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Calling Teenagers to Treasure Christ More than All Things

Many teenagers in the church value their faith because of the advantages it brings to them. They tend to think Jesus exists to make their lives happier and better. This is another indication of the moralistic therapeutic deism that permeates many of them.

But here is the reality. King Jesus is more glorious and more majestic than we can imagine. At this very moment He is reigning over the universe. All the fullness of God is most clearly revealed by the Son.

When teenagers and adults begin to figure out who Christ really is today, we fall before Him and shout, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” We are overwhelmed and in awe. As we grasp more and more of His surpassing greatness, then it makes perfect sense to count everything else as loss.

Paul says it this way in Philippians 3:7–8:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

I want you to listen carefully to the words of Jesus in Luke 14. He was speaking not just to the 12 but to a large crowd. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple … So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (vv. 26-27, 33).

When Jesus says “hate family,” He is using a poetic device. He is saying the distance between love for Him and love for family should be as great as the distance between love and hate.

In Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller calls the heart an idol factory. The heart takes good things like family and possessions and turns them into ultimate things. Our heart deifies them as the center of life. They begin to absorb more of our heart and imagination than God. This is why “have no other gods before Me” is the first commandment.

We have a huge need to gather and horde possessions. We want to spend what we have on ourselves. What could motivate us to count all things as loss? Our overwhelming love for and adoration of King Jesus is what moves us to release our death grip on what we own.

For teenagers, the “doctrine” of Jesus is not enough to do this. Having a relationship with a “little buddy” Jesus is not enough. Only worshiping Christ in all His majesty and supremacy is powerful enough to move us to count all loss.

If we are deeply in love with Jesus and our hearts yearn to see His kingdom come on earth, then releasing some possessions isn’t a sacrifice.

Instead, it’s a delight. It is a way of expressing overwhelming love to Triune God.

The phrase American dream has many different meanings. Some understand it to mean all Americans should dream and work toward accumulating more and more as a primary life goal. But meeting Christ as Savior changes everything. Those who are being transformed into His image have a new goal—a goal to see all of who they are, including their possessions, bring great glory to God.

Those who live for Christ alone may choose to creatively downsize their standard of living for the sake of the kingdom. Simple living can lead to extravagant gifts that help fund getting the Gospel to every person on earth. Those who deeply want all to know Christ find it a joy to commit finances to this purpose.

Simple living also can lead to extravagant gifts that address human need and suffering in the name of Christ. Actually, there is enough money today to feed every person on earth and to get the Gospel to everyone. But for the moment, that money is in the pockets of Christians.

Our culture is fascinated with fame. Many teenagers believe they will be famous or well known by the time they reach adulthood. Teenagers see obscure people become famous overnight through reality TV or talent shows, and they assume it may happen to them.

Parents had the best of intentions. They listened to “experts” who said children have fragile self-concepts and thus need to hear they’re special many times a day. So that’s just what the parents did.

Parents videoed every moment of their children’s lives, created nurseries more elaborate than a Disney set, reverently placed every crayon drawing on the refrigerator, and built little shrines around trophies. It’s little wonder teenagers believe they are the center of things.

Everyone works for someone’s fame. The choice facing your teenagers is—do I work for my fame or for the fame of King Jesus, to make Him more famous in my immediate world and in all the nations?

Your teenagers will not likely be called to lay down their lives for the sake of the Gospel. But it is important they let Christ know they would consider it a high honor to do so. Jesus said,

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:23–25)

Use your imagination. Picture a generation of teenagers who love Christ with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Picture teenagers who adore the King above relationships, possessions, comfort, and a long life—who absolutely would lay those things down at Christ’s command. Picture teenagers who therefore are not bound to the culture. A generation such as that can—quite literally—change the world.

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Richard Ross

Richard Ross

Professor of Student Ministry.

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