Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas thought #2: Children and Christmas

UPDATED ON 1/23/07. Click here for updated material.

During our Christmas festivities, my family and I were able to visit a bunch of relatives; unfortunately most of them are not saved. When we went to one gathering, one of the children there (who is just a little younger than my oldest) was tightly carrying around a new toy. I asked him about Christmas and he began recounting how Santa had given him the new toy and how Santa had eaten all of the cookies and the reindeer had eaten all of the carrots that he’d left out.

First of all, let me say that it was pretty cute to see how excited he was about all of these things. Leaving that aside though, I was very sad to see that this little boy was so knowledgeable and confident in what he knows about Christmas, but was fairly ignorant about Jesus and the gospel. I was not under any delusional idea that the children present (other than my oldest) would know anything about the real meaning of Christmas except that it was Jesus’ birthday (and maybe not even that for some of them), but it is one thing to think something, and totally another thing to experience it.

Secondly, let me say that I have made it a priority to instruct my children in the law and the gospel from as early as they are able to communicate and repeat what I say. For example, my 3 ½ year old son and I have a very similar conversation during every one of our “bible time” devotions together. The conversation basically goes like this:

Me: Who wrote the Bible?
Micah: God.

Me: Who is God?
Micah: Jesus.

Me: Who else is God?
Micah: God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Me: How many gods are there?
Micah: One God, one Jesus, one God the Father, and one Holy Spirit

Me: But only one God?
Micah: Yes, only one God.1

Me: Where does God live?
Micah: In heaven.

Me: How many sins are in heaven?
Micah: Zero sins, no sins.

Me: What are sins?
Micah: No-no’s

Me: How does God feel about sins?
Micah: He’s so angry.

Me: Where do we find out what sins (no-no’s) are?
Micah: In the Bible. The 10 Commandments.

Me: What is one of the commandments?
Micah: No stealing.

Me: What is stealing?
Micah: Taking something that’s not yours.

Me: What’s another commandment?
Micah: Don’t tell lies.

Me: What is a lie?
Micah: Telling something that is not the truth.2

Me: Have you done sins?
Micah: Lots of times.

Me: Who else has done sins?
Micah: Mommy, Daddy, Noah, etc.3

Me: What happens to people if they die with sins?
Micah: They go to the bad place.4

Me: What happens to people in ‘the bad place’?
Micah: They are punished.

Me: Why are they punished?
Micah: For their sins.

Me: Who punishes them?
Micah: Jesus.

Me: Do you want to go to ‘the bad place’?
Micah: No, I want to go to heaven.

Me: But if you have sins, can you go to heaven?
Micah: No.

Me: So who had to come and help us?
Micah: Jesus.

Me: Why did Jesus come?
Micah: To save us from our sins.

Me: How many sins did Jesus do?
Micah: Zero sins.

Me: What happened to Jesus?
Micah: He died on the cross.

Me: What was God doing to Jesus?
Micah: Punishing Him.

Me: Why was God punishing Jesus?
Micah: For our sins.

Me: Then what happened to Jesus.
Micah: He died and rose from the grave.5

Me: Then where did Jesus go?
Micah: To heaven.

Me: What do you need to do in order to have your sins forgiven and go to heaven?
Micah: Repent of sins.

Me: What does repent mean?
Micah: It means you’re not going to try to do them again.

Me: Do you have to do anything else?
Micah: Believe in Jesus.6

Me: Then, when you die, what will happen?
Micah: You go to heaven.

Me: And you can go to heaven because your sins….?
Micah: Have been forgiven.

Now I do not show this to you in order to be boastful or proud in any sinful sense, but I do it in order to show the difference between a home that teaches a gospel centered Christmas and a home that teaches a Santa centered Christmas.7 My son knows almost nothing about Santa Claus, Rudolf, the North Pole, elves, or the other secular holiday lore. Actually, if you were to engage him in a conversation about Santa Claus, he’d probably listen and learn, but he wouldn’t know what was going on or be familiar with the stories. However, if you started talking to him about the Bible, Jesus, sin, or other Christian stories or concepts, he might not know exactly what you’re saying if he’s never heard that specific Bible story before, but he would surely have a place in his little mind of where to file it away.

