Greetings, CBC family! I wanted to update you with what we have been going through and what we have been learning over the last couple months as a student ministry. Whether you are a parent of a middle school or high school student or even if you do not have children, I hope that informing you as to what our students have been growing in will not only encourage you personally, but it will also show you how you can pray more specifically for our students.
If you did not already know, each week our students meet for tribe groups. Their tribal groups (or small groups) are broken up by grade and gender and are led by an adult. We find that discipleship best happens in relationship. Because of that, it is my desire that the conversations that happen on Sundays between students and leaders will be the starting point for a more meaningful relationship throughout the week. Each Sunday, after a 25-30 minute sermon, students and leaders continue the conversation from stage with each other at their individual tables.
For the last 3-4 months, we have been going through a series by J.D. Greear called “Gospel Revolution.” It has been my desire in going through this series that our students would be able to see their entire lives through a gospel lens. I find that often times students may be able to articulate the gospel in terms of how they came to be a Christian, but they do not know what to do with the gospel after that. They understand that God created everything, that Jesus died on the cross for them and rose again, and they may have made a profession of faith at some point in their life, but after that, they don’t really know how to connect the cross with the daily details of their life. “How does the gospel speak into my identity and the way I view myself? How does the gospel affect my relationships? How does the gospel continue to change me after I make a decision to follow Jesus? How does the gospel affect the way I interact with my friends on my team or what I watch on Netflix? How does the gospel speak into my insecurities and my fears? How does the gospel affect the way I process and cope with personal tragedy and failure? How does the gospel speak into my feelings of loneliness and isolation? While these are not questions that can simply be answered over the course of a few weeks, it is my hope that this series will help students to start seeing that the gospel changes everything!
During week 1, we talked about Gospel Change and we determined that Gospel change is a lot different from religious change because religious change is only on the outside. Religious change is nothing more than us manipulating how we look to other people when the condition of our heart is still the same – full of sin. Gospel change starts on the inside and is a fruit of being made new in Christ. Gospel change is often messier than religious change, but is the only change that honors God and ultimately changes the condition of our hearts.
In week 2, the title of the lesson was Gospel Discovery. We talked about the importance of having a sense of awe and amazement at who God is and how He is active in both our lives and in the world. To mention Paul David Tripp, we (humanity) do not have merely a sin problem, we have an awe problem. We worship and we direct our lives towards that which we are most in awe of. Being in awe of the gospel is different than simply agreeing with the events of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Being in awe of Jesus and what He did for us on the cross draws us in to experience intimacy in relationship with Him.
During week 3, we talked about Gospel Acceptance and the gospel prayer for that week was, “in Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make God love me any more and there is nothing I can do that would make God love me any less….” The reason that God loves me and the reason that God accepts me – once you have trusted in Christ for salvation and have confessed Him as Lord – is because when God looks at me and you, He sees the blood of Jesus covering me.
For week 4, we talked about Gospel Approval. The gospel prayer for this week was – “your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy….” We naturally look for approval in everyone else other than God and because of that we end up bitter and unsatisfied and constantly trying to impress people. However, since God looks at us with joy and approval because of Christ, we can have a deep sense of joy and satisfaction that is not controlled by what other people think about us.
In week 5, the title of the lesson was Gospel Response and the gospel prayer was – “as you have been to me, so I will be to others…” A theme that is laced all throughout scripture starting with the children of Israel all the way to the great commission in the New testament is that God blesses us to be a blessing. He gives us salvation, not for us to just keep to ourselves and go about life, however we want, he saves us so we will go and extend the same grace to others.
In week 6, the title was Gospel Faith. We looked more specifically at faith in terms of how it affects our prayer life. The gospel prayer (which is the last in the series) was “as I pray, I will measure your compassion by the cross and your power by the resurrection.” Even though we see the level of God’s compassion for us on the cross, and we see God’s limitless power in raising Jesus from the dead – we often do not pray to Him like He is compassionate and powerful. Instead, we often pray to Him like He is distant or like He doesn’t have enough time for us or that He is incapable of helping us. How would our prayers change if we actually prayed in light of both God’s compassion – displayed in His willingness to die on the cross for us, and His power – displayed in Jesus raising from the dead on the third day and conquering sin?
During week 7, we investigated the idea of Substitute Gospels. We made the observation that there are many worldviews and ways of thinking about life that are both explicitly (being obvious) and implicitly (being more difficult to discern on the surface) different than the gospel. It could be another religion which worships a different god like Islam or Hinduism, or it could also be something that may look legitimate on the surface and may even use similar language but once you get down to the root it is fundamentally different than the gospel of Jesus – such as Unitarianism, the prosperity gospel, etc. Not only are there worldviews that are fundamentally opposed to the gospel which have names attached to them, we also can adopt ways of thinking and personal belief systems that may not have a name and may not even be spoken out loud, but are functionally a substitute of the gospel. Because of this, we need to listen to Paul’s warning in 2 Timothy to “guard the deposit entrusted to you.” One of the ways we can do that is by hiding “hiding God’s Word in our heart, so that we might not sin against Him” (Ps. 119:11).
And finally, this Sunday we will investigate the last topic in our Gospel series, Gospel Depth. In closing out our series, we are going to discuss how our spiritual grow never goes above or beyond the gospel. You may become the most brilliant theologian, the most gifted evangelist, or the most passionate missionary the world has ever seen, but your spiritual development must only go deeper into the gospel of Jesus and never outside of it. That is the beauty of the gospel – a child can understand their need for the gospel and can have the ability to confess Jesus as Lord, while at the same time, the most renowned theological scholar cannot fully understand and articulate the weightiness of the gospel. In closing, as J.D. Greear puts it, “the gospel is not just the diving board, it’s the pool itself.” That means that once we are in Christ, real spiritual growth starts with the gospel (justification) and continues in the gospel as we are gradually transformed more into the image of Christ (sanctification).