The Gospel Conclusion and Implications

This is Part 5 of a series on Gospel and Students.

Here’s a rundown of where we’ve been so far!

In this post, we’ll take a look at the six characteristics and give a brief overview of what I believe students need to know! Before we do that, here is a summary statement of what I believe defines the Gospel…

The gospel is the transformative news that by God’s grace alone, through faith, our open rebellion is atoned for in the cross of Christ. As Christ willingly sacrificed His life and took the punishment we earned, our sins are justified, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, and God’s wrath is satisfied, so that all things might be reconciled to the Creator. 

 


 

WHY THE GOSPEL?

I think it’s important for students to know and understand why it is we need the Gospel.  Especially in the “first world” countries, a lot of our students see no need for anything billed in the same way “self help” books are promoted. Our culture says to bootstrap it! Pick yourself up! Take care of business! Fix your own problems! Be the hero!

Our students need to know that their choices have implications and consequences.  They also need to know that God, by his nature, cannot just look the other way.  The common analogy I’ve started using is this: Imagine there’s a judge presiding over a case where the defendant has tortured and murdered an entire family, leaving only one child alive. If that judge were to say, “Do you promise to do better next time?  Okay, you’re free to go,” that judge would NOT be just, fair, righteous, or worthy of praise.  That’s what a lot of people think God does, “Oh, just try harder.”  Our actions have consequences. We may not like it, but they do.

THE GOSPEL CENTERS ON THE CROSS

It all comes back to this.  As pastors, we know this. But think about the past 6 months of your preaching and/or lessons…how many of them pointed to the work of the cross?  It’s central to everything we believe, and without it, there is no hope.  It’s too easy for students to think, as one of mine voiced last semester, “Jesus died on the cross because no one believed him and they had to get rid of him because he was bugging them.”  Hearing that out of a student, even a fringe student like the one who said that, cuts at my core. We need to help students realize the centrality of the Cross.

 

THE GOSPEL TRANSFORMS

Our students, whether they realize it or not, are beyond broken.  They try and put up a good front, but it’s one that cannot be sustained and cannot withhold in the chaos of life.  Often, I find students think that the Gospel assists them as they go through life trying to be better, the Gospel encourages them to be better people, or the Gospel makes sure they don’t go to hell.  Students need to know they gain a new identity because of Jesus.

I’ve preached this illustration several times.  I take a mug and explain how the mug is designed with a purpose (keep my coffee hot, keep my hand less hot), just like we are.  Then, I smash that joker with a hammer. I show what it’s like to try and hold the shattered pieces together to accomplish it’s original look and purpose.  Even as I try and hold it together, I know that if coffee were to be poured in, it’s useless. And if I flinch, I could cut myself and it would fall apart. It just won’t work.  Students, in that illustration, would often see God as a giant Gorilla Glue Dispenser, coming in, piecing things together, hoping you can hold it in place long enough to fix.  In reality, as I pull out a brand new mug, I tell them that God recreates them in a way we never could imagine.  

Sure the illustration breaks down, but it’s a visual reminder that they are transformed, not just reassembled.

 THE GOSPEL JUSTIFIES AND ATONES FOR SIN

As we’ve said throughout this series, sin must be paid. It is not a debt ignored or a blemish covered.  When students start to process the holiness of God and the wretchedness of their life, pray that they would realize the weight of their decisions and, even more importantly, the gift of Jesus.  With this, I usually use an example of a credit card to open up the concept, even though it runs far deeper.

 THE GOSPEL IMPUTES RIGHTEOUSNESS

Not only does God take away the sin we earned, he gives us the holiness he earned.  As a part of the transformation, the identity and holiness and righteousness of Christ literally becomes a descriptor of us, through Christ.  For this, I often describe wearing dirty clothes, having filthy clothes, and running through mud.  This means I can’t be clean. It’s forever-mud.  Christ comes, takes off our clothes covered in sin and filth and dirt, and gives us his mantle of righteousness. The result? When God looks at Jesus, he saw all of the bad things we’ve ever done.  When God looks at us, he sees a perfect and holy child of God.  This wasn’t some super-secret trick…it was what God CHOSE to do so that we could be with him.

