A few months ago I shared on Instagram that we don’t teach our children a gospel message using language like, “Ask Jesus into your heart and…” Many questions arose from what I shared and I want a permanent place to store this information! I think more parents (and pastors) are moving toward clarity in the gospel message, and as we do, I hope this post serves as a jumping-off point for prayerful discussion.
Before I share what we do I want to be clear: many of my readers came to Christ through the “ask Jesus” model. This post isn’t meant to incite doubt about your salvation or question its authenticity. I am pretty sure the “ask Jesus” model was used in my own journey toward Christ. But I think – if we’re honest – there are a lot MORE people who were confused by this language. The “gospel” presented to them wasn’t compelling or convincing, or if it was, the motivation was a fear of hell instead of a love for Jesus.
When we know better, we do better. Even if we were brought to Christ through an imperfect gospel message, we can do better for our own kids (and the people we disciple in our communities) by pursuing Biblical clarity and better verbiage when describing the gospel and what it does.
How We Present the Gospel Matters
The Hebrew word for heart implies more than just emotions – it indicates intellect and will. The Bible’s use of “heart” reflected the holistic person, the center of one’s being. When used in this sense, “asking Jesus into your heart” is intended to mean “ask Jesus to be the center of your being”. But as culture has changed the meaning of “heart”, this phrase takes on new meaning. In 2021 our hearts are emotion-driven. We’re told by Disney to “follow our hearts” and to be led by what we feel. We can’t ignore the cultural meaning of “heart” when presenting the gospel because these cultural ideas affect how hearers interpret our words.
The other issue with the “ask Jesus” model is the power it places in the hands of the listener. It creates a Jesus who is passively waiting to be invited into the lives of the people rather than His active pursuit of them through the Holy Spirit, as Scripture indicates (1 John 4, Romans 5, Psalm 139:16-17, Jer. 29:11-13).
Centering the Kingship of Jesus
What is the center of the gospel? Is it our feelings about Jesus? Is it our idea of when and how to pursue Him? Most of us would agree the answer is no, and yet we still present the gospel to our kids (and to other unbelievers) with this kind of language. If we want to set our people up for a robust understanding of what it means to be a disciple, we need to present the gospel the way the Bible does – with the kingship of Jesus at the center.
The word for faith in the New Testament is “pistis”. Many of us think of faith as a vague, mental assent to God’s existence. But James condemns this idea of faith in James 2:19: “You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder!” James’ point is that faith is more than a mental-spiritual belief. It is a life-transforming allegiance. I agree with scholar Matthew Bates that the usage of pistis by Jesus and the apostles strongly indicates a language of loyalty. To put faith in someone is to be loyal to their cause, to attach yourself to them, and in Jesus’ day, to submit to their leadership.
Further, the crux of the gospel is not the cross – though vital and important. It is the triumph of the resurrected and ascended Jesus, whose kingship gives us identity as adopted children, righteous saints, and victorious servants (all of Revelation speaks to this).
When we present the gospel, we must keep the kingship of Jesus center to how we speak about it. Jesus is king whether or not a person submits to Him. He is king whether we respond to the Spirit’s conviction or not. His victory is unchangeable, and we can follow the King – or we can remain apart from Him.
How We Present the Gospel to Our Kids
Now that I’ve laid out some of the basic theology for shifting away from the “ask Jesus” model, here’s how we apply that in our own family! For context, our kids are ages 7, 5, and 2. We do family discipleship daily at mealtimes and regularly converse about this topic. It’s part of our family culture. I don’t want it to seem as if presenting the gospel to your kids has to be all folded hands, felt-board stories, and serious discussion! We’ve talked about this topic in the dark at bedtime and in the car on the way to homeschool group. It’s just part of life in the Masonheimer home. Here are some of the points we emphasize:
Jesus is King no matter what. Regardless of how we feel about Jesus, He came and lived a historically proven, sinless life on earth, died a sacrificial death, and now reigns on high securing salvation for those who respond to His call. (Obviously we adjust this language for the ages of kids. Main takeaway: Jesus is King no matter how we feel about it).
Jesus calls to everyone. The Holy Spirit reaches out and gives us the opportunity to let Jesus be OUR King. Jesus is THE King, but God sovereignly gives us the choice to let Him lead us or to walk in disobedience and rebellion.
