The Centrality of God’s Holiness in Our Classrooms

Think about your Sunday school classroom, or your child’s classroom, for a moment. What characterizes the overall atmosphere of the classroom from beginning to end? Now consider these words from Jerry Bridges,

In our day we must begin to recover a sense of awe and profound reverence for God. We must begin to view Him once again in the infinite majesty that alone belongs to Him who is the Creator and Supreme Ruler of the entire universe. (The Practice of Godliness, © 1983, page 21)

And these words from David Wells,

Until we recognize afresh the centrality of God’s holiness, until it once again enters into the innermost fibers of evangelical faith, our virtue will lack seriousness, our belief will lack poignancy, our practice will lack moral pungency, our worship will lack joyful seriousness, our preaching [and teaching] will lack the mordancy of grace, and the church will be just one more special interest pleading for hearing in a world of competing enterprises. (God In the Wasteland, © 1994, page 145)

Do our classrooms promote a “sense of awe and profound reverence for God”? Does God’s holiness “enter into the innermost fibers” of our classrooms? Are our classrooms characterized by an atmosphere of serious joy in God through Christ? 

There are many ways to help children understand God’s holiness, and then give His holiness prominence in our classrooms. For example, do we…

  • prioritize the time spent actually teaching God’s Word and communicate it such a way that treats it as holy?
  • encourage children to treat their Bibles with respect and listen attentively when God’s holy Word is taught? 
  • choose songs and hymns that encourage “joyful seriousness”?
  • help children to see the greatness and worth of God by introducing His many attributes and expanding the depth of their understanding of these as the children grow and mature?
  • address God in prayer with supreme honor and respect?
  • challenge them to understand the plight of their sin in light of God’s holiness?
  • explain Jesus’ death on the cross in terms of God’s holiness, His just wrath, and the depth and riches of His mercy and love?
  • stress the need for personal holiness in the life of every believer?

Some might look at the above points and get a picture of a gloomy classroom where there is no laughter, smiles, or fun. Please understand, I am not opposed to children enjoying their time in the classroom. But I think we need to be very careful in not making “fun” what characterizes our children’s ministry. Fun is not to be the end aim and goal. What happens in our classrooms should be a holy endeavor—set apart—whereby we are aiming to help children encounter something beyond fun. Carefully consider these words from Pastor John Piper:

Those who have seen and savored the holiness of God and justice and wrath and grace of God can never again trivialize worship…I don’t like to use the word “fun” for what we do in worship—or in ministry for that matter. It is a sad commentary on the superficial condition of our times that one of the most common things said about good experience in ministry and worship is that “we are having fun.”

The point is not that Christians can’t be light-hearted. You are probably sick if you can’t be light-hearted. The point is, there is time and season for everything under the sun. And something should happen in corporate worship, before the face of the infinitely holy God, that calls forth a different vocabulary than what you experience at the amusement park. (“The Present Effects of Trembling at the Wrath of God,” ©Desiring God Foundation, desiringGod.org)