When Christian Becomes an Adjective

When I was a teenager the “What would Jesus Do?” (WWJD) bracelets were all the rage. If you went to youth group you were pretty much required to wear one. These were meant to encourage us to always ask the WWJD question, and to do what Jesus would do in that situation. What music would Jesus listen to? What TV shows or movies would Jesus watch? Who would Jesus choose to be friends with? etc.

It’s a great question to ask, WWJD? But that type of question can easily encourage us to think about “Christian” as an adjective rather than a noun. There was a Buzzfeed video (which I wrote about here) last week which was titled, “I’m Christian, But I’m Not….” One of my biggest frustrations with the video is how it reflects this thinking that Christian is an adjective more than it is a noun.

WWJD Bracelet Continue reading

Worth Your Time 5/1/15

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:

Why Not Gay Marriage? by Kevin DeYoung (The Gospel Coalition)
“Is there any reason a decent, rational, non-bigoted American might oppose same-sex marriage? Just as important: Are there any decent, rational, non-bigoted Americans who are willing to consider why other Americans might have plausible reasons for opposing same-sex marriage? This blog post is my way of saying “yes” to the first question and “let’s hope so” to the second.”
[On this same topic, I recommend Mike Riccardi’s post about whether or not the Bible talks about loving homosexual relationships or if it only condemns abusive homosexual relationships.]

Pray for Nepal by Tony Reinke (Desiring God)
“Viewed through this prism of the cross, Christ is exactly what my nation needs now. We tend to think that gospel would be ineffective or inappropriate to preach while people suffer so deeply. But it is the other way round. The gospel is the message of a broken Savior who is relevant to reach into broken lives right now. He is the only true comfort my country can have in this suffering.”

Today’s Teens and their Tech by Jonathan McKee (The Source 4 Youth Ministry)
“Last week Pew Research’s Amanda Lenhart released their brand new report on Teens, Social Media and Technology, providing us with the newest data on how many kids are actually online, engaging in social media, and using mobile devices.”

Remember Who You Are! by Todd Hill (Rooted Ministry)
“The reason I think that our students’ biggest struggle is living in their new identity, is because my biggest struggle is living in my new identity. Daily, I have to say to my Kingly Father, ‘Please help me not to live as an orphan today, but to live as your son!'”

God’s Will Isn’t Always Clear by Jon Bloom (Desiring God)
“But if we really love Jesus, we will increasingly love what he loves — we will be transformed by renewed minds. And our love for him and his kingdom will be revealed in the pattern of small and large decisions that we make.”

Replacing the Center of Youth Ministry by Josh Cousineau (Gospel Centered Discipleship)
“We must not point our youth toward empty religion but to a love-filled cross, a beaten and battered Savior, a King who defeated His foe, a risen Lord who rescues our hearts. To the one who beckons us, ‘Come, rest, and be accepted not because of what you have done but because I love you.’ The cross secures our affections to the one who was placed on it.”

The World Map of Christian Apps by Jeffrey Kranz (Disciplr)
“Devotionals, Bible readers, church management software—there are so many Christian apps out there! So the Disciplr team and I plotted the first ‘World Map of Christian Apps’: a visual guide to the landscape of digital tools created for the Church. This map pulls together Christian apps of all kinds: from native iOS and Android, Web-based, desktop software, and even a PowerPoint plugin. It’s not a comprehensive list, but it should give you an idea of what’s out there. And of course, remember that this is an observation, not a recommendation.”

Finding Your ID in Christ

How do you describe yourself to others when you first meet them? “Hi, I’m Mike, I’m __________.”

I’m a husband, father, son, brother, pastor, coach, friend, counselor, student… and Christian. Even within those “hats” I wear, there are different groups of friends and different ways that I relate to people as a pastor. There are church-friends, neighbor-friends, friends-from-childhood, friends-from-college, etc. The tough question is this: Am I the same “Mike” wherever I am, whoever I’m with, whatever I’m doing?

