How I Teach Children/Teens Imputed Righteousness

A couple days ago Brian Croft shared how he explains imputed righteousness to children. It’s a great visual that I might try to figure out how to incorporate into the way that I typically share the concept of imputed righteousness. Reading Brian’s article inspired me to share the way that I explain the concept of imputed righteousness.

This is not the beginning of my gospel presentation but the beginning of my explanation of the work of Christ. I have typically already shared about who God is, what He requires of us, and our rebellion and it’s damaging consequences. When I share about the work of Christ this is what I do:

I begin by saying, “Imagine that in order to be in heaven with God, or to even have a right relationship with God in the present, you must have a ticket. On this ticket is the word righteousness.” I take out a sheet of paper and write on it the word “RIGHTEOUSNESS” in big bold lettering across the page.

At this point I ask the person if they know what righteousness means. I then explain that for our purpose in this illustration it means to be 100% without sin. Then I ask, “If you have one sin in your life, do you have righteousness”?  We then take an abbreviated 10 Commandments test.

No matter their score (because it is never 100%) I ask them if they would have somehow been able to pull off a 99% if they would then have righteousness. On occasion I will ask at this point whether it matters if you drown in 10 feet of water or 100 feet of water. Now I ask the person whether or not he/she has righteousness.

They typically say that they do not. So, I write the letters “U” and “N” in front of “RIGHTEOUSNESS” and I explain what the Bible teaches about the fate of those that do not have righteousness. I hand their “ticket” to them and I share verses like Romans 6:23 and James 2:10. I also say, “If you decide from this moment forward to never sin again…and somehow you are able to do it…will you then have righteousness?” I explain that no matter if you are a good person from this point on you have already blown your chance at being 100% without sin.

I let the sting of sin and death set in for a little bit. I want to make sure that the child/teen really understands their hopelessness without Christ. Most children and teens live under the assumption that they are basically good people and they just need Jesus to make up a little bit of righteousness for them.

The Great Exchange

Once they are sufficiently bummed out and beginning to wonder why they even came to talk with me, I share the good news of the gospel. I transition by saying that everything I just shared is not good news is it? I then explain that the gospel means good news and that I want to share with them the good news of what Jesus did.

I start by asking them whether or not Jesus ever sinned. (I find myself having teach on this point more today than I used to). Once we come to an agreement that the Bible teaches that Jesus never sinned I ask them whether or not Jesus has righteousness. Now I write a new ticket with the word RIGHTEOUSNESS on it. I explain that Jesus has righteousness.

Now I explain to them from verses such as 2 Corinthians 5:21 that what Jesus did on the cross is trade tickets. He took our ticket and paid it’s punishment. (At this point I reach for their ticket). And he gave us his ticket. (I hand them Jesus’ ticket). And then I ask them, “Do you have righteousness”?

That in a nutshell is how I explain the concept of imputed righteousness to children and teenagers. Of course it is not a canned formula and the conversation always takes twists and turns but what I want them to understand is that Jesus took our sin and it’s consequences and gave us His life and all it’s blessings. There are many more illustrations that can assist if there is still confusion but this is the basic way that I explain it.

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