To respond to Jesus, we give Him our loyalty. Following Jesus is not about our feelings, though Jesus cares very much about those! Following Jesus is a change of allegiance from SELF to CHRIST.
If Jesus is King of our lives, we will let Him lead our feelings, actions, and choices. Our life with King Jesus makes us progressively more like Him. (He sanctifies us by the Spirit; Gal. 5)
How you will adjust this language and present the gospel to kids (or adults) will look different than how we do it, I am sure. We are trying to hit on these main points while also continuing to give biblical context through our mealtime discipleship routine.
I hope this gives some food for thought as you develop your own way of presenting a gospel that centers Jesus and the life transformation the gospel brings!
Instagram: @phyliciamasonheimer (also shared to FB)
Monday: Ask Anything on FB/IG
Tuesday: The Conlectio
Wednesday: Verity Episode: How to Walk by the Spirit
Thursday: Day in the Life
Friday: Book and product recs (IG)
Monday: Break Week
Tuesday: Homeschool Q/A
Wednesday: Farm and Nontoxic tutorials (as I can!)
What I Think About Rings of Power
This is for all you LOTR nerds. It deserves its own section.
After I lied last week about my opinions of ROP being in the newsletter (oops!!) I owe you a full treatment of my opinion of Season One. First: I think ROP will be lost on people who aren't dedicated LOTR fans and/or have read the Silmarillion, which comes before both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I have read all of Tolkien's works but it has been a while, so watching the show is exciting because 1) I don't remember all of The Silmarillion and 2) they changed portions of it for the adaptation so there's some excitement trying to figure that all out. If you aren't into LOTR lore, you might appreciate it for the cinematic aspect alone, but I would personally find it pretty hard to follow. I'm having a hard time figuring stuff out and I'm a pretty dedicated LOTR nerd.
That said, if you're a nerd like me and have seen the series, here are some quick thoughts (spoiler alert!!):
Current favorite character: Elendil, Isildur's father. I think he is well cast and also, can he be my great uncle or something? Honestly I get stronger Aragorn vibes from him than I do from Isildur.
Did not see coming: Halbrand. Maybe I'm slow on the uptick, but I kept telling Josh I thought Halbrand was one of the nine kings of Men (future Nazgul). Not surprised he lied about being king of the Southlands (though technically… now he is? lol). Galadriel didn't really fact check his claims on Numenor.
Did not like: Some of the violence mid-way through the season is nastier than in the original LOTR movies. I'm down for orc death. It's fantasy, not realistic; orcs aren't real. But I didn't enjoy how the killing of humans by Adar ?? Adah ?? - “Chief Orc” was displayed.
Love the music: I am so glad they kept some consistency with the score of the original LOTR movies. The opening credits are by Howard Shore.
My guess at “mystery man”: I feel VERY proud of myself for believing he was either Radagast or Gandalf early in the season!!! I think we're all leaning toward the latter, which would explain Gandalf's affection for hobbits in the future ages of Middle Earth.
Fun fact: My sister lives in New Zealand and was an extra during the filming of Season One, so you can actually see her in the background of Episode 7. The clearest shots are between 52:08-53:09 in the healing house (she is one of the healers).
What I'm Loving
Family Hikes: After ten days of forty degree weather, we had 35 degree shift and enjoyed 75 and sunny for the weekend! This usually doesn't happen this time of year so we took full advantage by visiting several nature preserves. Many of the pictures in this newsletter are from those adventures!
Vintage Ralph Lauren magenta sweater: I nabbed this at a local thrift store. It was a little higher price than I like to pay ($12) but it was so cute, vintage, and in my color wheel. I couldn't say no!
Speaking of sweaters… You all loved my Woolrich “sheep” sweater from stories on Thursday! I also thrifted this. Vintage Woolrich is easier to find than other high quality brands, and you can always check Poshmark too! (remember not to throw your wool in the dryer, though!)
It's Week 7 of Classical Conversations, so we are reading about pollution in our science studies and about the Reformation in history - a perfect time too, since the anniversary of the Reformation is October 31!
Our annual All Saints Day celebration on October 31 - this is our third All Saints Day celebration, this time with our small group! All the details on how we celebrate, including links to recipes, readings and even a Spotify playlist, are in this ebook (also discusses the history of Halloween).
Doubling up on math and phonics this week! One of the pros of homeschooling is the ability to take breaks whenever we need to. We won't be schooling at all the week of Verity Conference (first week of November) so we're working ahead a little this week.