Wednesday, August 3, 2011
To my friends at The Barn Youth Group
I've been thinking a lot about what it really means to be a Christian. What does a Christian's life look like. Does it look any different from a non Christian's life? How so? The Bible has some wonderful answers to these questions. Jesus says "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." in John 13. Again the Bible says in 1 John 4 that "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." In Galatians 5, we read about the Fruit of the Spirit which I like to think of evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in you life. It says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." and "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit."
So what about all of us? Do we really love each other? When people look at how we live do they see evidence that the Holy Spirit (God) is working in us? If not, are we really Christians?
The thing that has been really breaking my heart lately is this: I have been looking at your lives. I see that in our group we have hook up buddies, drinking buddies, and drug buddies. We have bullies and kids that are being bullied. We have people talking about other people behind their backs. We do not often see real love for our brothers and sisters and we do not often see the Holy Spirit working. Why is this? What have we as your leaders missed? Have you not heard the gospel and been compelled to live your life for Christ?
The gospel all comes down to one remarkable thing. I could sum it up in a single word. Here it is. Are you ready? GRACE. Yes, grace. Let me explain.
God didn't need any one of us. He was doing just fine on his own and yet he chose to give us a free gift (that's what grace is). That free gift was life and breath "The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything" (Acts 17:24-25). God gave us that. He had no need for me or you or anyone else. Out of his great goodness he made us anyway.
He made us. The way he made us was good. He says so himself in Genesis 1:31 "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" and in Psalm 139:14 "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." But we DO have that same old sin problem. God acknowledged it in his promise to Noah. That's as early in the Bible as Genesis 8! He said "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth." He knew the sin problem in the days of Noah, that had so grieved his heart and made him sorry that he had even made us, would get just as bad again as it did before the flood. He promised not to destroy us again because he had another plan for us. He planned to rescue us. And guess what that rescue is another free gift. We don't deserve it. We never will. He has decided to rescue us anyway.
Jesus' death on the cross is the ultimate picture of grace and mercy. No longer do we have to pay the price for our sin, that's mercy. And we are offered an incredible opportunity to begin a relationship with God, again something we don't deserve, that's grace. Apart from God's work in our lives, we will never make a good friend to anyone, let alone a good friend to God. God knows this and yet he is patient with us and works on us until that work is complete! "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6. More grace! With each free gift of grace we except, God gives us the next free gift! It really is incredible!
Here is the kicker that will tie this gospel message in with what I'm trying to say about our group. Becoming a Christian is a very personal and private thing. Its totally, 100%, between you and God. But if that personal thing is real, that is if you mean your part because God always means his, it won't stay a personal and private thing. Being a Christian is outward. Everyone can see it by the love you have for others and the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.
So ask yourself. Did I mean it, when I gave my life to Christ? Am I holding back? Do I have love for others. Can people see God working in me? If not, can I really call myself a Christian? Or am I just another one of those "nominal" (name only) Christians that give other Christians a bad rep.
I've just got one last thing to tell you guys. And its kind of a big deal so listen up! I am saying this to you now because I LOVE you! I love you because God first loved me. Out of His love, I love you. I'm telling you this because I believe there are too many other people in your life who are too afraid to tell you and if we all keep silent we might all miss out on what God is trying to do in our lives. I'd never expect you to be perfect because I know that God doesn't expect that of any of us. But he does have a gift for us. A gift called GRACE!