This is a talk I gave from another series on the Cross of Christ (they’re everywhere at the moment!), looking at the question, “Why Did Jesus Take Our Place?” It was given at Thirsty, our cafe church. It can be listened to here.
This is a talk that I gave at our evening service. It was a part of a series looking at the cross. It was looking at Ephesians 2:1-3 and was titled “Sin: The Need For The Cross.” You can listen to it here. Enjoy!
The right book can sometimes be very helpful for someone. Here are three that I’ve read recently and which I think are great for teenagers.
True Spirituality – Vaughan Roberts
True Spirituality is a very accesible overview of 1 Corinthians. As always, Roberts is very readable and provides helpful illustrations to show the relevance of the letter for the teenager/student today. Each chapter is followed by some questions to help the reader think about what they’ve read. It’s by no means a complete commentary and in fairness, it never tries to be, but as an overview it’s very good. I dipped in and out of it, borrowing some of Roberts questions, illustrations and insights, for a one2one series with one of my teenagers but it could equally be used for small group studies or a springboard for a series of talks or just for a teenager to read through by themselves.
The Cross – Andrew Sach & Steve Jeffery
Clocking in at only 44 pages, this little book is great for a teenager who may not yet have made a commitment or for the new Christian. It simply lays out what happened at the cross and what it meant. Sach and Jeffery are two thirds of the team behind the tome “Pierced For Our Transgressions” which was a thorough defence of penal substitution and all that the cross stands for, so they certainly know what they’re talking about. At less than £3 it’s a steal and would easily make a great stocking filler this Christmas or a helpful gift at Easter.
Genuine: Becoming A Real Teenager – C.B. Martin
This is actually a reworking of Warren W. Wiersbe’s book “Becoming a Real Teenager” which just goes to show that something doesn’t have to be new to be relevant for young people (good job, otherwise we’d have to chuck out the Bible for a start!). Again, this is a short book coming in at 81 pages but is aimed more at encouraging the converted teenager who wants to live out their faith or challenging the teen with a half hearted faith. Each chapter looks at a different teenager from the bible including Joseph, David, Daniel, Mary, Timothy and Jesus, although the focus is most definitely on Jesus throughout the book. Each chapter finishes with some questions for the young person to “make it real.” This would be suitable for most teenagers between 14-18 years old.
During my quiet time this morning I was reading 1 Corinthians 3-4:7 and I was struck by one verse in verse, 1 Cor 4:15:
“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.”
The Corinthian church is probably the most unruly church we read about in the Bible. It’s full of division, quarrelling, factions and pride, and so Paul doesn’t hold back in putting them in their place. But this verse really struck me for what it says about guides and fathers. There was no shortage of people in the church wanting to lead others but very few of them took on a fatherly role in their leadership, which probably goes some way to explaining why the church was in such disarray.
So this got me thinking, “what does it mean to be a father to people in my ministry?” Helpfully, I think Paul shows us at least 5 things in the passage surrounding this verse. Here it is in it’s wider context:
“14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy,my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. 18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?”
Firstly, a father loves his children. In verse 14, Paul refers to the Corinthians as his ‘beloved children.’ These people, despite the mess they’ve made of their church and their very obvious sinfulness, are people who Paul loves dearly, as if they were his own children. This is in stark contrast to a guide. I might hire a guide to lead me up a mountain or take me on a tour of the Tower of London, but that guide has no love for me. He’s simply doing his job, detached from any real feeling for me. A father on the other hand, loves his children dearly, no matter what they might do to disappoint him. This love should be a mark of any ministry we are involved in.
Secondly, a father leads by example. Paul urges the Corinthians to imitate him, just as he imitates Christ (v16-17).Fathers realise that their children imitate them and are distressed when they see their child picking up their bad habits. As Christian leaders we need to realise that people see what we do and imitate us. If we really love the people under our care, then we’ll strive to be as Christlike as possible in our actions, leading people to imitate that.
Thirdly, a father teaches their child. In v18, Paul stresses that he has been teaching everywhere in every church. Teaching is such an important role of the Christian leader. Not long ago, I met some young people who went to church every week, attended their midweek bible study every week, went on summer camps and did every Christian festival going. Their exposure to Christianity was seemingly huge. But not one of them had any real grasp of the gospel which got me thinking, “if not the gospel, what are people actually teaching these kids week in, week out?!” My suspicion is that there were a lot of guides but very few Fathers around these people.
The teaching aspect brings me to the fourth thing a Christian leader does as a father. It’s not only that the leader must be a teacher, but he must teach the right thing. Paul says when he comes to Corinth he’ll come not to hear people’s talk but to find out their power (v19), “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power” (v20). So what’s this power that Paul is referring to? Well helpfully he’s talked about this at length in chapter 1:
” For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18
The power Paul talks about is the message of Christ crucified. That’s the message that seems foolish to the world but is actually the power of God. When Paul gets to Corinth he wants to see whether people are preaching the cross of Christ, because that is where the power of the Kingdom of God comes from. If the gospel message is not being taught in our churches, our youth cell groups, or camps, then our message is drained of power. But someone who is a real father to those in his care will preach the gospel.
Finally, a father spends time with his children. Paul tells the Corinthians he is coming to them soon (v19). The guide arrives at youth group at 7:30pm and checks out at 9:00pm, job done until next week. The father desires real relationship with his children and so spends time with them face to face, sharing his life with them. Facebook, twitter and texting are all great but they can’t compare to meeting face to face and that’s a real challenge to us in our increasingly isolated communities.
This verse challenges me to be a father to my young people. I hope it’ll challenge you too.
The final day! Sitting at home now and able to use the laptop. So much quicker than typing on a phone.
We had a few more sessions today thinking about our core values, this time applying them to our own ministries and our own discipleship. It was interesting to think through where we’re all weak and strong in relation to the things we say we value as a church and to think about how we might move forward in these areas. I led us through the last chunk of 1 Corinthians that we were looking at and we came away with a clear understanding that it’s the message of Christ crucified that is what we need to be proclaiming and to put our trust in. It’s that message that brings people to faith and it’s the root we need to go back to when we’re struggling. Our entire ministry and discipleship must centre around it. Knowing this is both an encouragement and a challenge. On the one hand, its very freeing to remember that all we need to really focus on is the cross. On the other hand, it was obvious to all of us that it’s so easy to put our trust in other things.
The challenge on getting home is for all the things we’ve thought about this week not to remain theoretical and become forgotten. The rubber has to hit the road and we have to go and put these things into practice.
Overall, the time away has been really fruitful and given me a lot of food for thought. Hopefully I’ll write a bit more about that once I’ve had a chance to think things over in more depth.