Dear Next Gen Sister,
Though it boggles my mind, I have now lived as many years after high school graduation as I did before it. I feel like Y2K was just a few years ago; that the attacks on the Twin Towers are a recent, rather than distant, memory; and I can remember a time when you could use either the internet or the phone—never both simultaneously. I guess I need to come to grips with the fact that I have gotten old. Or at least old-er. While that’s a strange feeling, it’s okay, too. I can look back at the past couple of decades in my life and see God’s grace in sanctifying me, though He still has a lot of work to do. The most formational concept that He has taught me is this:
You need the gospel every day of your life.
As a kid and teenager, and even as a college student, I didn’t really think about the gospel all that much. At a young age, I believed that Jesus died on the cross for my sin, but that’s where the story ended for me. I had never considered that the gospel should impact my everyday life. Why would I need to hear the gospel anymore? Weren’t there more important things to move on to?
Maybe you can identify with my younger self. Gospel messages seem trite or irrelevant to you. Or perhaps you’ve heard that you’re supposed to live a “gospel-centered life” but never really understood what that means or why it’s a big deal. Let me tell you, there is no bigger deal. The gospel is the whole shootin’ match. Don’t live a single day without it.
You Need the Gospel When You Doubt (John 10; Rom. 8:38–39; Gal. 3:3)
Teenagers have been a big part of my adult life and ministry. I’ve taught them, coached them, counseled them, traveled with them, and prayed for them for about fifteen years now. So I know that doubts about faith are a common issue. Satan loves to use this tool to worm his way into your thoughts, making you question everything you’ve been taught, everything you think you believe, and everything that you never thought you’d be tempted to believe.
In these moments when you wonder whether God is even there, whether you’re truly His child, and even whether the Bible is true, turn to the gospel. The good news that Christ died in your place will remind you that your life is not about you. It’s about Him. Your salvation does not depend on you—on your merit, on your faithfulness to a Bible-reading plan, or on your ability to follow all of the “rules” (whatever they may be). In fact, it’s precisely because you can’t keep the rules that you need a Savior in the first place.
Paul puts it this way in writing to the Galatian church: “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3).
What he means is, you still need the Gospel. If you feel like you’re not good enough or that you’ve done something to “mess up” your salvation or that God doesn’t love you the way you thought He did, return to the gospel!
You Need the Gospel When You’re on Top of the World (Eph. 2:1–3; 8-9; Rom. 3:9–31)
Maybe today doubting isn’t your issue. Maybe you feel like you’ve got it all together. You’re kicking tail on your Bible-reading plan (even making it past Leviticus!), you’re active in a small group at church, you have an accountability partner, and teach in junior church once a month. That’s fantastic. God’s grace is evident in your life! But you still need the gospel.
The gospel reminds us who we really are before God—desperate, wicked sinners—and addresses the pride in our hearts. Paul, after saying that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) says this just a few verses later: “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded” (Rom. 3:27).
He’s telling his readers that God is not impressed with your works. Without Christ, God sees only the blackness of our hearts. With Christ, He sees Christ’s righteousness that has been transferred to our accounts. Every good work that we do is only possible because of God’s grace which He lavished on us in Christ (Eph. 1:7).
If you are doing well spiritually, great! Keep on keeping on, but do it with your eyes on the cross.
You Need the Gospel When You Fall (Rom. 1:16; 8:1, 38–39; 1 John 1:9)
In my ministry with teenagers, I’ve watched many leave the shelter of their parents’ house and church to abandon their faith entirely, or at least wander from it for a time. Perhaps your first foray into adulthood came with some mistakes, big or not-so-big. You’ve repented, but they’re still there, lingering in your brain, saying that you’re unworthy of God’s forgiveness. If this isn’t you right now, it probably will be someday. And when that day comes, you will need the gospel.
The truth of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection proclaims God’s power from beginning to end. How could a virgin conceive and give birth? How could Jesus be both God and man? How could Jesus raise the dead back to life? How could He die and rise again? The answer to each of these is the same: only by the power of God. And if you stop to think about it, that’s some pretty powerful power. Greater by far than any sin you have committed or any punch the enemy can pack.
The gospel promises protection by that same power. Nothing—not sexual sin, not drugs or alcohol, not self-harm or eating disorders—nothing can separate you from Christ Jesus once you are His. Likewise, absolutely nothing can condemn you. “There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
When you fail, go back to the gospel. Go back to the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Rom. 1:16). That’s what true believers do. It’s the only hope we have.
You Need the Gospel When You Fail (Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 1:3–10)
Failure is part of life. I’m not talking about spiritual or moral failure; I’m talking about test-flunking, interview-blowing, loan-defaulting, job-losing failure. At some point and in some way it comes for all of us, and when it does, the enemy will whisper lies in your ear, claiming that you’re now defined by this failure and that God isn’t interested in screw-ups like you. Your flesh will want to create an identity around your failure. Fight back with the gospel.
The gospel has given you a glorious new identity: you are now in Christ. What is Christ’s is now yours. His obedience is your obedience; His righteousness is your righteousness; His love is your love. This is who you are, not your failure—even if it was a mess of your own making. When you return to the gospel, you will see Christ, not yourself. Look to Him and the identity that He has given you. Failure is hard, but it does not define you.
You Need the Gospel When Others Fail You (Eph. 4:32; Rom. 5:8; Matt. 18; Luke 15)
Every relationship you’re a part of has at least one thing in common: it involves two sinful humans. And sinful humans sin against each other. It just happens. Even the most beautiful romance or deepest of friendships has its share of sin-scars. On days when those scars are fresh wounds, you need the gospel.
A renewed look at the gospel will remind you that God’s steadfast love pursued you, not when you were ambivalent or neutral about God, but when you were hostile and raged against Him in highhanded rebellion. Even as He hung on the cross, Jesus offered forgiveness to His murderers—a group to which you and I belong (Luke 23:34). When extending forgiveness seems impossible, meditate on the forgiveness, kindness, and love you have received in Christ.
You Need the Gospel When Trials (Big or Small) Come (Rom. 8:18–39; 2 Cor. 4:17–18; Heb. 12:3; 1 Pet. 1:3–7)
I don’t know what shape suffering will take in your life, but I do know that you will endure trials. God may ask you to suffer greatly, and if He does you will need much more than the few words I can offer here. I won’t pretend that grappling with deep suffering is simple or that looking up a few Bible verses will make the pain go away. To promise such drivel would be cruel. However, allow me to offer a few brief words of exhortation.
When suffering comes for you (and it will), look up.
Remember your Savior. Christ suffered God’s infinite, eternal wrath as He hung in naked humiliation on the cross. He knows what it’s like to suffer. Run to Him. What you’re asked to endure, terrible though it may be, will not be as great as what He suffered for you. And that’s a good thing. He knows and He cares.
Remember eternity. What darkness you walk through here is temporary. In the gospel, you have been given eternal life. Life free from pain, disappointment, heartbreak, and every other effect of sin. The hardship you face now is but for “a little while” (1 Pet. 1:7). Cling to the hope of heaven!
Remember your God. In the Gospel, we find a beautiful tapestry of God’s character: compassion, forgiveness, grace, mercy, steadfast love, holiness, justice, and faithfulness. The God who saved you is the God who keeps you. He is for you, even in the darkest valley. Look to Him.
Younger friends, I may not know much, but I do know this. You and I need the gospel today, tomorrow, and every day of our lives.