What’s the Big Deal with John 3:16?

There are things our parents say so often we reaction-pic-eye-rolldon’t even hear it anymore. They might to totally right, and what they’re saying could be something worth listening to… but you’ve heard it so many times you’ve tuned it out.

What if your parent is saying it so often because they’ve learned it the hard way?

I think that’s what happens with John 3:16. Unfortunately, it’s so well known that many people miss out on the glorious truth it simply proclaims. It’s an incredible verse to summarize the gospel-message.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

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How to be Good

This week at Youth Group we resumed our series, “Think About It: Christian Cliches… what’s this even mean?!”Other messages in the series include: “How to be a Strong Christian,” “What’s it Mean to Invite Jesus into Your Heart?,” “It’s Not My Gift,” and “Let Go, Let God.” 

If you were to measure the people on the scale below, where would you place them on a ‘goodness scale?’

Goodness Scale

Why would you put them there? What makes the Pope “better” than Bieber? How do you decide if Taylor Swift belongs? Really think about it… what does it mean to “be good.”
It all depends on how you’re measuring!

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What is an “Unreached People Group?”

At our teen guys’ Bible Study last night we were talking about evangelism, and about the importance of sharing the gospel with those who haven’t heard before. They were shocked to hear that almost half the population of the world has never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus. If we believe the gospel is necessary for salvation and eternal hope, this is utterly tragic! And this is why our church is so emphatic about the importance of global missions.

What is the Story of the Bible all about?
The Bible is the story of God’s work to rescue creation from the judgment she has fallen under because of sin. The Bible is not a “rule book” or “instruction manual,” but instead, it’s the story of Good News that we can live with eternal hope and security because of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ! This is the message of Christianity.

Check out this video, which gives an excellent summary of the whole Bible in only 6:30.

What is an Unreached People Group?
A People Group is a group of people with a distinct culture (think about all the tribes of Native Americans, who had their own customs, histories, and languages, even though the different tribes were all considered “Native Americans”). An Unreached People Group (UPG) is a group who has no access to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If they heard you talk about Jesus, they’d respond with, “Who’s he? Does he live down the road? I’ve never heard of him.” The three-minute video below gives a compelling vision for why Christians need to care about UPG’s in our world.

More info about UPG’s

  • There are roughly 16,400 people groups in the world. 6,648 of them are considered UPG’s (according to The Joshua Project, a ministry devoted to promoting information about UPG’s). That’s roughly 40.5%.
  • The global population is estimated at 7.28 Billion people, with 42.2% of them being people who have no access to the gospel (3.07 Billion people).
  • Once a people group reaches 2% who are Christians, that people group is no longer considered “unreached.” Those 2% are then a viable Church who is further equipped take the gospel to their people.
  • 95% of these people live in the “10/40 Window” (10 & 40 degrees north of the equator). Less than 10% of missionaries are serving among these UPG’s in the 10/40 Window.
  • Finishing the Task estimates there are 506 people groups who have still never been engaged by anyone attempting to share the Good News of Jesus Christ

 

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Click image above to sign up for daily emails to fuel your prayer for Unreached People Groups.

 

How to be a Strong Christian

This is the fourth message in our series “Think About It: Christian Cliches… what’s this even mean?” Other messages in the series include “What’s it Mean to Invite Jesus into Your Heart?” “It’s Not My Gift” and “Let Go, Let God.” 

Think about the strongest Christian you know. What is he or she like?

When we think about strong Christians, we think about someone who knows the Bible inside-out, who is bold about sharing their faith, whose prayer-life is something we could only imagine having. Essentially… we think about a Christian ninja. And we know that does NOT describe us!

But what if being a strong Christian is about something else? What if you don’t need to be a Christian ninja for God to use you?

