Archive - April, 2007

Carine Mackenzie – Resources for Children

Reflecting back on the Children Desiring God Conference, I wanted to commend three outstanding and inexpensive children books by Carine Mackenzie. With over 100 different titles in print and sales of over 3 million books, Carine’s talent for retelling Bible stories has blessed countless children. Here are brief descriptions:
My 1st Book of Bible Promises — The promises of God provide solid ground for encouraging children when they are anxious or afraid. The promises of God help children learn to pray Bible-saturated prayers. This 64-page book recounts 50 promises. Each promise is accompanied with a Scripture reference and a short explanation. For example: “The grass withers and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (I Pet. 1:24-25; Isaiah 40:8)
Explanation: “All human beings and human wisdom will pass away like withering flowers. God’s word will never pass away. It is unchanging, always true.” Promises are neatly arranged in topical sections (provision, blessing, guidance, salvation, eternity, promises concerning fear, promises concerning sin, the Bible, and prayer).
My 1st Book of Questions and Answers — Contains simple answers to deep questions that children often ask. For example, “Who will be saved?” Answer: “Only those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ.” (Mark 1:15) “How were people saved who lived before Christ died?” Answer: “They believed in the Savior that God would send.” (Rom. 4:3)
Little Hands Story Bible — This book contains outstanding, captivating illustrations of biblical stories, with two-paragraph summaries on the opposite page. We’re currently reading this one to our 14-month old daughter Karis. The first few stories are: God made the world, God made people, Garden of Eden, Sin spoils God’s world. Each story contains a Scripture reference, and some sample questions for inviting input from children.

PCA Study Report on Federal Vision

The PCA has published their “Report of Ad Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision (FV), New Perspective on Paul (NPP), and Auburn Avenue Theologies (AAT).” The Committee was tasked with this mission: “to determine whether these viewpoints and formulations [i.e., NPP and FV] are in conformity with the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards, whether they are hostile to or strike at the vitals of religion, and to present a declaration or statement regarding the issues raised by these viewpoints in light of our Confessional Standards.”
The report has three major sections that outline the soteriological issues raised by NPP and FV:
I. Election and Covenant
II. Justification and Union with Christ
III. Perseverance, Apostasy, and Assurance

For each of these three headings, the Committee evaluated the teachings of (a) the Westminster Standards (i.e., the Westminster Confession of Faith together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly); (b) the New Perspective on Paul, and (c) the Federal Vision, after which they provided a comparative analysis.
They conclude the study with nine declarations:
1. The view that rejects the bi-covenantal structure of Scripture as represented in the Westminster Standards (i.e., views which do not merely take issue with the terminology, but the essence of the first/second covenant framework) is contrary to those Standards.
2. The view that an individual is “elect” by virtue of his membership in the visible church; and that this “election” includes justification, adoption and sanctification; but that this individual could lose his “election” if he forsakes the visible church, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
3. The view that Christ does not stand as a representative head whose perfect obedience and satisfaction is imputed to individuals who believe in him is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
4. The view that strikes the language of “merit” from our theological vocabulary so that the claim is made that Christ’s merits are not imputed to his people is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
5. The view that “union with Christ” renders imputation redundant because it subsumes all of Christ’s benefits (including justification) under this doctrinal heading is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
6. The view that water baptism effects a “covenantal union” with Christ through which each baptized person receives the saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, including regeneration, justification, and sanctification, thus creating a parallel soteriological system to the decretal system of the Westminster Standards, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
7. The view that one can be “united to Christ” and not receive all the benefits of Christ’s mediation, including perseverance, in that effectual union is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
8. The view that some can receive saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, such as regeneration and justification, and yet not persevere in those benefits is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
9. The view that justification is in any way based on our works, or that the so-called “final verdict of justification” is based on anything other than the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
The entire document is accessible and helpful.
Committee Members:
TE Paul Fowler, Chairman
TE Grover Gunn, Secretary
TE Ligon Duncan
TE Sean Lucas
RE Robert Mattes
RE William Mueller
(TE – Teaching Elder // RE – Ruling Elder)
Doug Wilson, a Federal Vision proponent, has responded.
An articulate response to the common elements of the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision can be found in By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification, a book I previously discussed.
(HT: Jim Hamilton and Justin Taylor)

Children Desiring God – III – Photos

Photos courtesy of Karen Feder.

Children Desiring God – V

Children Desiring God Conference – Saturday Morning – April 28, 2007
After a stirring time of worship through song, Pastor Sam Crabtree introduced Pastor David Gerald Michael. David was born 53 years ago, the youngest of 4 children. From an early age, he aspired to become a gas station attendant and a pastor. He got in trouble in Sunday school for dismantling activities, and had trouble sitting still in the first and second grade. David responded in faith to the Lord Jesus at the age of 7. David eventually graduated from school and, along the way to the ministry, did log some hours as a gas station attendant.
Pastor Sam exhorted us from Heb. 11:1 and Heb. 2:3 to persevere in the work of ministry to children — by grace through faith in God and His promises . God’s designs for the fussy babies in our nurseries, that deviant junior high boy, and that talkative girl in the 2nd grade, will eventually unfold. “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” (Hab. 2:3)
Pastor David Michael then took the stage. He thanked Pastor Rick Melson and the worship team for serving us so well in four worship sets. He thanked the 130 volunteers and the many unseen people (like those working on the sound system), and the many personnel from Grace Church of Eden Prairie. He thanked the translators who helped our Spanish-speaking attendees. He thanked the Children Desiring God staff, and the fifteen seminar leaders. He thanked John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and C.J. Mahaney. The presence of such weighty plenary speakers, David noted, reinforces the truth that “children ministry is not rinky-dink. It is serious business.” David went on to thank the food service people, and Children Desiring God Director Brian Eaton. He thanked the attendees for coming all this way to bless this Conference with their camaraderie in the ministry, enthusiasm, energy, and a desire to get a sense of the vision of Children Desiring God. Most of all, he praised the Lord who prospers our work and defends us.
Message Title: John Angell James – Pursuing the Souls of the Next Generation
David began by recounting that he was first introduced to John Angell James more than a decade ago, first through the book The Christian Father’s Present to His Children. From there, he proceeded to Addresses to Young Men: A Young Man’s Friend and Guide.
And then onto Female Piety: A Young Woman’s Friend and Guide. David later discovered A Help To Domestic Happiness and The Sunday School Teacher’s Guide.
David told us that he was drawn to John Angell James for six reasons:
1. He was impressed from reading some of these works by the example that he was of (a) a father who was devoted to faithfully instructing his children; and (b) a pastor who took seriously and personally his responsibility to instruct and prepare the next generation.
Much of Pastor James’ labor, both in the pulpit and in his writing ministry, was devoted to the spiritual welfare of the young.
2. He felt a growing kinship with him.
David sensed his heart resonating with that of Pastor James. James had a way of saying things that gave expression to the passion and concern that David had for his daughters and for the young people at Bethlehem.
3. James’ vision for the next generation. A letter he wrote to the young people at Carr’s Lane Chapel in anticipation of his ministry there included this paragraph:

“With what comfort will your venerable parents and elders look upon you rising to fill their places! And, oh, with what joy will your minister behold his infant church! When standing over the grave of your parents, he will not sorrow as one without hope, he will not think that he has buried the church in the tomb of its aged members, he will not despair; you will cheer his mind, you are coming forward to hold up his hands, to be his friends, to assist him in the affairs of the church. My brothers, my sisters, God is my record how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of the Lord Jesus: My heart’s desire and prayer for you is, that you may be saved. For you I bend my knees at a throne of grace—for you my warmest prayers ascend, that God would conform you to faith, preserve you from all the snares to which your age peculiarly exposes you. May you rise respectable, valuable, and experienced members of the Church of God! May you grow up as the cedars of Lebanon, when your parents shall be laid in the silent tomb; and when ripe for glory, may you be transplanted to the paradise of God as trees of immortal life, and flourish in everlasting verdure through a thousand generations.”