Obviously, I relate differently to different people. That’s ok. If I got up at a family gathering and started preaching to them like I would in church or at youth group… well, that wouldn’t be very well received. What I do and how I relate to people changes, but does my IDENTITY and “who I am” change depending on who I’m around?

There should be some consistency that makes me uniquely “ME,” regardless of who I’m around.

This is a struggle for everyone, but especially for teenagers. Most adolescent counselors agree that the main pursuit of adolescence is Identity-Formation… answering the “Who am I?” question.

Over the course of the “ID in Christ” series at Youth Group, here are a few of the Scripture passages and key themes we addressed.

  1. Genesis 1:26-27. You are created in God’s image. You reflect God’s nature and glory. You’re not Him, but He made you and you have a God-made nature to reflect his authority, kingship, holiness, justice, and love. There’s too much here to elaborate on, but it’s important to remember that God made you… and God doesn’t make junk.
  2. 2 Corinthians 5:17. If you are a Christian, then you are “in Christ” and you’re a “new creation.” The old is gone, the new has come. That doesn’t mean that you’re totally new and there’s no continuity with your “old life.” What’s new is your heart, your desire to please God, to worship and honor Him through your everyday life. If you were good at soccer before becoming a Christian, then you’re going to still be good at soccer as a Christian… But now you desire to play in a way that honors God rather than playing to honor yourself and to show off your skills.
  3. 1 Peter 2:9. It’s important to know who you are as an individual, but it’s also necessary to know who we are as Christians, as a members of the Church. In this passage Peter says we, together as God’s chosen and adopted people, are a royal priesthood, a holy nation who belongs to God. He’s made us his people in order to reflect His light into the darkness, so that others might also be adopted into the family and “transferred” from darkness into light. We don’t need to find a priest or temple anymore to pray for us or to make atonement for our sins, we have been given the Holy Spirit and made royal priests who each have an important ministry in the Church and in the world. We need each each other, because together we make up God’s holy people who shine His light into darkness.

Ultimately, we want to find our ID in Christ and through Christ so others see him shining through us when they see us. We want to be like the moon, who shines at night but doesn’t give off any light of its own. As the moon gives light in the darkness by reflecting the sun, we want to reflect Christ and not ourselves.

Are we bad, or do we do bad things?

Have you ever thought about that question before?  This question is focused on our relationship to sin and asks, “Does sin define me?”  I know a lot of people who openly confess that they aren’t perfect (and therefore that they sin), and yet they would call me judgmental for telling them that they’re sinners.

I know that I sin… and that I’m a sinner.  It is way more natural for me to sin and to do whatever I want than it is for me to do good and to obey Jesus’ teachings.  Can’t we all admit that?  I think that we all know that there’s just something “wrong” about all of us.

I’ve been thinking about the story where G.K. Chesterton and other famous British writers were asked to write essays for a newspaper giving their explanation for what’s wrong in the world.  Chesterton’s reply was simple and short: “I am.”

It’s easy and tempting to look around us and to cast blame on others for all of our faults, but when we’re really honest with ourselves I think we all know that there’s something broken inside of us.

The Bible teaches that we were created in the Image of God, but that image was shattered like a broken mirror when we sinned.  From that moment on, all of humanity has not only been sinful, but we have become sinners.  Sin isn’t just something we do, it’s a part of our core identity.  Theologians call this “Original Sin” because we are all naturally-born-sinners.

“There is no one righteous, not even one;… For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 3:10, 23–24)

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned”  (Romans 5:12)

Imagine shaving while looking into a mirrorball or trying to figure our what a person looks like when all you have as a reference point is a picture that is extremely out of focus.  That’s how we’ve become as God’s image-bearers.  We still are made in His image, but it’s broken in us because we’re sinners and God is Holy and Perfect.  But hope is not lost, for our Creator and Savior made us, and He knows how to heal and repair our brokenness!

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” (Romans 7:24–25)

What do you think?  When you think about yourself and your identity, will you confess that you are a sinner before God?  Will you stand before your all-knowing Judge and claim innocence despite confessions that you have done “bad things?”  …It’s worth thinking about…