 THE GOSPEL IS NOT EARNED

Whether you are Calvinist, Armenian, a mix, or even both, the Gospel, and really salvation, is not earned. Our students need to know that their status with God does not elevate their status among their peers. They’ve been fortunate enough to have an unpayable debt paid, which should drive them to worship and holiness.  I tell students that SINCE our debt is paid, we serve Him, worship Him, and want to know Him.  It’s not earned, but that also means it’s not revoked.

 THE GOSPEL RECONCILES CREATION

As a part of salvation, we are reconciled, or brought back together, in relationships that have been damaged.  We don’t have time here to unpack all of that, but I would strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of When Helping Hurts. They do a great job of going through those relationships, and their impact on the world.

 


 

 CONCLUSION

The story of Scripture is the story of God seeking a relationship with people seeking themselves. There seems, at first, a predicament. God is righteous and cannot be near sin, while at the same time, God is loving and desperately wants His people. As the transformation occurs through the justification, atonement, and imputed righteousness, God is able to uphold both righteousness and love. No longer is there a chasm dividing Creator and His beloved creation. God does not have to sacrifice His righteousness; sin is punished. He does not have to sacrifice His love; relationships are reconciled and returned to the manner in which they were designed and created. Humankind is counted with the righteousness of Christ, allowing for the relationship to be restored.

The Gospel is a message of hope and grace to people often ignorant of the need’s very existence. In the beginning, humankind broke the world. From that moment forward, God adamantly chases His people but cannot sacrifice His character. As a result, we come to a beautiful, refreshing, nonsensical message that our debt is paid. Often, students of the Bible want to dive into the Word and go deep. After “grasping” the Gospel, they want to go deeper. However, there is nothing deeper, nothing more impacting, nothing more profound than the message of the Gospel.

 

Perhaps the heart of the message can be felt in the words of the hymn writer William Rees as he writes:

On the mount of crucifixion fountains opened deep and wide, through the floodgates of God’s mercy flowed a vast and gracious tide. Grace and love, like mighty rivers poured incessant from above, and Heaven’s peace and perfect justice kissed a guilty world in love.

 

 This series has ONE MORE post, giving you the implications of the Gospel on baptism and how I walk through the significance of that moment with students.

The Gospel Conclusion and Implications

This is Part 5 of a series on Gospel and Students.

Here’s a rundown of where we’ve been so far!

In this post, we’ll take a look at the six characteristics and give a brief overview of what I believe students need to know! Before we do that, here is a summary statement of what I believe defines the Gospel…

The gospel is the transformative news that by God’s grace alone, through faith, our open rebellion is atoned for in the cross of Christ. As Christ willingly sacrificed His life and took the punishment we earned, our sins are justified, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, and God’s wrath is satisfied, so that all things might be reconciled to the Creator. 

 


 

WHY THE GOSPEL?

I think it’s important for students to know and understand why it is we need the Gospel.  Especially in the “first world” countries, a lot of our students see no need for anything billed in the same way “self help” books are promoted. Our culture says to bootstrap it! Pick yourself up! Take care of business! Fix your own problems! Be the hero!

Our students need to know that their choices have implications and consequences.  They also need to know that God, by his nature, cannot just look the other way.  The common analogy I’ve started using is this: Imagine there’s a judge presiding over a case where the defendant has tortured and murdered an entire family, leaving only one child alive. If that judge were to say, “Do you promise to do better next time?  Okay, you’re free to go,” that judge would NOT be just, fair, righteous, or worthy of praise.  That’s what a lot of people think God does, “Oh, just try harder.”  Our actions have consequences. We may not like it, but they do.

