Hell, Salvation, Sin, Sunday School

What is salvation? What is the gospel? (Cont’d) ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 9-29-13

sunday schoolI recently started teaching a women’s Sunday School class at my church. Right now we are taking a look at some of the challenging questions and issues we face as Christians. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

What is salvation? What is the gospel? (Cont’d)

I. God is holy. (Isaiah 6:1-5)

A. What do we mean when we say God is holy?

 1. God cannot tolerate sin in His presence (Deuteronomy 23:14)

 2. Since we are sinful, we cannot be in His presence (Exodus 33:18-23, Psalm  24:3-4).

Problem 1: God is holy, and we can’t be in His presence because we’re not.

II. God demands that we be holy. (Leviticus 11:44-45, Matthew 5:48)

A. We can’t, because:

1. We’re born with a sin nature (Psalm 51:5)

2. Because we’re born with a sin nature, we begin sinning before we are capable of understanding what sin is. When we’ve sinned once, we’re guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10-11, Romans 3:10-18)

 Problem 2: God demands that we be holy as He is holy, but we can’t, due to our sin.

 III. Because God is holy, He must punish sin.

 A. God doesn’t just forgive everybody when they die.  (John 3:36, 2 Peter 3:9)

B. Good works do not “balance the scales” and make up for our sins (Galatians 2:15-16, Romans 3:20).

C. God’s punishment for sin is eternal death and suffering in Hell (Romans 6:23; 2 Peter 2:4, 9-10; Revelation 20:13-15).

 Problem 3: Because of our sin, we deserve hell.

 IV. Extra Study Resources:

 A. “Fear and Trembling” by R.C. Sproul

B. “How is Eternity in Hell a Fair Punishment for Sin?” from GotQuestions.com

C. “Is Universalism Biblical?” from GotQuestions.com

D. “Why Did God Create Us With Sin in the World?” from CARM.org

This lesson will be continued next week.

Church, Ministry, Parenting

Anonymous Parent’s Letter to a Youth Pastor

Trevin Wax is one of my favorite bloggers. Today he wrote an absolutely awesome piece called Anonymous Youth Pastor’s Letter to a Parent. It talked about some of the struggles youth pastors go through and how we as parents of youth can support our kids’ youth pastors better. I commented that the next article should come from the parent’s perspective, and that, being a parent of youth, boy, could I write that article. One of Trevin’s readers suggested I go ahead and write it, and I thought it sounded like a fun and challenging project, so here’s the result.  (The first three paragraphs are an homage to Trevin’s letter.)

CAVEAT: This is addressed to an amalgam or “everyman” youth pastor, not to any of my kids’ youth pastors/workers past or present. In fact, some of the things I mention in the letter are things my kids’ youth pastors got RIGHT that I really appreciated.

Dear Youth Pastor,

I need to get something off my chest.

When I first put my child into your youth group, you told me how excited you were to be showing my kids what it means to love Jesus, be part of His Church, and grow as a Christian. You told me you were praying for my child and that you had his back. You had high hopes for the youth ministry.

I had high hopes too. But I must confess that I am frustrated right now because I feel like you’re working against me, not with me.

My husband and I are Christian parents doing our best to pour the gospel into our children every day.  We understand that we are the ones responsible to God for the spiritual upbringing of our children, and we take that responsibility seriously. Very seriously. And that includes what he is exposed to in youth group.

“Let no one look down on your youth” notwithstanding (update: please see my remarks regarding this reference in the comments section below), you’re 25. You know nothing about parenting a teenager. I repeat: nothing. No, the fact that you and your wife have an infant or a three year old does not qualify you as a veteran parent. I have a couple of decades of life experience and parenting on you. I remember being 25. It was that glorious time of my life when I knew everything and had fresh ideas that people in their 40s just wouldn’t understand because they had passed the “cool” stage of life.

Look deep into my eyes, Bub. I am your future.

Listen to me when I explain to you that my kids don’t need another peer. They need mature, godly leadership. Not a buddy. Not an idol to be emulated with the latest clothes from Abercrombie, the hippest glasses frames, edgy tattoos and piercings, and enough product in your hair to put bouffanted church ladies to shame.

You are not a rock star.

You’re a teacher. You’re a caretaker of young souls, and you’re influencing them for eternity. One way or the other. And one day, you’ll stand in front of God and answer for the way you led my, and other parents’, children. Makes your knees knock a little, doesn’t it? Good. It should.

