Mailbag

The Mailbag: Is “Jesus loves you” enough of the gospel?

 

I work in a parachurch organization in which I teach children. I have a passion for these kids to know God and know His Word. My direct supervisor, as well as the head of the organization, want to only emphasize God’s love and that we are ALL children of God. I am wrestling with this because I just don’t believe that I should make saying “Jesus loves you” the main message to the kids but rather the gospel in full context (of course getting down to their level but in no way changing the message). What should I do?

It’s always great to hear from someone who’s working with children and wants to put correct theology on the bottom shelf where their little hands can reach it. Thank you for serving God’s Kingdom this way!

There are three issues I think are important to address in this situation. Let’s take a look…

We are NOT “all” God’s children.
All humans are indeed made in the imago dei – the image of God. That’s definitely an important aspect of theology to teach children, and if that’s what your supervisors actually mean when they say “we’re all God’s children,” that’s super. But they need to use correct, biblical language and say “We’re all made in the image of God,” (age-appropriately explaining what that means, of course) instead of saying “We’re all God’s children.”

It’s not just a quibble over semantics. There are two very important reasons to get this right.

First, it’s simply not true on its face and you don’t want to be teaching the children a lie. I mean, Jesus once told some Jews (aka: God’s set apart people group) He was talking to, “If God were your Father, you would love me…You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” So, obviously, people fall into one of two categories: you’re either a child of God or you’re a child of the devil. Just as a person has to be physically born into a family or adopted into a certain family in order for that particular mom and dad to be her parents and for her to be their daughter, “you must be born again,” – a spiritual birth (and adoption) – in order for God to be your Father and you to be His child.

Second, saying “We’re all God’s children,” smacks of universalism.  Universalism is basically the idea that everybody goes to Heaven when they die. No repentance is necessary, no belief in Christ, it doesn’t matter what religion you are, if any. If this is what your supervisors are teaching or wanting you to teach, I would encourage you to find employment elsewhere. This is blasphemous false doctrine that no Christian organization or its employees should be teaching.

Teaching the WHOLE gospel
Jesus loves you” is part of the gospel, and one that we need to make sure we’re including any time we share the gospel with others. It is only because of the amazing, unfathomable love of God that Christ came to earth to die in the first place. Without the love of God there would be no gospel at all. However, it is not the entirety of the gospel. The gospel also includes the components of sin, repentance, faith, and forgiveness.

Since this is a Christian organization you work for, I’m unclear on why (assuming they’re not universalists) your supervisors would not want the whole gospel taught to the children. Only three possible reasons come to mind:

1. They’re concerned that the children are too young to understand sin, repentance, faith, and forgiveness.
You didn’t mention the specific age of the children you’re working with, but I got the impression from your original message to me that they are elementary school aged. I have six children of my own and have taught every age level of children from birth through high school in church, parachurch, and school settings for most of my adult life, and I can tell you that elementary school aged children are perfectly capable of grasping these concepts when they’re explained at an age-appropriate level.

I would think anyone qualified to be in a supervisory capacity at an organization like yours would – as an experienced professional – know that children this age can intellectually handle these concepts, and would – as a Christian – want them to know the whole gospel so they can be saved and take the gospel home to their families.

2. They’re concerned anything more than a generic “Jesus loves you,” is going to offend some of the parents.
Tough. The gospel is offensive to sinners. They need to get over that fear of man right quick. And it’s not like the parents were tricked into putting their kids into a program they didn’t know was Christian, right? (By the way, this is not the tone I’d recommend using when speaking to your supervisors :0)

3. You’re spending too much of your time evangelizing the kids instead of teaching them the main topic(s) they’re there to learn.
That’s not the impression of you that I got from your original message, but just make sure that, if, for example, you were hired to teach the kids how to play kickball, you’re teaching them how to play kickball, not turning every practice session into a Bible study.

