Jonathon Edwards sweetly said, “There is a difference between having an opinion that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former, that knows not how honey tastes; but a man can’t have the latter unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind.” Edwards is explaining a truth we all face, it is one thing for a person to know about God and yet it is a completely different and wholly better thing for a person to sense God. Only in sensing God, interacting with Him while understanding His character and work, can a person come to faith and grow in faith.
Parents face the difficult task of helping their kids learn about God while helping them sense God. The temptation is to fill our children with information about God and forgoing the hard work of translating that information to their hearts. How can a parent help instruct their children with the indispensable knowledge of God while guiding them through life’s experiences in a way that highlights God’s presence, plan, and faithfulness? It is by guiding them through their own experiences, using God’s Word as a filter, to show them to God’s glory and activity.
A moment of theology for our encouragement – God is the Creator of all things and He is the sustainer of all things. (Col 1:16-17) This means that He is the very foundation, inspiration, and curator of reality. Without God there would be nothing, no us, no reality. So, in a very real sense, every aspect of reality, every experience we have, and every sense we contemplate points directly to God. Every micro detail that we pass over points to God and every macro observation we can’t wrap our minds around points to God. Reality points us to God and His glory as we experience it (Ps 19:1). Parents can do nothing better than to help their kids understand reality in a way that points them to God and His glory.
Here are four key and constant areas that we are able to sense God and His glory in:
God’s Right Goodness – Doubting Thomas had a hard time putting two and two together. His best friends were telling him the truth that Jesus had risen from the dead and they had seen Him! Yet he could not trust their claim as true because he hadn’t seen it himself. It wasn’t until Jesus invited Thomas to place his fingers into his wounds that he believed Jesus was risen. Our children are the same way, they may hear and know information about God, even desire to believe it, yet until they see, touch, taste, sense God’s character and goodness for themselves they cannot rely on it as true. Praise God that His good character is manifested in everything around us. From creation to marriages, from joys to mysteries, from natural laws to the government, from sports to church. Each aspect of reality points to God’s divine and knowable character as right and good. Showing your children that a particular feature of reality matches up with a particular reality of God’s character helps them sense God.
God’s Wise Word – The greatest treasures given to us by God is His perfect Word. His Word brings life, it is trustworthy, it matures, it increases faith, it reveals God’s commands, it endures forever, it is worth more than gold and is sweeter than honey, and it warns and rewards (Ps 19:7-11). The reason it is so effective in all these things is because it serves as a God’s own filter for understanding Him. God gifts His Word to us in order that we may know about Him and be able to sense Him. It reveals His character, His standards, and His work. It also reveals our sin and its destruction. It enumerates God’s wise way of living and how by living according to God’s design we are honoring God and blessed by God. Showing how your child’s experience, including consequences, is traceable through God’s Word helps them sense God.
Sin’s Evident Destruction – When we break away from God’s created design we should expect destruction and judgment. Lamentation 1 repeats over and over again how sin cannot help but makes its destructive ends evident. Sin’s destruction may burn unawares for a while but it will always burn through and make itself known. It cannot help but revel in its success at destroying people by pulling them away from God. The Christian also realizes that even if they believe they have escaped sin’s destruction God will eventually fully and rightly judge them for their unfaithfulness. Pointing out sin’s destructive patterns in a child’s life, or in the life of another, helps them sense their sin’s eternal consequences before a holy God.
Faithfulness’s True Satisfaction – Yet, God’s blessing comes to those who are faithful to him (Deut 7:9-11). When a person lives according to God’s ways He grants them truly satisfying blessings. Showing your children that a blessing has come to them for their obedience to God’s ways helps them sense God. Parents must make sure that they pair that received blessing with Christ’s originating faithfulness. It is only because of Christ’s sovereign work on the cross that we may have a hope of righteousness and an effective faith for that righteousness. Anyone’s true source of blessing must be traced back through Christ’s complete work of salvation on the cross. Showing your child that God’s blessing has ultimately come to them through their repentance and faith and only then by Christ’s perfect faithfulness for them helps them sense God.
Hopefully, we can see the arc of the gospel in these four areas of intersection between knowledge and sense. Our knowledge and experience not only points us to God that we may sense him, but it also points us to God that we may experience salvation through Him. It is no surprise to us that God’s most evident qualities, the things of himself that he puts right before us and calls us to interact with, are the core points of the gospel. God asks us to experience him by the only means that we can, the saving work of Christ on the cross for us. It is the hard, yet satisfying, work of the parent to help their kids bridge the mind and heart together for God’s salvation in them.