Recently I was on Facebook where there is an article going around about how Sunday School might be destroying our kids. According to the article, the stories that are taught in Sunday school are about “being good” so that God can bless you. A quick summary of the opening section went like this….
“Abraham was faithful, and God made him the father of a nation. So be faithful like Abraham. David had a pure heart and God made him King of Israel. So have a pure heart like David. Esther was an obedient girl. God made her Queen of Persia and she saved God’s people. So be obedient like Esther. If you don’t follow these rules don’t worry, Jesus will forgive you but you need to try harder.” The link to that post is here: http://beliefsoftheheart.com/2013/07/23/i-wonder-if-sunday-school-is-destroying-our-kids-2/
Sadly to say, I would have to agree with the article on this point. I feel like this is the point that so many kids are taking home from church and getting at home from well intended parents. I have heard kids in youth group state that they are not good enough for God to use, they are not like the heroes in the Bible who can do amazing things. They are only screw ups. We as teachers and as parents are missing the point of what the gospel is telling us. Partly, I think because we feel it is not age appropriate to talk about how this person was an idol worshiper, a murdering adulterer, prostitute, drunk, etc. Sending the message that you have to be perfect for God to bless and use you is the wrong message to be sending to our kids. They ‘follow’ the rules of our house and of the Bible out of fear of what will happen if they don’t.
Keller states “If you are avoiding sin and living morally so that God will have to bless and save you, then ironically, you may be looking to Jesus as a teacher, model, and helper but you are avoiding him as Savior. You are trusting in your own goodness rather than in Jesus for your standing with God. You are trying to save yourself by following Jesus.” Keller concluded that this “is a rejection of the gospel of Jesus. It is a Christianized form of religion.”
He also states that “The devil prefers Pharisees—men and women who try to save themselves. They are more unhappy than either mature Christians or irreligious people, and they do a lot more spiritual damage.” I don’t know how many times I have let my pride or my works tell me that I was being a “good” Christian.
Keller says that there are two different mind sets. From the outside you might not be able to tell the a difference between the two mind set for a particular action. However, the difference comes by how you are motivated to do a particular action. Religion that is based on the principle of, “I obey—therefore I am accepted by God,” you are obeying out of fear or because you are trying to earn your way into heaven. But there is a religion which is based on the gospel, you obey out of gratitude. The principle here is “I am accepted by God through what Christ has done—therefore I obey.” I think that is what made the people in the Bible heroes, not because they obeyed God, not because they did the right thing all the time, not because they were perfect, because they weren’t. They obeyed because they understood who God was.
Keller summarizes, “In Christ I could know I was accepted by grace not only despite my flaws, but because I was willing to admit them. The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time.”
But to totally understand and accept the gospel’s true message is hard…well not hard to understand, but hard to follow maybe. Keller was counseling a woman who summed up her fears nicely. She stated “If I was saved by my good works then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with “rights”—I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if I am a sinner saved by sheer grace—then there’s nothing he cannot ask of me.”
I think that is what holds people back from truly following the gospel. We are not scared to lead a good life, but we are scared to follow God’s will, scared by what He might ask us to do.