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Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Mission of God and Teens

One of the greatest books that came out over the past ten years has to be The Mission of God by Christopher J.H. Wright. In this book, he goes through the story of Scripture to reveal how God has had a mission from the beginning; a mission that is centered on a plan and purpose of redemption for all nations. I encourage everyone to invest in this book and apply it to your life. It will cause you to obey the Great Commission, and propel missiological functions in your ministries (i.e. home, family, work, church, small group, etc.).

One of my favorite biblical texts that mention the mission of God is in Ephesians. Paul writes to the Ephesians a biblical-theological, redemptive-historical summary of the mission of God similar to what Wright discusses in his book. Paul's message to the church in Ephesus was to know the goal of the Gospel - to reconcile sinners to a holy God. It is this reconciling Gospel that brings harmony and unity between God and man through Jesus Christ. Hence, from the beginning, God has been actively involved throughout redemptive history seeking and saving the lost, and it was this reality that came true in Christ among Jews and Gentiles. God does not just bring soteriological unity between God and man, but also among men, Paul says. Thus, Paul's emphasis about the mission of God is revealed in the unity of believers who have been saved through the Gospel. Those who believe in Christ are saved by grace, and therefore are apart of the plan and eternal purpose of God to know him, and are called to now make him known:
"Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory." (Ephesians 3:7-13 ESV)
Although this passage resonates with unity among different ethnicity and nationality people groups, I believe "the plan" and "eternal purpose" Paul is explaining absolutely encompasses and involves ages as well. The specific ages I am interested in is teens.

God desires to use the youth and has proven this to be true. Did you know that it is "college students" who lead the majority of recent revivals and great awakenings for missions over the past five hundred years? And how do you think these college students were able to go out and preach, teach, and reach the nations with the Gospel? They were taught the Word of God as teens. Faithful parents and laymen taught them the fundamental doctrines and truths of Scripture in their young age. God commanded the Jewish people to do this everyday with their children (i.e. teens) in Deuteronomy 6, 11. Throughout the Bible, the word "children" occurs the most in the book of Deuteronomy. The reason why it occurs the most in Deuteronomy is because of the casuistic instructions to remember, repent, and repeat the Word of God given by Moses during the Exodus so the younger generations would worship the one true God, Yahweh. Moses gives timeless instructions, "Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 12:28)." Thus, Deuteronomy tells us to wake up and teach the younger generation so they will be apart of the tribe when they get older and lead the next generation. To lead the next generation, Moses says, is to participate in the plan and purpose of the mission of God he started in the Exodus (and later is fulfilled in Jesus Christ as Paul mentions).

There are two ways the mission of God unfolds through discipleship. First, biological discipleship is grounded in creational means because the Lord taught Adam to be fruitful and multiply "image-bearers" for God's glory (i.e. raise your children in the ways of the Lord). Simply, believers have children and make them into disciples with the hopes they will do the same when they get older. Second, generational discipleship is grounded in age groups (i.e. do not wast your youthfulness). Teens are to not waste their youth, but use it for the glory of God and reach others their own age. Therefore, in the plan and eternal purpose of God, I would suggest he desires for teens to know Him, and make Him known more than any other age group because of their diversity and ability to reach the massive numbers of the youth in the world.

I have a heart for teens, and for them to know Jesus Christ. However, that is not enough. My burden is broader than just that because intellectual assent (just a faith, no obedience) or biological acceptance (raised as a Christian) is emptiness. The true way for teens to know Jesus Christ is to know the truths of Scripture (apologetics), the doctrines of grace (salvation), and the love of God (sanctification). All of these things encompass the mission of God. I hope teaching these things to teens will get them involved in the plan and eternal purpose of God as Paul so clearly articulated.

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