When thinking and speaking of the good news, always keep the following four truths in mind: God is holy and righteous; we are sinful and rebellious; Jesus is the answer; but we must respond.
God is holy and righteous. Understanding the gospel begins with an understanding of God’s holy character and righteous demands. If we neglect this foundation, there is no way to point our kids to a standard they cannot meet. And without an established, unattainable standard, there is no need for the good news of the gospel. Be sure to teach your kids that, even though God made us in His image, and loves us, He is too holy to associate with us (Hab. 1:13). Help them to understand God’s demand for perfect righteousness (Matt. 5:48), which then leads to a discussion regarding how His justice requires Him to punish all sinners (Rom. 1:18–20).
We are sinful and rebellious. In contrast to the holiness of God, be sure to teach your kids the truth about their own spiritual condition as a sinner. The word “gospel” means “good news.” However, this good news loses its meaning and significance if an understanding of the bad news is not gained first. This is why it’s an evangelistic mistake to immediately jump to “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” The bad news includes at least three fundamental truths: we are born sinful (Ps. 51:5); we prove our sinful nature by our thoughts, words, desires, and actions (Rom. 1–3); and we are prone to wander from God (Is. 53:6). The result is that we are enemies of God who are separated from Him by our sin (Rom. 5:10).
Jesus is the answer. But there is good news! Yes, every one of us is a guilty sinner deserving eternal punishment. We are all like sheep who have “gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way,” but there is great hope for us since “the Lord has laid on him [Jesus Christ] the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:6). God gave His one and only Son for us (John 3:16). Jesus is both sinless God and fully man and, therefore, qualified to be the only mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5). As the one mediator, Jesus died for sin, in our place, as the only acceptable sacrifice (1 Pet. 3:18), rose from the dead (Rom. 4:25), and is alive today to intercede for those who turn to Him (Heb. 7:25). Jesus is the only Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and the Lord to be obeyed (Luke 6:46).
But we (including our kids) must respond. God’s love and mercy have provided the way for us to be saved from the penalty of sin. However, this gift of grace—the gift of righteousness— must be received personally, even by good children being brought up in a good home. The Bible commands us to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15), and Romans 10:9–10 explains this further:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. It’s also important to remember that the same chapter which contains the most popular evangelistic verse, John 3:16, ends with both a promise and a warning, side-by-side:
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them (John 3:36).
As a parent, it is essential for you to get a handle on these four key truths, and the Scriptures from which they are drawn, so that you may walk your children through the gospel at any time. As you teach them God’s holy standard, and discipline them toward it, the Holy Spirit will open doors for gospel conversations. Perhaps it would be helpful for you as a husband or wife to practice sharing this message with your spouse so that when these opportunities arise you may be able to share the good news with your kids in a natural, not stiff, manner.
[Excerpted from my newest book, Raising Kids in a ‘You Can Do It! World.]