their Christian walk.
BUILDING THE FOUNDATION
Three passages of Scripture provide a foundation for Christian living. The first is Ephesians 2:1-6:
Alive in Christ.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus (NASB).
This passage is not so much a theological message on the benefits of our salvation as it is an expression of the apostle Paul’s heart, which is overwhelmed with the indescribable grace and mercy of the God who saved him. In the original Greek this passage is marked with bad grammar, incomplete sentences, and mid-sentence construction change; verses one through seven are all one sentence. It’s obvious Paul was pouring out his heart; the rules of grammar were unimportant.
Verses one to three leave no mistake that in our fallen state it was impossible for us to have a relationship with God. We were dead in sin, walking in accordance with the world, living in partnership with the prince of the air, and disobedient. We needed help from a source beyond ourselves. God provided it in three ways:
First, though we were dead in sin, He kept us alive.
Sadly, it’s not uncommon to hear Christians talk about serving God with words that make it sound like they’re doing Him a favor. They forget that God is our very Source of life. He doesn’t have to be; He chooses to be.
Second, even before we were believers, God raised us up with Christ: brought us up to heavenly places, with access to the very throne of God. It was not in our power to ascend to Him; He made it possible. To illustrate, several years ago I was the first to arrive at the scene of a head-on collision between a truck and a small car. The engine of the automobile had been pushed into the driver’s lap, trapping him in his vehicle. He was absolutely helpless to free himself. We were equally trapped in a dimension that cannot reach God.
It’s absurdly prideful to think we’ve done anything to attain the heights to which God has raised us.
Third, while we were yet sinners God seated us with Christ in heavenly places, complete in Jesus. God isn’t bound by time; He knows the score before the end of the game, or as Isaiah 46:9,10 says: “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and . . . things that are not yet done . . ” (NKJV).
So God sees us alive with Christ, raised up with Christ, and seated with Christ in heavenly places, all because of faith. The amazing thing is that God even gives us the faith to believe unto salvation.
Many young people in our churches really don’t know how God views them. They’re often presented with a gospel that’s more of a to-do list than a free gift, and they fall into a routine of performing for God’s approval. The problem is compounded by another list of how Christians should look, which produces the feeling that they’ll never match up to God’s standard. But God’s Word teaches us the truth: by faith we
receive what God has done for us. And that truth will set them and us free to enjoy an abundant relationship that God initiated.
Guard Our Hearts. Hebrews 3:12-14 is another key passage that will help our children understand the Christian life. A common question among youth is: “What does God want from me?” It may or may not be
verbally expressed, but it’s both real and revealing. They need to understand that God is concerned with what they watch on television and what music they listen to, but it’s secondary to what has taken place
in the heart. It always goes back to works versus faith. If our teens feel they are Christians based on what they do, or how they perform, that their behavior validates their relationship with Christ, they’ve missed the heart of the gospel. And that could cause them to walk away from God with the feeling they’ll never measure up, so why bother? The truth is, they won’t measure up and neither will we. The author of Hebrews made sure that we understand what God wants from us.
Every parent goes through the memorable experience of potty training their children. I certainly remember when my wife and I reached that phase of parenting.
We began by explaining the fundamental principles of the bathroom to our daughter, introducing her to the various bathroom fixtures, eager to be free from the tyranny of diapers. No more runs to the Quick
Stop at midnight where we’d spend $73.95 for sixteen diapers.
We imagined the fresh clean mountain air that would sweep down from the range and into our home without being tainted by the little, white diaper pail in the corner of the room. With this to spur us on,
we diligently explained what the toilet was for and how it is used. Certain of imminent success, we watched as our daughter marched into her bedroom, scooped up her very favorite stuffed Sesame Street character Elmo (for moral support, of course), made her way to the bathroom, and dropped him into the toilet. She proudly proclaimed, “Elmo go potty.” We suspected then that potty training was far from over.
