Main idea: We bear fruit in keeping with repentance by showing others we care for them.
- Read Scripture references (below), 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Ezekiel 18:21-23.
- Spend time in prayer. Pray for your students. Think about your own life. Are you really repentant, or do you just say you are sorry without changing your ways? Are there any secret sins in your life you need to address? How do you “prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God?”
- Gather: Bible, dry erase board and markers, newspaper, masking tape, John the Baptist coloring pages (found on this website.)
- Mark 1:5-6
- Acts 3:19
- Luke 3:1-14
Game: “Throw your sins away.”
Place a masking tape line down the center of the room. Divide the class into two teams. Have each student crumple up one or two balls of newspaper and place them at their feet. The goal of the game is to throw all the balls of trash to your opponent’s side. You may only throw one ball at a time. You may not throw the balls of trash AT anyone. Before saying go, either set a timer with a bell the kids can hear, or tell them you will clap your hands three times to signal the end of the game. If anyone throws a ball after your signal, then their team will be penalized by getting the ball they threw plus one more back from the other side. The team with the fewest balls of trash on their side of the tape line wins. To clean up, have every child line up along the tape, holding one or two balls of trash. Come around with the trash can and stand a reasonable distance away from each child and give them a chance, one by one, to throw their trash into the trash can. Once they throw their trash away, they have a seat.
Open in prayer.
Ask, so what do you think the purpose of this game is? Why did we play a game called “throw your sins away?” (Allow a few children to answer.) The whole point of the game was to get all the trash off your side of the room. When you have company come over, does your mom ask you to clean your room, and get the house looking nice? When we have people visit our homes, we want our homes to look their best so people can be comfortable there. Now think about your heart. What if someone was going to come and live in your heart? You would want your heart to be as clean as possible. This means you have to clean all the trash, all the sins out of your heart. We have a special word for cleaning out all of the sin from our lives. We call it repentance. (Write repentance at the top of the board.)
There was a man who had a message of repentance. He came before Jesus and told people to repent, to clean up their hearts for the coming of the one who would save them from their sins. This man was a pretty interesting dude. Mark 1:5-6 tells us a little bit about him. It says, “All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear [this man.] And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey.” This man is also Jesus’ cousin. Can anyone guess who I am talking about? That’s right, John the Baptist! John the Baptist came to teach people around repentance.
John was baptizing people in the river. What it baptism? Here, it’s talking about getting lowered under water and brought back out again to show that you have died to your old, sinful ways, and been born again to a new life. You have repented.
What does it mean to repent? (Let a few students answer.) Repentance means to apologize for the things you have done wrong and stop doing them. Let’s see what God’s Word has to say on repentance by having a sward drill. Take out any bookmarks and hold your Bibles above your heads. When I say go, look up Acts 3:19. Go! This verse says, “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.” (Demonstrate by walking across the room as you explain the next part.) It is like you are walking along, living a life with sin in it: cheating, lying stealing, disobeying your parents, when you realize that you are doing wrong. You stop, (stop walking,) tell God you are sorry, turn away from your sins, (turn around,) and start following Jesus. (Start walking in the other direction.)
I’m going to tell you of three people and some of their actions. I want you to decide if they have repented or not. After I tell the story, I want you to answer whether they repented or not. If you think they repented, stand up and turn around to face the back wall. If you do not think they repented, stand up and cross your arms. Listen closely to my first story.
A boy goes over to a friend’s house for a sleepover. While he is there, he sees that his friend has a really cool, bright red hot wheel car with flames on the side and a blue number one on top. The boy really wants this car, so he steals it from his friend. He picks it right up and sticks it in his pocket. The next day, his friend is very sad about his car being gone, and while the boy feels bad about stealing it, he does not give it back or say he’s sorry for taking it. Did he repent? (No.)
A girl is lying at school. She tells her friends her mom gives her $500 for her allowance. She tells classmates that the teacher likes her best, and she tells the teacher that she did not turn in her homework because the dog ate it. Soon, she realizes the lies she has been telling really hurt people’s feelings. She knows lying is a sin, so she prays for forgiveness, and even asks for forgiveness from the people she has been lying to. From then on, she does her very best to never lie. Did she repent? (Yes. She prayed for forgiveness, confessed her sins to others, and changed her ways.)
A dad sometimes gets mad and yells at his kids and even says bad words. He always says he is sorry, but he keeps on doing it and does not seek God’s help to stop getting so angry. Did he repent? (No. He may truly be sorry, but repentance comes through humbling ourselves to God. 2 Chronicles 7:14.)