So, when I drop my child off at your youth Bible study or Sunday School class, here’s what I expect. When you say you want to “show my kids what it means to love Jesus, be part of His Church, and grow as a Christian,” I expect that to mean that you will teach them the Bible. Not some watered down, comic book, MTV, “What does this verse mean to you?” version of a Bible story, but the whole counsel of God. I want you to put more time and effort into prayer and studying God’s word so you can teach it properly than you put into hooking up the oh-so-fabulous light show and making inane videos that appeal only to the basest nature of eighth grade boys.

Do you know what these kids are learning in school? If they can be expected to learn Shakespeare and higher math, you can expect them to learn sound biblical doctrine.

When you’re choosing a Bible study curriculum or DVD, or you’re looking at a Christian camp or concert to take the kids to, do your homework. Just because somebody claims to be a Christian author, speaker, pastor, or worship leader doesn’t make it true. Where is this person, doctrinally? What’s his church background and training? Listen to his sermons. Examine the lyrics of her songs. Read some of his books. Does this person rightly divide the Word of truth? Does he exalt Christ and revere God’s word? Does he call sinners- my child and the other children in your youth group- to repentance and faith in Christ, or are his sermons an exercise in navel gazing and nagging about how to be a better person?

Lead my children to serve the church. And I’m not talking about getting paid to do it, either. They’re old enough to help clean up after Wednesday night supper, help in the nursery, assist with a children’s class, serve at a senior citizens’ banquet, work at a church work day, help set up chairs and tables, etc. Over the last few years, the youth group has become the entitlement community of the church, always asking for handouts and rarely giving anything back. Let’s teach them to serve. Because the youth that serve today will be the adults that serve tomorrow.

Teach my children that a mission trip is not a glorified vacation, and that missions isn’t just feeding the hungry or building houses for the homeless. Missions is proclaiming the gospel before and after and while they’re doing those things. Teach my children how to share the gospel properly and encourage them to do it often.

Lead by example:

1. Plan ahead and be organized. If you know you’re going to need to do six fundraisers for youth camp, start them in September and space them out over a few months. Don’t wait until mid-April and have one every weekend. Show up on time. Secure your parent chaperones and drivers well in advance. Follow through on what you say you’re going to do.

2. Obey those in authority over you. Whether that means following the pastor’s instructions or obeying the speed limit and not putting 20 people in a 15 passenger van, when you flout the rules, you’re tacitly teaching my kids to do the same.

3. Be a man, not an overgrown adolescent. Boys, especially, need to see strong examples of what it means to be a godly man, and these are becoming rarer and rarer in the church. They already know how to be adolescents. Show them how to be men.

4. Prioritize safety and chaperonage. Do you know how many horror stories I’ve heard about children dying in church van wrecks on the way back from youth camp, and youth sneaking off and having sex during a lock in? I don’t want that to be my kid. I love him far more than you could ever think about loving him. Don’t be lax about keeping him safe and monitoring his whereabouts and behavior.

And, finally, my dear youth pastor, know that I love you and want to come alongside you and help in any way I can. You see, my husband used to be a youth pastor, so I know it’s a tough and often thankless job. I’m praying for you as you seek to disciple that band of crazed teenagers in the youth room.

Go with God, dear youth pastor. Go with God.

Bible, Gospel, Salvation, Sin, Sunday School

What is salvation? What is the gospel? ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 9-22-13

sunday school


I recently started teaching a women’s Sunday School class at my church. Right now we are taking a look at some of the challenging questions and issues we face as Christians. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

What is salvation? What is the gospel?

I. What is the one thing Jesus can do for us that we can’t do for ourselves?

II. Why do we need salvation?

A. Creation was perfect (Genesis 1, key verse: 31): “It was good.”

B. Fall of man (Genesis 3). What does this have to do with us today?

1. Death entered the world as a result of the fall  (Romans 5:12, 15-19)

2. Sin “genetically altered” every person from Adam on (Psalm 51:5) and now we are all sinners.

III. How do we know we need salvation?

A. The Law

1. The Law shows us what sin is (Romans 7:7-11)

2. The Law shows us we are guilty of breaking it (James 2:10-11)

3. The Law is written on our hearts and condemns us when we do wrong (Romans  2:15)

4. The Law shows us the futility of trying to keep it and leads us to cry out to God for help. (Galatians 3:10-11, 23-24)

IV. Extra Study Resources:

A. “How Did the Fall Affect Humanity?”  ~ Got Questions Ministries

B. “Law”  ~ Theopedia.com

C. “The Law and the Gospel” by John MacArthur

D. “The Gospel” by Matt Chandler

This lesson will be continued next week.