Honestly, I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around why any organization that openly bills itself as “Christian” would only want part of the gospel presented. I would suggest sitting down with your supervisors and asking them politely why they don’t want the whole gospel presented to the children at appropriate times in age-appropriate ways. Perhaps they have a good, biblical reason for it, but I’m at a loss to imagine what it is.

Submitting to authority
Submission to authority is a big theme in the New Testament. Christians submit to God’s authority, wives submit to our husbands’ authority, church members submit to the authority of their pastors and elders, as citizens we submit to our civil authorities, and, in the present day, we understand the passages about slaves submitting to their masters in light of the employee/employer relationship.

In God’s structure of authority, He is always at the top. So if any other authority in your life – husband, boss, government, pastor, etc. – wants you to do something that conflicts with God’s written Word, your response must be the same as Peter’s: “I must obey God rather than men.”

I’m still unclear as to whether or not your employers are asking you to do something that conflicts with God’s Word. After talking it over with them, praying about it, talking to your husband about it (if you’re married), and possibly seeking counsel from your pastor or a mature sister in Christ at your church, if you come to the conclusion that your supervisors are not asking you to disobey God’s Word, then the proper godly response is for you to submit to their authority and joyfully do as they ask. If you come to the conclusion that they are asking you to disobey God’s Word, prayerfully ask to meet with them again, and kindly, with Scripture, explain to them that you cannot in good conscience truncate the gospel. Perhaps God will open their eyes and they will change their policy. If not, it might be an appropriate time to tender your two week’s notice.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Doctrinally Sound Teachers

A Few Good Men: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers

a few good men 1Ladies, the Christian retailing machine isn’t doing us any favors when it comes to Bible study and theology.

First, they’ve created the impression that in order to study God’s word, we have to buy a book, workbook, or DVD by a Christian author. Next, they show us the materials we have to choose from by cordoning off part of the store or web site under the heading “Women’s Bible Study.” Finally, they fill the shelves in that department with materials penned almost exclusively by women, the majority of whom (even at supposedly trustworthy LifeWay) are false teachers.

Let’s think outside that box, shall we?

First, you do not have to use someone’s book to study the Bible. In fact, I recommend that you don’t. Just pick up your Bible and study it in a systematic way. Next, if you do decide to use a Bible study book or other resource, it does not have to be written by a woman (though there are some great female teachers I’ve recommended herehere, and here). If you limit yourself to women authors, you’re going to miss out on some wonderful teaching by the many doctrinally sound male teachers out there. Let me introduce you to a few of my favorite pastors and male authors of Bible studies and other great Christian books and resources.

IMPORTANT REMINDER: Don’t take my (or anyone else’s) word for it that any ministry, podcast, book, or blog is biblical in its doctrine. You MUST do the work of comparing with Scripture everything you read and hear. If it doesn’t match up with God’s word (in context), chuck it.

download1. Charles Spurgeon– “The Prince of Preachers,” Spurgeon was “England’s best-known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century…Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000.” Most of his works are still in print in both hardcover and e-book format, and many are available on line for free. You may wish to use his sermons as individual Bible study lessons, or try his commentaries as you study. The brief devotions in Spurgeons’ Morning and Evening  are a favorite of many, and you’re sure to be edified by his many other books as well.  Facebook  Twitter

2.  John MacArthur– “John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, as well as an author, conference speaker, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry.” Dr. MacArthur has written approximately 400 books, including study guides, commenataries, Bible studies, and more. You might enjoy one of his free on line daily devotions, one of his study books, a sermon on the passage of Scripture you’re studying, or one of his books on a variety of biblical topics.  Facebook  Twitter

3. Steve Lawson – A pastor for 34 years, Dr. Lawson is now founder and president of OnePassion Ministries, “a ministry designed to equip biblical expositors to bring zEWv7vOI_400x400about a new reformation in the church.” He serves on the board of Ligonier Ministries and The Master’s Seminary, where he is also Professor of Preaching. Dr. Lawson has written twenty books, from commentaries to preaching texts, to an interesting series of profiles of godly men of the past such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, William Tyndale, and others. Study the Bible with Dr. Lawson’s transcribed sermons and Bible study lessons, or listen to one of his many excellent messages.  Facebook  Twitter