What’s the point?

I am not setting myself, my son, or the way in which we have chosen to instruct our children as the end-all be-all of educating Christian children. There are plenty of Godly parents who choose a less direct approach than we have and still communicate the essential things (i.e. sin, righteousness, judgment, Jesus, the cross, repentance, and faith) in instructing their children about the gospel and Christmas. I am, however, contrasting the emphasis between parents who teach about Christ and the gospel and those who teach about Santa Claus. Our emphasis around Christmas (as well as the rest of the year) is clearly on the eternal things relating to the gospel; while the emphasis of other families is placed on things that the parents know full well are fictitious lies.

Some non-Christians would say that it is wrong to train or “program” a child with such information as I showed above. When confronted with this, I respond in two ways. First of all, would you (accusing person) teach your child that moving cars are dangerous or for the child not to touch a hot stove? Would you train your child to “religiously” brush his teeth each evening? Yes, any good parent does these things because of the inherent benefit to (a) staying safe and (b) staying healthy. I am simply applying this universally understood principle to our relationship to a holy God, the most important area of life.

Secondly I would respond by saying that all parents instruct their children in some form of eternal thinking. You can either be specific and direct about the truths of the Bible and that God and eternity are important like I do, or you can instruct them that these things aren’t important by the simple fact of not teaching them anything (or anything consistent). Either way, you are teaching your child something.

Be sure to know that all of the instructing time that I put into my children will be all but worthless if they don’t see me live out the convictions that I teach. If I teach but don’t walk, my kids will have a harder time believing because I’m a hypocrite. If I walk but don’t teach, my kids will have a harder time believing because there’s no foundation for them to build their beliefs on (i.e. clear instruction). If I don’t teach about Christ and I don’t live out a Christian life (whether I believe in Christ or whether I think that Christianity is a hoax), my children will not even have a clue of what to believe.

Finally, every parent places a certain priority on what they will teach their child. How much effort and time will be wasted on teaching about Santa Claus, who is so clearly a fairy tale meant only for naïve children, when they finally come to the heartbreaking realization that Santa is a fake? Contrast that to the rewarding result of the effort and instruction about the greater and weightier things of God when that child goes from a simple repetition of phrases and parroting of answers, to believing, owning, and treasuring the truth of God as revealed to them by the Holy Spirit in their own hearts when they respond in repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ.


UPDATE - 1/23/07 - You can view a video that I took of a similar conversation that Micah & I had just before Christmas, 2006. The video is on youtube, so click here to view the video.



1 Now, you are probably thinking that Trinitarian theology is a bit deep for a 3 year old, and I’d agree with you. That’s why I started it when he was 2 or 2 ½. You see, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! “ (Deuteronomy 6:4), called the Sh’ma, has been a common part of Jewish prayer for millennia. I am simply incorporating the Sh’ma into my son’s understanding of God who has revealed himself as a Trinity – three co-equal, co-eternal persons of the Godhead.

2 We also go through obeying mom & dad (#4) and not coveting (#10). Coveting come up recently when Micah started to whine a lot about things that he couldn’t do or couldn’t have. I explained to him that coveting something is where you want something so bad that it makes you mad or sad that you cannot have it.

3 It is kind of funny to ask him this part, because sometimes he’ll go into detail about how Noah (his 1 year old brother) sinned when he pulled Micah’s hair. He also has responded to “Has daddy done sins?” with a statement similar to, “so many times.” Funny. True. But still funny.

4 I have opted to use this phrase as opposed to the proper name of hell until he’s a little older in order to avoid any unintentional inappropriate use of this word.

