When you are a pastor, pressure and anxiety can come in numerous forms stemming from many varying circumstances. Preaching the funeral of an unsaved person, or delivering a sermon in front of a larger than normal audience both rank at the top of the list. Not to mention the day to day problems that may or may not arise. However, Ive recently found that one of the greatest pressures Ive had to face in my career in ministry is….wait for it….delivering a message to kids during the week of Vacation Bible School.
Some may snicker at this fear of mine. Many pastors would view the week of VBS as a place of relaxed down time on the yearly calendar. At surface level, the duties of the pastor during this week are very minimal. They usually are asked to give a very short closing sermonette on the theme verse or saying of the day that is stated in the VBS workbooks. Seems simple enough, right? Then why the pressure?
Because as preachers and teachers of the word, we always have two choices. The first choice is the most popular. That is to make the lessons as fluffy as possible. When I say this, I don’t mean relatable. I believe even the most complex truths found in scripture can be taught to children in an easy to understand manner. What I mean by fluffy is that in an attempt not to be offensive, we end up watering down the gospel. And when this happens, we paint the picture to the children that are listening that they are the apex of the Gospel story, and Jesus sort of like their biggest cheerleader or a genie in a bottle. This is the easy way.
The second choice is actually the road less taken. Because it requires more thought, and because it is anything but fluffy. The second choice is that we stand on truth. The second choice requires that we take our children out of the center of the story and place Jesus front and center. And the second choice is offensive to our flesh.
Case in point, we are in the midst of VBS week as I write this blog. We are using a great workbook to provide lessons and activities for our teachers to go by this week. Our parents and teachers are, aside from Jesus, the heroes of this week. They are outside in the hot sun playing games and teaching the Gospel to our children all week long for four to five hours a day. Our volunteers and teachers are amazing and I am so thankful for them!
My only job this week is to give the closing sermonette to the children at days end.
Each day, there is a theme statement being taught to the kids along with a Bible story that highlights that statement. Yesterdays theme statement that I had to teach is actually what prompted many of my thoughts. The theme statement yesterday that I was to each on was this; “Jesus Knows Your Worth.”
At first glance, I thought this would be easy. I would just stand in front of the kids, and I would tell them that they Jesus saw them so worthy that He gave his life for them. It sounded great. It sounded encouraging and sweet. And just as soon as the thought had entered my mind, an alarm bell went off in my soul letting me know that I was about to make a grave error. Unfortunately I was about to focus on tickling the ears instead of expounding Gospel truth. You see, the easy way would have been to elaborate to the children of their great worth to God. The harder route would be telling the truth as given in scripture.
It is absolutely true, Jesus does indeed know our worth. But this truth should humble us, not elevate us. The truth is that by nature, we are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). The truth is that because of our sin we are separated from our Holy God.
“but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” Isaiah 59:2.
And due to the fall of Adam and sin nature we inherited, we are separated in sin from the womb.
“The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.” Psalm 58:3.
The person who is apart from Christ can be a model citizen who does nothing but good works and helpful deeds, but without Jesus, he is worthless.
“And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;” Isaiah 64:6.
We have no bargaining chips with God. Apart from Christ, our worth is absolutely bankrupt. God saw nothing in us that He would send His one and only son to die in the place of wretched sinners like us. There was no redeeming qualities that we had to cause the Lord to look our way. Salvation is a sheer act of His amazing grace and mercy towards undeserved sinners like us. That is the amazing truth of the Gospel! That we have no worth before God.
But God sent His Son Jesus to die in the place of sinners so that we might have His righteousness. Jesus takes our sins upon Himself, and places His sinless, spotless record upon the believer. Therefore, when God looks upon those who are in Christ, He sees no worth innately within the person. Rather, when God looks on a justified sinner, He sees not the sin, but the blood of His son covering that sinner.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
It’s not merely that Jesus knows our worth. Because again, we have no worth to boast of in and of ourselves. Rather, Jesus IS OUR WORTH!! It is Jesus who cleanses our wicked hearts and makes us a new creation that is WORTHY of right standing before our Holy God!
Lets go back to our two choices in presenting to children the statement, “Jesus is our Worth.” The first choice is to tell our children that God saw something worthy in them, and therefore just had to have them because of their great value. This sounds nice, but it actually steals glory from God and places that Glory upon us.
The second choice is to paint the picture of the Biblical far-reaching consequences of sin, and how due to our rebellious nature we are rightly criminals before God with no worth within ourselves. Yet in our spiritually dead and worthless state, God made a way to justify sinners through the sacrifice of His son Jesus.
God doesn’t save sinners because of the great worth in us. God saves sinners IN SPITE of the lack of worth in us. God didn’t save us because we are so great. He saves sinners because he is so great. His own grace and mercy were the only catalysts for God choosing to save spiritually dead sinners like us.
And this great truth not only humbles, but it rightly teaches our children to ascribe endless thankfulness, praise, and Glory to our Lord Jesus Christ! By taking them off the throne, we show them Jesus truly as Lord of all! This creates a yearning and desire within them for the worthiness that only Christ can bring! And it magnifies the amazing grace of God, that saved not a worthy man, but a wretch like me. Soli Deo Gloria!
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.b But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” Ephesians 2:1-5.