Sharing God’s Incarnational Heart

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The following excerpt comes from Liz Edrington in Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry (GCYM is a Crossway publication, and is primarily authored by Rooted writers).

In Living Color: On the Incarnation

It is a profound wonder that God decided to enter time and space to meet us right where we stood—right in our sin and our messy attempts to love. John 1:1-18 gives voice to the mystery of Jesus’s existence before time as the Word as well as his humble, flesh-enrobed entrance into history. In him, 100 percent humanity and 100 percent deity exist together in a way that always invites others to be known and loved. The incarnation offers us a constant reminder that he is Immanuel, God with us. Not only did he humbly choose to put on skin, walk among us, and live the life of a human, experiencing all of the physical, emotional, and spiritual highs and lows that we experience; but his whole life pointed to, and culminated in, an act (on the cross) that shouted of how ‘for us’ he is. 

It is essential for us to consider the way Jesus, the God-man, treats humans as spiritual beings, as embodied souls (1 Cor. 6:19-20), and not as brains on sticks or as data consumers. We can see this in his complex and mysterious parables in response to folks’ questions in the Bible. We also see it displayed when he responds with emotion to people instead of with words. Lazarus’s death in John 11:1-36 is a poignant example. Here, Jesus does not offer a scriptural explanation for death or jump to quoting Scripture about redemption. He sits in the tension of Mary’s loss with her, and he grieves with her. He meets Martha in her emotional need with his presence and tears. In the same way, we want to minister to our students as whole human beings, considering not only their minds, but their hearts, bodies, and spirits as well. In our information age, we are living more and more into the identity foisted upon us as data consumers, so your willingness to minister to the heart of your students will reflect the heart of Jesus in more significant ways than you may know.

That Sweet Sound: On the Word of the Cross

The word of the cross can be summed up by monumental words spoken by Jesus in John 19:30: “It is finished.” Sin no longer has the final say over our lives, leading to the death we deserve; we are made alive through the grace of God’s gift offered us via the cross (Eph. 2:1-5). Our need to fulfill the law for salvation is finished, being fulfilled by Jesus on our behalf. With and in Christ, we are dead to striving after our salvation, and we are free to follow our God who has purchased us with Jesus’s blood. We are justified by no means of our own and made friends with God instead of enemies (Rom. 5:10) through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

Knowing (and continuing to recognize) our own need for the message of the cross allows us to receive the grace and truth we can then offer to our students. Romans 3:1-31 reminds us that we are fundamentally the same as our students: we are broken image bearers of God who desperately need Jesus’s redemption. Even as leaders, we always need the reminder that “it is finished,” and that our identity is rooted in him. We are forgiven, we are justified, and we have been brought from death to life. At no point (this side of the Jordan) will we not need to seek, listen for, and trust the Holy Spirit to lead us. It can be tempting for us to see ourselves as a messiah for our kids, and parents often minimize our role as merely that of being a “good example and role model.” But I implore you to walk into student relationships with humility, as a sinner in need of grace. The cross tells us that we are in need, the same as our kids.

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