4. Todd Friel– Todd is the host of Wretched Radio, a daily two hour program dealing with discernment, evangelism, the church, theological aspects of current events, and various other topics (Wretched TV is a daily 30 minute television version of the show). “Witness Wednesday” is a great way to get “boots on the ground” training in how to share the gospel. Todd has produced a myriad of materials for both churches and individuals on biblical topics such as marriage, church history, parenting, anxiety, pornography, and more. His most recent book, Judge Not, deals with the false doctrine dreck and seeker-driven shenanigans that are currently infiltrating the church.  Facebook  Twitter

paul_washer_profile5. Paul Washer– An echo of Paul the Apostle, Paul Washer served as a missionary in Peru for ten years where he also founded the HeartCry Missionary Society. HeartCry now supports church planters in Peru and indigenous missionaries world wide. Paul is a challenging author and a sought after speaker who boldly exhorts the church. You might enjoy working through one of his studies, The One True God or The Truth about Man, or being built up by one of his sermons.  Facebook  Twitter

6. Chris Rosebrough– Chris is the host of the daily discernment and Bible teaching radio program, Fighting for the Faith. He is also the pastor of Kongsvinger Lutheran Church in Oslo, Minnesota. If you want to learn discernment, how to rightly handle God’s word in context, and keep up with the latest false doctrine infiltrating the church, look no further. In addition to the daily broadcast, listen to Rosebrough’s Ramblings as Chris takes his Sunday School class through various books of the Bible, and explore the other recommended teaching resources on the web site.  Facebook  Twitter

7. R. C. Sproul– A former seminary professor, ”Dr. R.C. Sproul was co-pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida, and chancellor of Reformation Bible College. He was the author of more than ninety books,” headed up Ligonier Ministries, and recorded a daily radio broadcast, Renewing Your Mind. Find teaching materials on nearly any passage you’re studying, follow the daily devotional, or order biblical books, music, and other resources.  Facebook  Twitter

Update: Dr. Sproul went home to be with the Lord on December 14, 2017. He is greatly missed, but his materials are still phenomenally beneficial to the church and remain available at the links above.

img18. Phil Johnson–  “Phil is the Executive Director of Grace to You. He has been closely associated with John MacArthur since 1981 and edits most of John’s major books…Phil was an editor at Moody Press before coming to Grace Community Church. He is an elder at Grace Community Church and pastors the GraceLife fellowship group.” Phil is an amazing lecturer and preacher with an incredible depth of knowledge of church and biblical history. You’ll enjoy the theological richness of Phil’s sermons (check out his “Bible Q & A” teachings) and be challenged by his blog articles at Pyromaniacs.  Facebook  Twitter

9. Alistair Begg– “Alistair Begg has been in pastoral ministry since 1975.” Formerly of Scotland, “in 1983, he became the senior pastor at Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio.  He has written several books and is heard daily and weekly on the radio program, Truth For Life.” Subscribe to the daily Truth for Life devotion or get the app, listen to a sermon on the passage of Scripture you’re studying, check in with the Truth for Life blog, or read one of Alistair’s fine books.  Facebook  Twitter

preaching-w-logo-copy10. Voddie Baucham– After serving as a pastor and seminary professor in Texas for several years, Voddie recently accepted a position as Dean of Seminary at African Christian University in Zambia. “Whether teaching on classical apologetic issues such as the validity and historicity of the Bible or the resurrection of Christ or teaching on cultural issues, such as gender roles, marriage, and family, he says his goal is to help people understand the significance of thinking and living biblically in every area of life.” Listen to one of Voddie’s many fine sermons, or check out his books on a variety of biblical topics.  Facebook  Twitter


Also check out:
A Few MORE Good Men: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers
A Few Good Men, Again!: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers