A Teen’s Perspective: How Grace Changed My Life
A Teen’s Perspective: How Grace Changed My Life
I am a teenager, and I am a Christian. That means my life is different. I don’t live for what the world offers, and I don’t act how the world tells me to. I have been transformed by the gospel, and it has literally changed everything.
From the inside to the outside, it’s all different – my mind, motives, desires, delights, values, fears, words, and actions. My story of gospel transformation is not extravagantly dramatic, but it is the story of a depraved, rebellious heart redeemed by grace. For that reason, it’s glorious. Following Jesus has radically changed – and continues to change – my youth in every way possible.
These are a few ways my life is different.
1. My identity is rooted in Christ.
My personhood is not defined by my age, my body, my grades, my relationships, my parents, my popularity, or my possessions. It’s defined exclusively by my status as a child of God (Rom. 8:16). That means I don’t have to search for meaning and significance in all those other things. But I forget this identity sometimes. In an image-saturated world, I am perpetually bombarded with the temptation to find my meaning in something else. That’s why I need to be persistently and patiently directed back to the source of my identity: Jesus. And I need reminding that this identity never changes.
2. I know I’m sinful.
I grew up in a home with parents who are passionate and uncompromising Christ-followers, who were committed to passing on this life-giving faith to their children. By the grace of God, I can’t remember a time in my life that I wasn’t a Christian (of course, there was; I just don’t remember it).
But the gospel has convicted me of the myriad sin that still dwells in my heart – and its destructive consequences. The gospel constantly reminds me of my dependence on grace. Hatred, lust, envy, pride, insecurity, gossip, and greed still lurk in my life, but the Holy Spirit is at work, dragging this sin into the light. And he is with me, helping me fight sin and giving me the grace I need to pursue holiness (Rom. 8:13).
3. I’m free from legalism.
Yet though I know I’m sinful, as someone who has grown up in the church, legalism is a legitimate threat for me. Again and again, I’ve been tempted to trust in my own works, my own perceived goodness and niceness. But the gospel breaks the burden of legalism. Grace has freed me from any need to try to work my way to Jesus, and it’s given me this identity apart from my own striving.
The gospel shows teenagers that we were born soul-deep sinners, innately angry and rebellious against God. That means our works are useless for salvation. Being a good church kid can’t save anyone. It won’t save anyone. But the gospel can. And the gospel does (Eph. 2:8).
4. I am free from perfectionism.
A dangerous outgrowth of legalism is perfectionism. This is the punishing determination to never, ever, ever fail. And I have a driven personality, so perfectionism is a burden I know all too well. While the drive for perfection can shrewdly disguise itself as the pursuit of holiness, it’s really a twisted form of self-idolatry, motivated by self-imposed, man-made standards.
It’s ultimately a pathological form of people-pleasing. When I think of my struggle with perfectionism, it has always flowed directly from a desire to be perceived as perfect. I never really want to be perfect; I just want others to think I am. Whether it’s in the sphere of church, school, relationships, work, or online, perfectionism feeds me the lie that if I never make a mistake, others will love me more.
But the gospel gives grace to the tired and obsessed perfectionist, especially to exhaustingly-driven teens. I am not perfect. In this life, I can never be perfect. Only Christ is perfect. My responsibility is to pursue perfection as described in God’s Word, but to recognize that there is unfailing forgiveness for failure.
5. I have confidence in the future.
Without the gospel, my teen years would be a swamp of overwhelming fear and anxiety. These are daunting years. I am trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.
But the gospel gives me confidence in the face of the unknown. It gives me trust in the face of fear. It gives me peace in the face of worry. Grace keeps me grounded, because I know that whatever happens – with work, with school, with romance, with housing, with money, with bills, with health – I can have full confidence that God is relentlessly working for his own glory and my deepest good and eternal joy. Life won’t always be easy, but it will remain in the hands of a gracious God. And that’s why teens can move forward in faith (Rom. 8:28).
6. I am called to be humble.
Teenagers have a tendency to be proud. That’s not a stereotype. We youth often feel like we know so much and that we’re perfectly prepared for anything life might bring. And this mentality puffs us up, stifling a teachable spirit with the thick blinder of self-importance.
But the gospel is a ruthless killer of pride. It says, “Teenager, in the grand scheme of life, you are small. Teenager, you are weak. Teenager, you are a student and have much to learn.” It also says, “Teenager, God is big, God is strong, and God is your teacher.”
Embracing these truths means fighting the dominant beliefs of my generation. But the gospel has called me to be different and has enabled me with the grace to pursue humility in a me-saturated culture. And God in his grace has given teens the church to help us do that.
You can pre-order Jaquelle’s forthcoming book, This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years here.