You all did a great job identifying true repentance. Now turn on your listening ears while I read from the Bible to you. You may follow along in Luke 3:1-14. As I read, I will sometimes pause to help explain some of the things happening. (Read from Luke 31-14, pausing to explain parts in more detail and to get your students involved.)
It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea; Herod Antipas was ruler over Galilee; his brother Philip was ruler over Iturea and Traconitis; Lysanias was ruler over Abilene. Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. Everyone would have known these guys back in Jesus and John’s time. You may not know them all now, but it is enough to know that they were all really evil, mean rulers, who made life for Jewish people, who wanted to be faithful to God, really difficult. Everyone was hoping and waiting for someone to come and save them from their tough times.
At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living in the wilderness. Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. Isaiah had spoken of John when he said,
“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!
The valleys will be filled,
and the mountains and hills made level.
The curves will be straightened,
and the rough places made smooth.
And then all people will see
the salvation sent from God.’” Back then, they did not have smooth, paved roads and cars you can nap in as you travel. The roads were mostly dirt, and they were full of potholes and curves and were really, really bumpy. When a town knew a ruler was coming to visit their town, they would fix up the roads and make them as smooth and straight as possible, so the ruler could easily get to them. John is not saying we need to go out and fix up actual roads. He is telling us to clean up our hearts, to get rid of all the trash and sins in our lives so Jesus can get to our hearts. John is NOT saying we can clean up our hearts all by ourselves. He is saying we need to be prepared to accept the one who can save us from our sins. Some of the people in the crowd John was talking to did not seem to think they would need any help being saved from their sins. Let’s read about them now.
When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. These people were not all coming out to be baptized because they thought that they were sinners who needed to be saved. Some people were coming out to be baptized because it was the popular thing to do. John told them to not just get baptized thinking that would save them from their sins. They needed to do things to show that they had really repented, that their lives had really changed directions. (If your kids are getting wiggly at this point, lead them in a round of “Father Abraham” to lead into the next point.) Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Who was Abraham? He was the great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather of all the people of Israel. God promised many great blessings for Abraham, and a lot of people thought that since they were related to Abraham, they did not have to repent or change their ways to be saved from their sins. They thought that since they were descendants of Abraham, they would automatically get to go to heaven. Do we get to go to heaven just because our parents are Christians? Of course not! We have to repent and follow Jesus. John says that God is so powerful, he can make ancestors, children of Abraham, out of rocks! If God can do that he can definitely forgive us of our sins. John was telling everyone that you cannot rely on your parents believing in God, or reading the Bible or going to church every week to save you. The only way to be saved is by repenting of your sins. Next, John says, Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.” Earlier in this passage, it said, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” Some translations of the Bible say it like this: “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” I really like the idea of bearing fruit. What do fruit trees need to grow and bear fruit? (water, light, fresh air, good dirt, and time. Share a gardening story from your own experience, emphasizing how impatient and excited you were to see your garden bear fruit.) It takes a long time and a lot of work for plants to bear fruit. When we repent and say we are sorry, we throw sins out of our lives. But just like in our game where the balls of trash kept ending up on your side again after you threw them, sin keeps getting back into our lives. We have to keep repenting, keep taking care to grow good fruit in our lives. If we don’t, we won’t get to go to heaven. So how do we bear good fruit, prove by the way we live that you have repented of your sins? That’s what the crowds around John asked, too.
The crowds asked, “What should we do?”
John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”
Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?”
He replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.”
“What should we do?” asked some soldiers.
John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.”
Let’s list on the board some of the things we can do to show that we have repented from our sins. When I call on you, name a fruit and a way that you show repentance. I’ll start. (Draw a fruit, like an apple, and in the center, write, “share.” Don’t worry about how the fruit looks. The kids won’t care how realistic it looks. Allow the kids to share ideas until they run out of ideas or time.) That’s a really good list! I see a common idea in all the things we listed and the things John said in our Bible passage. Most of these have to do with caring for others. When we show others we care for them, we are proving by the way we live our lives that we have repented from our sins and selfishness. Before we move on to our craft time, let’s pray. We will pray for forgiveness from our sins, and for Jesus’ help so we can care for others and show that we have turned away from our sins.
End in prayer.
Craft: Color the pages of John the Baptist, found on this website. Alternatively, have the kids draw a tree full of fruit and write to ways to keep with repentance in the fruit.
Image Credits: Sweet Publishing and Distant Shores Media