Our only hope was in hearing the bad news
The E.R. doctor called me over to look at the computer monitor on which an image of my wife’s brain was displayed. He pointed to a big blob in the middle of her brain and simply said, “That shouldn’t be there.” It was very bad news. My wife was given three months to live.
No one likes bad news. The worse the news, the more we want to avoid it. Sin is like that. The Bible’s message is like a doctor pointing to the sin growing out of our heart and saying, “that shouldn’t be there.”
We all have sin growing in our hearts and the result of this sin is spiritual death. But how do we bring this bad news to our sons? How do we tell them something so terribly dark? How do we tell them they are dying? This short article is my attempt to give you a start in that important direction.
Identify what sin is.
My wife’s doctor didn’t throw his hands up in despair when he pointed to the cancer. He sent us to discover what precisely was growing in her brain. In order to fight, it’s vital we know what we are fighting. The same is true of sin. We must help our sons define sin. When they are little it’s wise to take advantage of their sponge like little brains while they are still thirsty for our wisdom. We’ll have something with which to work when they are older and look at us with teenage skepticism on their faces.
Simply put, sin is doing “bad things”. More specifically it is doing those things God said not to do, or not doing those things God said we should do. God made it very simple when He said that the whole of His law is summed up in two commands: 1) Love God. 2) Love People.
But we are truly bad at knowing how to do these two simple things. So God gave us a more specific summary in the Ten Commandments. The first four tell us how to love God and the last six tell us how to love people. A simple place to start, especially when our boys are young, is by helping them to memorize the Ten Commandments. (see Exodus 20)
Our sons will only appreciate the greatness of their salvation to the extent that they understand the greatness of what they have been saved from.
They aren’t our rules
Sin is defined by God not us. They should not be our opinions. This is REALLY important for us to remember and to teach our children. God’s rules are good enough. We don’t need to add to them. We simply need to apply them. It’s vital that you help your son understand that his rebellion is not most importantly against you, it’s against God. Show him in God’s Word the line that his sin is crossing. This can also be a guard against your own anger when he does sin. Shouldn’t we be more concerned that he’s sinned against a holy God, rather than feeling like his sin was a personal attack on ourselves? Show him God’s rules so that in the end he’s arguing with God, and not you. God is better at dealing with rebellious boys anyway.
Sin is a cartoon mustache
Teach your son that sin is vandalism. God has given us a beautiful world and we are wonderfully crafted bits of God’s art. Sin against ourselves, against others and against the world is like taking a Sharpie and drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Actually, it’s more like drawing with feces (Isaiah 64:6). We may think it’s a good idea but all we are really doing is ruining a beautiful piece of art. For instance, sin vandalizes relationships. When he lies to you, or you lose your temper with him, the closeness of relationship between the two of you is torn. Distance replaces closeness. You can’t trust him and he can’t trust you. You must acknowledge your sin and your desire should be that he will confess his sin, so that your relationship is restored and the vandalism of sin is cleaned up. Help him to desire to avoid this relational vandalism.
Sin is trespassing
My twin brother was very careful with his stuff. I was not. When he saved up a lot of money to buy a state of the art gaming console I went to grab the controller. But before I could, he stepped in the way and held out a hand-written contract. It contained all the rules I needed to agree to if he would allow me to even touch the controller. I was severely annoyed at the time, but the truth is that I’d given him good reason to require a contract. This is God’s world and he has the right to tell us how it is to be used, including our bodies and thoughts. Help your son to understand that if we want to play in God’s world, He has a right to give us rules for its use.
Sin is crooked
Teach your son that sin takes our lives, which are designed to be clean and straight, and bends them all up. Imagine our lives as a nice straight ruler designed to build really useful bridges. Sin takes the ruler of our lives and warps them. Now every time we try to use the ruler, we think we’re drawing straight when in reality our lines are crooked. Imagine an engineer trying to build a bridge with a warped ruler! That would be a truly dangerous bridge to try to cross! People would surely die.
Sin brings death
Our sons think far too little of their sin. We must help them to learn how deadly it is. Tell them the story of how sin found its way into our world and our hearts. It explains our struggle. “Why do I have such a hard time doing what is right, Mom?!” Take him back to Genesis chapters 1, 2 and 3. Show him how sin brought death to the world and then begin to show him how sin brings death in countless other ways. Obviously murder, but look at how a lustful little glance from a rooftop caused a king to do unbelievably wicked things in the story of King David’s fall. (2 Samuel Chapter 11)
The rails on which we can run
We often feel like God desires to blow out every flame of fun in our life. But this just reveals again how warped our hearts are. God desires our freedom. Not freedom to do whatever we want, but freedom to want what we should do. If a train jumped off the tracks to do a little exploring would it be better able to move? No! God’s law is given to be the tracks on which we can run to explore and enjoy the world He made. When we jump off the tracks of His commands we ruin our ability to be content. Look for opportunities to help your sons to believe, along with the Psalmist in Psalm 119:97 and 103, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day … How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
Like the doctor who showed me my wife’s cancer, God points out our sin so that we might be healed. Our healing isn’t found in the diagnosis, but that is how healing begins. Our sons will only appreciate the greatness of their salvation to the extent that they understand the greatness of what they have been saved from. Help them to see their sin so that you can then show them Jesus who died and rose from the grave to save them from the death their sin will inevitably lead them into without Christ.