This past Sunday I had the privilege to preach at Converge. Usually I’m serving somewhere behind a guitar, most often as our worship leader. It’s always fun to switch things up.
Because Converge meets once a month we don’t think in terms of running themes or message series. Instead, the invitation is for whoever is preaching to preach the message God is asking them to preach to the young people that gather together.
Recently the question on my heart for the students at my church has been, “why do you believe what you believe?” Is it because it’s how they were raised? Is it because their parents make them go to church every week? Or is it because they’ve had an encounter with the living God?
In my experience I’ve found two common threads that run through the mind of a teenager when faced with this question.
I don’t know how to explain what I believe.
I don’t actually know what I believe.
For many of our teenagers church is simply part of their routine. It can be a bit of a double edged sword where they are actively engaging in the life of the church while also never really experiencing the truth of the gospel. But if this is becoming the new normal, then we as leaders are screwing up in a big way.
Less than 4 out of 10 Christians can articulate to someone else what they believe in.
This statistic was shocking to me. Of the entire community people who profess to follow Jesus, a majority of them cannot even tell you why. And when asked how a Christian can be certain the bible is true and historically accurate, the most common response is simply, “It’s what I believe.”
Where do we get the idea that something is true, simply because we believe it’s true? IT that was the case, everybody would be right, all the time. Can you imagine a world where everyone is right every hour of every day. The world just wouldn’t make sense.
I believe I can fly.
I believe I can touch the sky.
I think about it every night and day.
To spread my wings and fly away.
I can’t fly.
The bible isn’t true because we believe it. We believe it because it’s true.
Do you see the difference? We don’t want to be a church that is just a bunch of people who believe but don’t really understand or can’t explain what or why they believe.
…that Jesus is simultaneously God and man.
Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. It’s the only way Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross matters. It’s not hard to prove Jesus was a man. He walked among us. You could touch his flesh and pull on his beard if presented with the opportunity. But to prove he is 100% God is more difficult.
We are told that in the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God in the beginning (1:1). And a few lines later we’re told that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (1:14). This means that Jesus is the Word. And Jesus was with God in the beginning, that Jesus was and is God. He is the second part of the Trinity, which is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
And Jesus, who has always been, intersects our story through the virgin birth. And then he lived a sinless life, and died a death that we ourselves deserved.
…Salvation by Grace
There is nothing else on earth, above the earth, history past, or future that will ever save anyone other than grace.
By grace we have been saved. And the best part about grace… it’s free! Who doesn’t love free stuff? But so many people get this confused. The predominant thought about heaven and salvation is that it’s all about being a good person. That you are good as long as the good in your life outweighs the bad. So many people are drawn into the lie that it’s all about what you can do on your own.
A simple if/then statement. If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. Or if I can do this on my own, then there is no need for Christ’s sacrifice. If I can earn my own salvation, then Christ died for nothing. But what we need to understand is that there is no other way. Jesus had to die for you and for me. Because when we look back on our lives, we see mistakes, we see detours, we see a collection of, “I wish I would haves.” But where we see obstacles, Jesus sees opportunity. Where we see brokenness, Jesus sees value. Jesus sees worth in you. He has a love for you that you cannot comprehend or describe.
In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? Phillip Yancy describes a story in which C.S. Lewis engages in a discussion about what makes Christianity unique amidst all other world religions.
“Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”
-C. S. Lewis
The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and the Muslim code of law – each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.
And the truth is that grace has very little to do with us. Rather, grace is freely given from God through the resurrection.
…The Resurrection Brings Grace
In one moment Jesus conquered satan, sin, hell, and death. And when Jesus rose, grace exploded onto the scene. It’s not about earning grace. It’s not about living out more good in your life than bad. It doesn’t matter how good you are because there’s no such thing as good enough. If there were, Jesus would not have had to die.
But don’t let that get you down. Don’t see this as a limitation of the gospel. Instead, we need to see this as the beauty of the gospel. We all need it, no matter how good or bad we think we are or have been. And it’s not just for those who have lived a life where the good out weighs the bad. This line of thinking leads us to comparative faith, where the true measure of our righteousness is a measure against those around us. Faith becomes competitive and grace becomes a limited reward, reserved for a select few front-runners.
That’s the life we are invited to live. A life in response to what’s been done for us.
So what’s the answer? How do we respond when asked about our faith?
Why do you believe what you believe?
Because God has offered me infinite grace
and I have made a choice to follow him.
Why… because I need that grace.
Why… because without it I am incomplete.
Why… because we have this hole in our life called sin.
Why… because our human nature pulls us toward temptation.
Why… because we were created with the ability to make choices.
Why… because God doesn’t want to control us, but to have free will.
Why… because He wants us to grow into the people He made us to be.
Why… because He calls us his children and wants the best for his children.
Why… because He loves us.
…why does God love us?
…I don’t know. But I know it’s true.
Questions for Discussion
Parents, ask these questions with your teenagers.
Teenagers, ask these questions with your parents.
- What do you believe about God, Jesus, and the Bible?
- Why do you believe what you believe?
Sometimes the simplest questions have the most difficult answers.