One of the great battles of the Christian life is to get our eyes off ourselves. How long do you and I go without thinking about our personal interests, ambitions, feelings, desires, likes, dislikes, loves, hates, work, hobbies, food preferences, clothing, vacations, relaxation and a hundred other things concerning ourselves? Probably not very long, which makes John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, a great curiosity for us. John knew that he must decrease and Jesus Christ must increase (John 3:30).
The same is true for us—we must press on to know the Lord (Hosea 6:3). We need to get caught up in the grandeur and glory of God like a moth flying towards the sun. Then God will appear to us as He truly is—infinitely big. Lucy experienced something like this when she peered into the face of Aslan.
“Welcome, child,” he said.
“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
(C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian, Harper Collins, 141)
John described himself as a “voice,” preparing the way of the Lord (John 1:23). When questioned, he always pointed away from himself to Jesus. He didn’t concern himself with what others thought about the way he dressed or ate or conducted himself. He was conscious of Jesus’s greatness, worthiness, and glory, and that is the only way any of us will concern ourselves with the lost condition of our neighbors here and abroad who need the Good News of the Gospel. If our own needs and desires dominate our thinking, our neighbor’s needs will escape notice. The truth is that God has promised to meet all of our needs (Philippians 4:19), so we are now free to love and focus on the needs of our neighbor, especially his or her spiritual needs.
John pointed to Jesus as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).” Every man or woman who heard John would have perked up and listened at this point. His hearers knew all about sacrificial lambs. They celebrated the Passover every year, remembering the visual theology of painted blood on the doorpost (Exodus 12:7). They offered perfect lambs at the Temple as sacrifices for their own sin.
With that as a backdrop, teaching John 1 to children provides an opportunity to focus on the greatness of Jesus Christ as the Savior sent from God. This lesson is a joy to teach because it is the Gospel of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Shorter Catechism questions 86 – 87 are helpful in explaining faith and repentance to your students. Remember, repentance and faith always go together.
Q. 86. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.
Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.
Starr Meade has written a wonderful family devotional book, Training Hearts, Teaching Minds, on the Shorter Catechism that works well for Sunday School or catechism classes. Regarding faith, Meade writes:
If I were starving to death, someone might offer me food. I would reach out with my hand to take the food I was being given. My hand would not save me from starving; the food would save me. My hand is just what I use to accept the food that is being given to me. That is what faith is like. The faith does not save us; what Christ did for us saves us. The faith is what we use to reach out and take what Christ did for us and make its ours.
With younger children, you may like to use some artificial or play fruit to teach the concept of faith.
Sunday School Craft