According to the Riches of His Grace

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us…" -Ephesians 1:7-8

Category: The Cross

Why Many Church Kids Leave the Church

I’m sure you know at least one of them. You know those people who grew up in church. They were at all the fellowships. They went to church camp every year and probably even cried during that emotional final night of the week. They might have led worship during youth group and maybe even taught a Bible study.

But today, they are grown up and they are not in the church. In fact, they might even be professing atheists today. And you look at them and wonder, “What happened to you?” Maybe you believe in the doctrine of eternal security which says that you can’t lose your salvation (as I do) and this kind of person makes you question it. Yeah, people will say that those kids probably never knew Jesus, but that is hard to compare with how passionate they were for him during their youth years.

I have known many people who fit the bill for this description. I’ve even had really close friends who fit this description. I can’t say I know the answer to the question above of “were they ever really saved?”, but maybe I can offer some insight as to why I think they are no longer in church and no longer following after Jesus.

Disclaimer: I am not claiming that this is the case with every kid who grew up in church that is not in church anymore.

A big reason that church kids leave the church is because of the adults in their lives. That could be their parents, the adults in their church, or any other Christian adult they know.

You get well-meaning adults who genuinely do want the best for kids and they begin teaching Christianity to those kids, but in a wretchedly wrong way. They don’t teach them the truth of the Gospel. Rather, they teach them morality.

So those church kids grow up knowing a list of moral commands that they must keep in order to be a “good” Christian with no emphasis on Jesus. They know that true love waits. They know that we shouldn’t drink beer or cuss. We shouldn’t do anything more than hold hands with someone we are not married to. We shouldn’t see any movie that is rated “R” (we make an exception for “The Passion of the Christ”). They know that every good Christian votes Republican and only votes on 3 issues: traditional marriage, pro-life, and the right to bear arms. They know that being a good Christian means that you are a generally nice person in public and don’t end up in jail. They know that in difficult situations, they should ask What Would Jesus Do (and they probably wear bracelets with WWJD on it). They are taught to pray when they get up, before their meals, and before they go to bed.

And they are taught that if you don’t do these things or if you screw up and slip into a sin, God is sitting in heaven disgusted at you. In fact, you’d better ask for forgiveness quickly or he might blast fire out of heaven and kill you where you stand.

So this exhausting list of moral impossibility is taught to the church kids while they are young. During their young years, they understand it as proper obedience, until they move out or go off to college. Then they realize they are free to do whatever they want. With this freedom, they leave the church and start doing everything they were ever told not to do.

While some of these things above are true laws for the Christian to flourish in their relationship with Christ, if they are the basis of salvation, we are no different from the religions that seek to earn God’s approval. Often, people openly say they don’t believe salvation is by works, but then they teach a works-based system like this.

Church kids, along with all the church, must be taught over and over again the power of the cross of Jesus Christ. We did nothing to obtain salvation. It was all because of Jesus. In fact, we are completely unable to reach God’s perfection. It’s time we stop splitting the world into good and bad people. You and all your friends and loved ones are not the good guys. We are all the bad guys and Jesus is the good guy who took on our badness to save us from ourselves.

And so, as he is nailed to the cross, he cries out to God, “Have you forsaken me?” He says this so that forever, those who believe the Gospel do not have to. They will be forever with God! The “good” Christian is not the one who successfully keeps the ten commandments of American evangelicalism. It is the one who believes the Gospel. “For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Your works don’t determine if God looks at you with favor. Jesus Christ on the cross determines that you have favor with God.

And the even more exciting news is that you can’t lose that favor. I can’t sin my way out of God’s love and favor, for Christ is the one who died. This means that when you screw up, as you will a lot, you don’t have to put yourself in the penalty box and wait a couple of days to come back to God. You can come back now! You are still righteous before God by the cross of Jesus Christ. There is no condemnation for those in Christ!

Maybe you think this kind of teaching will lead people to sin like crazy with no worry. And that is a temptation sometimes. But if you truly understand this grace that God has given you in Christ, you won’t do it. Yes, you will sometimes turn, even willingly, to sin, but your allegiance will be to Jesus Christ, who you love with all your heart.

This is the message that youth in the church, as well as adults in the church, need to be taught. That God adopted Christians in Christ. That Christians are his children who he will never cast out. That he has made us holy and blameless in his sight. And that he continues to lavish his grace upon us every day.

Oh, this grace on which I stand!

Do you have trouble understanding the Old Testament?

Many people struggle with the Old Testament. They know they are supposed to view the Bible highly, but they can’t help but feel that all the commands of sacrifice in Leviticus are boring. The chapters in Genesis that say, Adam fathered Seth and Seth fathered Enosh and Enosh fathered…. just seem long and pointless. The census at the beginning of the book of Numbers just seems irrelevant to someone who is not a Jew.

So how to we think highly of a passage of the Bible that just seems outdated? We know that all Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16), but we really struggle with how to read some of these passages and be interested.

