Living out the gospel message in our families is not always easy, but it is the way we truly speak to our children’s hearts. I want to explore what this looks like because I do believe there is confusion in the world about what the gospel message really means and what it provides for all people. If this subject speaks to you, I’d encourage you to take time to understand some of the beauty of forgiveness through my character development series.
Living out the Gospel Message in Our Families
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Let’s unpack the term “gospel message.” There is much distortion of some of the main tenants of the Christian faith. It’s important to look at what the Bible really teaches vs. how the Bible has been distorted through sinful people.
The Distortion of the Bible Message
As I listen to people, I see that one of the main misconceptions about the Christian message is this: “Good people go to heaven. Bad people don’t.”
You don’t find this teaching in the Bible. Christianity is a unique religion in that it is the only one that teaches that favor with God is not found through works. Salvation isn’t about being good, following the rules, and checking off the t0-do list.
One super small but powerful book that tackles this issue is, “How Good is Good Enough?” For those who believe or who have friends who believe that it is all about how good we are, this is a must read.
What is the Gospel Message?
If it’s not about how good we are, what is the gospel message? This is what the Bible teaches: “None of us is ‘good,’ so we need a perfect someone to save us from our sins. This saving grace came through Jesus’ death on the cross, and is it offered as a free gift to all who accept Him, by faith.”
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God…But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:1-8
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” – Ephesians 1:7
So why the Confusion about the Gospel Message?
I want to scratch the surface with a few thoughts about why there is confusion about the gospel message.
- People Can Measure Works – Faith is an abstract concept. It feels easier to look at the outside appearance of people, and it’s human nature to think you need to do something to earn favor. That might be true with man, but the Bible says, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7
- People are Prideful – Christians should be the most humble people you know, and unfortunately this is not the case. The Bible points out our sinful nature and compares us to a perfect and holy God. There are too many Christians puffing themselves up because they see themselves as the ones who are following God’s rules rather than recognizing the sin and pride in their own hearts. Christians also forget the gospel message.
- The “Church” Has Got it Wrong – There are some churches that just get it wrong. The message is this, “If you go to church…” “If you practice confession…” “If you are baptized this way…” “If you are good…” The church forgets to put the focus on the grace and mercy of God despite our sin. It is essential to find a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church that recognizes the balance.
- It is Important to Reflect God’s Goodness – When you become a Christian, God starts to work on your heart in wanting to submit to his perfect will for your life. God offers much when you accept Him. He wants good for you – love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We experience more of these qualities through our obedience of His ways. Our purpose is to glorify God, and this does come through works. Therefore, it can become confusing to others who see Christians wanting to work to do the right thing. The message some perceive might be that they are doing the good works to gain salvation. It’s the opposite for people who understand the gospel message. Because of God’s mercy and forgiveness, I want to do well and to glorify Him. I trust that He knows more than I do, so I submit to His perfect guidance.
Living out the Gospel Message in Our Families
There was a lot to clarify before getting to the importance of living out the gospel message in our families.
Our kids often get the same message that the world does about Christianity: “Do good and you will find favor.” No! That’s not the message they should be learning from us.
In our homes, this is what we want to teach – through our marriage and through our parenting: “I love you. You are going to mess-up…over and over…but I am going to chose love and forgiveness. You can’t earn my favor. It’s a free gift.”
Do we want our kids to behave well and obey? Of course we do because we want good things for their lives, just as God wants good things for our lives. However, we don’t want our kids thinking that our love for them is dependent on their works.
My children chose to climb on the roof yesterday. They need to understand the message, “There are rules about this, not because I want to spoil all your fun but because I can see the dangers. I want the best for you. I don’t want you to live paralyzed the rest of your life.” There are ramifications for their choice to disobey. They did receive a consequence to help teach them. However, they also experienced the gospel message through this incident. We teach them to ask for forgiveness. We forgive.
Then, the kids mess up again. We teach them to ask for forgiveness, and we forgive. Over and over. This happens in marriage too. Our kids have seen us fight, but we want to make sure they see the reconciliation that comes. Mercy and grace triumph in the gospel message, and those qualities we want to be reflected that in our homes.
The sibling relationships provide many more opportunities to walk through the process of seeking and receiving forgiveness. We emphasize that it is a choice we make because love is not a feeling, it is a choice.
Are we perfect at it? No! I’ve been honest about the ways I suck at being a mom. I definitely need to work on patience and erroring on the side of grace. It’s my tendency to focus on good behavior. However, as I do it wrong, my kids get to experience living out the gospel message in their own way. I need to come to my kids and say, “I messed up. Can you forgive me.” Then, they learn to forgive…over and over.
As we teach the gospel message in our homes, our kids and the world observing from the outside, get a better glimpse into God’s relationship with us. They get to experience God’s glory by truly understanding the gospel message – transformation through grace, mercy and forgiveness, and what a beautiful message that is to share.