THE GOSPEL CENTERS ON THE CROSS

It all comes back to this.  As pastors, we know this. But think about the past 6 months of your preaching and/or lessons…how many of them pointed to the work of the cross?  It’s central to everything we believe, and without it, there is no hope.  It’s too easy for students to think, as one of mine voiced last semester, “Jesus died on the cross because no one believed him and they had to get rid of him because he was bugging them.”  Hearing that out of a student, even a fringe student like the one who said that, cuts at my core. We need to help students realize the centrality of the Cross.

 

THE GOSPEL TRANSFORMS

Our students, whether they realize it or not, are beyond broken.  They try and put up a good front, but it’s one that cannot be sustained and cannot withhold in the chaos of life.  Often, I find students think that the Gospel assists them as they go through life trying to be better, the Gospel encourages them to be better people, or the Gospel makes sure they don’t go to hell.  Students need to know they gain a new identity because of Jesus.

I’ve preached this illustration several times.  I take a mug and explain how the mug is designed with a purpose (keep my coffee hot, keep my hand less hot), just like we are.  Then, I smash that joker with a hammer. I show what it’s like to try and hold the shattered pieces together to accomplish it’s original look and purpose.  Even as I try and hold it together, I know that if coffee were to be poured in, it’s useless. And if I flinch, I could cut myself and it would fall apart. It just won’t work.  Students, in that illustration, would often see God as a giant Gorilla Glue Dispenser, coming in, piecing things together, hoping you can hold it in place long enough to fix.  In reality, as I pull out a brand new mug, I tell them that God recreates them in a way we never could imagine.  

Sure the illustration breaks down, but it’s a visual reminder that they are transformed, not just reassembled.

 THE GOSPEL JUSTIFIES AND ATONES FOR SIN

As we’ve said throughout this series, sin must be paid. It is not a debt ignored or a blemish covered.  When students start to process the holiness of God and the wretchedness of their life, pray that they would realize the weight of their decisions and, even more importantly, the gift of Jesus.  With this, I usually use an example of a credit card to open up the concept, even though it runs far deeper.

 THE GOSPEL IMPUTES RIGHTEOUSNESS

Not only does God take away the sin we earned, he gives us the holiness he earned.  As a part of the transformation, the identity and holiness and righteousness of Christ literally becomes a descriptor of us, through Christ.  For this, I often describe wearing dirty clothes, having filthy clothes, and running through mud.  This means I can’t be clean. It’s forever-mud.  Christ comes, takes off our clothes covered in sin and filth and dirt, and gives us his mantle of righteousness. The result? When God looks at Jesus, he saw all of the bad things we’ve ever done.  When God looks at us, he sees a perfect and holy child of God.  This wasn’t some super-secret trick…it was what God CHOSE to do so that we could be with him.

 THE GOSPEL IS NOT EARNED

Whether you are Calvinist, Armenian, a mix, or even both, the Gospel, and really salvation, is not earned. Our students need to know that their status with God does not elevate their status among their peers. They’ve been fortunate enough to have an unpayable debt paid, which should drive them to worship and holiness.  I tell students that SINCE our debt is paid, we serve Him, worship Him, and want to know Him.  It’s not earned, but that also means it’s not revoked.

 THE GOSPEL RECONCILES CREATION

As a part of salvation, we are reconciled, or brought back together, in relationships that have been damaged.  We don’t have time here to unpack all of that, but I would strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of When Helping Hurts. They do a great job of going through those relationships, and their impact on the world.

 


 

 CONCLUSION

The story of Scripture is the story of God seeking a relationship with people seeking themselves. There seems, at first, a predicament. God is righteous and cannot be near sin, while at the same time, God is loving and desperately wants His people. As the transformation occurs through the justification, atonement, and imputed righteousness, God is able to uphold both righteousness and love. No longer is there a chasm dividing Creator and His beloved creation. God does not have to sacrifice His righteousness; sin is punished. He does not have to sacrifice His love; relationships are reconciled and returned to the manner in which they were designed and created. Humankind is counted with the righteousness of Christ, allowing for the relationship to be restored.