Faith, Salvation, Sanctification, Sin

Repeating Wrongs Renders Right?

repeating wrongs“Four hundred thirty seven.”

“Sorry, that’s not right. Try again, Buddy.”

scribble scribble scribble

“Oh, ok. Four hundred thirty seven.

“No, Honey. You just said that, and I just told you it was wrong. Give it another try.”

“But it’s 437!”

“Son, I have the answer book right here in front of me. The answer is not 437. Repeating the wrong answer over and over again doesn’t magically make it right.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this conversation -nearly verbatim- with each of my four children in the fourteen years I’ve been home schooling.

But I can tell you that this morning was the first time I realized that this is the same way many people relate to God and the Bible.

When this dialogue takes place between my child and me, it is because the child has done something wrong. He has forgotten to carry the one. Confused a peninsula with an isthmus. Mistaken an adverb for an adjective.

But he can’t see what he’s done wrong, or indeed, that he’s done anything wrong. And because he’s blind to his wrongness, his default position is to assume that he is right and I am wrong. Forget that he’s in fifth grade and I have a bachelor’s degree, half a master’s degree, and nearly two decades of teaching experience. Never mind that this is the fourth time I’ve taught fifth grade from this very same book. Completely disregarded is the fact that I have the teacher key right in front of me that shows exactly what he did wrong and what the right answer is.

No. He’s right. I’m wrong. The book is wrong. Math is stupid.

Foolishness is indeed bound up in the heart of a child.

But foolishness is bound up in all of our hearts when it comes to sin:

“My husband doesn’t treat me right.
God wouldn’t want me to be miserable
for the rest of my life, so my relationship
with the guy at work is just fine.”

“What the Bible says about
homosexuality only had to do
with male cult prostitutes, so my
monogamous homosexual relationship
with my partner isn’t a sin.”

“I’ve gone to church all my life.
Once, I even repeated a ‘sinner’s
prayer’ and was baptized. It doesn’t
matter what my life looks like now,
I’m sure I’m saved because of that.”

“The Bible says women aren’t
to instruct men in the church?
But I feel that God has called me
to be a pastor, so that verse must
not mean what it clearly says.”

Over and over we say it, hoping to convince ourselves, to drown out God’s law that’s written on our hearts, and to shout down anyone who would call us to repentance. Because we’re blind to our wrongness, our default position is to assume that we’re right and God, and His word, are wrong. Never mind the fact that He’s God -Creator of the entire universe, knows everything, sees everything, has power over everything, and is perfect in holiness- and we’re, well… not.

No. We’re right. He’s wrong. The Bible is wrong. People who agree with God’s word are just haters.

But, just like I tell my children: repeating the wrong answer over and over again doesn’t magically make it right.  When each of us stands before God on the day of judgment, it’s not going to matter how many times we’ve tried to convince ourselves, others, and God that our way is right. It’s only going to matter what God says is right.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
Proverbs 14:12

Bible, Sunday School

Is my sickness/suffering due to sin? ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 9-15-13

sunday school

I recently started teaching a women’s Sunday School class at my church. Right now we are taking a look at some of the challenging questions and issues we face as Christians. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. 

“Am I sick or experiencing suffering in my life because God is punishing me for my sin, or punishing someone else for his sin?”

I. Although we may be negatively affected by the sins of others, God does not punish us for someone else’s sin. (Ezekiel 18, key verse: 20)

II. Believers are not punished for their sin. Christ took the punishment for all of our sin on the cross. (Romans 8:1-2, Isaiah 53:1-6)

III. Purposes of/Reasons for suffering:

A. To bring glory to God (John 9, Job)

B. The logical consequences of sin

C. Discipline (Revelation 3:19, Hebrews 12:5-11)

D. To teach us humility and dependence on God (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

E. To grow us in spiritual strength and maturity (Romans 5:3-5)

F. To give us compassion for others, and to equip us to help those who are going through the same thing. (2 Corinthians 1:3-6)

G. To cause the lost to cry out to God for salvation

IV. Extra study resources:

A. Don’t Waste Your Cancer by John Piper

B. Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free by Tullian Tchividjian

C. Matt Chandler: “Suffering” on YouTube

D. “Why Does God Allow Sickness?” on 412Teens.org

E. “The Beauty of Faithful Suffering” on The Gospel Coalition