Youth Minister, ‘But Now’ You Have Been Set Free
Due to the need to get fit, I’ve recently begun swimming. While I have to admit that I am often bored by this form of exercise I know it will do me well in the long run. So lap after lap I roll my arms over, I kick my legs, and I try to take decent sized breaths just so I’m not overtaken in the slow lane. Those first few weeks were so very painful, and not because of physical soreness. I was frustrated at how poor of a swimmer I was (if there was an extra-slow lane in the pool then I’d be swimming in that one). My arms and legs weren’t doing what I wanted them to do in the time I thought was reasonable. And the faster I thought I was going only led me to go slower and slower. I found myself dragging my body through the water like I was swimming in mud.
It occurred to me during my first weeks in the pool that this is what it’s like to live in our world, under the slavery of sin. It drags us down, it drags us back, it keeps us from going faster.
Part of the Christian worldview is the fact that sin is a form of slavery. Because of our human brokenness, we are immersed in sin. We walk through it each and every day, one step at a time, impacted by its effects in our hearts, our bodies, and our relationships.
As youth leaders and ministers we aren’t immune to sin or its nature – it almost seems too obvious to say. The way we think, the way we speak, the way we approach our role, the way we use our time and gifts, the way we view others in our care, the way we live and lead, can all be affected by our sinful nature. As we seek to be disciples ourselves, I wonder how much of an impact our sin has in the role we have as youth minister. How often do we feel it dragging us down, dragging us back, and stopping us from going forward?
No matter our season of life, no matter our role in or out of ministry, we are affected by sin. Whether a small child, a teenager, a young adult, or the more mature person, each of us is deeply affected by sin.
Look around our world, can we honestly say that we aren’t impacted by sin in each and every part of life? Whether global or personal, sin is infectious and this infection means we live in pain, brokenness, and hurt. And years of human experience and relationships has me convinced that we are not capable of thinking or acting our way into being better people. This is a pervasive, dire problem – one we cannot solve ourselves. We live in this curse, but we need not be defined by it. Sin is not an incurable disease. It is a disease that has been remedied, a disease that we can be and have been freed from.
Paul writes about this when he writes to the Roman church,
But now, since you have been set free from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification—and the outcome is eternal life! For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22-23)
While it might feel like we are being held down because of sin, we are actually living in the age of grace. The age of freedom.
This freedom comes through the Lord Jesus. He, as Lord, has bought our freedom for us. He has set us free from sin. Previously, we have been held by sin, but now, because of Christ’s work on the cross, because of the gospel, because of his death, we have become free from such sin. The price has been paid. The debt has been covered. The payment for sin has been made.
Because of the cross, we are free.
We live free lives, not under the curse of law, of rules, of judgement, of uncertainty. Instead we live free lives under God.
We find that we can produce the fruit God seeks for us to produce as his servants. We grow in godliness and Christlikeness with the freedom that comes from a sin-paid-for life.
As we minister to teenagers, as we parent our children, we often find ourselves drawn back to living pre-Calvary. We are more comfortable operating out of a place of rules, law, and instruction. And while we teach our students and children this freedom message, we often place upon them the same law we find ourselves so drawn to.
Living gospel lives means we speak this teaching and instruction from a new foundation, a foundation of grace and freedom that seeks to highlight this gift God has given through his Son. With gospel living comes rest; performance to achieve for God is turned into being with God. With gospel living comes security; we are held fast by a loving Father, free in the assurance of his promises. With gospel living comes comfort; in times of pain and trial we lean into his sovereign hand in all things, knowing that God is truly in control. With the freedom that comes from the gospel we are able to live lives from a place of joy, gratitude, and thankfulness.
As we minister to students, let’s be people who live in this freedom that God has given through his Son. A freedom that exudes the hope and assurance we have in Christ. This is a freedom that does not constrain, but recognises what we once were and, more importantly, what we are now.