When I was a preteen and a teenager growing up in church, I remember feeling as though there was no place for me. We had youth group, and our youth group averaged more than one-hundred students on Wednesday evening. We went to camps, went on retreats, did missions projects, had cool t-shirts, had awesome music, had cook-outs, there were a few hot girls that were there and we had everything else that you would think of a cool youth ministry having.
Here is why I still felt that there was no real place for me. My generation was treated differently than any other generation in the church. Hi, my name is Andrew and I am a Millennial, yes that generation currently at the butt of so many jokes in our society. While the whole church met together on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and for prayer on Sunday night, we were given our own space and we were separated out from the entire congregation. As a result, I felt growing up like I had no real place in the church. 59% of those in the youth group with me simply dropped out of church altogether, so I am pretty confident that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. I wish that during my youth, someone would have treated me like I was part of something greater than myself.
I know you have a lot of cool stuff. If you are in a church with money, then you have youth buildings, games, music, and a great atmosphere that you may or may not take for granted (I know I did). How many of you still feel like there isn’t really a place for you? You go to youth group because this is where other people your age hang out. You are at the church building because you can play basketball, or pool (by pool, I mean billiards), or ping pong, or sign up to go to camp. You’ve been told over and over again what you ought to think about God and how you ought to behave, but you still really don’t know your place. How do you fit into the church body? What does God think about you?
Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us — to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope at your calling — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah’s gift.
Paul was the human author of this letter to the Ephesians. In chapter 3, verse 20, he writes that all glory belongs to God in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. In the church, not merely one local church or another but in the universal church, God, by His power that works in us, is working things together in such a way that He receives glory. In every generation forever and ever, God is working things together by His power in such a way that He receives all glory. The purpose of the church is to first bring glory to God. The purpose of every generation forever and ever is to bring glory to God. Those of you who play football or baseball or soccer know what glory is. It is bragging rights. It is winning the trophy. It is the earned recognition you gain by scoring the winning touchdown. We try to earn glory in athletics, in academics, in the fine arts (music and drama), and in the visual arts (drawing, painting, sculpting). God is working all things in His church and in every generation for His glory in Christ.
Just so we can catch a glimpse of the way that God is working all things together for His own glory in the church and in every generation, I want to briefly overview the first three chapters of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. We will turn back to the Scriptures. These words are much more important than anything I can come up with to say. 1 Timothy 1:8-9 says that the Law (that is the Scriptures) is good for sinners. I am a sinner, so the Bible is what is good for me. Let’s look into the good words of Scripture (italics added for emphasis).
Ephesians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will: To the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus.”
Paul recognized that he served as an apostle by God’s will. God was the one working out Paul’s service according to His own plan and purpose. He writes this letter to all the saints. This means that this letter was not only meant for one generation or another, but for every generation. Adults, I hope you haven’t tuned out because this letter is addressed to our teenagers. We are all in equal need of the word because we are all sinners.
Ephesians 1:3-4, “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before Him.”
Praise God. He is the one who saves us. He is the one who makes us holy and blameless in love before Him. Salvation is not a work of ours. He is the one who rescues us from darkness and death.
Ephesians 1:9-10, “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him for the administration of the days of fulfillment — to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.”
God is the one who reveals His good plan. God is the one who brings everything together in Christ. This includes the generations. There is a natural separation of the generations, but God is bringing all things together. He is repairing what is broken in the world. This is God’s work and He is doing it. He will accomplish it. It will be done in Christ, no one else.
Ephesians 1:23-24, “And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way.”
Christ is the head of the church in every generation forever and ever. He is the one who receives all recognition. He is the one who fills all things in every way. This is Christ’s work and He receives all glory.
Ephesians 2:8-10, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”
Even in salvation, we cannot boast because we have accepted Christ. He is the one who saves. We do not have the power to save ourselves. We cannot boast. We do not receive glory for or from ourselves as Christians. God is the one who receives all glory in the church and in every generation.
Ephesians 2:13-15, “But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace.
God only has one people. Though this verse specifically refers to the Jews and Gentiles becoming one people in Christ, the same work is being done in the generations. God only has one people. He is bringing His people together, repairing what has been broken, for His glory. He is our peace. He is the one who tears down the dividing wall of hostility. He is the one who creates in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace.