4. He appreciated the urgency and serious tone in his writings.
James fueled David’s conviction that laboring for the souls of children is not work for “sissies.” The eternal destinies of children are at stake. Pastor James labored with the earnest conviction that his efforts in the present could and indeed would influence those who would occupy the future.
5. David appreciated and was helped by the fact that a thoroughly reformed pastor of that era (1785-1859) was so incredibly practical and down-to-earth in his instruction. Pastor James spent 53 years ministering in the same church and regarded his life as “happily monotonous.”
6. David was motivated by Pastor James’ desire to be “useful.”
Pastor James defined usefulness as soul-winning. Toward the end of his life, he penned these words:

“I think it probable that with these few notes on dear Knill’s life and labors, I shall lay down my pen, which has written much; would God it had written better. But while I say this, I am not without hope, yes, I may add conviction that it has–in some degree– written usefully. In some humble degree I have sinned at usefulness both in my preaching and writing, and God has, to an amount which utterly astonishes and almost overwhelms me, given me what I sought. It seems a daring and almost presumptuous expression, but with a proper qualification it is a true one—that usefulness is within the reach of us all—the man who intensely desires to be useful and takes the proper means will be useful. God will not withhold his grace from such desires and such labors. Oh! My dear brother, how delightful is it, notwithstanding the humbling and sorrowful consciousness of defects and sins to look back on a life spent for Christ.” — from John Angell James, a review of his History, Character, Eloquence and Literary Labors, by John Campbell

David went on to shed some light on this pastor’s family, education, and conversion/call to ministry.
Born on June 6, 1785 in Blandford Forum (a town located in Southwest England in old Dorsetshire county), he was the 4th of 7 children born to Joseph and Sarah James. He had three older sisters named Harriet, Jane, and Sarah, and two younger brothers named Thomas and James. His father was a draper specializing in buttons. John observed that beyond church attendance, his father did not give much evidence of a spiritual mind, and cared little about the formation of his children’s characters. His mother, however, was a deeply pious woman, and John suggested that much of his spiritual growth was perhaps owing to her prayers. Thomas, like his older brother John, would go on to become a pastor.
In 1806, John married Fanny Smith (a young woman in the congregation). Eight months later she miscarried their first child. In 1809, they had a child named Thomas. In 1810, they had a little girl who died after a mere six weeks. In 1814, they had a daughter (Sarah Anne) who became an invalid in her childhood. John and Fanny were married 13 years until Fanny, after nursing her husband through a 9-month illness, contracted tuberculosis and, after four months of suffering, died on January 27, 1819. Three years later, on February 19, 1822, he married the wealthy widow of businessman Benjamin Neale. They were married 19 years until, after a lengthy illness, she died in June of 1841.
He had these kind words to say about his wives:
“I account both my marriages among the signal mercies of my life. Under God’s blessing, I owe not only much of the happiness of my life to them, but no small share of my usefulness. The counsel of my wives guided me, their prudence controlled me and their symphonies comforted me.” —The life and letters of John Angell James: Including an unfinished autobiography, by R.W. Dale., p.162. (This title is apparently out of print, but available at several libraries.)
His formal education began at a day school in Blandford, but, at age 8, having “contracted some improper associations” he was sent to a boarding school run by a man whose qualifications for teaching were slim. Two years later he was sent to another boarding school where he was given a general education and learned Latin. By age 13, his father removed him from school and sent him off to the village of Poole to apprentice as a linen draper.
Over the next five years the Lord began to awaken spiritual affections and an inclination for ministry. When his desire to study and prepare for the ministry was made known, his father vigorously opposed the idea. Not only was this throwing away all that had been invested in developing his trade but it would mean having to continue supporting his son for an occupation that offered little hope of success.
Through the intervention of a Mr. Bennett , John’s father gave his consent and at age 17 John began studying under Dr. David Bogue, at Gosport. Many of the students under Bogue were being trained as missionaries, so James was led, from the beginning of his studies, to take a deep interest in missionary matters. Among his fellow students was Dr. Morrison, the distinguished missionary to China. The passion that was awakened for missions, and for China in particular, never lost its influence in John Angell’s life and ministry.
Nevertheless, once again he was disappointed with the quality of his education. John writes, “My literary advantages at Gosport were of a most slender kind…Dr. Bogue, though possessing a great mind and noble heart, was not a great scholar. His theology was exclusively dogmatic. Of hermeneutics we heard little, of exegesis, nothing.” When his brother James considered studying at Gospert, John offered numerous objections.
His 2½ years at Gosport marked the end of his formal, unsatisfactory education. This thorn of educational disappointment pained (and humbled) him for the rest of his life and ministry.
His mother lamented that of all her children, John was her chief trouble and was making no progress at school. John Angell agreed with this assessment and says he came to the end of his childhood “in vanity and folly…without God and without hope in the world.”
During the first two years of his apprenticeship at Poole, James says he was a careless youth, except at intervals, when a serious thought would cross his mind and a remonstrance of conscience would disturb his tranquility. He said he never despised or ridiculed religion, but maintained respect for it, noting that “My mother’s example and prayers did, I dare say, come to my recollection.” In the third year of his apprenticeship a fellow apprentice introduced him to a pious shoemaker in town who eventually began discipling John–watching over his life and teaching him how to pray.
His love for God grew, and at the end of his apprenticeship he volunteered to help with Sunday school. In those days, Sunday schools were evangelistic, an attempt to reform lower class children who were neglected by their parents. These kids were taught to read, instructed in the catechism and taken to church. Around this time, he occasionally received opportunities to preach. The same Mr. Bennett who had helped him earlier later recommended him for the pastorate at Carr’s Lane Church. He would begin preaching there at the age of 19 (right about the time he married). He would remain there for the rest of his life.
His first six years of ministry were characterized by disappointment and failure, but after that things flourished. In 1812, he was invited to preach for the British Foreign Bible Society. His sermon was printed and widely circulated. Other publications soon followed, and though offered a lucrative pastorate at the age of 30, he declined it for love of the people at Carr’s Lane. The Carr’s Lane congregation would grow from 400 to 2000 over the next 20 years.
I. One Holy Ambition — The Salvation of Our Children
At this point, David shifted from biography to impassioned plea. He strongly impressed upon us to labor for one great aim: salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ to the praise of His glory and grace. Everything else we do (praying, planning curriculum, meetings, conferences) must be subservient to the ultimate aim of conversion. It must be our ultimate aim and earnest prayer that every child who crosses the threshold of our homes and churches will come to the conviction of sin, repentance toward God, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, humble submission to the Bible, and manifestation of the form and power of genuine godliness in the hope that they will belong wholly to God and enjoy Him forever.
The world values the development of academic knowledge and the cultivation of social graces. But though learning, achievement and social graces are all beneficial, they cannot compare with the incalculable value of eternal salvation. “On the authority of God’s Word, I assure you that the trophies of social grace, the garlands of popularity, the power of wealth, and the influence of well-seasoned speech will neither comfort our children under trials of life nor save them from the worm that never dies and the fire that is never quenched.”
II. In What Manner Are We To Pursue This Holy Ambition?
Reply: With Earnestness