5 Micah likes to tell me that it was after 3 days and 3 nights that Jesus rose from the grave. He picked up this time reference when we’d read about the story of Jonah (consequently one of his favorite Bible stories).

6 I don’t believe that any “act” on my part is what saves, and that is not what I am teaching my son. Both repentance of sin and faith in Jesus are gifts or works of God in the life of the sinner. But these concepts are only tangibly understood by people when communicated as the response of a saved person to the gospel. Basically, God saves people, and those whom He saves are the ones who are granted faith to believe in Christ and the ability to repent of their sins.

7 I am proud of my son that he has been blessed to retain this information and that it is as real to him as it could possibly be at his age.

6 comments:

sattvicwarrior said...

SCARY!!!!!!!!!!!!! really SCARY!!!!!!. whew!!!!!
thanks for sharing. now i know WHY i would RUN from CHRISTIANS!!!. if CHRIST came back to day the last thing he would be would be a CHRISTIAN !!.
your post give a NEW meaning to the word ZEAL, SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS ,PONTIFICATION , and EGO!!!!! wow.
" thanks for sharing!!!!!!!!
by the way . im a FIRM beleiver in the GREATNESS OF CHRIST. its his followers that totally awe me with thier arrogence. [ but im SURE you know nothing of THOSE sins" o sacred one. ] you have WAY to much knowledge to be so caught up in such triteness.
all the world should bow to you oh great pillar of wisdom .

EJ said...

I appriciate that you see my zeal, but I do not understand how a system of grace and faith in salvation has anything to do with ego or self righteousness. I proclaim a gospel that is antithetical to one of self righteousness. Please see my post on Law vs. Liberty (1 & 2) for that clear distinction.

The rest of your burning sarcasm and baseless personal attacks aside, how can you believe in the greatness of Christ and yet deny His claims of deity, or how do I (since your comment condemning "his followers that totally awe me with thier arrogence," awe you with my arogance or diminish what Christ said?

And I suppose that you would make the accusation that religion, even Christian religion & followers, have been the cause of great suffering and pain in the world. I don't disagree with you that people who have claimed alegiance to Christ have done horrible and despicable things. However, in all fairness, even when you count the bloody history of tryanny in the Roman Catholic Church, it is nothing to compare with what godless men and godless regimes have done in history - even in the last 150 years. Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Kim Jong-il, to name a few.

Christ will not judge people on a standard of who thought He was great or not, but on a standard of righteousness. Examine yourself next to the 10 commandments: have you stolen (anything), have you ever lied, have you ever looked with lust, have you ever covetted, have you always put God as 1st priority?

Answering these questions honestly will show you your condemnation before God (as it shows the same answer to every man, woman, and child who has ever lived - except Christ Himself), and only then can you see and understand God's grace in offering salvation through Jesus Christ that is totally of grace (not of works) and obtained through true repentance and faith.

may God grant you grace.

sattvicwarrior said...

