I'm teaching 5th grade vacation Bible school this week. We have 54 kids who just finished fifth grade, and they are all in my class. While it's a bit crazy, we're having a blast learning about God and His amazing power. Yesterday, we learned about the ABCs of becoming a Christ follower and had several kids turn their lives over to Jesus for the first time, which is always exciting.
As I got ready for today's lesson, though, I realized that too often, we focus our attention on teaching these kids to become Christ-followers and once they make the decision to follow Jesus, we start telling them things like "Be more like Jesus" or "What would Jesus do?" We make it sound like they can become more like Jesus all on their own.
Somewhere in all the excitement and joy over a child choosing to follow Jesus, we lose sight of the fact that Jesus has to do the changing. No one can change themselves to become more Christ-like.
We can try.
But we will fail.
Life as a Christ follower isn't about striving to be more like Jesus. It's about letting Jesus change us from the inside out. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!" And too often, we give kids the impression that they can be more like Jesus just by trying harder.
Make the point that true change comes when we let Jesus change our hearts. Hand your kids a wig and some funny clothes and shoes. Ask them to put them on. You can even use some face paint to alter their faces. Now, ask them if they are a different person than they were before they put on the clothes and shoes. The answer is no. Even though we've changed their outward trappings, they're still the same person.
Explain that trying to be more like Jesus on our own is like putting on the funny clothes and shoes. We might be able to make ourselves look different for a little while, but we're still the same person underneath. We can put on the trappings of a Christ follower -- going to church, saying the right things, trying to act the right way -- but never be changed on the inside.
Now, give your kids a ball of clay. Give them a minute to create something out of the clay. Then have them smoosh it up and make something else. Explain that when we let Jesus change our hearts from the inside out, then we truly become a new creation. The clay is still clay even though it changes form. God isn't going to change our talents or the intrinsic pieces that make us who we are, but He is going to make us into an image of Jesus. As we follow Him, He will mold us to be more like Him because He will change our hearts, which creates lasting change.
Our kids need to know that it's not their responsibility to change their behavior to be more Christlike. Striving to do so on our own just leads to failure. It is our responsibility to learn more about Jesus and ask Him to change us -- from the inside out.
What part of your life do you need to let God change today?