Last night at VBS, I taught an attentive group of sixteen 3rd graders. We looked at Mark’s Gospel and saw that Jesus performed many miracles and taught in a God-like way, which caused many people to ask a lot of questions. While Jesus’ disciples continued to follow him, there were those in his hometown of Nazareth who rejected him. This theme is common throughout the Gospels, particularly in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Jesus was a man who was either followed or rejected. You either loved or hated Jesus. There was no middle ground. There was no neutrality. By his very nature, Jesus is the quintessential polarizing figure.
As I began to expound on the text and explain the gospel, I told these boys and girls that they would respond to Jesus this week in one of two ways. They will either respond in faith or respond in denial. They will either trust Christ or reject Christ. Jesus is the Savior-King who demands faith and submission. The great love of Jesus that we sing about presents itself in death (the substitutionary death of Jesus) and calls for death (death to self)—both of which lead to life.
The room was silent. Some young Christians in the room were smiling, as the good news of Jesus clearly tastes so delightfully to them. Others were silent and staring. My heart so desired for them to trust Jesus in that moment. And just as shocked as I was that those in Nazareth could not joyfully follow Jesus when he taught them, I was shocked that the unbelievers in front of me didn’t jump at the opportunity to trust Christ. If I errantly believed that the salvation of these kids was in my hands or if ultimately the teaching and wooing of their souls was solely dependent on my skill as a teacher, I would be hopelessly depressed. Thank God for his sovereign grace. God calls sinners to himself by his Spirit. Because of this truth, we are all able to confidently proclaim the gospel to children this week knowing that their salvation is in the hands of the God who saves.
How does the Holy Spirit serve as a counselor-helper in the teaching-learning process? How does the Holy Spirit serve as the paraclete Jesus promised he would be as we teach this week during VBS? What role does he play as we teach, lead, love, and serve?
Octavio Esqueda makes a very important presuppositional point when he writes, “Therefore, Christian teaching cannot succeed apart from the ‘counsel’ of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the main motivator in Christian education. Only the Spirit knows our students completely and can meet their needs.” This is a truth that is easily forgotten and ignored in our pride and even in our good intentions. We design countless programs and teaching methods and outreach strategies, but in all of our educational, discipleship, and evangelism efforts without the Holy Spirit, there can be no true success.
So, the first thing to note in the Holy Spirit’s role as a counselor-helper in the teaching-learning process is that he is absolutely crucial for the process to succeed. From here we can say that the Holy Spirit aids in the understanding of the Word of God, empowers us to love and obey Christ and his Word, and inclines our hearts to desire God and be satisfied in him above fleeting earthly pleasures. In order for us to be conformed to the image of Christ and in order for us to disciple others, we need the Holy Spirit to be our paraclete. And the Spirit will always deepen our understanding of Christ’s person, work, and teachings.
Does the Holy Spirit’s active work in our discipleship, evangelism, and ministry mean we should stop planning, developing visions, and carefully preparing lessons to teach? Absolutely not! In fact, the opposite should be to. The mysterious, sovereign, saving activity of the Spirit should ground and fuel our planning and preparation. All of our methods should be carefully thought out and we should work hard in all of our ministries as the Spirit moves and God works in us.
In order to see children trust Christ, we are totally dependent on the moving of the Holy Spirit. In order to see children more deeply desire Christ and grow in their relationship with him, we desperately need the Spirit. So, while we plan and work and use countless methods to teach children the gospel of Jesus, we must do all of these things in the grace of God and in utter dependence on the Holy Spirit, who is the teacher, counselor, and soul-changer par excellence. As we prepare lessons to teach, plan games to play, and proclaim the gospel throughout the evening, let’s do so with total confidence and utmost assurance that the Holy Spirit will prepare, change, and teach the hearts of the children in our care. Pray to the Paraclete to come and apply the saving work of Christ to the hearts of many kids tonight!
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica.