Raise Your Little Ones in the Holy Spirit
Story time happens with my five and a half year old, Norah, as she settles into bed; we read a Bible story each night. One night, the story was about the Holy Spirit. Her inquisitive little mind stopped me; she wanted to receive Jesus into her heart. I hesitantly entertained the conversation with her, but to my surprise, she reciprocated the gospel with precision and clarity insisting on trusting in Jesus. I affirmed her confession and prayed for God to nurture her belief. Parents need to thoughtfully process salvation and the Christian life with their children. Here are four suggestions on nurturing faith in your child.
TEACH YOUR CHILD TO SUBMIT TO THE LORD
When is the best time to affirm your child’s confession of faith? Perhaps you wonder if they are old enough or if their faith is sincere. Scripture says that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rms. 10:13). More specifically, it says “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rms. 10:9). Comprehending and explaining the gospel is certainly necessary, but submission to Jesus as Lord is essential. When your child calls on the name of the Lord, they must trust in the gospel and submit to Jesus. Affirm and nurture your child’s confession by challenging them to remain faithful to the Lord. Authentic faith is proven over time by a lasting faithfulness to Christ because “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jms. 2:17). Therefore, evidence of an authentic faith and salvation experience is the perseverance of a believer in faith.
TEACH YOUR CHILD TO DEPEND ON THE HOLY SPIRIT
A confession of faith is not once and done, rather parents must stride alongside their children as they work out their salvation. Norah conversion was more than a year ago, but she continues to show maturity and spiritual sensitivity. Paul says, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). Children may be tiny and young but are filled with the fullness of the same Holy Spirit. Just as a small heart does not intend a small faith, a small frame does not intend a small Spirit. While your child will continue to struggle with sinfulness, guide him/her in spiritual formation. Teach them to walk with Jesus by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:25), and they will be spiritually transformed.
TEACH YOUR CHILD TO DISCERN THEIR SPIRITUAL GIFTS
Children receive, not only, the same Spirit, but “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). A while back, our family ran a garage sale. Norah, my little evangelist, prepared special cards for each guest decorated with a cross. One young lady got quite a bargain when my daughter shared the gospel with her. Norah’s generosity is pure and will serve the kingdom in a mighty way if properly channeled. Help your children discern how God has gifted them for the work of His Kingdom and turn them loose.
TEACH YOUR CHILD TO GROW THEIR GIFTS
Once your child knows their gifts, they can grow them. Paul encourages Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1:6). It is important to exercise the gifts given so that they can grow. Sit down with your child and brainstorm ways they can excercise their gifts. Find space for them to use them in the church. Lead your child by helping them fan into flame their gifts using them for the work of God’s kingdom.
*You can find several lists of the spiritual gifts in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28, and Ephesians 4:11.
SHARING YOUR STORY IN LIGHT OF GOD'S STORY
Sharing your personal journey with Christ is a powerful evangelism tool in your ministry arsenal. Your story should begin and end with Christ. When I worked in a secular environment, my encounters with self-professed Christians were shocking. I met a diverse crowd spanning a multitude of faith backgrounds, but their testimonies of faith often lacked clarity and Christianity. They seemed joyful about their walks with God, but Christ was painfully absent from their journeys. When preparing to share your faith with others, consider these principles as a road map for marking out your spiritual pilgrimage.
Your Testimony is about Jesus
The terms “testimony” and “testify” are closely related. When sharing your testimony, you are really testifying about what Christ has done in your life. Your testimony should exalt Jesus! Your story is part of God’s larger story of salvation through Christ.
Your Testimony Must Point to Jesus
When sharing your testimony, point your audience to Jesus. Show them 1) what your life was like prior to Christ, 2) explain what drew you to faith in Christ, and 3) share how an intimate relationship with Jesus has transformed your life.
Overuse the Name of Jesus
You need not awkwardly interject the name of Jesus into your testimony, but unabashedly talk about Him. Christ ought to be the center of every Christian’s existence; as a result, show them the wonders of a life revolving around Jesus. Many people believe in God or gods (Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.), but the beauty of Christianity is found in God the Father sending His only son as a sacrifice for humanity (John 3:16). We are people saved by faith in Jesus.
Your Testimony is not the Gospel
The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ. It is the story of Jesus, God’s Son, who came into the world, took on the image of man, died in the place of sinful men and women, and secured salvation for all who believe. Your testimony should culminate in sharing the good news in a way that invites a response from the hearer to trust in Christ. This can include an explicit challenge to trust in Christ and verbally confess Him as Lord and Savior.