The Gospel is a message of hope and grace to people often ignorant of the need’s very existence. In the beginning, humankind broke the world. From that moment forward, God adamantly chases His people but cannot sacrifice His character. As a result, we come to a beautiful, refreshing, nonsensical message that our debt is paid. Often, students of the Bible want to dive into the Word and go deep. After “grasping” the Gospel, they want to go deeper. However, there is nothing deeper, nothing more impacting, nothing more profound than the message of the Gospel.

 

Perhaps the heart of the message can be felt in the words of the hymn writer William Rees as he writes:

On the mount of crucifixion fountains opened deep and wide, through the floodgates of God’s mercy flowed a vast and gracious tide. Grace and love, like mighty rivers poured incessant from above, and Heaven’s peace and perfect justice kissed a guilty world in love.

 

 This series has ONE MORE post, giving you the implications of the Gospel on baptism and how I walk through the significance of that moment with students.

The Gospel and Youth Ministry | Part 4

Here’s a rundown of where we’ve been so far!

In this post, we’ll finish up the other three key factors of the Gospel message…here we go!

 

THE GOSPEL IMPUTES RIGHTEOUSNESS.

As we said last post, the Gospel justifies and atones for sin.  The other half of the interaction that leads to humanity’s transformation is that the righteousness of Christ being imputed to those who believe. The term imputed means given into one’s identity. It is not merely that the righteousness of Christ covers or influences those who believe, but through the union with Christ, it becomes an identity marker of those who believe. Believers are, as Paul tells the church in Corinth, “in” Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:30). Salvation for believers comes through having our sins justified, but equally through unity with Christ. The gift of salvation is in and of itself the gift of Christ and unity with Him. The union created through salvation is the substance of salvation. As mentioned before, the Gospel message gives the promise that believers become a new creation. A believer unites with Christ and the sin receives atonement (when the sin rightly attributed to humankind is attributed to and paid for by Christ), and at the same time, the sinner receives the righteousness only rightly attributed to Jesus Christ (Phil 3:9).

 

THE GOSPEL IS NOT EARNED.

The message of the Gospel is not hope attributed to individuals on the basis of merit. It is, by definition, a gift of grace (Eph 2:8-9). Humankind has a propensity and inner desire to attempt to earn or deserve salvation; grace does not come naturally. However, Scripture is clear that the hope found in the Gospel comes through faith alone, not by human effort (Gal 2:15-16, Rom 8:3-4). Should the fruit of the Gospel be attainable by human effort, that would leave room for pride, arrogance, and boasting to grow. However, as it is void of human effort or initiation, it is also void of human glory (Rom 5:1-2, Gal 6:13-14).

 

THE GOSPEL RECONCILES CREATION.

Genesis 3 presents the fundamental problem of broken relationships as a direct result of humankind’s willing and open rebellion against God.

  • Genesis 3:7 // Broken relationships with man and self.
  • Genesis 3:8-10 // Broken relationships with man and God.
  • Genesis 3:12 // Broken relationships with man and others.
  • Genesis 3:17 // Broken relationships with man and nature.

Though nature is still functioning in open rebellion, the message of the Gospel is that God lays down the life of His son in order to reconcile, or make right, His relationship with humankind (Rom 5:10-11). Through His death, humankind’s justification, and His righteousness, believers are able to be presented before the divine God, His wrath abated, as holy and blameless (Col 1:21-22). Not only is humankind reconciled, reconciliation is found in relation to creation as well, as it longs to be restored through the hope of Christ (Rom 8:20-22).

 

In the next post in this series, we’ll tie all the factors together that define the Gospel and talk about the implications on our students and our ministries.  In the final post, we’ll look at how the Gospel, Baptism, and our students interact.

The Gospel and Youth Ministry | Part 4

Here’s a rundown of where we’ve been so far!

In this post, we’ll finish up the other three key factors of the Gospel message…here we go!

 

THE GOSPEL IMPUTES RIGHTEOUSNESS.

