Once upon a time, there was a playful puppy named Lucky and a graceful kitten named Sassy. They were best friends. Sometimes, they would argue, just like all friends do.
One day, they fought. Lucky wanted to play with a stick, but Sassy wanted to lay in the sun. They argued, barked, and hissed until they were both so mad. Lucky got so mad that he bit Sassy's paw. It hurt Sassy really bad. They were both so mad they stopped being friends. Lucky and Sassy didn't play together anymore, and that made them both very sad. They grew up without seeing each other for a very long time.
Later, Lucky needed a new job. He had dreamed of being a guard dog all his life. He heard about a guard dog job at a place called Kitty Security, and so he went to see if he could get the job. Who was the boss at that new job? It was Sassy!
Lucky was nervous when he walked into Sassy’s office. After not seeing her for years, he was worried. He thought Sassy would still be mad at him. But instead, Sassy said, "Lucky, I'm not mad anymore. I forgive you!"
“What does ‘forgive’ mean?” Lucky asked.
“It means that I stopped being mad at you for what you did. It’s like your wrong has been erased.”
“You would do that?” Lucky asked.
“Yes, of course,” Sassy said. “I would do that because Jesus forgives, and so should we.”
“Jesus forgives?” Lucky asked.
“Yes,” Sassy said. “Jesus said, ‘For this is My blood… shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ That’s from Matthew twenty-six twenty-eight.”
“How does someone get Jesus to forgive them?” Lucky asked.
“Just believe in Jesus for salvation, and Jesus forgives you. It’s free. There’s nothing else you have to do.” Sassy explained. Lucky was so happy. He wagged his tail very fast! “Ok, Lucky. I’ve decided to give you the job.” Lucky was so happy. Not only did he have a new job, but he had his friend back, all because of forgiveness.
So Lucky started working and loved his job. It wasn’t long before Sassy called him back into her office to talk to him.
“Lucky,” she said. “You are doing a good job. There is a newer, better job that I could give you.”
“Really?” Lucky howled. “What is it?”
“Clarence, the bulldog just moved out of town, and we need a new Big Boss of Security.”
“You would let me do that job?” Lucky asked.
“Well, it will take hard work. I can’t just give you the job. You will need to work really hard to get approved for the job.”
“What’s ‘approved’?” Lucky asked.
“Approval is when your boss sees and agrees that you’re doing a good job.”
“Ok,” Lucky said. “I really want that job. I won’t let you down. I will get approved. You’ll see.” He went out wagging his tail.
To get the job, Lucky worked very hard. He came to work early, stayed late, and did all his jobs perfectly. Sassy saw all of Lucky's hard work and gave him the big boss of security job a few weeks later!
To celebrate, Sassy wanted to take Lucky on a walk in the woods. It was a nice sunny day, and they hadn’t had a walk together in a long time. Later, as they sat enjoying the fine weather and soaked up sunbeams, Lucky said, “I’m glad I got your approval.”
“You earned it,” Sassy said. “It makes me think of discipleship.”
“Discipleship?” Lucky asked.
“Yes. Those who have believed in Jesus have forgiveness already. But if a believer works hard for Jesus too, they get something extra special.”
“Like a bone, or a stick, or a treat?” Lucky asked with an excited voice.
“It’s kind of like that,” Sassy said. “Working for Jesus will earn His approval!”
“Is that different than forgiveness?” Lucky asked.
“Yes,” Sassy explained. “Forgiveness is free for those who believe. Approval, we have to work for.”
“I like the free part,” Lucky said. “But I like working too.”
“There’s a verse from the Bible that talks about that,” Sassy said.
“I want to hear it,” Lucky barked.
“Present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed. That’s from second Timothy two fifteen.”
Lucky barked in agreement, “Knowing I'm forgiven for free makes me want to work harder to get God's approval.”
“Me too,” Sassy meowed. “Me too.”
And so, in the warm sunbeam, the dog and cat understood the lessons of forgiveness and approval, realizing that salvation is about accepting God's forgiveness, and discipleship is about working towards God's approval. From that day forth, Lucky worked hard not just for his promotion but also to be a good dog, while Sassy continued to run Kitty Security with grace, forgiveness, and understanding, just as she learned from her old friend.
WATCH THE VIDEO: show the video of Sassy and Lucky learning about the difference between forgiveness and approval.
SALVATION: Remember our friends, Lucky and Sassy? Sassy taught us about "forgiveness." That's like when God erases our wrongs. Jesus forgives us if we believe in Him. That's called Salvation. Let’s find today’s verse that talks about forgiviness. It’s in Matthew 26:28:
This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:28)
DISCIPLESHIP: And then there's "approval." Approval is when we make God happy because we’re doing a good job at being his disciples. Here’s our discipleship verse:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed… (2 Timothy 2:15)
THE DIFFERENCE: Being forgiven by God and getting approved by God are different, just like salvation and discipleship are different. Do you have any questions? (Allow children to ask questions about the lesson.)
MATERIALS: Cardstock or thick paper, colored markers, stickers, hole punch, and ribbon.
INSTRUCTIONS: Cut the cardstock into bookmark shapes.
Ask the children to write or trace (if they can't write yet) the verses from the story on the bookmarks: Matthew 26:28 and 2 Timothy 2:15. Let them decorate their bookmarks with markers and stickers, maybe drawing Lucky and Sassy or their favorite things from the story.
Punch a hole at the top of each bookmark and thread a piece of ribbon through it. Explain that these bookmarks will remind them about forgiveness (salvation) and working hard (discipleship) when they use them in their own books at home.
INSTRUCTIONS: Set up two stations at opposite ends of the room or yard. At one station (Salvation Station), place a cross or a picture of a cross. At the other station (Discipleship Station), place a picture of a star or a trophy.
Divide the kids into two teams. The goal is to run from the start line to the Salvation Station, touch the cross, and say, "Jesus forgives!" Then run to the Discipleship Station, touch the star or trophy, and say, "I'll work hard for God!"
The first team to have all its members complete the relay wins. Remember to remind them what each station represents - salvation (forgiveness from Jesus) and discipleship (working hard for God's approval) - just like in the story.