We talk about the gospel constantly in our house and in our family devotions with our children. However, we can be tempted to have these conversations with our children on a superficial level without discussing the deep theological truths wrapped up in the gospel. We think kids cannot handle it. For example, how does a sinner stand in the presence of a holy God? In other words, how do you explain Christ bearing our sin and Christ’s righteousness being given to us to a child? Here is what followed in one dinner conversation at our family meal time and my hope is that it could act as a template to teach our children other deep theological truths that make the gospel so sweet and accessible to them.
Illustrate the principle of exchange: I find it helpful to teach my children with something they can visualize, so I decided to illustrate what an exchange is to help them grasp, “The Great Exchange.” One evening towards the conclusion of dinner, I asked my 6-year-old to give me her dirty, used napkin and that I would give her a valuable coin in its place. She, of course, saw the better end of this deal and gladly took it. I explained to her that we just exchanged something and that an exchange is anytime you give something away to receive something in return.
Through the illustration, explain the “Great Exchange.” As I saw she began to grasp that idea, I proceeded to describe our particular exchange. She gave me her dirty, torn napkin (a worthless item) in exchange for my coin (a valuable item). Once I saw she understood, I proceeded to equate her dirty napkin with our sin and my valuable coin with Christ’s righteousness. When Jesus died on the cross, He took our sin from us and bore it in our place. Then, our sin is “exchanged” for Jesus’ perfect life (life without sin). If we repent and believe in Jesus, this exchange takes place and God (Holy God) sees Jesus’ perfect life when He looks upon us. That is how we are able to stand before God as sinners.
Narrow it down to a simple question and answer. To confirm she understood this idea, I asked these two questions to her, “What did Jesus take from us?” She answered, “Our sin.” “What did Jesus give us in return?” She answered, “His perfect life.” I proceeded to ask our other children the same question and did so every day throughout the rest of the week to make sure it was sinking in.
As I was explaining this to my 6-year-old and saw she was getting it, my 9-year-old and 11-year-old were listening and really grasped this idea well also. My 3-year-old didn’t, and started insisting that I give her a coin also. Can’t win them all. The point is children can grasp these deep and glorious truths of the gospel. Don’t wait to teach them. Though my 3-year-old didn’t get it like the others, I have confidence I have laid the ground work for her future understanding. Don’t think for a moment that little, sharp mind won’t be looking for that upcoming dinner when I ask for her napkin in exchange for a coin.
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Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the husband of Cara and adoring father of four children, son, Samuel and daughters, Abby, Isabelle, and Claire. He has served in pastoral ministry for over fifteen years and is currently in his eighth year as Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. He was educated at both Belmont University and Indiana University receiving his B.A. in Sociology. He also undertook some graduate work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He is also the author of Visit the sick: Ministering God’s grace in times of illness (foreword by Mark Dever) and Test, train, affirm, and send into Ministry: Recovering the local church’s responsibility to the external call (foreword by R. Albert Mohler Jr.). Both of these volumes are published by Day One in their pastoral series designed to serve pastors, church leaders, and those training for local church ministry. Brian has also published Help! He’s Struggling with Pornography and Conduct Gospel-centered Funerals (co-written with Phil Newton).
A Faith That Endures: Meditations on Hebrews 11 is Brian’s newest book, released in fall of 2011. His next book on The Pastor’s Family, co-authored with his wife, is due to be released by Zondervan in Fall 2013.
To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.