Dear Child of Mine,
First you should know that you helped me in writing my Tuesday night message for the young teen camp at Somerset Beach. Thanks for listening. I was their speaker for the week (me?!?) and had nine messages to prepare. I have never had trouble with public speaking, but the topic-choosing, pick a point and nail it, keep the audience’s attention and send them away changed? Not so much (experience.) But WOAH! What an awesome opportunity. What a fantastic experience. I am so thankful for my week and for the ways I was changed. I am more courageous thanks to the teens who listened and responded to my sermons (can I call them sermons?). Here is what I spoke to them about one night:
I want to tell you the truth about Life. Lately I’ve been hearing the newly-coined acronym “YOLO” being used in teen’s conversations. I see it on their Facebook pages. I see it in Instagram hashtags. I see it on tshirt designs. I see it on tv. It’s invading the minds of students across the country, and I’m here to preach a different message.
YOLO is short for “YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE.” Its intention is to open up our minds and set us free to do whatever makes us happy, to live boldly, recklessly, with no fear or apology. This doesn’t sound all that bad, I have to be honest. I mean, why shouldn’t we live each day as if it were our last? But the problem is that the YOLO mentality gives us the excuse to live in sin. If you only live once, then why not…try drugs… or drink alcohol… or have sex with your boyfriend or girlfriend…or send that inappropriate Snapchat picture… or binge on a bag of chips… or stay out all night?
But I agree with what my friend Paul has to say about sin (my paraphrase of Romans chapter 6):
Just as the result of Adam’s one sin was punishment for all people, so also was the result of Jesus’ obedience to death on the cross the justification that brings LIFE for all people. For just as through the disobedience of one man every single one of us were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man all of us can be made righteous.
The more sinful the world became grace increased so that, just as sin won in death, so grace can reign through Jesus Christ who brings eternal life.
What should we say, then? Do we go on sinning so that grace may increase? Absolutely not! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
For we know that our old self was crucified with Jesus so that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has allowed their sinful nature to die with Christ has been freed from sin.
Count yourselves dead to sin but alive in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin rule in your physical body by obeying whatever evil it desires. Instead, offer yourselves to God, to be used for good. For sin shouldn’t be your master, because you are living in the freedom that comes with grace.
I hope that made a little bit of sense to you. The point is if you believe in Jesus and claim the forgiveness he offers us through his death on the cross, then your day to day life should be different – set apart from those around you.
Because of God’s great mercy given to us through Jesus, we should not live like the rest of the world. The pattern of life around us would say we should steal and lie and cheat and destroy and get revenge. But that type of living only leads to death. If we let sin rule us, we can’t live a full life on earth and we won’t receive the reward of life eternally spent with God.
But what does it mean to live a “full life”? It means believing God’s plan is best and beautiful. It means trusting Jesus when he says, “In this world you will have trouble. But TAKE HEART! I have overcome the world.” It means knowing that God will meet our every need. It means living in such a way that everything you do matters in light of eternity.
A full life is characterized by living at peace with those around you. (Yes, even your annoying little sister or that mean kid on the school bus.)
A full life is lived by someone who can never get enough of God.
A full life can be seen in the love that nearly drips from someone’s every day encounters, leaving each person touched by the deep love of Jesus.
A full life lets all of the striving cease. We can stop working toward perfection, and let God do the work in us.
A full life offers forgiveness freely, even when it’s not deserved.
Yes, life is hard. But God hears your prayers. He knows your heart, he knows your pain, he knows your hopes and dreams. I believe His heart breaks when we’re sad or hurt. He longs to protect us because we’re his children. But a lot of times, his protection comes in the form of our option to obey. If we choose to do live life OUR way, there may be negative consequences that God wanted to spare us from. But we can trust his plan even when we can’t turn the page and know what’s coming next. I promise you, His plans are perfect. His ways are higher than ours, his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. I’d trust him if I were you.
And beyond all of this day to day living we have ahead of us, we don’t have to fear death. Because whenever the end of our physical life approaches us, we can rest assured that we’re about to meet our Savior face to face. We get to continue the full life into eternity, being made perfectly into who God created us to be. We’ll spend our eternal life – our second life – with no pain, no sadness, no fear. We won’t have to strive to spend time with God because we’ll get to be with him forever and ever. I believe that eternity isn’t just sitting on clouds and playing harps and singing all day long. I believe eternity is going to be everything wonderful about our lives on earth only a MILLION times better. I can’t even fathom it’s goodness.
And all of this – the full life now, and the eternal life later – is offered to us through Jesus. His death brings us life. All we have to do is say YES.