The Reformation for Teenagers: In Christ Alone

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As we approach its 500th Anniversary, we at Rooted wanted to address how the Reformation (and particularly the five Solas) specifically impacts teenagers today. Read other articles in this series here.

As heirs of the reformation, we owe a huge debt to those who came before us and heroically held high the banner that salvation belongs to “Christ Alone.” Our students, and we, have been privileged to attend churches that faithfully hold to this gospel cry. However, there is yet another agent in our students’ lives teaching a different gospel – culture.

While we may have fought to carry on the Christ alone banner in the regards to the church, the culture has continued to preach an ethos of self-salvation and consumerism. Whether we are buying or selling, everything we do is about the marketing of our “product,” ourselves. Our students are being taught that the most important things in life have to be worked for, whether that is in academics, athletics, or in acquiring social media followers. Students are being pushed to be “the best,” and are told that anything less than that is not good enough.

While most people might label this generation as lazy, or lacking in work ethic, I would venture to argue against this point. This current generation has some of the highest anxiety levels and suicide rates to date – currently at a 40-year high for girls and up 30% for guys. Why? Because while it may look different than in generations past, our students are working hard, every day. They are working to be the person they are being told they should be and, with the evolution of social media, that job never ends.

So even though we are telling our students that salvation comes from Christ alone, the world is telling them there is more to be done. Even if our teenagers believe that salvation is through Christ, they often live as though sanctification is by their works.

If we desire for our students to hold fast to the truth of “Christ alone,” then we must also show them how this truth impacts every aspect of their lives, not just on their Wednesdays and Sundays. So what does “Christ alone” mean for our students in the other areas of their lives?

In academics.
Salvation in Christ alone means that no matter grades, no matter popularity, and no matter college entrance, our students’ value does not change. While we always want the best for our students, and we see hard work not as a result of the fall but as a God-glorifying agent for the gospel, we must stop marking success – even good success – as a cornerstone of life. I would never want my students to fail at school. Yet, ultimately, if in failure they were spurred to love and rely on Christ, then it was worth it. In our performance driven society, this statement seems extreme. How could failure lead us to Christ alone? Take the example of Job, or of all those in the latter half of Hebrews 11 who were killed (or really just about every other character in the Bible for that matter). These would not be success stories in the world’s eyes; yet in light of the kingdom of God, they shine.

In athletics.
Salvation in Christ alone means that no matter the score, no matter the position, and no matter the recruitment letters, our students’ value does not charge. Once again, we desire for our kids to do their best and strive their hardest. However, when we turn success in athletics into an ultimate aspiration, we can easily portray a value in status over salvation. Each sports team or competition is an opportunity for our students to glorify God in their attitude, work, and declaration of the gospel. It’s also a time for them to have fun, and to enjoy the body, skills, and friends God has gifted them with. Our teenagers cannot save themselves on the athletic field – no matter how far they rise in their accomplishments.

On social media.
Salvation in Christ alone means that no matter the number of followers, no matter the likes, and no matter the length of “streaks,” our students’ value does not change. This is potentially the most challenging area for us to decree Christ alone, because it is an area we often have very little influence over. However, this is the area where our students are spending the greatest number of hours and efforts in work. We must continually remind them daily that salvation in Christ alone means Romans 5:8: “while we were sinners, Christ died for us.” We cannot do or not do anything that will prove our worth; our worth is found completely in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross on our behalf. If we believe that to be true, then we can face a world that hates us, persecutes us, and ridicules us, knowing that this world is not our home. May we continually remind our students that we have nothing more to prove than what has been proven for us through Christ.

No matter the area of life, our students’ value does not change because of their performance; their value is in Christ alone. If we are to hold high the banner of “Christ Alone” then we must also proclaim the truth of what salvation in Christ alone means. It means freedom from the many “works” we do – even within the church. It means freedom to love, venture, and share boldly for the sake of the gospel, because even if we fail to meet the world’s standards, our value has been eternally secured in Christ’s blood and righteousness.

 

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