Thursday, February 28, 2008

We Must Not Assume the Gospel

I grew up in a Christian home. As a child I attended Sunday school weekly. Then in my teen years I was present on Sundays for church, Wednesdays for Bible study, and among the first on the bus for camps and retreats. I read my Bible, I heard my parents talk about the Bible, I heard sermons about the Bible. But it wasn't until I was in a Bible survey class in college that it all came together. No longer were the stories of the Old Testament simply that—stories confined to the first section of God's Word. It all fit together. I not only heard that the Passover was representative of Jesus' sacrifice, but I saw all the elements that demonstrated that representation. Isaiah's popular prophecy of Jesus' birth no longer was the only Old Testament reference to the coming Christ. Finally, I saw the Bible as a whole. I saw how even in the time of Adam and Eve, God knew we'd need a savior.

And last week, challenged by a speaker, Art Azurdia, at a children's ministries network, I realized I'm doing the same as was done to me—teaching the Bible in segments. Telling children God loves them, showing them God loves them, teaching them about the Bible. But in all of this, as Art Azurdia said, "Divorcing the little stories from the big story."

I love that God can and does save children. What a privilege to be able to share that Good News with them! But wait, how often is the Gospel actually presented? At Easter, of course. And once a month we give an opportunity to accept Jesus as their forever friend. I know we cover quite a few stores from the four gospels. But is Jesus really the super hero every week?

Art challenged me by saying, "Do not assume the gospel. Bring it into all teachings of the Bible. The gospel is what changes people." Weekly, we have children coming into our program who have never attended church before. Who am I to ignore that fact and teach as though every little ear in the room has heard the story of Jesus? Who am I to assume that simply hearing the story of God's deliverance of Daniel from the lions will turn a heart toward accepting salvation? Who am I to teach about Paul, Silas, Barnabas, Peter, and the other great heroes of faith in the New Testament without also teaching why they were in the position to become that?

As we were planning our VBS yesterday, we changed out perspective. Rather than teaching the token two Old Testament stories, two New Testament stories and finally a "salvation day" at the end, we wanted to bring the Old Testament side by side with the New. We wanted to make sure that our children are able to grasp the Bible as a whole—to see that in the Old Testament God spoke through the prophets and in the New Testament, He brought Jesus and spoke through Him. To show that the Bible shows us what true love is—through Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac, and then through God's gift of His son Jesus. We want to teach that even though the Bible is a finished product, God’s story isn’t done yet. We can become a part of His story through Jesus.

When I was little, it was a great honor to be sent to the china cabinet on holidays. My mom would have us use her special dishes, and entrusted me with the task of setting the table. I knew how precious these dishes were and didn't want to break them. Carefully I would remove one plate at a time and then cautiously move my clumsy feet the few steps from the cabinet to the table. And one by one, I'd arrange the plates at each chair. God has entrusted me with a task far more honorable than setting the table with my mom's china. The children in my ministry are far more valuable but just as breakable. So as God's Word is opened each week and taught each week, Jesus must be our focus. We must not assume the gospel.

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