Repost: Why Catechize?

I originally posted this article back in February of 2013. In discussing catechesis with my wife tonight, I went in search for it. After reading it, I decided it was worth a repost. I hope you find it helpful.

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It has been such a blessing for our family to catechize our daughter. My wife and I use The Baptist Catechism, but my four-year-old and the children’s ministry at our church use the more basic Catechism for Boys and Girls. Every night we get together as a family to pray, sing hymns, and read God’s word. Of course, we haven’t always been able to do this perfectly, but it has become a fairly regular expectation for my family. When we gather together at night to have family worship, we also spend some time catechizing our daughter and one another. We even let our daughter ask us questions from The Baptist Catechism. She loves it. So, today, I was thinking about the benefits of catechesis and thought I’d simply blog about it.

Some Benefits of Catechesis:

  • It helps us to make sense of the things we are reading regularly in Scripture. We should not simply be concerned that our families understand what the texts say in their immediate contexts, but what the Bible as a whole has to say on various topics. If we simply focused in on the immediate contexts of certain texts, we would never arrive at a full-fledged understanding of even the essentials of Christianity such as the Trinity, Justification by Faith Alone, and the Hypostatic Union.
  • It helps us to set a context for making sense of the gospel. When children have a big picture understanding of the teachings of Scripture, they can better understand not only the truths of the gospel, but also the importance of those truths to their everyday lives. The Bible’s claims make the most sense from within a biblical worldview. It is this worldview that catechetical parents hope to instill in their kids.
  • It provides us with healthy opportunities for daily, intentional interaction with our kids. Our kids crave and long for our attention. When we catechize them, we are providing them with an opportunity (scripted, but an opportunity nonetheless) to interact with their parents in a way that few other things do. They have a sense of accomplishment and, more importantly, they bond with their parents.
  • It provides us with the opportunity to pass on our worldview and subsequent values to our children. The influences in our society are plenty which compete for our children’s affections. Catechisms are an invaluable tool for ensuring that our children are immersed in a biblical worldview on a daily basis.

This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list. I’m sure there are many benefits I have yet to consider, but I think these are sufficient for whetting our appetites for catechizing our children. I pray this has been an encouragement for you in your endeavors to raise your children in the fear and the admonition of the Lord.

“Yes, child, if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ you will be saved.”

Since I’m not watching the World Cup and just watching my Texas Rangers continue to struggle with injuries (it is still baseball season. I don’t know what I will be watching in October.), I wanted to say I just read Mark Jones’ latest blog post over at Reformation21. He asked “If you are a Christian parent with young children, do you consider your children to be Christians?” My initial answer is no. But then my second answer would be, “Can they and have they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for justification?” Let me say at the outset I am a Reformed Baptist.

I do not hold to an age of accountability, yet I find it hard to believe that my 7 month old child could grasp and comprehend her sinfulness and my plea for her to believe and trust in the Lord Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, or to be as believing Thomas when he said upon seeing Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” That would be the simplest belief one would need to state in order to be saved.  I know my daughter cannot say this and believe with any assurance at this point in her life, yet even now I call on her to repent. This is mostly so that I will be in the habit of leading her to Christ, and also to cultivate this in her from a very early age. Pastor Jones also states that when thinking about this issue the Presbyterians were “judging this to the terms of the covenant.” Again, as a Reformed Baptist, I whole heartedly agree. So I must ask the question: “Which covenant?” Jeremiah 31:31-34 says:

31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (NASB).

The New Covenant in the blood of Christ says that God will be their God and they shall be my people. They will not teach…each man…to know the Lord, for they will all know Me…” This tells us that there will not be a mixed people. We shall not have to teach those in the covenant to know the Lord. They will know the Lord and be part of His covenant people. This is the foundation of the New Covenant. The Covenant promises will be found in those who have God’s law written on their heart because their sin is forgiven and not remembered for it was nailed to the cross of Christ. Knowing this, we can now answer Pastor Jones questions. He asks 5:

When my children sin and ask forgiveness from God, can I assure them that their sins are forgiven?”