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I’m Christian But I’m not…

Have you ever been asked a question and immediately thought, “That’s a stupid question!” Then you realized that you actually had to give an answer, and it suddenly becomes a really hard question. In those situations we often answer and then walk away thinking, “Ugh! I have a way better answer now. I want a re-do!” I wonder how many of us would feel that way if we were asked the questions in the video below.

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What is the Gospel?

Do you know the gospel? Ok, great! Let’s hear it. Right now, in under a minute. What if you had three minutes to explain the gospel to someone in a way that was understandable, biblical, and compelling? Could you do that?

Christians talk about the gospel a lot, but I think most of us are unprepared to actually share the gospel with people. Hopefully I’m wrong, but I’d be surprised. Here are three things that I am absolutely convinced need to be in any presentation of the gospel (whether you’re talking with a friend or preaching from a pulpit).

1. Sin & Judgment
Without talking about sin, there’s simply no need for a savior. If I’m fine and can handle life on my own by being better than the next guy, then I don’t really need God.

But if sin is real and judgment is coming, then sin is a big deal. We shouldn’t talk about judgment in a way that we are the ones doing the judging, but simply to ask the question, “What if there is a God and you’re called to stand before him to answer for your sin? What would you have to say for yourself?” Because, as much as we may argue against Christ, I think most people know that they’re more sinful than they would admit.

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” Romans 3:23-24

The reality is we will all need to answer before God. The bad news is that we’re all guilty; the good news is Jesus came to declare us innocent.

2. Jesus’s Death and Resurrection
If Jesus is the doorway through which we enter, the cross and the empty tomb are the hinges. Much to my frustration, I have heard many “gospel presentations” at large evangelistic youth events where the cross and resurrection have been either completely absent or so briefly mentioned they merely got a head-nod.

Read through the book of Acts and see how the Apostles preached the gospel. They always emphasized the Person of Christ (who Jesus is) and the Work of Christ (what he did: especially on the cross and through the resurrection).

The gospel is not shared by merely asking, “Do you want to be a child of God” or “Do you want to be forgiven?” Those are great questions, and they may pave the road towards sharing the good news about who Jesus is and what he did, but they are not the gospel.

Our faith needs to be placed in Jesus Christ, for he alone is the giver of good news (which is what the word “gospel” means… “good news”). The gospel is the message of what Jesus did: he died as our substitute on the cross, taking upon himself the judgment that we deserve, and we claim his resurrection victory as our own by faith. Because of Jesus we have been reconciled, redeemed, and reunited with God. The rift that was torn between God and humanity has been restored. The wrath of God, which we earned because of our sinful rebellion against his sovereign reign, has been quenched by the cross. The sting of death has been defeated and given the death-sentence because of the resurrection.

The message of the gospel completely hinges upon who Jesus is (the Son of God) and what he did (took away the sin of the world through his death and resurrection). If you do not focus on Jesus you simply are not talking about the gospel.

3. Repentance
The only appropriate response to the gospel is repentance. When we recognize our sin, we see our need for a savior. When we believe in Jesus and place our faith in what he has done for us, we proclaim that our eternal destiny is completely dependent on him. If those two things are true of us, we need to understand repentance. Again, we look at the Apostles’ preaching to see the necessity of repentance,

I… declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” Acts 26:20

Technically, to “repent” means “to change your mind,” or “to turn around.” I like to explain it as doing an about-face. For more about repentance you can go here.

There are two main steps to repentance:

  1. Confessing that you are a sinner. Not just in a general sense, but to actually name your sins before God. “God, I’m proud. I want people to think I’m important and impressive and I tend to care more about their opinion than I care about your opinion.” Naming your sins before God doesn’t surprise him. Confession weakens your sin by staring it straight in the eye instead of playing pretend that you don’t have issues. If you can’t confess your sin, you cannot repent.
  2. Professing that God is better than your sin… and living like it. If you confess your pride but continue to live in it, then have you really admitted that it was wrong or did you simply pay lip-service to what you think was the “right thing” to pray? Confession leads to profession… saying that the joy of following God is greater than the happiness offered by sin. Simply put, this second step of repentance is “living it!” So you want to stop sinning? Great. Will you live differently?