We will do nothing well which we do not do earnestly. Watch, labor, teach, pray—with earnestness. Be constant, and lose no opportunity. Be punctual, and lose not a moment. Eternity hangs upon every instant! Let no measure of duty satisfy you. Adopt your children as objects of interest and affection. Learn all you can about them. By loving them, you will acquire an influence over them.
Be Earnest in Your Concern for the Souls of Your Children
Society at large is unconcerned for the souls of our children. It is much more dignified in our day to be interested in their accomplishments, growth in knowledge or achievements in science and technology. We can be happy, if it pleases God, for our children to have a measure of health, income, and professional respectability. But we should be far more desirous that they have the fear of God in their hearts and are everlastingly saved. We should ponder the solemn significance of that word “damnation.” We should measure, if we can, the height of the word “salvation.”
Be Earnest in Your Example (Titus 2:7)
Let’s strive to be exemplary children’s workers, exemplary in our affections, and exemplary in matters of truth, integrity, and generosity.
Be Earnest in Your Teaching
Though it is of crucial importance that our children be led to salvation, we should never neglect the importance of building our young people up in faith. They must not only be born, but they must also be fed, watched, guided, and nourished up to maturity. Children in the faith are often carried through a season of testing—often a long one—and it is our business, through the careful teaching of the Word, and the exemplary influence of our lives, to assist them through the challenges and the dangers of the Christian life.
Be Earnest in Your Desire To Be Useful
Who would not want to be useful? Consider the opposite: A rational, social and immortal being doing no good, carrying on no benevolent activity, and exerting no beneficial influence toward others. A piece of dead wood floating down the stream, instead of a living fruit tree growing on its bank. Let’s be useful for the sake of the next generations, and let’s labor and earnestly pray that our children will be useful as well.
Be Earnest in Your Prayer
It is important for us to bear in mind the total and universal depravity of the human race. The human heart by its very nature is depraved of spiritual affections and inclinations. To affect true change, to produce spiritual appetites and new dispositions, to turn the heart in a new direction so that desires flow toward Christ and heaven, is the work of the all-powerful and eternal Spirit, who graciously employs unworthy souls like us to accomplish his purposes. God loves to bless the prayers of His people. Those who are most prayerful will be most successful.
On the other hand, if we neglect prayer, we should not be surprised if there is no spiritual benefit accompanying our efforts. If we neglect to pray, we will labor “in a field on which the dew of heaven seldom falls, a field which brings forth little more than thorns and briers.”
Be Earnest in Your Perseverance
David noted that his axiom has been to aim at great things, but that if he cannot accomplish great things, to do what he can, and be thankful for the least success. If one way does not succeed, new means must be tried. If we see no increase this year, perhaps we may the next.
1. A chronological list of John Angell James’ Writings
2. Google Books (search by title; for example, the Campbell biography is available as a free PDF)
3. Grace Gems (also contains many books, such as The Christian Father’s Present to His Children)

Children Desiring God – IV

Children Desiring God Conference – Friday Night – April 27, 2007
A wonderful time of corporate singing, including a pastoral prayer offered up in both Spanish and English, preceded the introduction of the speaker.
Jon Bloom, Executive Director of Desiring God, gave a biographical introduction to C.J. Mahaney. Mahaney was a cute kid…just imagine a little kid with the same face and a lot of blond hair. He was a crafty one, too, apparently able to convince the kids in the neighborhood to pay him for doing his chores. Watch out, Tom Sawyer! Mahaney grew up nominally Catholic, but that was soon abandoned in exchange for drugs and partying. God saved him at the age of 18 through a friend of his who shared the gospel with him. To the best of C.J.’s knowledge, it was the first time he had ever heard the gospel.
Disclaimer: The tools I have available on my computer – all caps, italics, etc. – cannot do justice to the passion and diversity of expressiveness in Mahaney’s speech. So imagine this talk with all the variation of volume, humor, passion, tragedy, tears, and joy that only C.J. Mahaney can deliver.
When Mahaney came on to speak, he presented a $5,000 check as a thank-you gift from his ministry, Sovereign Grace Ministries, to Children Desiring God.