Yes, the same way you would with an adult. Our justification is in Christ alone. Those who had the faith of Abraham are the ones who are the children of Abraham. Chapter 14, paragraph 2 from the Second London Confession quoting the Westminster states of the grace of saving faith the following, “By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself…acteth differently, upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come: But the principal acts of Saving Faith have immediate relation to Christ, accepting, receving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life by virtue of the covenant of grace(italics are my emphasis and bold is added in the Baptist Confession).” If your child can believe in Jesus Christ for justification, sanctification and eternal life then you can tell them their sins are forgiven. When can they believe this? The earlier the better, and all Christians have the solemn obligation and command to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

When I ask my children to obey me in the Lord should I get rid of the indicative-imperative model for Christian ethics? On what grounds do I ask my three-year old son to forgive his twin brother? Because it is the nice thing to do? Or because we should forgive in the same way Christ has forgiven us?”

No. We instruct our children to “forgive us our debts as we forgive others.” Our forgiving others is to be based on the forgiveness found in the Lord Jesus Christ. All of this is a tool to evangelize our children. The way our children treat their siblings is an opportunity to show how we are rebel children in Adam and that reconciliation with God means reconciliation in our elder brother Jesus. Only when we have true forgiveness can we forgive others. We must tell our children to come to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ and only then can we forgive in the same way God has forgiven us.

Can my children sing ‘Jesus loves me, this I know’ and enjoy all of the benefits spoken of in that song? (‘To him belong…He will wash away my sin’)”

No. Unless they trust in Christ alone for the receiving of those benefits. Chapter 11 in the Second London Confession and the Westminster: “Those whom God effectually called, He also freely justifieth, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness, but by imputing Christ’s active obedience unto the whole Law, and passive obedience in His death, for their whole and sole righteousness, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God (bold section added by Savoy and Second London Confessions).” We should teach them the song, but they can only sing it with a true, saving faith when they’re resting on Christ alone.

When my children pray during family worship to their heavenly Father, what are the grounds for them praying such a prayer? Do they have any right to call God their ‘heavenly Father’? Do non-Christians cry ‘Abba, Father’ (Rom. 8:15)?”

Here is how one has the grounds to call out to the heavenly Father: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13; NASB). We must evangelize our children and yet instruct them to pray as Jesus instructs people to pray. One need only be born again to have the right to call God Heavenly Father. All people have an interest and command in calling out to God as He has revealed Himself. The only way one has the right if He has been born again.

Should I desire that my children have a “boring” testimony? (Though a testimony to God’s covenant promises can never be boring, of course). Is it not enough for them to simply say each day that they trust in Christ alone for their salvation?”

The only desire a parent should have regarding the testimony of our children is that they know God and are known by Him. This comes from an effectual call to God’s elect in Christ in the Covenant of Grace who receive and rest upon Christ alone whereby they become children of the Heavenly Father and can only then have   assurance by loving Him and keeping His commandments.

Thank you Pastor Jones for asking these questions. Even as a Baptist I ask these questions. On the judgment of charity, I call upon my child (Lord willing my wife and I may be able to say children) to call upon the Lord Jesus Christ as Peter did to those who heard him preach and they will be saved and can sing and know for sure “Jesus loves me.” We both have become convinced of this position because we believe “for the Bible tells me so. We are weak and He is strong.” I’m thankful for your work. I don’t consider myself wiser than you. I am simply answering as a convinced Reformed Baptist how I deal with these questions. We still are brothers in Christ and long for the day when all is set right and we know finally who belongs to the Lord. Until that day, Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus Come!

(In case all have forgotten, it is baseball season. I’ll be watching my Texas Rangers until the end of September. October looks like it may be out of sight.)

Why Catechize?