As we said last post, the Gospel justifies and atones for sin.  The other half of the interaction that leads to humanity’s transformation is that the righteousness of Christ being imputed to those who believe. The term imputed means given into one’s identity. It is not merely that the righteousness of Christ covers or influences those who believe, but through the union with Christ, it becomes an identity marker of those who believe. Believers are, as Paul tells the church in Corinth, “in” Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:30). Salvation for believers comes through having our sins justified, but equally through unity with Christ. The gift of salvation is in and of itself the gift of Christ and unity with Him. The union created through salvation is the substance of salvation. As mentioned before, the Gospel message gives the promise that believers become a new creation. A believer unites with Christ and the sin receives atonement (when the sin rightly attributed to humankind is attributed to and paid for by Christ), and at the same time, the sinner receives the righteousness only rightly attributed to Jesus Christ (Phil 3:9).

 

THE GOSPEL IS NOT EARNED.

The message of the Gospel is not hope attributed to individuals on the basis of merit. It is, by definition, a gift of grace (Eph 2:8-9). Humankind has a propensity and inner desire to attempt to earn or deserve salvation; grace does not come naturally. However, Scripture is clear that the hope found in the Gospel comes through faith alone, not by human effort (Gal 2:15-16, Rom 8:3-4). Should the fruit of the Gospel be attainable by human effort, that would leave room for pride, arrogance, and boasting to grow. However, as it is void of human effort or initiation, it is also void of human glory (Rom 5:1-2, Gal 6:13-14).

 

THE GOSPEL RECONCILES CREATION.

Genesis 3 presents the fundamental problem of broken relationships as a direct result of humankind’s willing and open rebellion against God.

  • Genesis 3:7 // Broken relationships with man and self.
  • Genesis 3:8-10 // Broken relationships with man and God.
  • Genesis 3:12 // Broken relationships with man and others.
  • Genesis 3:17 // Broken relationships with man and nature.

Though nature is still functioning in open rebellion, the message of the Gospel is that God lays down the life of His son in order to reconcile, or make right, His relationship with humankind (Rom 5:10-11). Through His death, humankind’s justification, and His righteousness, believers are able to be presented before the divine God, His wrath abated, as holy and blameless (Col 1:21-22). Not only is humankind reconciled, reconciliation is found in relation to creation as well, as it longs to be restored through the hope of Christ (Rom 8:20-22).

 

In the next post in this series, we’ll tie all the factors together that define the Gospel and talk about the implications on our students and our ministries.  In the final post, we’ll look at how the Gospel, Baptism, and our students interact.

The Gospel and Youth Ministry | Part 3

This is part 3 of a Gospel and Students series.

If you’re just now reading this series, here is a link to PART ONE and a link to PART TWO.


 

The Gospel is complex, and cannot be taken apart from its other pieces.

  • It is not a hope, though in it, believers find hope.
  • It is not a life, though through it, believers are brought to life.
  • It is not supreme, though it is sent by the One who is.

The Gospel, at its core, is a message – one of power and one of hope. The Gospel has many aspects, and is incomplete and insufficient as a message apart from the whole. Having seen the need for a message of hope, what are the key components that comprise the message of the Gospel? In this post, I’ll go through three of the six key factors of the Gospel message…

THE GOSPEL CENTERS ON THE CROSS.

The cross is central in Paul’s writings. Through the cross, God’s love and righteousness are revealed. Though he is holy and righteous, he saves the sinners and the ungodly (Rom 5:6-10). In the cross, Paul finds the power of God and the means of salvation for those who, through His grace, put their faith in God (1 Cor 1:18-24, Rom 1:16). In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul reminds them of the foundation of his message and the force of the gospel he proclaimed, all relying on the power of the cross (1 Cor 2:2). Though not in every letter, Paul’s modern and original readers cannot escape the centrality of the cross. It bleeds into every aspect of Paul’s ministry and his message. Without the cross, the Gospel carries no power. Through the Gospel, our sin does not get swept under the rug. Sin must be punished to preserve God’s righteousness. At the cross, we see God’s righteousness upheld and His saving love unleashed. Without the cross and Christ’s resurrection, the Gospel has no teeth (1 Cor 15:17).