Message Title: Extravagant Devotion

C.J. opened by asking for a few moments to gather himself as he was visibly moved by the recounting of his former life. He exhorted us by recalling that if God could save him, there was hope for the loved ones in our lives who seem out of reach. C.J. noted that the Savior describes true greatness as those who serve others for the glory of God. “Your pastors,” he told us, “would want to say the same thing to you. Your pastors are so grateful to you for the way you serve, for your selfless investment in the next generation. And I hope to serve you tonight.”
“Profound Baloney”
We then were asked to open our Bible’s to Mark 14:1-11. C.J. read the text, and then mentioned an insightful illustration in an unexpected place: An issue of Sports Illustrated dated from the Clinton era. Steve Rushin, the author of the essay, noted that President Clinton had recently expressed “profound regret” for a U.S. Navy jet flying inappropriately low and crashing into a cable of an Italian ski lift. The incident resulted in the deaths of twenty civilians in the lift. Mr. Rushin proceeded to observe that Clinton had used the exact same words of sorrow in another recent pronouncement condemning a People mag puff piece on his daugter. If these two incidents, one trivial and one tragic, invoke the same statement of grief, Mr. Rushin asked, is either meaningful? We live in an age of “profound baloney,” quipped Rushin. We have trivialized profundity in our day, and exalted hype. Superlatives, even when appropriate, are “bees that sting once, and then die.”
C.J. believes that Mr. Rushin’s analysis, in effect, is accurate. And this presents a challenge to the preaching of Scripture in our day. “How can I preach to you about something truly profound in a day of ‘profound baloney’? How can I use superlatives appropriately when they have become like bees that sting once and then die?” If we’ve been conditioned to think of the Super Bowl each year as “profoundly historic,” it’s somehow less gripping when a preacher tells you a passage in Scripture is “historic.”
C.J. assured us that his text, Mark 14:1-11, reveals a truly historic moment — as it contains a profound pronouncement. Nobody else except this woman receives this promise from the Savior: “wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Why? Why her? Why now? Why here? Just her. Why her? C.J. wanted to help us discover “why her” so that we all might be affected by her.
The Mark 14 passage begins with a disturbing description of the chief priests: Only Jesus’ popularity and the threat of a riot have slowed them in their goal of killing him. That’s the backdrop to our passage. At the end of the evening, the chief priests will get some help from Judas.
The Alabaster Flask
And in between the intrigue of verses 1-2 and 10-11, there is a party taking place in Bethany. Jesus and his friends are gathered. They are in the home of “Simon the leper,” who — had he still been a leper — could not have been hosting the get-together. C.J. suggested he might have been previously healed by Jesus. John’s gospel, in a parallel passage, informs us that Lazarus was present, having recently been raised from the dead.
[C.J. joke: “Imagine being there with Lazarus. I’d find some way to recline next to him at some point in the evening. I’d have lots of questions for him. It’s not often you meet someone who has died. What was it like to die? Is it a bummer you have to do it again? What was heaven like? Who broke the news to you that you had to go back? How did they break the news to you? ‘Lazarus, your sisters won’t stop crying, now the Savior is crying, you’re going back, pal.’ And what was that like? Hearing the Savior say, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ Going from Paradise to the graveclothes. What was THAT like? If I’m disoriented by frequent travel, how disoriented is Lazarus?]
John also tells us Martha is present; the quintessential servant, she is catering the party. And most important, the Savior is there. Presumably, He is the guest of honor. One would expect the atmosphere to be warm and friendly — there are no Pharisees or chief priests present. Only those with every reason to be grateful to Jesus are present (except perhaps Judas, who is still under the radar at this point).
Suddenly, a woman (John tells us it was Mary) stands by Jesus and proceeds to break an alabaster flask of very expensive perfume. She pours the entirety of its contents over his head. The fragrance fills the room. It was impossible to ignore this public, dramatic, passionate display of affection. The disciples do not appreciate this act, and they scold her. The scene is no longer festive. Suddenly there is a dramatic change in the mood and atmosphere. A Voice says leave her alone.
The Savior then makes the profound promise: “wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” WHY? Why does he make this promise to her at this moment? What she has done must be told wherever the gospel is preached, because Mary uniquely exemplifies the transforming effect of the gospel, which is EXTRAVAGANT DEVOTION TO THE SAVIOR. She demonstrates the effect of the gospel by her extravagant love for Jesus. She was to be an example of piety to the church universal throughout history. Her story is told so that we might evaluate if we have been appropriately and effectively transformed by the gospel. Not just applause, but application: We should evaluate ourselves in relation to her.
Two points to be drawn:
1. Extravagant devotion is an evidence of conversion.
Earlier in Mark’s gospel we encounter a teacher of law who is told “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:34) It was surely both an encouragement and a warning to this man. You are near, but not in. Well, it is clear that Mary’s not simply “near”. She’s “in.” Big-time. This is what being “in” looks like.
Where there is a profession of faith without affection for and obedience to the Savior, its authenticity should be questioned. Be assured if you are truly saved. If you have genuine affection for the Savior, and genuine obedience to the Savior, then you can have fresh assurance.
C.J. expressed concern regarding the prevailing tendency among many in the church to grant false assurance to those who profess faith in the Savior, but whose lives bear no evidence to the miracle of regeneration (namely, affection for and obedience to Jesus Christ). C.J. lamented that in the U.S. evangelical church, it is quite common for someone to retain the lifestyle of those in the world, but with the (false) confidence that they possess eternal salvation.
Where does that confidence come from? In his novel A Painted House, John Grisham describes a Sunday school teacher eulogizing a mean character, Jerry Sisco, killed the night before: “She made Jerry sound like a Christian, and like an innocent victim. As baptists we’d been taught that they only way you get to heaven is by accepting Jesus. Accept Jesus, or you went to hell. That’s where Jerry Sisco was, and we all knew it.” C.J. exhorted us not to emulate the example of this Sunday school teacher who gave false assurance to someone whose life displayed no evidence of salvation: affection or obedience. We are not serving the children we have the privilege to lead if we impart false assurance to them. Let us not encourage assurance where there is the absence of affection for, or obedience to, the Savior.
Given the size of this conference, C.J. noted, he would be remiss to assume that everyone present is genuinely converted. “I think I can assume most everyone here is, but given the large number, it would be unwise to assume that all are converted, and perhaps even now God is drawing near those who have maybe even made a profession of faith, are serving in children’s ministry, but without evidence of affection or obedience. There are other things you are more passionate about than the Savior. If that is a description of you, I would warn you right now to receive this plea as an expression of God’s mercy. If you are not genuinely converted, recognize that God is demanding you to turn from your sins to the Savior for the forgiveness of your sins. Because extravagant devotion is an evidence of genuine conversion.” (My paraphrase of C.J.’s warning)
If I witness a person who is unaffected by truth, uninvolved in the local congregation, and uninterested in spiritual things, that individual is very unlike Mary, and therefore unconverted. Extravagant devotion to the Savior cannot be concealed. It must find expression. It is evidence of true conversion. This is the significance of Mary.
2. Extravagant devotion is the increasing experience of the converted.
C.J. asked us to consider if we recognized ourselves in the following illustration:
A woman took her children to the park to break the monotony of the summer days. Instead, she broke her heart. A young attractive woman skipped to a picnic table in a secluded spot. The mother wondered who she might be so eager to see. The mother grew preoccupied with her children and forgot to watch. But when she did look again, it made her heart hurt. The young woman was reading her Bible. She had so eagerly run from her car to meet the Lord. The mother knew she had lost this passion. Something had happened over the years of her walk with the Lord. She would not now be one to skip to meet the Lord. She wept in the park for her loss.
The question C.J. put to us is: Are we still skipping? Now all who are genuinely converted can, at times, recognize themselves in this illustration. In the Mark 14 episode, we are sometimes more like those criticizing Mary than we are like Mary.
What should have happened there in Mark 14? As Mary stood over the Savior pouring out the perfume, affectionately, passionately, appropriately, over His head….quietly, everyone present should have gotten up and formed a line behind her and should have said to her, “Mary, could you please save some for me to pour? For he has forgiven all of my sins. Mary, can I pour some? For he healed me of my leprosy. Mary, thank you for your example. Can I follow your example?” That’s what should have happened.
So who do you resemble more? The arrogant and critical disciples? Or humble Mary, expressing her love for the Savior through this extravagant display of affection. How can we become more like her? How can we cultivate extravagant devotion to Christ?
Application: We must review and reflect upon the gospel.
We must regularly read and meditate upon the gospel, particularly the events surrounding Christ’s death. The transforming effect of the gospel is extravagant devotion to the Savior. Therefore, if extravagant devotion is diminished, it normally means the gospel has been neglected. Charles Spurgeon said:

“Are you content to follow Jesus from a distance? O, let me affectionately warn you for it is a grievous thing when we can live contentedly without the present enjoyment of the Savior’s face. Let us work to feel what an evil thing this is – little love to our own dying Savior, little joy in our precious Jesus, little fellowship with the Beloved! Hold a true Lent in your in your souls, while you sorrow over your hardness of heart. Don’t stop at sorrow. Remember where you first received salvation. Go at once to the cross. There, and there only can you get your spirit aroused. No matter how hard, how insensible, how dead we may have become, let’s go again in all the rags and poverty, and defilement of our natural condition. Let’s clasp that cross, let’s look into those languid eyes, let’s bathe in that fountain filled with blood – this will bring us back to our first love; this will restore the simplicity of our faith, and the tenderness of our heart….The more we dwell where the cries of Calvary can be heard the more noble our lives become. Nothing puts life into men like a dying Savior.”

How often do we dwell where the cries of Calvary can be heard? Those cries were all necessary because of our sins, and those cries were sufficient for our salvation. The transforming effect of those cries is extravagant devotion to the One who uttered those cries.
C.J. than cautioned that if we don’t intentionally review and reflect upon the gospel each day, we will inevitably review our own sin — and, consequently, be more aware of our sin than of God’s grace. Reflection upon sin should be a means, never an end. Cry out for grace, and be amazed by grace.
C.J. encouraged us to custom-design a plan so that we can each day survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died. And express extravagant devotion each day through the experience of dwelling where the cries of Calvary can be heard.
If our affections have grown cold, C.J. suggested we consider restricting our spiritual diet to dwell where the cries of Calvary have been heard. Study a gospel, particularly the passion week. Study the Savior as He resolves to go to Jerusalem, as He is overwhelmed in the garden of Gethsemane, and contemplates the experience of God’s full and righteous wrath against sin.
C.J. movingly recounted Jesus’ words on the cross as we sat with eyes closed. He then encouraged us to have Christ-centered Sunday school curricula, so that the attention of our children is drawn to Christ and Him crucified with regularity. Finally, he prayed that all present would be encouraged in their ministry and sense the Savior’s pleasure, even as we take appropriate measures to maintain our first love for Christ.
Books which C.J. commended for “dwelling where the cries of Calvary can be heard:”
1. John Stott, The Cross of Christ
2. Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life (with Study Guide)
3. Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace
4. John Piper, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die
J.I. Packer quote displayed by C.J.:

“The preachers’ commission is to declare the whole counsel of God; but the cross is the center of that counsel, and the Puritans knew that the traveler through the Bible landscape misses his way as soon as he loses sight of the hill called Calvary.”