Simply put, all of the Bible is about Jesus. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, everything in some way connects to the ultimate display of God’s glory: Jesus. After Jesus had risen, he met two men on the road to Emmaus and took them through the entire Old Testament and concluded that every bit of it was about himself. (Luke 24:27)

When we think about the passion of Jesus, we see every bit of the Old Testament within it.

Just as all of Paradise was destroyed when Adam disobeyed God in a garden, Jesus begins his complete obedience to God in a garden, praying “your will be done.”

Just as Noah was a righteous man among a corrupt people and God used him to provide salvation from judgment, Jesus was the only righteous one among a world of sinners and provided salvation from judgment with his death on the cross.

As Abraham is taking his son up to sacrifice him, he assures his son that “God will provide for himself the lamb.” That lamb is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

As Moses climbed a mountain to receive the law, Jesus would carry his cross up a mountain to fulfill the law by being crucified.

As Joshua led the people of God out of the wilderness and into the promise land, Jesus would lead the church of God out of their sins and into adoption as God’s children.

As the Levitical High Priest would go into the holy of holies once a year to offer a sacrifice of atonement for the people’s sins, Jesus would offer himself up as a once for all sacrifice of atonement for the people’s sins and open the holy of holies so that now all who are in Christ can have access to the presence of God.

As David was anointed king as a young man but didn’t get publicly anointed until much later, Jesus was anointed King at his baptism, but pronounced King publicly when he was lifted up on the cross for all to see.

As Solomon built a dwelling place for God (the temple), Jesus came as something greater than the temple and provided himself up on the cross to make each Christian the dwelling place of God.

As Jonah was in the belly of a fish for three days, Jesus was in the grave for three days until he rose.

As Nehemiah rebuilt Jerusalem when it was in ruins, Jesus rebuilt the Holy City, by establishing the church in his death and resurrection.

Time would fail me to continue on in every story from the Old Testament, but it is all about the Son of God. So if you are having a hard time understanding the Old Testament, ask this question:

How does this passage look ahead to Jesus Christ?

Is your Faith more American than Christian?

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I want to challenge you to think of your faith in a more global way than just in the United States.

There is a huge debate that goes on that America is a Christian nation. I don’t think this is correct. It certainly does seem to have been founded on some ideas that are part of the Christian faith, but that doesn’t make it a Christian nation today. There is only one Christian nation, according to the Bible, and that is Israel. The New Testament would put into place that the church has now taken on the identity of Israel because the ethnic people forsook God. The church of Jesus Christ exists in all nations, collectively as one nation proclaiming the excellencies of Him who saved us from darkness.

Living in the Bible belt, this portion of the country specifically seems to view that being a Christian is a key component to American culture. Oh, may we never let this happen. The world is not our home. We are exiles in it. Never, can anywhere here seem as a home to us.

When Christianity becomes an American culture asset, the faith turns into something that it is not. Instead of the Great Commission being important, Christ becomes a political figure. Being a Christian then means that we must make sure we stop abortion advocates, promote traditional marriage, save our second amendment rights, and get President Obama impeached. It is as if Jesus’ command has been updated to, “Love your enemies, unless they are a President you disagree with.”

This is not what Jesus left his church in the world for. It is not to participate in American politics, but to preach the Gospel. The glorious Gospel that Christ has come into the world to save sinners through the cross is the only hope for the world.

We must stop bearing the flag and start bearing the cross. It is our only hope. The freedom that the cross gives us is worth so much more than the freedom that the flag gives us.

Jesus doesn’t just love America. He gave the commission to make disciples of all the nations. (Matthew 28:18-20) The key message of the Bible is how God seeks to draw all nations to himself through His Son.

So Christians, do not hate America, but do not make it your home either. For we are foreigners here with no home. The cross of Christ stands in beauty over all the nations, not just America.

The Extravagant Grace of God

Ephesians 1:7-8 says “In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us…”

Ephesians 1 is one of my favorite passages in Scripture and it is often overlooked because of a few controversial words within it. But all controversies aside, I don’t want to take Ephesians 1 out of the Bible. For those who believe the Gospel, God lavishes grace upon them. I love the word “lavished.” Extravagant. Overflowing. Immeasurable.

This passage cannot be applied to those who are not believers. Those who do not believe the Gospel are still under the wrath of God (see Romans 1-2). At the cross, Jesus endured the wrath of God for all who would ever come to faith in him. If you are a believer in Christ, do you realize what this means? There is no more wrath! It has all been poured out upon Christ!

This is great news because you don’t have to feel guilty when you slip into sin. Christians will still fall from time to time. We are being conformed into the image of Jesus, but we aren’t there yet. We seek to flee sin because we love Jesus. In loving him, we are drawn to obedience. But we don’t have to feel condemned when we do fall. In fact, even after our salvation, God continues to lavish this extravagant grace upon us. He pours an overflowing cup of it out upon us and delights in doing it!

So when you slip and fall into sin, get up and keep running the race that is set before you, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.