Ephesians 2:21-22, “The whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.”
Every generation, even preteens and teenagers, is being put together by God. Every generation and every people (both Jews and Gentiles) together are growing into a single holy sanctuary in the Lord. We are being built together for God’s dwelling. God is building for Himself a people with whom He will dwell forever. It won’t be teenagers in one place and adults in another. We are being built up together. We are not being built up for the glory of one generation or another, but for God’s glory and for God’s dwelling. Teenagers, you are a part of the body.
Ephesians 3:6, “The Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
The church in every generation is to glorify God.
There is an amazing gift available to all people. One generation is not better than another. You do not have an excuse just because you are younger and have less experience. You are still accountable before the God of the universe. He is still working in you for His glory. He is building you up as an essential part of His church. You are part of the larger body of Christ, and you are part of Christ’s church with the adults and with the elderly. Every generation is equal in its worth before the God of the universe. He does not show favoritism or partiality (Romans 2:11).
So, Paul challenges the church in every generation to live worthy of this amazing calling that we have received, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.” This is the type of interaction God desires in His church among all people, explicitly people across the generations. This means two things for us. First, you are to be engaged with the other generations. If Wednesday evening is your only time here and you only spend time with people your age and you never talk with, encourage, or show love to the older generations, then you are not living as a member of the church. The same is true for the adults. If we do not engage with you in Christ with humility, gentleness, and patience, then we are not living as members of God’s church.
The gift of salvation is available to everyone. God is building His singular church, “There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope at your calling — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
There is only one body.
In chapter 4, verse 7, we read that grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. We all get to experience the grace of God. All those who receive Christ do so as a result of God’s grace. Those of you who have ever done something deserving punishment but did not get punished know what grace is. We continue through the book of Ephesians.
Ephesians 4:11-14, “And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.
God, as He gives His grace, gives us gifts to be used in the church. Part of your place in the church as preteens and teenagers is to serve. If you are only here because you get something, then you are not living according to the calling you have in Christ Jesus. Good works have been prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. According to this verse, pastors were given to prepare us to serve as a functional part of the body. Your youth pastor and your pastor are placed by God to prepare you for real and meaningful service as part of His church.
God desires that you mature in the faith that He has given for His glory.
Ephesians 4:16, “From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.”
When you plug into a place of service, God uses the gifts that He has given you for the building up of the whole body. God does not save us and call us into His church by accident or without purpose. We all, in every generation forever and ever, have a purpose to fill before God. God’s desire is that every part of the body that He is placing together work properly.
Ephesians 4:29-32, “No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him for the day of redemption. All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.”
As we live with and interact with and learn from and teach other generations, we present ourselves as the perfect picture of what Christ has done for us and in us. We are kind and compassionate because Christ is. We forgive one another across generations because that is what Christ does. We say what we say and do what we do only to build others up in every generation because Christ is building us as His church.
Ephesians 6:1-4, “Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land. Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Finally, we learn that your involvement in the church begins with your involvement in your own families. I understand the dynamic of our society. There are broken homes. There are some dead-beat parents. According to God’s instruction, your participation in the church begins with your families. Those of you who have parents who don’t know Jesus, this means being an example to them in the faith and telling them about Jesus. Be good sons and daughters for God’s glory. The family, then, participates as part of the church together. Wednesday night youth group cannot be the extent of your faith. If it is, then you are not following Jesus. The faith you have been given as a gift from God works out in your home and in the church body as a whole. You have a place in God’s church. It is a place of very real service. You have a purpose. It is to glorify God as you live according to the calling that you have received, at home and as a part of the church. This will work out at school. It will work out at work.
Your life is worth more than you know to the God who created you for good works, which have been prepared beforehand for you to walk in.
I plead with you to surrender to Christ as He transforms you and builds you up as part of His singular church. If you know Christ, I beg you to live out that faith that you have been so graciously given. Don’t waste your life. Do something greater than yourself. In response to God’s amazing grace, do more than just play basketball on Wednesday evenings or play a sport at your school. Don’t think too highly of yourselves. God desires that you live for something greater. Will you?
Grace is given to each one of us.
The church in every generation is to glorify God.
There is only one body.
Grace is given to each one of us.