Hygiene Habits, Play-doh and Your Heart
We spend a lot of time teaching young children proper hygiene habits - wash your hands, brush your teeth, eat your vegetables, stop licking the table - to name a few. And while these daily lessons and reminders are vital to their health and to the health of those around them, we may be forgetting to teach them how to care for what is most important - their hearts.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
I have been thinking about the heart lately in regards to sin. Why is sin such a big deal? Sin is what separates us from God before we submit to Jesus as Lord and receive His pardon, but what about after that? What effect does sin have on a heart that is redeemed? The answer to this question is multi-faceted, but today I want to focus on the simple fact that sin hardens our hearts. The following is an illustration we used with our children to help them understand the effects of sin. (Note: I have tried to write this in a way that will be helpful for you if you decide to teach this in your own home.)
"They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the LORD of hosts.
A Heart of Play-doh
Hand your child a rock and ask them to shape it into a bowl (or rocket or bird or heart or whatever would interest them.)
It should only take them a few moments to realize that they are unable to change the shape of the rock.
Next, hand them a lump of play-doh and repeat your initial instruction.
As they are shaping the dough, read Ezekiel 36:26:
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."
This is one of the great miracles of becoming a new creation! When God's Holy Spirit indwells us we are given a new heart - a heart that can be shaped and molded by God to more closely resemble His own. Our hearts of flesh are not perfect, but they are moldable and changeable in God's hands. We want our hearts to stay soft so that God can shape and form them throughout the course of our lives. Sin makes our hearts hard.
Next, hand your child a pile of small river rocks and have them fold and mix them into their lump of dough.
Read Hebrews 3:13:
Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day,
as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will
be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Sin is deceptive because oftentimes its effects are subtle. We may think that a small sin is no big deal because we do not see the way that sin is taking root in our heart and creating a hard, unhealthy place. Thankfully God has provided, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a way to reverse sin's destructive effects. We can confess our sins, and "He is faithful and just to forgive our sins." (1 John 1:9)
Finally, have your kids remove the rocks while you read Proverbs 28:13-14
"Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity."
As parents, we are called to help oversee our child's heart, especially during the years they live in our home. When we see their sin, we must lovingly shine the light of God's word onto their hearts so that they can see their sin too. We want to help them agree with God about their sin, confess their sin and ultimately turn away from their sin. This is a process - a looooong process. We will be sinning and repenting of sin for the duration of our days, which is why it is so important to teach our kids healthy heart habits.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Next time you are disciplining your child for breaking one of God's commands, you might say something like this: "When you disobey God that is called sin, and in this family we discipline you for sin because we want to help you understand that sin is serious. Sin makes your heart hard, and God wants your heart to be soft so that you can hear Him clearly and understand His word and so that the fruit of His Spirit can grow within you. Let's tell God that you are sorry for disobeying and thank Him for sending Jesus so that you can be forgiven."
"woe to us, for we have sinned! For this our heart has become sick, for these things our eyes have grown dim"
Hardness of heart can lead to darkened understanding, an inability to hear God's voice, and a dulling of conscience among other ill-effects. So...brush your teeth so you won't get cavities. Wash your hands so you won't get sick. Confess and turn away from sin so that you won't develop a hard, stony heart. And stop licking the table, because...gross!
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
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