THE GOSPEL TRANSFORMS.

Throughout Scripture, specifically in Paul, one finds a distinct theology of new creation. Clearly outlined in Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul describes humanity as being dead, desire-seeking children of wrath. Being dead necessitates that one is incapable of bringing oneself to life, even if one willingly, momentarily, strayed from seeking self-pleasure. The message of the Gospel is not one that says the dead are aided and the broken patched. It is not an external aid or symbol (Gal 6:15). Instead, the message of the Gospel is one that brings newness, transforming death into life, old into new (2 Cor 5:17). The Gospel does not tarry with attempting to hold the shattered pieces of broken life in just the right place to resemble wholeness. Rather, as one is raised with Christ and brought to life, one becomes an heir of God and “fellow heirs of Christ” (Rom 6:17).

It should be noted while Scripture affirms the transformation from death to life the moment one is called by God, Paul carries with him what has become known as the “Already/Not Yet” soteriology and eschatology. Believers cross from this age to the next when brought from death to life. However, they still find themselves in tension with the past age (the world we live in physically). As a result, not all of the promises of new life see fruition in this age, as Paul struggles with in Romans 7:14-25. Believers still see temptation and must still strive to live a life pleasing to God (1 Thess 4:1-8, Romans 6:19-22).

Only the Gospel transforms the hopeless to the hope-filled, the broken to the whole, the dead to the living. How is this transformation accomplished? As noted previously, those who are dead in their trespasses live in sin and rebellion, stirring God’s wrath. The sin and the wrath cannot go unaddressed! The solution through the Gospel message comes in a two-part exchange. Christ takes the sins of those brought to life and justifies them through His atoning sacrifice. At the same time, Christ gives His righteousness to believers, imputing into him/her a righteousness he/she cannot attain.

THE GOSPEL JUSTIFIES AND ATONES FOR SIN

The purpose for Christ’s resurrection, as Paul states in Romans 4:24-25, is that trespasses be paid for and for the justification of those who believe. The term “justification” carries with it the idea of an account being paid. When one carries a debt, the debt is justified, or fulfilled, when payment has been made. Often in Paul’s writings, the verb form of dikaio is used, indicating that “justification” is more than a status, but an action with God as the initiator. Humanity’s debt, through faith in Christ, is paid (Gal 2:15-16).

Justification is not simply announced as a new status, changing the ledger books as it’s spoken; sin cannot go unpunished. Instead, justification is made possible as a result of Christ’s atonement. Under the old Covenant, offerings and sacrifices were required as a means of cleansing the Israelites of their sins (Lev 9:7, 16:30, 17:11). This is not discontinued by Christ, but rather, perfected (Rom 5:9, 1 Cor 15:3, 2 Cor 5:15, Heb 9:15-28)! Jesus, the perfect sacrificial lamb, willingly accepted the sins of humankind as if they were his own (1 Cor 5:7), and thus the sins of humankind were atoned. In that moment, my ledger was paid down…I no longer owe.

The message of the Gospel is that humankind’s identity shifts from that of the thief, reviler, drunkard, and swindler to one washed clean (1 Cor 6:11). As Isaiah prophesied, Jesus was crushed for our sins that the sins may be atoned – not by law, but by His death (Rom 3:21- 25). On the cross, the one who knew no sin at all took on the full weight humanity’s sin. The ultimate debt that could not be paid was atoned for by the One who owed nothing, motivated by eternal love and enduring grace (1 Tim 2:5, Titus 3:7).

 


When it comes to Student Ministry, the Gospel is often implied but never explicitly communicated.

How are you communicating these Gospel Truth’s to your students in your Main teaching times?
How do you equip volunteers within your ministry to walk students through your churches doctrinal statement?