How to Tell Your Story
Begin with Your Life Prior to Christ
Good storytelling includes is personal story that speaks to the condition of the hearer. Your life experiences, although unique, have the potential to influence a diverse audience of individuals. Sin is a struggle common to all men and women, the Bible tells us (1 Corinthians 10:13). Because sin is destructive to the lives of your audience, help them understand how sin, committed by you or against you, was harmful to your life prior faith in Jesus. Be specific! There is no need to divulge sensitive, extremely graphic or inappropriate details of your personal story, but based upon your audience, share what is necessary to convince them of the destructive nature of sin. Use a sequence of short stories that are relevant to your shortcomings apart from Christ. Choose stories that were impactful and formative in directing you toward Jesus. Not all people have dramatic testimonies but this does not hinder the power of your story. It reveals God’s goodness in preventing you from certain hardships so feel free to celebrate this without bragging or minimizing the hardships of others.
Explain How This Stirred You to Faith in Jesus
Show your audience the destructive effects sin had in your life. Did it wreak havoc on your emotions, physical body, mental health, or spiritual life? Paint a vivid picture of what it was like to be separated from God and without hope. Then tell them how you were introduced to Christ. What led to your conversion? What individuals, situations, or circumstances were influential in your coming to faith?
Your Conversion is the Climax of Your Story
Use this opportunity to show how Christ met your needs, spiritual and physical, freeing you from the crippling power of sin. This is the moment when Jesus claims victory in your heart and your soul is saved. Help your audience realize that their quality of life suffers without Jesus; use your own experiences to illustrate this. At this point, it is important to note that every Christian, churched or unchurched, has a moment when they embrace faith for themselves; being raised in church by Godly parents is not conversion. When did your faith in Jesus become your own?
Show how Christ Renews your Life with His Power
Now you will want to communicate that Christ’s work is not done after conversion. Help them see how God, through Jesus and His indwelling Holy Spirit, continues the transform your life through His word, service in the church, and a personal relationship with Him. This is also the time to share how God is actively healing old wounds and sustaining you in hardship, trials, and temptations today.
Invites People to Respond in Faith to Jesus
Now that you have illustrated the beautiful work of Christ in your life, give them the chance to reflect and respond. Call them to faith in Jesus; invite them to receive or reject Christ. Remind them that he is accessible and willing to forgive any and all repentant sinners. Note, too, that one cannot “clean up” their lives prior to faith in Jesus; it is Jesus who cleans up one’s life after conversion. Explain that all they can do is 1) put their trust in Jesus, 2) submit to His will, 3) align their life and values with His, and 4) follow him.
3 Thoughts on Discerning God's Truth
The Letter to the Colossians always forces me to reevaluate my walk with Jesus in society the bombards us with competing messages, ideas, beliefs and philosophies. Paul is writing to a church that is being taught some strange beliefs by false teachers. They are being taught “hollow and deceptive philosophies” (Colossians 2:8), but Paul encourages them to “just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7). Here are three thoughts on discerning God’s truth in a culture of lies.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” ~Colossians 3:1-4
Seek the Things of Christ
Paul reminds our Colossian friends that they have indeed been raised to new life with Jesus through their faith. This reminder is followed by the command to set their hearts on the heavenly things of Christ. Christians must always be turning their eyes to the heavenly wisdom and truth that is found in Christ. He tells the Colossians that in Jesus “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Therefore, if Christ is in essence wisdom and knowledge, we turn to Jesus and set our minds on His truth when we are lacking wisdom. So, in faith, daily seek the wisdom and knowledge of Jesus which will lead to spiritual growth.
Set Your Mind on the Things of Christ
Paul doubles down on the need to set our minds on the things of Christ in the next verse. Our beliefs are tightly woven into our hearts and minds; therefore, the way we think will influence what we believe and the way we live. In addition to setting our minds on the things of Christ, we are reject the earthly lies that present themselves as wisdom and truth. As we seek and set our minds on the things of Christ found in Scripture, we will learn to discern what is true and what is false.
Be Hidden in Christ Your Life
Finally, Paul concludes saying that our lives, as followers raised with Jesus, are hidden in Christ. While this is an abstract idea, it means that we are now aligned with the truth of Jesus. Any truth that is contrary to the truth of the Gospel is to be rejected for the genuine teaching of the Bible. While our theologies are never perfect in this life, we strive to grow in our knowledge and will some day be made perfect when we appear with him in glory. So I encourage you as we patiently journey through this life, seek and set your hearts and minds on the things of Jesus!