The fellowship hall that once overflowed with the shouts of children is now quiet and empty. The decorations that gleamed and sparkled have been packed away. All the songs have been sung, crafts assembled, and snacks devoured. Most importantly, the good news of the gospel has been told. Our work is now done. We can only trust the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit to convict, transform, and encourage the children in their journey of faith in Christ. Will they trust the promise of the gospel in Christ or will they believe the fleeting promises of this world?
It is my sincere prayer for each child, teen, and adult who took part in VBS will trust the gospel; some for the first time and others anew and afresh. The call of Christ that beckons all people to, “…repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15) To ‘believe’ the gospel is not to simply give intellectual ascent to propositional truths but it is a deep and genuine trust. A conviction that echoes the confession of Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” (John 6:68).
The children have heard the call of the gospel this week.
The gospel that declares that there is a God who is holy. The one true God who alone is the source of all that is good, beautiful, and true and ‘in [God’s] presence there is fullness of joy;… and pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). Yet mankind has trusted the whispers of the serpent who questioned the character, love, and provision of God when it asked, ‘Did God actually say?…” Gen 3:1 Rather than trusting the love and wisdom of God we trust what our eyes can perceive and our hands can touch. We have shaken our puny fists at the maker of heaven and earth and declared, “I don’t trust you. I don’t want you in charge. I know what is best for me!” Adam’s rebellion that plunged our race into misery, pain, and death has been perpetuated by generation, after generation, after generation, for ‘all have sinned…” Romans 3:23. Sin continues to poison our hearts, destroy our bodies, corrupt our societies, and fracture our relationships. Yet is the lament of the prophet Isaiah that reveals the most devastating effect of man’s rebellion, “…your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” Isaiah 59:2. Though the sin of man was great the love of God is greater. God was not content to leave us in the deserved darkness of judgment but to send his only son, Jesus Christ in order ‘that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17-18). Jesus loved the Lord with all his heart, soul, and might and loved his neighbor as himself. He was perfectly righteous. Yet in self-sacrificial love he laid down his life on the cross to ‘suffer once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Three days later he was, ‘raised [from the dead] for our justification.” This incredible promise is available to all who respond, not by works that prove our worth, but by faith alone that trusts the completed work of Christ who declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Faith that trusts the promise of the gospel that declares, “Jesus took my punishment on the cross and gave me his righteousness so I can live forever with God.” Faith that turns away from cherished sin in repentance and turns to the rule of Christ in thankful obedience. Faith that no longer cherishes sin but cherishes Christ. Faith that seeks forgiveness, confesses our need for Christ, and follows Christ in baptism. This is the call of the gospel.
There are no numbers that we will prove the effectiveness of VBS this week. Numbers cannot measure the impact on eternity that these past five days have wrought… but we have glimpses.
During the gospel presentation a three-year old boy turned to his leader and said, “I want Jesus to be in charge of my life.” May that confession be strong when he is tempted by his peers to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh and when the world calls him a fool for trusting Christ.
Another boy came to me after the lesson and confessed, “I trust in Jesus!” I pray that his bold proclamation continues when he is twenty, forty, and sixty years old.
May we soon rejoice to witness the baptisms of the children who trust Christ and follow Christ’s call to follow him through the waters of baptism that was reiterated at VBS.
May the children who didn't seem to be paying attention, the ones who were surely, and the ones who didn't want to be there come to know the truth of the promise of the gospel through brief moments of truth that penetrated their staunch defenses and distracted minds. The Spirit of God has changed the hearts of much stauncher opponents of the gospel (e.g. Saul). May it also be in our church!
May the teen workers be reminded by the gospel this week to find their identity not in their image, bodies, relationships, academics, or activities but in their relationship with Christ alone. May they ‘consider everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ (Phil 3:10)
May the VBS workers who witnessed the gospel being presented be deliberate and encouraged to share the gospel with their friends, family, and coworkers as they follow Christ’s command to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20).
May we as parents be faithful to shepherd the hearts of our children and foster a home where Christ is treasured. May we as a community of faith be willing to invest in the lives of the children who we share community with. Men may we be examples to the boys of what it means to be a man who loves Christ and honors him with our mind, body, and actions. Ladies, may you be faithful to adorn your lives with modesty and self-control so that our girls see how a women who loves Christ lives.
VBS is not a program to manufacture a product, bolster our church’s reputation, or make our children ‘moral’. VBS is a means to plant into the hearts of our children a love and trust for Christ. As we faithfully proclaim the gospel, the Holy Spirit was working amidst the glitter, music, and chaos of VBS. The Holy Spirit is able to produce what no man can: spiritual life.
It is my prayer that as we watch these children grow we will be have the privilege to echo the thanksgiving of Paul…
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth…” Colossians 1:3-7
There is no algorithm, formula, or measurement that can quantity faith, love, and hope for Christ. However, it is my confidence that VBS 2018 will be a beautiful thread in the tapestry of faith that the Lord is weaving into the hearts of our children. I pray that one day when we are able to see the mosaic that the Lord is working in each child’s life we will say, “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3). Until that day we will plant the seed of the good news of the gospel into the hearts of the children and water it by sharing life together day after day, month after month, and year after year…all the while trusting the hearts of our children to the Holy Spirit who is able to produce growth.
Ocean Park, thank you for giving our your time and energy to invest in these children that they may come to saving trust in Christ. May God be glorified in our church now and forevermore!
Soli Deo Gloria