A Review of The Gospel Made Clear to Children by Jonathan Murdock
Every Christian parent has the same struggle. We all want to know that we are doing right in the evangelization of our children. This seems, at the onset, to be easy and something that should come natural to us; however, in the trenches of life, the deeper struggle is revealed. The questions we ask are “How can I share the gospel properly with my children in a way which is clear and uncompromised?” or “Have I shared enough?” or “Was I clear enough?” Sometimes introspective answer to these questions may lead to discouragement and feelings of failure. I often find myself in this place thinking, I’m a pastor! This is what I do! Why is this so difficult?
We must realize that this line of thinking originates from an erroneous understanding of what we are responsible for doing. There is a sense as parents that we attempt to produce faith in our children by means of “effectually” presenting the truths of the gospel. We must understand that this is an impossibility! Only the regenerating work of the Spirit can do that. It is in this error we imagine that if we can just find the right resource or methodology, we can generate faith in their hearts. That resource does not exist! No method of family worship will ensure the repentance and salvation of our children.
As parents, we must rightly understand our God-given call to instruct our children in the gospel. We are responsible for leading them to a cognitive knowledge of the gospel truths through the Scriptures. Then we must rely solely upon the Holy Spirit to work through those truths to change their hearts as He sees fit.
A couple of months ago, my family came across the book The Gospel Made Clear to Children by Jennifer Adams. As we were going through this book in our family devotion time, I was reminded of a story of Spurgeon. He was set to preach a sermon, and the train was late, so his grandfather stood up to preach in his place. When Spurgeon walked in, His grandfather acknowledged, “You have all come to hear my dear grandson, and therefore, I will stop that you may hear him. He may preach the gospel better than I can, but he cannot preach a better gospel. Can you, Charles?” Spurgeon wrote about that instance, saying, “So it is, brethren: others may break the bread to more people, but they cannot break better bread than the gospel which you teach, for that is bread from our Saviour’s own hand.”
The Gospel Made Clear to Children does not attempt to teach a better gospel. It does not seek to provide the right methodology. However, it does take the gospel and present the deep truths of Scripture in clear, systematic, and practical ways. It is structured to facilitate great conversations with our children that help build the confidence of parents so they can clearly see that the gospel is for our children.
One of the best conversations I have had with my two boys, Iain (7) and Christopher (4), came as we read and concluded chapter 6, “A Shocking Provision.” This is a beautiful chapter on the righteous justice of God due to deserving sinners and His gracious provision in Christ. We were able to discuss, with Iain and Christopher fully understanding, our sin and how God, outside of Christ, will not clear the guilty. The next day we were at the birthday party of a child in our church, where the young children were playing basketball on the side of the house. A member from our church came and told me they needed to show me something. As we rounded the corner to where the children were playing, I see Christopher holding the ball and accusing the other child of cheating. He explained, “Cheating is sin, and God is going to judge you for it. You need to repent and believe in Jesus. I am not giving you the ball back until you repent!” While this was amusing and caused us to laugh (we, of course, had to explain that the right way to evangelize is not withholding the basketball), it was heartwarming for me, as a parent, to know that the gospel was consuming the thoughts of my four-year-old. The truths of the gospel read about in The Gospel Made Clear to Children the night before (justice, love, and grace available only in the provision of Christ) and the discussion that ensued was recalled in Christopher’s little mind when he witnessed injustice in a children’s game. The glorious truths of the gospel condescended to his level were left echoing in his mind.
It is true, we cannot cause our children to believe, but we can fill their minds with the deep and faithful truths of the gospel, and we can do so in such a way that they can understand them. Our children do not have to attain a cognitive knowledge of supralapsarianism to believe the gospel, but they must understand, even if it’s only a four-year-old level of comprehension, substitutionary atonement. Jennifer Adams, in The Gospel Made Clear to Children, does exactly what she set out to do. She has aided parents by simplifying profound gospel theology so we can effectively communicate them to our children.
This book is saturated with the Scriptures and has been a great blessing to my family. Reading it as a family has provoked some of the most profound gospel conversations I have had with my boys. This is the heart of the responsibility we have as parents: to faithfully teach the gospel to our children. I look forward to going through this book with my boys again and again. I highly recommend for all Christian parents to use it as well.
Jonathan Murdock is husband to Ivonne and father to Iain and Christopher. He is the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, a bilingual particular Baptist congregation, in Port Arthur, TX. Jonathan was a missionary/church planter in Mexico City for almost ten years before moving to Port Arthur.