YOU SAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The rest of your burning sarcasm and baseless personal attacks aside
[ i say!!!!!!!!!!!],
HUH? LIGHTEN UP .HARDLY SARCASM. burning?? hahahahaahaha . that's silly.
ITS JUST THE WAY I SEE IT AND HOW YOU COME ACROSS. BUT THEN AGAIN I SUPPOSE YOU DON’T SEE YOURSELF OTHER THAN SOME SELF APPOINTED KNOW IT ALL[ OPPS.] sorry. I MEANT TO SAY “ GREAT TEACHER!!!”.
ITS ALWAYS AMAZED ME WHEN YOUR ILK IS CHALLENGED YOU INSTANTLY COME ACROSS TO OTHERS AS “ GEE YOUR SARCASTIC ETC”. . YOUR TYPES NEVER CAN NEVER DEAL WITH OTHER PEOPLES PERSPECTIVE BECAUSE EVERYTHING YOU BASE YOUR SELF RIGHTEOUS PHILOSOPHY HAS BE JUSTIFIED THROUGH SOME OTHER FABLE AND MYTH OUT OF THAT GREAT BOOK OF CONTRADICTIONS CALLED THE BIBLE.
how can you believe in the greatness of Christ and yet deny His claims of deity,
I NEVER SAID THAT . YOU SAID THAT . AND THAT STATEMENT DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE. TIS A ROMANTIC SWEEPING GENERALIZATIONS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO WITH CHRIST. ITS TYPICAL WHAT YOUR TYPE DOES., . YOU DON’T COME TO CONCLUSIONS YOU LEAP AT THEM , WHEN SOMEONE DOESN'T READ IT INTO YOUR BRAINWASHED MENTALITY THE WAY YOU SEE IT.
. CHRIST WAS A MAN . HE WAS BORN TO GREATNESS. [ ON A SPIRITUAL PLANE]. AND HIS IMAGE IS TO BE USED A S REFERENCE SO OTHERS MAY ATTAIN THE SAME STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS HIGHER THAN WHAT THEY THEMSELVES WERE BORN INTO . SO WHERE DO YOU GET OUT OF MY PRESENTATION I DENY HIS “ DEITY”. ?? ITS VERY EASY TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST. AGAIN I SAY. ITS HIS FOLLOWERS THAT ONE HAS TO BE WARY OF. AND YOUR STATEMENT JUST PROVED IT.
or how do I (since your comment condemning "his followers that totally awe me with thier arrogence," awe you with my arogance or diminish what Christ said?
IF YOU CANT SEE YOURSELF AS OTHERS SEE YOU THEN , HOW CAN IT BE EXPLAINED TO YOU ? IT WONT CHANGE A THING.