It has been such a blessing for our family to catechize our daughter. My wife and I use The Baptist Catechism, but my four-year-old and the children’s ministry at our church use the more basic Catechism for Boys and Girls. Every night we get together as a family to pray, sing hymns, and read God’s word. Of course, we haven’t always been able to do this perfectly, but it has become a fairly regular expectation for my family. When we gather together at night to have family worship, we also spend some time catechizing our daughter and one another. We even let our daughter ask us questions from The Baptist Catechism. She loves it. So, today, I was thinking about the benefits of catechesis and thought I’d simply blog about it.

Some Benefits of Catechesis:

  • It helps us to make sense of the things we are reading regularly in Scripture. We should not simply be concerned that our families understand what the texts say in their immediate contexts, but what the Bible as a whole has to say on various topics. If we simply focused in on the immediate contexts of certain texts, we would never arrive at a full-fledged understanding of even the essentials of Christianity such as the Trinity, Justification by Faith Alone, and the Hypostatic Union.
  • It helps us to set a context for making sense of the gospel. When children have a big picture understanding of the teachings of Scripture, they can better understand not only the truths of the gospel, but also the importance of those truths to their everyday lives. The Bible’s claims make the most sense from within a biblical worldview. It is this worldview that catechetical parents hope to instill in their kids.
  • It provides us with healthy opportunities for daily, intentional interaction with our kids. Our kids crave and long for our attention. When we catechize them, we are providing them with an opportunity (scripted, but an opportunity nonetheless) to interact with their parents in a way that few other things do. They have a sense of accomplishment and, more importantly, they bond with their parents.
  • It provides us with the opportunity to pass on our worldview and subsequent values to our children. The influences in our society are plenty which compete for our children’s affections. Catechisms are an invaluable tool for ensuring that our children are immersed in a biblical worldview on a daily basis.

This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list. I’m sure there are many benefits I have yet to consider, but I think these are sufficient for whetting our appetites for catechizing our children. I pray this has been an encouragement for you in your endeavors to raise your children in the fear and the admonition of the Lord.

Know the Word of God

(Note: These are my modified notes from this past week‘s Kids’ Catechesis lesson at SJCC)

Q.112: How do we know the Word of God?

A. We are commanded to hear, read, and search the Scriptures.

2Timothy 3:14-17; Acts 17:11; 1Timothy 4:13

Memorize Scripture

2Timothy 3:14-17

14You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (NASB).

Paul’s disciple Timothy had a godly mother and grandmother who cared for him enough to teach him what the Bible said (2Timothy 1:5; 3:15). At that time, the only Scripture they had available to them was the Old Testament, but Timothy was taught from the Old Testament nonetheless. His mother and grandmother read to him and probably had him memorize large portions of Scripture, much like how we have our children memorize things like the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23.

Why do we have our children memorize Scripture? We have them memorize Scripture so that they can have it in their minds and in their hearts for when they need it most. “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11; NASB). When we are confronted with temptation, it is good for us to have memorized the word of God so that we can remember it and not sin.

When Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, Satan tried to convince Jesus to do what he wanted Him to do by quoting improperly interpreted Scripture to Him. Jesus, having memorized Scripture Himself, was able to respond with correctly interpreted Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11). If we want to be like Jesus and not sin, we need to treasure God’s word in our hearts. We need to memorize Scripture.

Search Scripture

Timothy’s mother and grandmother likely used other methods to train him in the word. It is likely that he was shown how to search the Scriptures to see if the things he was being taught were true. After all, Paul wrote to him: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2Timothy 3:16-17; NASB). Timothy needed to know how to search “all Scripture.” We also have other examples of godly men and women searching the Scriptures to see if they were being taught truth.

Acts 17:11

Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (NASB).

The church at Berea were considered “noble-minded” by Luke, the author of Acts, because “they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether [the things the apostles were teaching them] were so.” No one is expected to just take the teachings of a man at face-value. We must believe only those religious teachings that line up with the word of God. If it does not line up with God’s word, it is not true.

