My husband and I have been youth leaders for twenty years. Lately, we’ve noticed that our youth have a bold, almost reckless, abandon for their faith. We “older” folks proceed with caution, while they are unashamed in their worship, fellowship, and witness.
However, as we dig deeper into their faith, we find that the actual teachings of Jesus are not well known to them. They have their Bible knowledge and can quote Moses, David, and Paul. But when we ask them to quote Jesus, they freeze.
Yes, these youth accept Jesus as Savior. They bend their knee at the cross where He gave His life in atonement. But they don’t see any more than that — the sacrifice on the cross.
Writing that sentence makes me argue with myself: Isn’t the cross enough? I hope to not take away from the cross or add to it. My concern isn’t just for youth but for adults as well. If we don’t know the message of Jesus — His words and deeds — something is wrong.
In the Great Commission Jesus instructs us to make disciples and teach them to do everything He commanded (Matthew 28:19, 20). But what if we, and the disciples we make, don’t even know or do His commandments? This should concern us.
Jesus preexisted His virgin birth and is God in the flesh. If this is true, then everything He said and did is necessary to our lives. But do we know it?
I see the same lack of knowledge among adults in this political season. Many are loyal to the teachings of a political party or candidate, even over Christ himself. We know the candidates’ positions, aspirations, and goals for the country on social and economic matters, and we align ourselves accordingly. Meanwhile, many adults don’t know the positions, aspirations, and goals of Christ for the church (Matthew 5-7).
Is Jesus only Savior? Is He not also Lord? If Jesus is Savior and Lord, must we not obey Him? John answers this question: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3a).
Recently, a youth asked me why Adam and Eve sinned. “They had it so good,” she said.
I pondered this statement. Did they have it so good? Then why did they sin? Adam and Eve’s sin was not eating a forbidden fruit but failing to obey God’s command — failing to submit. Instead they followed their own will. I concluded that we have a disconnect with Adam and Eve because we don’t recognize that their sin is our sin.
Submission has always been a negative word for me, creating an inner argument of rebellion and unwillingness. Submitting to someone else’s will creates fear of abuse and of being misled.
It wasn’t until I started reading the words of Jesus that I began to see submission as a positive thing: “not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus himself submitted to His Father’s will, even when He was tempted and afraid.
If my Savior submitted, then why can’t I? “Lord, Your will, not mine, be done” became my prayer (after thoughts of “I don’t want to,” “I don’t like this,” and “Let me convince You why my way is better”). I started to relinquish control with that prayer of surrender.
Writer Ray Vander Laan describes Jesus as Rabbi (teacher) and His disciples as talmudine (students). In first century Jewish culture, the talmudine not only followed the rabbi wherever he went but also copied him. This is why Jesus says, “Follow Me” and why John writes, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked”
(1 John 2:6).
By imitating Jesus, we understand that an abundant life is one lived in obedience to His character and commands. Let’s live that life. I bet our youth will follow too.