Our daughter had missed the point, but Hebrews 3:12-14 makes it clear what God wants from us so we don’t. It says:
Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end (NASB).
We’re admonished here to “take care” lest there be a wicked, unbelieving heart in us. We must guard our hearts and protect the faith that we possess and encourage and teach our children to guard their hearts as well.
The Amplified version puts it this way: “. . . take care lest there be in any one of you a wicked, unbelieving heart–which refuses to cleave to, trust in and rely on Him” (Hebrews 3:12). Notice the author did not say an unbelieving mind. There’s a big difference. The mind is where we reason; the heart is where we believe.
It’s said of the Bereans in Acts 17:11, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” (NASB). The noble Bereans were not arrogant or prideful; they were discerning and iscriminatory in what they believed.
When our children ask questions about God, we can’t toss out answers such as, “That’s just what we believe” or “That’s what the church teaches.” We have a God-given need for answers to life’s questions; so do our children. Don’t be afraid that their questions indicate unbelief. They have legitimate questions that need a response. One of the greatest gifts we can give is the freedom to question and seek answers that satisfy. This will give them the opportunity to say: “Christianity is not just my parents’ belief or my church’s belief; it is my belief.”
Hebrews 3:14 in the Amplified Bible says, “For we have become fellows with Christ, the Messiah, and share in all He has for us, if only we hold our first newborn confidence and original assured expectation [in virtue of which we are believers] firm and unshaken to the end.”
Hebrews 3:15 quotes Psalm 95 concerning the people of Israel at Kadesh, after they were led out of Egypt and into the wilderness, where they contemplated electing a new leader and returning to Egypt. The author draws a parallel between those who reject salvation by grace through Jesus Christ and those who wanted to return to Egypt. Both groups rejected the process of pilgrimage. They were unwilling to be a people of faith, afraid to learn what life in Jesus is all about.
But Hebrews 3:14 says we have become fellows with Christ. For that reason we must not turn back to the Law, which could only show us our sin, not save us from it. The Lane translation says, “We have become fellows with Christ, supposing that we hold firmly to the end the basic position we had at the beginning.”‘ What is the basic position of Christian faith? Through faith in Jesus, our sins are forgiven; Jesus lives in and through us, and our ambition is to follow Christ. Through faith we understand salvation is a gift from God; it would be futile to return to our old life or the law for righteousness. The Hebrews lost sight of each point. It’s up to us to make sure we and our children “hold firmly to the end the basic position we had at the beginning.”
As a boy, I learned the premise of Hebrews 3:12,14. I started out well, full of joy, peace, and new life. I got involved in the church and started to grow in my faith. But message after message, teaching after teaching, impressed upon me that if I was really saved and really spiritual, my life would show it in a particular way. As a result, I began to feel I could never meet God’s standards and spent a great deal of time dealing with sin and guilt. I was preoccupied with being right before God, while failing to feel right before Him. I doubted that Jesus could live in and through me while I was in such a sinful state so much of the time. I relieved my guilt by serving God in any capacity I could find, in and out of the church. Salvation began to feel like something I earned instead of a free gift from God.
The U. S. Army slogan is: “It’s not just a job; its an adventure.” I began to feel that Christian life was not just an adventure; it was a job. The list of things I had to do to earn God’s favor had gotten too long. Preachers continually reinforced from the pulpit that God was primarily concerned with what I watched on
television, what radio station I listened to, and what movies I saw. I lost my ambition to serve Christ, along with the joy, peace, and freedom I’d found in Him, and returned to legalism to appease an angry God I could never approach. I was not holding on to the basic position of a believer, and Christianity was more of a burden than a blessing. Fortunately, God restored me to the place of faith where I’d begun my walk.
Our children will fall into the same trap unless we help them understand the basic position of their faith in Christ, taught in Hebrews 3:12-14. Well-meaning individuals can make Christianity so difficult we cannot succeed; Christ meant for faith to be so simple we could not fail. If we model for our children that we’re accepted by God because of His grace, and we serve Him because of our love, they’ll follow the example we set.
