Teaching Children About Sin

Teaching Children About Sin - Parenting Like Hannah
Tempted, Tested, True by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross

When your first child is about two or three years old, it seems like most of your day is spent in correction. In our house, it was the “terrible three’s”. I remember calling my dad during a particularly “no” filled day and asking if I would still have to punish her this often when she was older. He promised me if I were diligent at three, then the rest of her childhood would seem easy in comparison. He was right. After those crazy few months, our daughter has been delightful and punishments have had to be given only rarely.

At some point after the year fondly known as “establishing who the parents are”, we tend to go into more of a maintenance, correction mode. Most parenting books will tell you this is a result of establishing firm but loving boundaries when your children are young (for the most part!).  Because rebellion becomes less common in our homes, we sometimes forget to train our children how to avoid sin and deal with ongoing temptations.

It’s particularly easy to forget to train children who are basically obedient to your rules. Even the “best” kids though, may still struggle with anger, pride, greed, gossip or other sins that may slide by our notice. I recently was asked to review a book about sin, temptation and forgiveness written for adults. The principles are so sound, I think it can be used as a great template for preparing our children to handle temptation and sin.

Tempted, Tested, True by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross is a combination guide to temptation and sin, as well as a Bible study. Each chapter covers an aspect of dealing with sin and temptation. Then at the end of each chapter, there is a very thorough “nudge” or Bible study on the topic.

Each study reviews the traps Satan sets for us, gives practical tips and shares research on what has worked for other Christians. My favorite part is the encouragement to engage with the Bible rather than just reading it for information. They ask readers to actively interact with God in prayer and reflection as they read scripture. Active engagement in scripture also requires the reader to reflect on the principles and come up with a plan to start practicing the principles in their daily walk.

The book could really be broken into several sections. The first three chapters are the basics of sin and temptation. They cover how Satan tempts us and how we often get mired in the same few sins over and over. Their basic prescription for avoiding temptation is the same given by others – scripture, prayer and accountability (as a Christian).

The second section has a chapter devoted to sins which studies show seem to plague men more and a chapter with those which are more tempting to women. The last section focuses on four particular areas of sin and personal stories of those temptations. The final chapter encourages transparency amongst all Christians and encouraging us to seek help from others as we struggle. (There is also an appendix on various denominational segments and how they each cover the topic of grace.)

What I loved about this book was the authors’ somewhat unique approach to the topics. I especially appreciated the discussion of the false idea of “little sins”. They make a great case for how people tend to justify, hide and attempt to minimize their sins in an effort to avoid dealing with them. They also do a great job of discussing the roles of guilt, shame and pride in temptation and sin. I will be honest, it would never dawn on me to teach someone to avoid being prideful in respect to sin. I had an epiphany as I read how many Christians avoid seeking help with temptation because their pride won’t let them admit to others how much they are struggling.

Every chapter is full of simple, practical ideas to help you avoid temptation in general and some for more specific temptations. One of my favorites is their idea of interrupting your day with scripture. The authors discovered that if people record their temptations, most of us will find patterns. They even have a free service (gotandem.com) which will call, text or email you at set (when you are at your weakest) or random times of the day with scripture. I have tried it for a couple of days now and love it. I chose texts and emails. I chose a rather generic track (you can choose to personalize or make it more generic.) It is interesting how having that scripture just pop up randomly throughout the day can give you an automatic re-set on your focus.

My main concern about the book was that some of the chapters were a little scattered because there were several narrators who would often switch within a chapter. Most of the time it was fine, but a couple of times it became a distraction. The authors’ theology on baptism is a little fuzzy, but since the book assumes the reader is a Christian, it really is a minor frustration. The appendix on grace and religion could confuse some people. The authors do caution readers to examine the scriptures thoroughly and not depend on any man’s interpretation as being the same as God’s. Reading the appendix, however, is not necessary for understanding the rest of the book.

I would highly recommend reading Tempted, Tested, True for yourself. After you have a firm grasp on the basic principles, begin teaching them to your children. Teens could go through the book with you as a family Bible study. Teens are also eligible for signing up for the free scripture interruptions. I love the idea of my teen receiving a text of scripture when she is with friends or struggling during the day in a tough environment. (This needs to be your teen’s choice though. Forced scripture may have the opposite effect!)

After you read the book, let me know about some of your favorite tips in a comment below. What did your teens think of the book? Have you tried their scripture interruption service? Did it help or annoy you? What ideas in the book do you feel are the most important to teach our kids?

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. I have voiced the concerns I had with the book. It is a wonderful book and I plan to use the information for myself and to help others in their journey.

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Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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