The Gospel for a New Generation

What do we say to the next generation? How do we reach the next generation? I think these are questions that every generation asks, and I think they are the wrong questions. Let me explain. I love youth ministry and I am passionate about evangelism. Within the last 100 years these questions caused much of the organized church to forsake the true Gospel almost entirely. The experts lined up. They conducted study groups. They found out how to get my generation into church. We had the most entertaining music, the best atmosphere, the best summer camps, and high-energy game nights. Now that the experiment with my generation is done and many of us have been adults for more than 10 years, we can see the results.

According to the latest research, 36% of my generation holds to some sort of protestant faith. 20% believe the Bible to be true. 28%, including people of all religious affiliations, attend religious services once-a-week (which places the number for protestants between 10 and 15%). These numbers have been pretty stable sense I graduated from high school.

This means that every way in which the organized church strategized to win my generation, even if it succeeded at bringing people in the doors, failed to produce lasting faith in Christ and participation in Christ’s body. Now, there is a new generation of youth and the organized church is making the same mistake it did with my own generation. I think our intentions may be to get students to come hear about Jesus. What we’ve done in our process is lose our belief in the all sufficiency of Christ.

Hebrews 10:11-18

Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them,” 

He then says, “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 

Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.

The insufficiency of human religion (v. 11)

In Hebrews 9, the author(s) show us that the Old Testament sacrificial system was a picture of what Christ’s sacrifice would be on the cross. There was no actual power in the animal sacrifice. It could not actually remove sin, only provide some outward or religious cleansing (9:13). Christ’s sacrifice, the atonement for our sins, was perfect. Yet, when we read verse 11, we know that even after the perfect sacrifice has been made the priesthood still continued to practice giving imperfect sacrifices time after time even though these sacrifices could not take away sins.

The Old Testament was written for one purpose- to show the necessity of Christ. It did this by showing our inability to be righteous as God is righteous. The Old Testament proved that all people fall short of God’s glory. As we look into the Law, which is a mirror and not a checklist, we see our depravity and our wretchedness and recognize our need for God’s mercy and grace. We see our need for a savior who is God (c.f. Deuteronomy 31:26-29, Romans 5:20-21, Galatians 3:19-22).

Even though this is explicitly stated in the Law, the author(s) of Hebrews recognize that people were still trying to use religious means to accomplish the things of God- which was always impossible. Human and religious methods were always insufficient. The church proved that with my own generation. In 2013, research showed that only 15% of my generation was explicitly Christian and that more than 50% of those who grew up in church left the church altogether. The methods of people were insufficient to accomplish the things of God- even the best possible methods that people could come up with to get teenagers in the doors of the church. There was no lasting effect.

Christ is sufficient (v. 12-14)

but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time,

Jesus was the perfect atoning sacrifice. His one sacrifice for His people was offered for sins for all time. As a counterpoint to the insufficiency of human religion, the author(s) now proclaims the sufficiency of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice is not only sufficient for one time or for one generation. It is sufficient for all time, which means in all generations.

Where human religion is insufficient to accomplish the things of God, where moralistic teaching is insufficient to accomplish the things of God, where any form of penance or sacrifice are insufficient to accomplish the things of God, and where human strategies and tactics are insufficient to accomplish the things of God, Christ’s one sacrifice was sufficient to accomplish God’s righteousness on behalf of God’s people for all time.

This means something very serious for us as we practice evangelism and continuously train young men and women in righteousness.The only thing that we can do that will be sufficient to win anyone to Jesus is give them Jesus, give them only Jesus, and give them all of Jesus.

I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for good music, food, and fun in ministry. What I am saying is that those things will never and can never win anyone to Christ. We need to love younger generations enough to plead with them concerning the explicit Gospel. We need to respect them enough not to water it down with this other stuff. They can handle it. They are hungry for the real stuff of Christ.

sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. 

Jesus has assume His rightful throne within His creation (established through the line of David). He has been given all authority. If Jesus has all authority, surely He has the authority to win His people to Himself. Why do we add so many things to Christ as if He is not sufficient? Why do we assume that this work depends on the programmatic strategies of the organizational church as if Christ has not been given all authority? These are the assumptions that almost killed the church in one generation. These are the assumptions that caused me to think church was a joke growing up. These are the very assumptions that have always dealt great damage to the church. I am so thankful that God is always faithful to preserve a lasting remnant for Himself despite our sin, failures, and rebellion.

Historically, there has been great revival when there is a renewed vision of Christ’s authority and all-sufficiency. According to Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, declining or stagnant churches tend to experience a comeback when there is a renewed vision of who Jesus really is and of Scripture (Christ’s word) as the sufficient foundation for the church’s mission (Comeback Churches, 57).

For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

This is the case because it is by this one offering that Jesus has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. This is why moralistic teaching, cute little object lessons, and telling people of any generation what they can do rather than what Christ has done will always be insufficient and will always be unable to accomplish the things of God. In His death on a cross, Jesus’ work was sufficient to have already perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

Those whom Christ has saved in every generation are already perfected in the death of Christ. Christ did this once for all time- past, present, and future. He is the one who takes upon Himself the responsibility to sanctify His people.

So, Christ is not only all-sufficient for the conversion of His people. He is also all-sufficient for the sanctification of His people in every generation. So, the Bible is not meant to be our basic instructions before leaving earth and we cannot rightly teach the Bible if we are merely teaching people in any generation how to make better choices or live better lives or stay away from sin. Christ is all-sufficient and He is the only one who is sufficient for both the conversion and sanctification of His people.

The testimony and work of the Holy Spirit (v. 15-18)

The author(s) of this sermon clarifies what he means when he states that Christ is sufficient even for sanctification by quoting from Jeremiah 31:33-34. God will not remember the sins of His people anymore. In fact, His Law has been put upon their hearts and minds by the working of the Holy Spirit. The people of God come to desire to obey God by the working of the Holy Spirit and because of Christ’s all-sufficient atoning sacrifice. We don’t have to convince a Christian to become obedient to Jesus. The Holy Spirit works that out in sanctification. So, we resolve to preach Christ, only Christ, and all of Christ to as many people as possible in every generation. We continue to preach Christ, only Christ, and all of Christ to those who have come into the church. This doesn’t mean we can’t learn and do other stuff or explore issues of morality. We should, to the glory of God. It does mean that we do not water down the Gospel of Christ with other stuff.

Jesus Christ is all-sufficient and has all authority.

Remember to download or purchase my book, Neatmy apology to my generation on behalf of the church (available everywhere to order).

Questions:

  1. Do our evangelistic methods reflect Christ’s sufficiency or do they add something to Christ?
  2. Does our message reflect Christ’s sufficiency or does it add something to Christ?
  3. Do we need a renewed vision of Christ’s sufficiency?
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