Draw Near. The final key passage of Scripture we’ll discuss in this chapter is tied to how we approach God. If I were to ask, “On what basis do you have a relationship with God?” what would you say? Hebrews
4:14-16 makes it clear there’s only one correct answer: through Christ.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need (NASB).
As a youth evangelist I was continually approached by teens who expressed their frustration at not feeling “right” enough to approach God. I explained that we do not approach God based on our goodness, but
on our faith in | Christ’s righteousness. They usually responded with confusion or disbelief, having never heard that before. They’d been raised in the understanding that you had to have your act together for
God to like you.
Hebrews 4:14-16 will help us explain to our children that if our ambition is to follow Christ, even if we make mistakes we are no less accepted by God. If they understand that their access to God is not threatened by mistakes, they won’t be frustrated at their inability to be “right enough” to approach Him.
The author of Hebrews gives four reasons why we can confidently approach God through Christ. First, because Jesus is our High Priest. That was a tremendous revelation for the early readers of Hebrews who
had always depended on the Levitical high priest to be the mediator between them and God; without him, there was no access to Jehovah. The high priest could approach God’s throne only once a year, but with
Christ as high priest, God’s people have access to Him at any time.
Second, we can approach God through Jesus because He has ascended to the right hand of the Father where He intercedes for us. He established a new covenant in His own blood that was able to remove all
Third, we can approach God because Jesus is not merely a good man or a great teacher: He is the Son of God. We’ve become familiar with this title, but to the infant church it was a new and remarkable revelation, one in which they took courage and comfort.
Finally, we have confidence in approaching God because Jesus can empathize with our temptations and weaknesses. He experienced our frailties and was tempted in every way we are today, yet without sin.
Jesus knows all about us and still chooses to serve as our high priest before God. He identifies with our sin, yet is sinless; therefore He is worthy and able to cover us.
I accompanied the Oakland A’s chaplain to chapel one Sunday morning: We drove to the stadium two hours before the day’s game started and entered the players’ parking lot where a security guard checked our pass. After parking we walked into the players’ entrance amidst heavy security. As we passed through various security points the chaplain would say, “He’s with me,” and I was admitted. Had I not been with the chaplain, I never would have gotten past the parking lot. I could have explained how much I loved baseball and how far I could hit the ball, but it would have meant nothing had I not been with the right
That’s what Jesus says when we go before God’s throne. He says, “Father, they’re with me.” Based on our ability, our talent, our good works? Of course not. We approach God based on our faith in Jesus Christ.
The reasons we can approach the throne of grace with confidence have nothing to do with our worthiness; they’re all based on Christ’s worthiness. Yet failure keeps us from approaching God when we need to the most. Can we approach Him with any more confidence when we’re at our best? Let’s not fool ourselves. Our best is filthy rags. Hebrews 4:16 tells us to approach the throne of grace with confidence because of our position in Christ so that we may find mercy and grace in time of need.
As we instruct our children in the ways of God, we’ll save them years of frustration and disappointment if we help them understand who they are in Christ, what God wants from them, and how they can approach
God. We must not leave this instruction to others; it’s our responsibility. When they come with questions we’ll serve them best by having answers.
The Reverend Kevin Newton is singles pastor at Lakeview Assembly in Stockton, California. He pioneered Impact Team, a crusade evangelism team that has ministered in hundreds of public school assemblies and
evangelistic rallies. He also developed Higher Ground Singles Ministry. Kevin has authored two ministry manuals: Lay Pastor and Net Group Training Manual and Divorce Recovery Manual. He received his B. A. from Bethany Bible College and is currently enrolled at Fuller Theological Seminary in the Master of Theology Program. He and his wife Becky have a two-year-old daughter, Arielle.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY “FOCUS ON THE FAMILY”, 1996, TAKEN FROM PARENTING, AND COMPILED AND EDITED BY HAL DONALDSON AND KENNETH M. DOBSON. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.