And I suppose that you would make the accusation that religion, even Christian religion & followers, have been the cause of great suffering and pain in the world.
WELL YEAH !!!!!!!!!! JUST LOOK AT ITS HISTORY. THAT'S THE HIPOCRASY OF IT ALL
I don't disagree with you that people who have claimed alegiance to Christ have done horrible and despicable things.
BINGO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
! BUT ‘ LETS LOOK THE OTHER WAY” . AND PRETEND IT DIDN’T HAPPEN?????”[ THAT'S WHAT CHRISTIANS DO AS A RULE.]
However, in all fairness, even when you count the bloody history of tryanny in the Roman Catholic Church,
THAT'S FANTASTIC. YOU SEE IT YOURSELF. YOU ACKNOWLEDGE IT. AND YOU GO ON TO “ JUSTIFY IT”. HOW SICK IS THAT ?? MURDER IS MURDER. NO MATTER WHO IS DOING IT !!!!!!!!!!! HOW CAN YOU SAY IN " ALL FAIRNESS". WHAT IS " FAIR" ABOUT MURDER. ?????
it is nothing to compare with what godless men and godless regimes have done in history - even in the last 150 years. Stalin, Hitler,
BOTH THESE MEN CAME FROM RELIGIOUS BACKGROUNDS AND EVEN HITLER WAS WANTING TO BE A PRIEST. SO GO FIGURE. ! YOU JUSTIFY KILLING AND MURDER BY THOSE WHO ARE CHRISTIAN OR NOT? “ WELL [ A SCENARIO] THE CHURCH KILLED AND TORTUERED ONLY 2 MILLION PEOPLE, BUT STALIN AND HITLER ETC, TORTUERED 2 MILLION AND ONE”. THEY ARE GODLESS”. SEE HOW STUPID THAT COMES ACROSS?
THATS NOT ONLY SHORTMINDED ITS SICK!!!!!
Pol Pot, and Kim Jong-il, to name a few.
WHAT HAVE THOSE DORKS WHO WERE VERSED IN OTHER THAN CIRISTIANITY HAVE TO DO WITH THIS ? NOTHING. THEY WERE SUPPOSEDLY EDUCATED IN EASTERN PHILOSOPHY.
Christ will not judge people on a standard of who thought He was great or not, but on a standard of righteousness.
OH GOOD GRIEF. . THAT IS SUCH [ ANOTHER] SWEEPING SELF RIGHTEOUS ROMANTIC GENERALIZATION THAT REEKS OF BRAINWASHING IF THERE EVER WAS STATEMENT.
AND WHOSE STANDARD OF “ RIGHTEOUSNESS”? YOURS? OR WHAT SOMEONE TELLS YOU ? [ PROBABLY THE LATTER] WHO ARE YOU AND WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE “ ABSOLUTE “ ON WHAT IS RIGHTEOUSNESS? THAT IS THE ESSENCE OF SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND EGO MANIA IF THERE EVER ONE STATEMENT TO BE READ.
Examine yourself next to the 10 commandments: have you stolen (anything), have you ever lied, have you ever looked with lust, have you ever covetted, have you always put God as 1st priority? Answering these questions honestly will show you your condemnation before God (as it shows the same answer to every man, woman, and child who has ever lived - except Christ Himself), and only then can you see and understand God's grace in offering salvation through Jesus Christ that is totally of grace (not of works) and obtained through true repentance and faith.
THE ONLY WAY THESE QUESTIONS CAN BE ANSWERED HONESTLY IS IF THEY MEET YOUR APPROVAL AND NO ONE ELSE'S. . IT’S A COP OUT. HOW STUPID DO YOU THINK PEOPLE ARE? THERE ARE BILLIONS OF PEOPLE WHO NEVER HEARD OF THE” COMMANDMENTS” AND HAVE A TRULY LOVING AND INTERNAL RELATIONSHIP WITH WHAT THEY CALL GOD. ITS CALLED COMMON SENSE!!!!!!!!!! ITS NOT ONLY ARROGANT [ ANOTHER Christian TRAIT] OF YOU TO THINK THAT PEOPLE DON’T USE THEIR BRAINS TO FIGURE OUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD AND BAD [ AND ONLY “ CHRISTIANS” CAN DO THAT ]. . IT SEEMS A B IT DOWNRIGHT SELFISH AND CONTROLLING OF YOU [ THAT'S VERY Christian ALSO BY THE WAY]. TO MAKE IT A PRESENTATION AS YOUR WAY IS THE ONLY WAY TO THINK BECAUSE PROBABLY SOMEWHERE ALONG THE ROAD YOU NEEDED TO BE BRAINWASHED IN TO SPIRITUALITY TO CONFIRM YOUR OWN EXISTENCE WHICH HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE GREATNESS OF GOD.

may God grant you grace.
THANK YOU . NOT ONLY HAS HE GRANTED ME GRACE, BUT PEACE, AND THE ABILITY TO SEE THROUGH “ FALSE PROPHETS”. ITS CALLED KNOWLEDGE. WHICH IS THE DIVINE LUMINOUS WISDOM THAT DISPELS THE DARKNESS. NOT A BOOK OF FABLES AND MYTHS CALLED THE BIBLE WHICH IS RIFE WITH MURDER AND INCEST, LIES AND CONTRADICTIONS AND DECEIT.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
12/31/2006 11:23:00 AM

St. Michael the Archangel said...

EJ,

I rarely come by your blog anymore.. but I have to say... this guy is freakin annoying, don't listen to him or let his words bother you... he's a moron.

Pastor Steve Lamm said...

EJ,

I loved your post, especially the conversation with your son. It recalled to me the many times that my wife and I had such talks with our own kids, though you have dug deeper with your son at a younger age than we did.

This will pay off for you and your wife when you have the joy of watching your children grow to be godly people, marry and have children and then pass the truth o to your grandkids.

If I can have your permission, I would like to link to this on my church website as an example of how to train children to know the Word.

Blessings,
Steve Lamm

EJ said...

Pastor Steve, by all means go ahead and use the post.

It is a blessing and a privilege to teach my son. It is challenging, but, Lord willing, it will show as being worth it as my son not only confesses his faith, but also bears fruit keeping with repentance throughout his life.

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