5 Ways to be R.E.A.D.Y for a Gospel Life in a Performance-Driven Culture
In a culture that is filled with to-do lists, tasks, efficiency, and goals, it can be easy to perform rather than to rest in the gospel of grace. Even in youth ministry it is tempting to work hard to have the best small group, the best Sunday school lesson, the best handout, or the best contact time with students. But thankfully there is one who has been the best so that we don’t have to be – Jesus Christ, our perfect savior. We are free from perfecting our performance because he has been perfect for us.
In this performance driven culture how can we be ready for a gospel life in youth ministry?
R – Remember we are righteous
E – Engage our eyes
A – Arm ourselves
D –Devote our lives
Y –Yawn deeply
1. Remember we are righteous.
Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection we have been made righteous – we have Christ’s perfect obedience placed on us. Paul’s words in Titus 3 describe how we are made righteous: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”
We have been renewed and washed clean by the Holy Spirit and not by our own attempts to wash ourselves. The ancient Chinese character for righteousness is 義 “yi,” which is made up of two characters, one over the other – lamb over me. The Lamb of God shed his blood over you and me to make us righteous. Knowing that we have been made righteous frees us from performing for others (boss, students, or their parents) because we can believe in our true identity as sons and daughters of Christ. This then flows into advice for students: to live as a child of God who has been made righteous and who can live freely for the audience of the only one that matters – our heavenly Father.
2. Engage our eyes.
Preaching the gospel to ourselves daily means looking through life with a gospel lens. Every morning I have to put contacts in my eyes or else everything stays blurry. The gospel lens is just like my contacts. Everything stays blurry if I try to see things with my own vision. Engaging our eyes with gospel lenses helps us to see clearly, focus on what is eternal, and look actively for gospel truth in every area of life.
We won’t take our grades, Lululemon clothes, cool car, nice house, or 401K to heaven. We should invest in what is eternal: God, his Word, and the souls of men and women. We often see the world through a performance and approval- seeking lens so that we become blind to resting in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. May we pray to be those who properly view the gospel of grace so that we focus on living in light of what he has already done.
3. Arm Ourselves.
To be ready for a gospel life we need to arm ourselves with the armor of God and his promises. Utilizing the armor of God described in Ephesians 6 equips us to stand firm when the evil one pursues us and schemes against us. Defensive pieces of armor include truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, and salvation. The one offensive weapon is the Word of God. Fortifying our arsenal with God’s armor prepares us to be ready and stand firm.
Knowing God’s promises equips us to believe what is true of God when trials and temptations come our way. The Bible is replete with promises that will help us each day:
God is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18)
He is good (Psalm 34:8) and doesn’t withhold good (Psalm 84:11)
He is faithful (Psalm 100:5)
He is forgiving (1 John 1:9)
He is always with us (Hebrews 13:5)
As ministers in this dark and broken world we arm ourselves daily as we go into battle, but the good news is that we have a King who has already won the battle.
4. Devote our lives.
Devoting ourselves means committing our energy to pray for a gospel-fueled, Spirit-empowered life that will affect everything, such as how we handle conflict, how quickly we forgive, and how we view unbelievers and people who are very different from us. Philippians 3:14 urges us to press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Being devoted to Christ does not mean that we are focused on how long our quiet time is, how many times we have prayed, how many students come to small group, or our how often we attend Bible study. Being devoted is pressing on to understanding our fallen condition, our need for a savior, and HIS perfect devotion to us. HE is in relentless, faithful, and devoted pursuit of us.
In his devotional book, New Morning Mercies, Paul David Tripp writes that “(God’s) faithfulness is not a demonstration of how well you’re doing; no, it’s a revelation of how completely holy, righteous, kind, and good he is. He remains faithful even on your most unfaithful day.”
5. Yawn deeply.
When we yawn, we show our need for oxygen and rest. We are weak, helpless, and broken. Thankfully, the Lord uses broken vessels to implement his kingdom work and perfects his power even in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Being ready for gospel living means that we can embrace our need and sprint to the foot of the cross for daily strength. Yawning is gospel breathing: deeply inhale God’s grace and exhale gospel peace. Yawn to show that we cannot do life and ministry on our own. Yawn because it is contagious. When we see others admitting their weakness and brokenness we too can feel the freedom to live in light of the gospel – that we are weak but he is strong. If we breathe in a deep knowledge of the gospel of grace, our lives will be radically changed – producing humility, submissiveness, gentleness, and patience.
Performance-driven life runs counter to the heart of the gospel. Thankfully, we don’t have to be perfect because Jesus Christ lived the perfect life for us and died the sacrificial death that we deserve. We are loved apart from our performance. As Paul David Tripp writes, “He will never withdraw his presence and his promises, no matter how messed up we continue to be, because our standing with him is not based on our performance, but on the perfect record of his Son.” Today we can stand R.E.A.D.Y. for a gospel life and bask in the goodness of Jesus’ finished work on the cross and help our students do the same.