May 01, 2012

Gospel centered youth ministry, part 2

Here is the post I promised at the end of the last one.  What I want to discuss is how do the five points I drew from Romans 1:1-7, relate to youth ministry.  Honestly, I believe they relate to all ministry this way, I simply am going talk in youth ministry terms because that was the initial spur behind me looking into this text.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Romans 1:1-7 ESV)

For a quick refresher, here is an overview of those five points.

1)Everything in our life in ministry is to be directed, processed if you will, through the filter of "how does this bring glory to God?" The reason for this is that our salvation itself is predicated upon God bringing Himself glory.
2)We are given grace for faith. And faith is an act of obedience.
3)The grace that brings obedience is bought by Christ, our risen Savior.
4)Christ and His work is what constitutes the Gospel, which was prophesied long before His earthly life in the OT Scriptures.
5)This all matters to us, because all believers are called to the Gospel, which therefore means we are to believe in Jesus, obeying Him through faith, which is a gift, given that our obedience might bring glory to God among every nation.

My interaction with each of these will be far from exhaustive, I merely want to invite you to begin pondering these with me.

So, our first point says that God's glory is the Big Deal. I am saved, the Gospel exists, God redeems sinners,  for the sake of His name among all the nations. I believe this point and the fifth point are the two key points here, the other three simply flesh out what it all means in a more precise sense. Do you believe that God has saved you for His own glory? Do you take comfort in that fact? Is it something you teach your students and talk to them about? Men and women, this is perhaps one of the most missed points in all of modern evangelicalism, and that is a catastrophe. Catastrophe is not an overstatement. If people aren't catching a bigger vision than floating on a cloud when they die instead of going to hell, they aren't going to be passionate about living their faith. They aren't going to understand what a grand and marvelous thing God has done for them in salvation. What we tend to teach is far, far, too small. God has given us an opportunity to reflect Him to all the nations, what is bigger than that? God-yes, God, the same one who created galaxies, makes the tides come in, commands the sun to rise and the rain to fall, the one whom we have rejected and made ourselves enemies with-He has so loved us as to not only save us from ourselves but put us to work proclaiming Him to all creation! How does that not have us screaming from the rooftops? If you aren't passionate about this, those who follow you won't be, either.

The second point essentially ties into what I just said.  God gives us grace freely in salvation (Ephesians 2:5, 8) but this is not an end in itself. Salvation puts certain responsibilities on us. A knowledge of the truth should drive us to action, lest we offend the God who killed His Son to pay the price for our sin (Hebrews 10). Faith and obedience are inextricably linked in Scripture.  Hebrews 11:6 which says that without faith it is impossible to please God, is in what some people call the "hall of faith." What links all of these Old Testament "heroes"? Their faith was accompanied by action. We are not saved by works.  We are saved by a grace that gives us faith. That grace is from God. But because it is from God Himself, we know it is effective, and therefore true faith is always joined by works (James 2:17, Matthew 3:8, Romans 6:1-4). Do we call students to holiness? Not legalism, we don't need a list of "do's" and "don't's." But a genuine, real, Gospel-centered desire to "Be holy, because the Lord your God is holy."? If you aren't doing that, is it because you're afraid that you might be held to the same standard?

The third point is that all of this is bought by Christ. We must, must, must keep the blood soaked cross and empty tomb at the front and center of everything we teach.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
(1 Corinthians 15:1-5 ESV)

 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
(1 Peter 2:22-25 ESV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ESV)

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.
(Romans 3:21-27 ESV)

If these things are not the heart and soul of our teaching then what good are we doing? "Moral" teens who don't love Jesus and cherish His sacrifice on their behalf are still headed for hell. And those who fail to meet "moral code" and don't know that in Christ they are given the righteousness of God Himself will most assuredly lose heart and give up, like the seed in the rocky soil. Free, costly, grace is the offer. Free because God offers to anyone who would come (John 3:16). Costly, because it cost God His own Son (John 3:16). Offer them grace, because it is our, and their, only hope.

Fourth, the Gospel was promised beforehand. Do not for, and do not let your students fall, into the trap of thinking the OT/NT divide is some great chasm where God treats people differently and has a different attitude. The God of the old is the same as the God of the new. Full of love, grace, mercy, kindness, justice, wrath, and hate for sin. Show them that all of Scripture points to Jesus as the apex of God's revelation of Himself (Hebrews 1:1-2, 2 Timothy 3:15, John 1:1-18, John 5:36-40). Don't only give half the story. Show how the old is incomplete without the new, and the new has no basis apart from the old.

Fifthly, this matters because this Gospel is what we all as believers were called to. You.  Me.  Every single Christian has been called by God and set apart to the Gospel. This is incredible. So my question for you here is this-do you minister because of God's call to spread the Gospel and make disciples who will then in turn do the same thing-or is it for other reasons? There are a lot of different reasons people "minister." To please people, to get an ego boost, to feel important, because that's what "good Christians" do, and probably some that are a whole lot more sinister that I won't entertain because at the moment I'm in a good mood.  But it should be out of a realization that spreading the Gospel for the sake of the glory and fame of Christ among all the nations, including our own, is what we have been saved for. God saved me from his wrath, my sin, and eternal torment in hell, why? For the sake of His name. That is Good News. That is worth sharing. And that is worth screaming from a rooftop-or in a youth group meeting.

About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (