I read the same words I had read a hundred times before and struggled with the same thought: How could Judas sell Jesus for just thirty pieces of silver? But this day was different. For this day, I was also struggling with hearing of yet another young adult ready to walk away from Jesus, deciding the world had so much more to offer.
Why are so many young adults leaving the church and deciding Jesus really isn't for them? Perhaps they are willing to "sell Him so cheaply" because they also "bought Him so cheaply."
So how do we raise spiritual champions? How do we point others to Jesus? We start by telling them the whole story. This generation wants truth.
Have we failed a generation by coaxing them in from the time they were toddlers with "goldfish for Jesus" and entertaining them with all the fun they could have—if they would only take a little Jesus, too?
Have we failed to help them understand how much it cost the Savior to forgive them for their sins and that the grace He offers is far from cheap? Have we failed to help them understand the gravity and certain penalty of their sins? Do they know their real need to have not only a cognitive belief in Jesus, but also a deep understanding of how much He has forgiven them? Have we communicated the importance of being deeply sorrowful and truly repentant of our sins, or have we hesitated to mention it, afraid they won't raise their hands at the end of the sermon?
Do those who thought they were signing up for an all-expenses-paid trip to "happy heaven" feel like we've pulled some sort of bait-and-switch on them when God does something they don't understand? Do they walk away when they accidentally bump into the hard stuff, like deny yourself and follow Him (Matt 16:24), because it's more than they signed up for?
Are we raising spiritual weenies who are walking away from the church and from Jesus because it's easy to walk away from a Jesus who they feel is asking too much? A Jesus who the world mocks and certainly doesn't consider "cool" or a Jesus whose "rules" are far from politically correct or sitcom friendly?
Truth You Can Stand On
It's easy to walk away when you never really understood the magnitude of your need for Him or ever really surrendered your life to Him. It's easy to walk away when you really don't know and love Jesus. When you "buy Jesus on the cheap," it is nearly impossible to deny yourself and follow Him, especially when all your friends are running a hundred miles an hour with the world the other way.
So how do we raise spiritual champions? How do we point others to Jesus? We start by telling them the whole story. This generation wants truth. They really do.
They have been entertained almost to death. They need truth they can stand on. Yes, they need to know how amazing grace is, but they also need to know how much they need it. They need to understand the depth of their sin and be sick of themselves. We need to stop worrying about their self-confidence and, instead, help them to learn to stand Jesus-confident.
They need to know (and for that matter be relieved) that their best works will never be enough to snatch them from hell. Never, ever. They need to rest in the fact that God came and saved them, and they don't need Jesus plus something else. He is enough to satisfy, really satisfy them (John 6:35), and, yes, give them peace and hope and joy as they trust Him (Rom 15:13). But He is also enough to carry them when all else fails them—and it might. It might soon.
But you don't get all that from a cheap understanding of grace. Only when you understand how precious, how costly, how magnificent the gift of Jesus really is will you hold onto it with all that you have. Only when you truly love Him and know Him in real relationship can you walk through fire without being burned. It's time to stop filling them up with all-you-can-eat pizza and leave them hungry enough to taste and see that the one true, living God who defines Himself (Ex. 3:14) and of whom we cannot pick and choose His attributes really is good—and really is worth following.
Stop the Small Talk
Our world is hard. In all likelihood this generation may face persecution as never before. It is time to stop the small talk. It is time to stop trying to pack the building and sell Jesus cheaply to the crowds and instead invest the time to go deep, talk about the hard stuff, and make disciples who will not only make disciples but will stand with confidence and proclaim the Lord to a world who hates Him and us as well.
Only when you understand how precious, how costly, how magnificent the gift of Jesus really is will you hold onto it with all that you have.
The time may very likely come when we (and our kids) will be asked to pick a side—to decide to deny Christ or not. None of us will ever be able to lay down lives for our Savior because of the ice cream we were fed but because of the real truth we were taught.
So please churches, please youth pastors, please parents, tell them all of the truth—the truth about themselves and the truth about their deep need for a Savior. Shoot straight with them. Tell them it requires more than just a cognitive belief (James 2:19). Help them see salvation requires true repentance (Acts 2:38). Help them see their sin and be sick of it, and teach them to surrender to His way over their way. But don't stop there. Disciple them—help them know there is nothing better than a real daily relationship with Jesus. Help them see you following Him even when it is hard, because He is the one true God and the faithful One.
Oh friend, time is of the essence. The consequences are huge. Jesus is coming back. He is the faithful One. May He find us and those we love faithful as well. This grace we cling to is far from cheap and so very costly.