Children Desiring God – III

Children Desiring God Conference – Friday Morning – April 27, 2007
Session III started immediately with Wayne Grudem continuing his message from the previous session. Earlier he had unpacked the gifts of election, the gospel call, regeneration, faith and repentance, and justification. This second message was an explanation of adoption, sanctification, perseverance, death and the intermediate state, and glorification.
“Adoption is an act of God whereby he makes us members of his family.”
1. Scriptural evidence for adoption.
There’s a sense in which all of humanity is God’s offspring (Acts 17:28), but the Bible is more specific regarding believers (John 1:12; Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 3:23-26).
2. Adoption follows conversion, and is an outcome of saving faith.
God adopts us in response to saving faith. (Gal. 4:6)
3. Adoption is distinct from justification.
“Regeneration has to do with our spiritual life within. Justification has to do with our standing before God’s law. But adoption has to do with our relationship with God as our Father.”
4. The privileges of adoption.
If earthly fathers give good gifts, God gives even better gifts. (Matt. 7:11) God gives us guidance that is always consistent with his Word. God disciplines us because we’re His children. (Heb. 12:5-6) It is important to teach children that in their relationship with God, their heavenly Father, they can please or displease Him, but yet they retain their status as sons and daughters. Of course, it also works this way in a healthy biological family.
This helps children to understand that our actions really do matter. We can come under our Father’s displeasure. Does he still love us? Yes. Is he saddened? Yes. This should encourage zeal for holiness. It does not lead to legalism (because justification is a “done deal”), and it doesn’t lead to carelessness toward sin, because our relationship with God is truly impacted by sin.
When kids do things that are wrong and apologize to restore the relationship, this is a helpful picture of the regular confession and repentance God longs for in His children.
“Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.”
This means that God changes believers — makes them better. This is understandable for children because they naturally want to be good.
1. Dr. Grudem outlines some differences between justification and sanctification:
Justification – Sanctification
Legal standing – Internal condition
Once for all time – Continuous throughout life
Entirely God’s work – We cooperate
Perfect in this life – Not perfect in this life
Same in all Christians – Greater in some than in others
2. Dr. Grudem discussed three stages of sanctification:
A. Sanctification has a definite beginning at regeneration. (Tit. 3:5; I. Cor. 6:11)
At the moment of conversion, we are set apart unto God. We have a new desire to please Him.
B. Sanctification increases throughout life. (Phil. 3:13-14; Heb. 12:14)
The older we get, the more we should be walking with Jesus. So we can think of an older man who is an example of godliness.
“You know Grandma Helen? You know, someday you will be like that. That’s how God designed things. Grandma’s body is weak now, but she really knows Jesus well. And she’s really, really wise, because she’s read God’s word her entire life. And do you think she’s happier? Yes, she is….And you can be like that when you’re older, if you stay close to Jesus.”
C. Sanctification is completed at death (for our souls) and when the Lord returns (for our bodies). (Heb 12:23)
D. Sanctification is never completed in this life. (Matt. 6:11-12; I John 1:8; I Tim. 4:12-15)
Timothy was in his thirties when he was told to “not neglect his gift…practice these things (exhortation, reading Scripture, teaching)” (I Tim. 4:12-15). Dr. Grudem drew out the point that if people were to see progress in Timothy’s life, it means they had to see him mess up on occasion (and less so as he grew older). Adults, therefore, should admit to kids that they make mistakes. It is hard to listen to a pastor who always uses himself as a good example. At the same time, a pastor who has been a Christian for 40 years should not always use himself as a bad example. How would that set an example of progress to the flock? On the contrary, new believers may get discouraged and figure, “If he’s still living that way after 40 years, then it’s hopeless for me.”
3. God and man (God and the child) cooperate in sanctification. (Phil. 2:13)
Both God and the redeemed sinner have a role in sanctification. God changes us, gives us the ability to obey. And then we need to be active – we strive and work out our sanctification the strength which He supplies.
4. Sanctification affects the whole person.
5. Motives for obedience to God in the Christian life.
Dr. Grudem listed 11 motivations for obedience:
A) a desire to please God and express our love to him
B) the need to keep a clear conscience before God
C) the desire to be a “vessel for noble use” and have increased effectiveness in the work of the kingdom
D) the desire to see unbelievers come to Christ through observing our lives
E) the desire to receive present blessings from God on our lives and ministries
F) the desire to avoid God’s displeasure and discipline on our lives (the fear of God)
G) the desire to seek greater heavenly reward
H) the desire for a deeper walk with God
I) the desire that angels would glorify God for our obedience
J) the desire for peace and joy in our lives
K) the desire to do what God commands, simply because his commands are right, and we delight in doing what is right
6. The Beauty and Joy of Sanctification (Gal. 5:22; Rom. 14:17)
[Chapter 39 of Systematic Theology is on the empowering of the Holy Spirit, and (Wayne explained), an “interlude in this series of chapters on what is sometimes called the order of salvation”. It was therefore not covered in these messages.]
“The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again.”
The Bible teaches two foundational truths that we must keep in tension:
1. All who are truly born again will persevere to the end
2. Only those who persevere to the end have been truly born again

Assurance is important for children in a scary world. We need to tell them that “No matter how hard things are, God will protect you, God will guard you.” But we also need to say: “Don’t ever turn away from Him. The Bible never says Jesus is going to save you even if you stop trusting and believing in Him.”
3. The Bible contains warnings that those who finally fall away may give many external signs of conversion.
Dr. Grudem noted that Judas seems to have fooled the other disciples in that they weren’t all pointing at him when Jesus said at the Last Supper, “One of you will betray Me.” Indeed, those who finally fall away may give many external signs of conversion. (Matt. 7:21-23) Yet, Dr. Grudem noted, Judas probably didn’t demonstrate much fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5). After the fact the disciples may have looked back and said, “Yep, we should have seen that he wasn’t truly one of us.”
4. So what can give a believer genuine assurance?
A. Do I have a present trust in Christ for salvation? (Not just something I once had 20 years ago.)
B. Is there evidence of a regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in my heart?
C. Do I see a long-term pattern of growth in my Christian life?
We can and should teach children about death. Kids generally have to come to grips with it before they are too old, as grandparents and/or other loved ones die. We must tell them the sad truth that people die. But the good news is that God preserves us through death and into the intermediate state. [The “intermediate state” refers to that period of time after our death and prior to the 2nd coming of Jesus.]
1. Why do Christians Die?
A. Death is not a punishment for Christians. (Rom 8:1)
So if we’re forgiven, why do we still die?
B. Death is the final outcome of living in a fallen world. (I Cor 15:26)
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. God has not yet given us the blessing of freedom from death.
C. God uses the experience of death to compete our sanctification. (Phil. 1:20)
Paul was eager that Christ be honored by his death. Many older people suffer in their latter years, and they long to be with Jesus. This longing is an aid to their sanctification.
D. Our experience of death completes our union with Christ.
E. Our obedience to God is more important than preserving our own lives.
We should read to children the biographies of Christian martyrs who “loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:11). Such stories feed the desires of young boys and girls to be brave and strong, and to stand for Christ even if it costs them everything.
2. How should we think of our own death and the death of others?
A. Our own death
Christians need not be terrified by the prospect of their own deaths. Death should be viewed with joy because of the union with Christ it will usher in.
B. The death of Christian friends and relatives
It is OK to be sad when others die. In Acts 8:2, the disciples cried when Stephen died, even though they knew he was in heaven. They were sad because he suffered so much in being stoned to death, and now they missed him. Sorrow is not wrong. Children should learn that there can be sorrow mixed with the comfort of knowing loved ones are at God’s side. Jesus Christ was sorrowful about the death of Lazarus, even though he was going to raise him from the dead moments later.
C. The death of unbelievers
We should avoid the danger of being overconfident about the salvation of others if their lives showed little or no fruit of genuine conversion. However, it is wise in many cases to say we do not know the final state of their souls. Dr. Grudem recounted a very powerful testimony of his leading a man to Christ, only to discover later that the man entered a coma the next day and would die.
3. What happens when people die?
A. The souls of believers go immediately into God’s presence
B. The souls of unbelievers go immediately into eternal punishment.
“Glorification is the final step in the application of redemption. It will happen when Christ returns and raises from the dead the bodies of all believers for all time who have died, and reunites them with their souls, and changes the bodies of all believers who remain alive, thereby giving all believers at the same time perfect resurrection bodies like his own.”
1. The New Testament teaches glorification (1Cor. 15:51-52)
2. Our resurrection bodies will be imperishable, glorious, powerful, spiritual bodies. (I Cor. 15:42-44)
3. The entire creation will be renewed as well. (Rom. 8:18)
We can teach this doctrine to children. What will our resurrection bodies be like? Not old and weak. They will be glorious! When we’re out enjoying the beauty of nature, we can teach kids “It is going to be far better when we’re in glory. Far more beautiful. Not just our new bodies, but the whole redeemed creation will be glorious.”

