A few years ago I had the opportunity to share the Gospel of God’s grace with a large youth group for several weeks. I poured out the scriptures regarding the cross and the love of Jesus for all of us. I taught them about how Jesus had become sin that they might be made righteous in Him. He had made them a new creation and removed their sins as far as the East is from the West. Tears flowed as kids were receiving freedom from the performance-based religion that they had been under. I shared with them this truth:
Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. (Colossians 1:22, NLT)
Sadly, it seems that youth leaders often feel more pressure to tell kids to stop sinning than to tell them who they are in Christ, not realizing that creating a sin consciousness goes against their very goal of making the kids behave.
The strength of sin is the law... (1 Corinthians 15:56, NKJV)
Having five kids myself, ages 15 to 26, I've found from experience that another focus of youth rallies and youth meetings is getting the kids to demonstrate their love and passion for God.
During one of my teachings, I shared Luke 10 and the story of the lawyer who questioned Jesus about eternal life. I told the students that according to Jesus, under the law, the greatest commandment was to love God with all their hearts.
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28, NKJV)
Think about the flip-side: “DON’T do this, and you will die! Do you know what Jesus was doing? He was bringing the law to its intended standard! Has anyone been able to love God that way? No!
That’s why God sent His Son, and HE demonstrated that He loves us with ALL His heart, soul, strength, and mind!
God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NKJV)
Before we were even a figment of our parent's imagination, Christ died for us. Before we ever had a desire to raise our hands to worship Him or give Him the honor He deserves, HE HONORED US in the most scandalous way possible: Christ died for the ungodly.
How is it possible that God would send His Son for me?! How is it possible that Jesus would die for me!?
Because He loves me that much.
When you realize how much He loves you, you end up falling in love with Him! And everyone else, too!
When we push loving God on people who don’t have a revelation of His grace, we’re preaching the law which says “you must love the Lord your God with all your heart…or else!!” All they hear is the “or else” part.
People will feel guilty, not because they are rebellious, but because they feel that their love for God doesn’t measure up. But the problem is that God’s love for them hasn’t been unveiled to them.
I told the kids that they weren’t under the law; they were under grace. I could feel the relief when I told them that what God really wanted was for them to receive His love and not TRY to love Him. We had a ministry time where kids came forward to be prayed for, and as is always the case when the pure Gospel is preached, bondages were broken, and many were set free.
Immediately after I taught and prayed for the kids, one of the college-age youth ministers came up to the stage to close the meeting with an announcement that shocked me. He invited the kids to be a part of a new group he was forming called the “Front Line.” This would be a leadership group that would show the other kids coming to the youth meetings how much they loved God. The idea was that if the kids could see how much the leaders loved God, it would compel them to love God, too.
I was stunned. It was the complete opposite of what I had just taught! This leader paced back and forth across the stage with great passion, raising his voice: “Your job as a part of the Front Line is to come up to the front near the stage during the youth services and worship God like crazy! Get on fire for God! Raise your hands, jump up and down, and yell for Jesus. Be bold! If you don’t have the courage to do that, you can’t be on the team! If you can’t lead, then don’t even bother signing up.”
What do you think that type of display of self-righteousness will accomplish? It will cause the kids who already feel condemned and defeated to feel even less worthy of God’s love as compared to those who are “on fire for God.” Tragically, they will walk away and maybe never come back. This should not be!
Why not have the youth leadership spread out and find seats near the back of the auditorium where they can quietly befriend the newcomers and show them the love of God? Instead of telling people to love God, let’s tell them how much He loves them. After they receive His love, no one will have to tell them to love Him.
We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19, NASB)
This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:19, NASB)
Can you see how GRACE changes everything?