Without repentance, faith is hollow and empty. We can claim to be Christians, and we can say that we believe in Jesus, but we are saying by our lives that we want eternal life with God but we want our independence right now.

Reminder: Jesus Wants to Make You New
If you are sharing the gospel with someone, be sure they realize that Jesus wants to make them new. New hope. New faith. New destiny. New freedom. New life.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Forgiveness is “free” in the sense that we can’t earn it and we certainly don’t deserve it. Becoming a Christian will cost you something. Obviously, we don’t give up all our sinful habits in the moment we give ourselves to Jesus. The Christian life is a lifelong habit of repentance because we’re always finding something new to confess and because we routinely slip into our old habits of believing that sin can bring more joy than Jesus.

I love to remind people that Jesus wants to make them new. Not new in a way that is completely different from the old; but new in a way that is more complete than what was there before.

A Final Encouragement: Remember the Holy Spirit
Remember that you are not alone. God cares more about the lost than you do, the Holy Spirit is actively working in that persons life. Salvation is never the result of human effort, it is always the work of God. He will use you to accomplish that work, but do not go about it in a way that puts the results in your own hands. If the person believes, then praise God for his faithfulness! If the person still doubts, then pray that God would continue to work in his or her life in such a way that they would come to see the joy and hope and newness of life that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

Worth Your Time 3/6/15

Each Friday I try to provide a few articles that are worth the time of parents and youth workers. These articles span a number of issues, and not all are written by Christians, but they are all “worth your time.” Here’s the latest edition:

Battling Pornography… by Walt Mueller (CPYU)
“Over the course of the last couple of weeks I’ve had several people ask me this question: ‘What do think is the biggest challenge facing children and teens today?’ That’s a tough question to answer. Without a doubt, today’s ‘biggest challenge’ is nothing new. It’s a challenge shared by every human being who has drawn breath in our post-Genesis 3:6 world. It’s our brokenness and sin. Still, the question asks about how our sin is nuanced in our culture, our times, and our lives. My answer, with little hesitation, has to be ‘pornography.'”

Abusing Grace: Finding the Line Between “Guilt Trip” and “It’s All Good” by Tim Downey (Leadertreks)
“Those who abuse grace respond quickly: ‘I don’t have to live under a legalistic set of rules any longer. I’m free in Christ.’ But are they living in true freedom? Christians do not earn grace through actions, but Christ purchased for us freedomfrom sin, not freedom to sin. We must ask ourselves one simple question: Has the ‘freedom’ we have embraced brought us liberty or bondage (Gal. 5:13)?”

Francis Chan: Church Wastes Too Much Time Waiting on God’s Voice, Christians Getting Too Fat on the Word by Stephanie Samuel (Christian Post)
“Chan explained that continually listening to the Word without applying it has made Christians’ ears dull to God’s call. “That’s the first thing I was taught in seminary before we even started classes: the president of the seminary said, ‘look be careful because once you can hear the word of God and do nothing in response then the next time you hear it, it’ll get easier, and the next time and pretty soon it becomes a habit and a pattern of you’re able to hear the Word of God without a practical response,’ said Chan.”

Why an Actual Infinity Cannot Exist and Therefore We Know That The Universe Had a Beginning by Justin Taylor (Gospel Coalition)
“Philosopher William Lane Craig has done more than any other contemporary to popularize and develop the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which is simple to formulate and difficult to refute. The premises of the argument are as follows:

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe begins to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.”

Parenting Means Wrestling Demons by Jonathan Parnell (Desiring God)
“There is a war on children, and we are all, in one way or another, playing some role in it. Every time we move forward as faithful parents (or care for kids in any capacity, including advocating for the voiceless not yet born, and volunteering for nursery duty on Sundays), we are wrestling demons — because there is little the demons hate more than little children.”