Children Desiring God – II – Photos

Photos courtesy of Karen Feder.

Children Desiring God – I- Photos

Photos courtesy of Karen Feder.

Children Desiring God – II

Children Desiring God Conference – Friday Morning – April 27, 2007
We got started with another wonderful time of corporate worship.
Pastor Craig Sturm introduced Wayne Grudem with a series of photos from Dr. Grudem’s childhood. Here are a couple of the personal interest tidbits I picked up: Dr. Grudem enjoyed monopoly and snowball fights. He read science fiction and collected coins. He enjoyed every subject and did well in every class except art (I can relate). Wayne took piano lessons, but did not enjoy practicing. However, he did enjoy singing hymns on his piano bench. He enjoyed reading his King James Bible every night, a habit he learned from his parents.
Title: Teaching the Richness of the Entire Gospel from Election to Glorification
[This message will be given in two parts over the two morning sessions.]
Wayne noted that we can conceive of the word “gospel” either narrowly or broadly. Narrowly, the gospel is “Trust Jesus Christ to forgive your sins. He died in your place. Trust Him.” Broadly, the gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ – which is what the whole Bible is about.
Wayne is going to work from a definition of gospel that is somewhere in between this narrow and broad definition. He defined the gospel as “the good news about our salvation and all its amazing blessings.”
Wayne’s assumption is that children can understand at some level far beyond what we generally expect of them.
For example, Deuteronomy 6:6 assumes that we should be able to teach children the book of Deuteronomy. And if we can teach Deuteronomy, then we can teach quite a bit.
For example, the Trinity. We can teach kids that God is three persons and one God. At a simple level, they can grasp this, even though they cannot see how it all works.
Wayne recalled reading his King James Version Bible as a child and not understanding all of it. But he definitely understood some things. He’d pray to God throughout the day, and enjoyed singing hymns to God, even before he prayed to receive Christ at the age of 12.
The point is that children can understand much more than we usually expect they can.
For his two messages, Dr. Grudem will be closely following the outline of chapters 32-42 in his Systematic Theology.
Here are those chapter titles:
Chapter 32 – Election
Chapter 33 – Gospel Call
Chapter 34 – Regeneration
Chapter 35 – Faith and repentance
Chapter 36 – Justification
Chapter 37 – Adoption
Chapter 38 – Sanctification
Chapter 40 – Perseverance
Chapter 41 – Death and intermediate state
Chapter 42 – Glorification