Why do we need to test truth claims with the Bible? God’s word is the final authority on all matters to do with faith and obedience (LBCF 1677/1689, Chapter 1, Paragraph 1). If we want to know what we should believe about God, the Christian life, and the church, we must read the Bible. If we want to know how to obey God and glorify Him, we must read the Bible. This does not mean we cannot trust what men say about God to be true, but God expects us to take what we learn about Him from men and compare it to the Bible to make sure it is the truth.

Read Scripture

Of course, Timothy could not have learned to search the Scriptures if he had not first read Scripture. Many of our children are learning to read. But do we know why we have historically placed such an emphasis on literacy in Western societies? In the 16th century, a man named Martin Luther translated the New Testament into the language of his people. It was the first time since the Latin Vulgate, at the beginning of the Middle Ages, that the entire New Testament had been translated into the common language.

Luther was so eager to see how the people of his country were learning from this New Testament that he went on a tour of his native Saxony. To his surprise, most of them had not even begun to read his translation of the New Testament. The reason: most of the people of Saxony could not read! Appalled, Luther wrote to the princes of Saxony and told them that they had a duty to God to educate the people so that they could read God’s word. This was the beginning of the modern education movement. We need to learn to read so that we can read God’s word.

It’s not just important that we learn how to read God’s word. It’s important that we start to read it regularly. Our church has started a Bible reading campaign this year and many of our members are taking part in it. We are encouraging parents to read the Bible with their families every night. Each of our members is encouraged, regardless of the reading plan they use, to “cherish the word of God,” “teach [their] children the word of God,” and “engage in regular Bible reading.” It is very important that we read the Bible regularly.

Hear Scripture

1Timothy 4:13

Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (NASB).

Even if our children can’t read, yet, or if they can’t read well, they can still hear the word of God. They can hear the word of God in their homes, they can recite to themselves the passages we have them memorize, and they can sit under the preached word at church. At SJCC, when our pastor gets up to preach, we read a passage of the Bible, first. Then, he explains what we’ve just read. This is a perfect time for our children to hear the word of God.

Also, as their parents, we all know how to read and yet we come every week to hear the word of God. Why do we come to hear the word of God preached if we can just read it? God speaks to us in a special way when we come to hear His word proclaimed on the Lord’s Day. It is very important that we be attentive in these times. We can listen, take notes, and discuss our families’ questions about the sermon when we get home. These things are very important for our relationships with God. As we grow in our knowledge of God, we will grow in our relationship with Him, too.

Meditate on Scripture

Psalm 1:2

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

And in His law he meditates day and night.” (NASB).

According to Psalm 1, the righteous man meditates on God’s law day and night. If we want to be like the righteous man, we ought to meditate on God’s law ourselves. The Scripture we memorize, the Scripture we search, the Scripture we read, and the Scripture we hear… upon these things we are called to meditate day and night.

In meditating on God’s word, we will have effectively stored it up as treasure in our hearts. We will find ourselves thinking about, talking about, and even singing about God’s word throughout the day. As we learn to think, speak, and do the things written in God’s word, we will draw closer to Him and be less and less inclined toward sin. These are the things Paul wanted Timothy to dwell on as he ministered to the church of God at Ephesus.

Read the Entire Bible This Year

Next Tuesday is January 1, 2013, the dawning of a new year. To mark the occasion, and to encourage our members to be in the Word, Sovereign Joy will begin facilitating a group on Sundays at 1:00pm.

We will start meeting this Sunday, 30 December, in the conference room at the end of the North hallway of Grace Church. The group will meet for 30 minutes a week and will end promptly at 1:30pm so that members will not be discouraged from attending the 1:30 prayer meeting.

We will be following Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Bible Reading Plan. If you are unable to attend, you can follow us at this Facebook group. We hope to see you all there.”

Read the rest here.