As we become immersed in the Christmas season, the annual tug-of-war between the sacred and the secular begins to take center stage.
Every generation born after the baby boomers has been exposed to the increasingly aggressive marketing of Christmas. The “C” of Christmas no longer stands for Christ, but Consumerism.
While it’s easy to pick on a culture that has embraced consumerism as its god, what is more disturbing is that consumerism has crept into how we approach our faith. We have adopted the marketing techniques of our culture all in the name of Jesus.
This should give us pause to ask, How are we presenting the gospel to our children?
Are we selling Jesus to our kids in hopes they choose to “purchase” the salvation package?
Or are we training up our children in the way they should go? (Proverbs 22:6)
One of the most chilling versus in the Bible is Matthew 7:21:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
It’s not enough to teach our children to believe in Christ. We must train up our children to follow Jesus. When Jesus called his disciples into ministry, He said, “Follow me.” Jesus made it clear that He was interested in more than a mental determination about who He was (believing). He wanted an eternal commitment of action (following).
Too often we try to convince our kids to “buy” Jesus. We unwittingly sell the upside: Heaven, love, forgiveness, joy; while playing down the not-so-attractive inevitabilities of faith: suffering, sacrifice, persecution.
By selling Jesus as a “deal too good to pass up,” we successfully influence our kids to become believers, but not necessarily followers. We’ve sold them a product, not the calling of Jesus Christ.
What then must we do to train up followers? Here are three instructions Jesus gives to His followers:
Deny Yourself (Matthew 16:24) – This will be one of the most difficult lessons to following Christ that we must teach our children. It is difficult because we struggle with selfishness ourselves. The more we can demonstrate self-sacrifice in front of our kids, the better chance we will have to raise up children who put others first.
Serve God (John 12:26) – Jesus makes it clear that following requires action. Serving God and others will not come naturally to our children (see #1!). If WE are not practicing service, our children will have no desire to do the same.
Make Disciples (Matthew 4:19) Some of you may be thinking, How can a child who is new to their faith make disciples? Let’s remember that Jesus often pointed out the lack of his disciples’ faith (Matthew 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8 – to name a few). Yet in the midst of those admonishments, he sent them out “two by two” to do the work of the Lord (Mark 6:7). I have seen my pre-teen daughter make disciples not in spite of her child-like faith, but because of it.
We cannot help but be influenced by the consumer-driven culture that surrounds us. And while we don’t want to “sell” Jesus to our children, we certainly want to teach them to “count the cost” of being a follower (Luke 14:28).