[Chapter 39 is on the empowering of the Holy Spirit, and (Wayne explained), an “interlude in this series of chapters on what is sometimes called the order of salvation”. It was therefore not covered in these messages.]
Although the book was written for adults, Dr. Grudem is using these messages to emphasize how to teach these great truths to kids. Accordingly, Wayne referred to these ten headings as ten “gifts” which children can understand and embrace as good gifts from a heavenly Father.
Wayne mentioned that he taught 4th grade Sunday school from 1967-1969 at Park Street Church in Boston. His other form of experience comes from parenting (together with his wife Margaret) three sons who are now 33, 30, and 27 years old.
Election is an act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereign good pleasure.
Children can understand choosing. They have experiences of being chosen for a team, or a play. So we can tell them “God chose you to be a part of his team, his family.”
Being chosen could engender pride, unless we also teach kids that it was not a result of anything that they did. (Eph. 1:4-6, I Thes. 1:4-5)
“Well, when did he choose us, Daddy?” A child may ask. “Before the foundation of the world” would be the reply. “But when did we know He chose us?” “When we repented and believed.”
Wayne recognizes that there are misunderstandings or abuses of the doctrine of predestination. Nevertheless, since it is in the Bible, we should teach it. We should not avoid it just because there is a possibility of misunderstanding.
So how does the New Testament present election?
1. As a comfort (Rom. 8:28-30)
God’s predestining love is the basis upon which we can know that God is working all things for our good.
2. As a reason to praise God (Eph. 1:5-6)in
Children will instinctively understand this. What could be more natural than to thank God for choosing us?
3. As an encouragement to evangelism (II Tim. 2:10)
Paul had been beaten, persecuted, and driven from town to town. He said he endured all things for the sake of the elect, so that the people that God had chosen would come to know Him.
“So, did God choose my friend Sally, Daddy?”
“Well, I don’t know, let’s invite her to church, let’s tell her about Jesus, and if she receives him, then yes, we’ll know that God chose her.”
And if she doesn’t, we don’t know. Because God might still call her to Himself later.
Wayne moved on to misunderstandings of the doctrine of election, but (rightly, I think) noted that these misunderstandings are not as instinctive with children as they are with adults.
Potential Misunderstandings of Election
1. Does this mean it doesn’t matter if I trust Christ or not?
In response, Wayne suggests simply asking the child: “Sally, do you think it matters?” And she will likely reply, “Yes.” And then simply affirm her accurate intuition.
2. Does this mean I didn’t have a choice?
Here again, Wayne suggests simply asking the child, “Well, Johnny, do you think you had a choice?”
“Yes, Daddy, I think that I did.” And a parent or teacher can affirm a child’s accurate intuition. “You really did have a choice as to whether you wanted to trust and follow Jesus or not.”
A simple, clear answer is usually enough.
3. That’s not fair!
How can God choose some, but not all?
This is an opportunity for helping children to see that everybody is sinful:
“Bill, is everyone sinful in their hearts?”
“Yes, Daddy, they are.”
“Well, if everybody is sinful in their hearts, what would be really fair for God to do?”
You can inform the child of what God did with angels – namely, save none of them.
“Well then, what about saving you, Billy?”
Billy would probably have a greater understanding of grace as a result of this conversation. It is grace on God’s part to save one person. How much more grace to save 10? Or 100? And we can tell children that God has saved a number of people that no man can count. “Isn’t that amazing grace, Billy?”
4. What about reprobation?
Are there some people whom God did not choose?
Our attitude here is so important. We must always teach the doctrine of reprobation with a sense of sadness. But yet we must teach what the Bible says. (Jude 4)
“Are there some people that God didn’t choose, Daddy?”
“Well, yes, and it is very sad.”
Now here a child may claim that they know such a person – for example, a bully at school. But that, too, is a teaching opportunity. “We don’t know if Bruce the bully is not chosen. Would you like to invite him to church? Let’s find out how he responds to Jesus. Do you remember the Apostle Paul, Billy, he was a very wicked and mean person before God saved him.”
So we should affirm that we cannot know that someone is not chosen, but we can find out if somebody is chosen (if we see them respond to the gospel in faith).
Nevertheless, we should affirm for kids that there are people who will become increasingly evil. And they will ultimately receive condemnation in hell. Children can know about hell, and have a healthy fear of it. Children have a God-given sense of justice, and when they realize that God is going to punish all evil, it satisfies that sense of justice.
“And, Johnny, the fact that God will not save everyone will also serve as an occasion for us to magnify God’s grace.” (Rom. 9, Matt. 11:25-26) Reprobation teaches a reverent submission to the will of God accompanied with sorrow, since that too is God’s heart. (Ezek. 33:11) Kids can understand this on some level. And this can increase their understanding of God’s goodness and justice.
Effective calling is an act of God the Father, speaking through the human proclamation of the gospel, in which he summons people to himself in such a way that they respond in saving faith.
The gospel call is specifically an invitation to come to know Jesus. And it is effective. (Rom. 8:30)
The Elements of the Gospel Call
1. Explain the facts concerning salvation
a. All people have sinned (Rom 3:23)
b. The penalty for sin is death (Rom 6:23)
c. Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins (Rom 5:8)
But we must not stop with this….
2. Invitation to respond to Christ personally in repentance and faith.
John 1:11 — “to all who did receive him”
Matt 11:28-30 — “come to Me”
3. A promise of forgiveness and eternal life. (John 3:16)
1. Regeneration is totally a work of God. (I Pet 1:3; 1:23)
Before we can trust in Jesus, God has to make us able to respond. By the means of His word, God the Holy Spirit changes us to make us willing to come to Him.
2. The exact nature of regeneration is mysterious to us. (John 3:8; Eph. 2:1-5)
3. In this sense of “regeneration,” it comes prior to saving faith. (John 3:5, Acts 16:14)
4. Genuine regeneration will bring results in life (after repentance and faith). (I John 3:9)
In the example of Bruce the bully, it would mean that he’d stop swearing and beating up kids. Not perfection in this life, but a changed nature.
Conversion is our willing response to the gospel call in which we sincerely repent of sins and place our trust in Christ for salvation.
1. True saving faith includes knowledge, approval, and personal trust.
A. It is very important that children understand that knowledge alone is insufficient. (James 2:19)
B. Knowledge and approval are not enough. (John 3:2; Acts 26:27-28)
Kids understand trusting someone. This is trusting Jesus for your eternal destiny, for everything.
C. I must decide to depend on Jesus to save me personally. (John 3:16; John 6:37)
Wayne noted that the Greek word for “believe” carries the idea of trust, and of putting trust into someone or something. Other verses also discuss personal trust and commitment of life (John 1:12; Matt 11:28; Matt 16:24; 19:21).
Kids need to understand that they should come as they are, and not try to clean themselves up or in any way contribute to their salvation.
D. Faith should increase as our knowledge increases.
The world’s lie is that faith is opposed to knowledge. “If you don’t know something, just have faith.” But biblical faith is not wishful thinking; it is trusting something rock-solid. So faith is not the opposite of knowledge; the two go hand in hand.
2. Faith and repentance must come together.
Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ. (Acts 20:21; Heb 6:1)
Other biblical examples are Peter crying out “depart from me, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8) and the tax collector of Luke 18 who went home justified.
It is important that we include repentance with faith, lest kids fail to see that they must turn from sin. We must avoid the tragedy of: “I asked Jesus into my heart over and over again, but it never worked.” People like this were probably never taught that they needed to turn from sin to come to Jesus. We must turn away from sin and toward Jesus.
The Bible often summarizes the gospel message with the word “repentance.” (Acts 2:37-38; Acts 17:30)
3. Both faith and repentance continue throughout life.
We start the relationship once, but we continue to repent/believe throughout our life.
Wayne then spoke briefly on the question of is it OK to say to kids, “Ask Jesus to come into your heart.” He noted that while this can capture a biblical concept (Gal 2:20), it is probably not the most complete or most helpful picture. Other passages command us to come to Jesus. Jesus remains distinct from us. We speak to Him, trust Him, and obey Him.
Kids should ask Jesus to change their hearts. The language of “make me the kind of person you want me to be” is included in many simple prayers for kids, and this is a biblical request. Kids should want the Lord to cleanse and rule their hearts.
Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in his sight.
1. Justification includes a legal declaration by God. (Rom. 4:5; 8:1; 3:21-22)
This point means God forgives our sins. Kids understand forgiveness – it is familiar to them. They know they often need forgiveness, particularly from their parents and siblings. But forgiveness with God is different: In addition to canceling our debt of sin (past, present and future), God credits our account with the record of Christ’s perfect life.
2. God declares us to be just in his sight.
He declares that we have been made positively righteous (Isa. 61:10; Rom. 3:21-22)
How can God do this?
3. God can declare us to be just because he imputes Christ’s righteousness to us. (Rom. 5:19; I Cor. 1:30; Phil. 3:9)
Wayne suggested an illustration as a means to simply convey to children the concept of imputation. A boy, Elliot, outgrows his bicycle. One day his father takes both Elliot and his younger brother to the garage. He says to Elliot, the older brother, “You no longer need this bicycle, right?” Elliot nods his head. The father then says to Oliver, the younger boy, “Would you like the bike?” Oliver nods his head eagerly. The father then declares the bicycle to be Oliver’s. He thinks of it as belonging to Oliver and transfers it to Oliver. And he’s the father, so he can do that.
4. Justification comes to us entirely by God’s grace, not on account of any merit. (Rom. 3:23-24)
It is the opposite of doing something for ourselves. It is totally of grace.
5. God justifies us through our faith in Christ.

Children Desiring God – I

Children Desiring God Conference – Thursday Night – April 26, 2007
The first plenary session kicked off with a beautiful time of corporate singing. John Piper led in prayer, and after another song, two children read from Psalm 42 and Psalm 63:1-8.
Pastor David Michael then gave a personal state-by-state welcome to the conference attendees. There are about 200 guests from Minnesota (not counting volunteers), 80 from Texas, and 68 from California gathered at the Conference. The neighboring states (Wisconsin, Iowa, and North and South Dakota) combined have sent 114 guests. I guess that makes sense given the high populations of Texas and California.
But an astonishing 10% of the 1000 or so total Conference attendees are international guests. Indonesia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Hong Kong, Romania, England, Northern Ireland, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and Canada are all represented. There are 41 attendees from the Spanish-speaking world.
Some pictures were shown of John Piper as a child. (I’m told this will be done for all of the plenary speakers.) Pastor David connected the photos of John to an exhortation that we consider the children in our Sunday school classes. God only knows all that He has in store for them. We don’t know who God might use to bless the succeeding generations. We need to love them and build the gospel into their lives.
Having been thus introduced, John Piper began to preach. He framed his message by saying that he was responding to three things.
I. The request from CDG to unpack the theme that God is the Gospel (also available in PDF format at no cost).
This is a book John Piper wrote to unpack the truth of I Peter 3:18. Jesus Christ died to bring us to God. Not only to justify us. Not just to get us out of hell. Not just to relieve our pain, or sense of alienation. And not just to bring us to heaven – heaven would not be heaven if God weren’t there.
II. A provocative quote by Spurgeon in Lectures to My Students (p. 340). Spurgeon is lamenting that some preachers, though they believe in justification by faith, unintentionally preach the very opposite. Spurgeon recounts:

“Justification by faith must never be obscured, and yet all are not clear upon it….Many do this when addressing children, and I notice that they generally speak to the little ones about loving Jesus, and not upon believing in Him. This must leave a mischievous impression upon youthful minds and take them off from the true way of peace.” (emphasis in the original)

John noted that this quote is convicting, because many of us talk more to children about loving Jesus than believing in Jesus. We need to wrestle with why Spurgeon said this.
III. Nominalism in the church.
John noted that there are many Christians whose lives seem to contradict Paul’s attitude expressed in Phil. 3:7. What do these people mean when they say that they believe in Jesus? Their lives don’t “ooze” Jesus, and this is confusing. What can we do about this?
John also noted that his talk is being framed by his 11-year-old daughter Talitha’s upcoming baptism in May. She has been going through a baptism preparation class over the last few months. In fact, she has an interview with an Elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church this coming Saturday morning in which she will be required to give her testimony.
This prompted John to reflect on the fact that when we ask people to give their testimony, they generally start with what happened to them. But our first thought should be to talk about how we got saved 2000 years ago. We should talk this way (and encourage others to talk this way) because if certain events in history had not occurred, we would have no testimony. So the first question is: What did God do to save you before you were born?
And here John has given Talitha a four-point outline:
I. God
II. Sin
III. Christ/Gospel
IV. Faith

To give these four words meaning, John noted, we must talk about them in propositions, since propositions (not single words) carry truth. Single words, without a clear context, are not illuminating.
Proposition 1: God
John noted in passing that Wayne Grudem has written a wonderfully substantive book of Bible doctrine called Systematic Theology. (I must say that I have found this book to be a fantastic resource for developing a robust, doctrinally-solid vision of God. It is also quite readable and relatively void of unnecessary jargon.)
God has created all things for His glory. Isaiah 43:6-7 reminds us of this truth.
So God is great, and we were made to live in such a way that makes Him look great. But in order to make Him look great, it is not enough to do the right things. We must also have the right affections. We cannot praise God begrudgingly. (That would be an oxymoron.)
The inference is that we must not teach children that they were created simply to do stuff. We glorify God by enjoying Him, by a sense of the beauty and glory of God being reflected in our own consciousness as being all-satisfying. So teaching kids doctrine is important, because knowing God is important. But we must also teach them to treasure God.
Proposition 2: Sin
How sin gets defined inevitably is related to how God is defined. If God is defined merely as one who commands, then sin is not doing what he says.
But if we conceive of God as the One who is to be the object of our delight and trust, then sin is not delighting in God. Sin prefers the glory of created things to the glory of our creator.
John noted that most idols, in and of themselves, are innocent (e.g., food, family, success). Are we happier that the Dow Jones is over 13,000 than what we read this morning in Colossians?
According to Romans 1:18-19, omnipotent wrath is deserved for the devaluing of God.
And we’ve all done this—we’ve exchanged the glory of God at the pawn shop of our idolatries. It is not our treasure.
The gospel needs this background to land with force.
Proposition 3: Christ/Gospel
So is the answer: “Well, just start loving Jesus! You were made for that! Turn over a new leaf!”
That is not the answer for two reasons:
1. The problem isn’t my disposition toward God, but His disposition toward me. He is really angry with me. I can’t just start doing better. God’s just and holy wrath has passed a sentence on me. Condemn! So God is the One who is the problem here – and only God can change that.
2. When God undertakes to change it, by sending His Son to bear His wrath on our behalf, all of that redemptive work of Christ is not just designed to get me back on the road to glorifying Him, it is the apex of the display of His glory. (Rev. 5) The murder of Jesus on our behalf will be the ground of our praise forever.
Piper recounted five essential elements of the gospel:
1. The Gospel is an event. Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.
2. He achieved something when he died. John unpacked seven achievements:
a) Christ absorbed the wrath of God on our behalf. (Gal 3:13)
b) He bore our sins and purchased our forgiveness. The payment and purchase occurred 2000 years ago – forgiveness (on a personal level) comes later.
c) He provided a complete and perfect righteousness for us. Philippians 2 tells us he was obedient unto death. And that obedience – the obedience of Jesus Christ – is the obedience of Romans 5:19. Christ completed it.
d) He defeated death itself. (Hebrews 2:14)
e) He disarmed Satan by suffering. (Colossians 2:14)
Satan can beat us up, but he cannot damn us, because his one weapon (unpaid sin) is gone. Where? Nailed to a cross. And Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire someday.
f) Christ purchased perfect final healing and peace for His people. (Isaiah 53:4-5) Some of this is experienced in our lifetime; most of it is not experienced until we reach heaven.
g) Christ secured for us eternal fellowship with Him. (I Peter 3:18)
3. The free offer to be received by faith alone, not works.
If there is a historical event (Christ’s death), and it is offered to works, then there is no gospel. We nullify the cross if we make our justification by works. So faith becomes crucial.
4. The application of the achievement to us.
When the Holy Spirit awakens us, we see Christ for who he really is, and we repent and cleave to Him in faith. And when that happened, our sins were forgiven and we were counted righteous in Christ. And it all happens through faith alone. Justification, forgiveness, and eternal life were purchased at the cross, but they become ours by faith when we believe. John emphasized that although step 4 is crucial, we should start our testimonies with the historical event of step 1 (which secured step 4).
Now most gospel teaching stops here, John noted. But we must press on:
5. God is the gospel.
We must embrace Christ as the gospel.
And unless we really grasp these things (all of the above), we won’t really know what faith us. And we’ll stumble over Spurgeon’s warning concerning children. Faith is of central importance.
Proposition 4: Faith
Faith has two dimensions, each of which sheds light on the “Why can’t a child just turn over a new leaf?” question:
A. Faith is essentially a receiving of what someone else does, and not what we do on our own. This is so contrary to our human hearts and so humiliating. Faith alone (in comparison to love) makes crystal clear that it was God that saved us, and we merely received it.
Children must be taught this: Another died in their place. Another provided their righteousness. Another paid their debt. “What must I do, Daddy?” Receive him! Welcome him!
John then asked: Why doesn’t this lead to nominalism? Or antinomianism? Because:
B. Faith receives Christ for who He really is — supremely valuable, the apex of the display of the glory of God.
John noted that many people speak of receiving Christ in a way that does not require a new birth. They do not receive him as a display of the all-satisfying God. They receive him as sin-forgiver (because they don’t want guilt), rescuer from hell (because they don’t want to go there), healer (because they don’t want to be sick), protector (because they value safety), prosperity-giver (because they love wealth), creator (because they prefer a personal God), even Lord of history (because they value order), but not supremely and infinitely valuable as who He is – the most wonderful, satisfying, all-glorious Person who ever was or will be.
So we should emphasize trust. John hastened to note that it is not that our subjective emotions accurately correspond with the infinite worth of God. But true Christians have a taste for it. Their hearts say “Yes and Amen” to God being supremely valuable, and they join in the life-long battle to see Him increasingly in this way.
John closed with a reminder that some of the kids we minister to are going to die at a young age. They need to be prepared to die by recognizing that Christ is an infinitely valuable treasure, so that they receive and embrace Him for who He really is.
DG has already posted the audio of this message.

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