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Summer Camp Wrap-up
We are back from camp, and as you can tell we had a really good time. Six days, seven power-packed sessions, three days on the beach, games, small group time, incredible food, a formal night complete with a talent show where students brought suits and ties and dresses from home, Shannon Hurley preaching, Chasing Cadence leading worship—all-in-all it was a great time.
As this is our special summer camp recap Sunday, we wanted to take the opportunity to tell you a little bit about our student ministries. Can I just say that we have an amazing Jr. High and High School ministry? Before we get into justification, let me tell you four things about our Jr. High and High School ministries.
We believe in the next generation. One of the priorities of the Church is to train up and establish future leaders. This is the biblical principle of the older teaching and training the younger. It is the process of life-on-life with the next generation. Each week, our Jr. High and High School staff (about thirty people) spends time with students, and builds relationships and shares their lives with them. Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” and that is our heartbeat. We want to be models for teenagers of what it looks like to be a godly man or godly woman.
These students are the future, and we want to invest in the future–to see them mature, to see them have a love for Christ and His Church, to see them serving in the local church, using their gifts and standing firm in the faith. Our main student ministries verse comes from Colossians 1:28 to 29, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”
We desire to be a resource to parents, not a replacement. While we are active in your students’ lives with D-group, and Wednesday nights, and Sunday mornings, and summer camps, and all the other things we do in the ministry–it is never our desire to usurp the role that God has given you as their parents. Scripture is very clear that the primary responsibility of raising children comes to parents, as in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Our hope is to come alongside you as parents, and to be a resource to you as you seek to fulfill your God-given role. There are two extremes that parents can fall into as it pertains to the role of the church in the life of their kids–the first we call Curbology. This is where the extent of their spiritual involvement in their kids’ lives is in dropping their kids off at the curb on Wednesday night and Sunday morning–“you fix ‘em” is the mentality. “You teach ‘em about Jesus–that’s your job”. The opposite extreme is the parent who isolates their child out of fear, and doesn’t want anyone else to influence their child, not even a D-group leader or others in the church.
And really, the answer is somewhere in the middle–as parents, we need the Body of Christ to come alongside us and be a part of our parenting. To have godly 19- to 25-year-olds ministering to our kids, loving them, showing them how to stand for Christ and be pure in this generation is huge. To think that it is solely the church’s job shirks our responsibility as parents. But at the same time, to keep our kids from the Body of Christ is equally as dangerous. Every parent has rough edges, blind spots, and areas of struggle, and we need others who are strong where we are weak, and godly where we are ungodly, and loving where we are unloving to come alongside and demonstrate Christ to our students. And so our student ministries exist to be a help and a resource to you in this area.
We take student ministries very seriously. We are crazy and fun, yes, but don’t miss the fact that we take what we do very seriously. There is a battle raging right now for the heart of every single student. The world bombards our young people trying to capture their affections through TV, the internet, every social media outlet, movies, advertising, music, and everywhere else you look in this world–all of it is designed to enamor and capture the focus and attention of young people, and to distract them from eternal realities.
Right now they are under a full frontal assault. In this unique season of life, while they are establishing their values, formulating their world views, and deciding who they will be, Satan brings his full arsenal upon them. While their hormones are spiking and their bodies are changing, and their emotions are up and down like a yoyo, he brings his sweetest and most delicious temptations upon them. They are his particular target because he knows that if he can ensnare them now, he will have them for the rest of their lives. This is serious. These are real hearts and real souls and real eternities.
We believe that there is a Heaven and that there is a Hell. There is an eternal destiny for every student that walks through our doors. And so in our student ministries we preach and we call them to accountability, and we bring the Word of God to bear on their lives. We do not placate them and treat them like children, but rather as morally functioning adults fully capable of making decisions of right and wrong. They are not adolescents, but moral agents who are responsible before God for their actions. “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” Hebrews 9:27.
Life is but a vapor–here today and gone tomorrow. So what we are doing matters. We cannot just play games, we cannot dumb down the message, we cannot pat them on the head, give them a short Bible story and tell them to come back in a few years. No, on the contrary, we must teach the whole counsel of God, call students to repentance, and challenge them to live for Christ. We love Jesus and we love your student. At the end of the day, we do what we do because we love Jesus Christ, and we love Jr. High and High School students. You don’t go to camp and work your fingers to the bone and sleep on the hard ground for five nights in a tent full of Jr. High boys just to have an experience (although that is an experience). No, we go because we love Jesus Christ, and ministering to young people is our service to Him. But we also love those students, and we want to see them love Jesus too.
FBC is a lay-run church, and our student ministries are lay run as well. Josh and Jimmy don’t draw a salary from the church. They go to work every day at real jobs to provide for their families, but their passion is in the church and in leading these ministries–and they do a great job.
Our staff is 100% volunteer–they serve not because they have to, but because they want to. They sacrifice to be with your kids. They spend their own time, their own money, and their own resources to disciple and build relationships with them. I have wept with some of them as their hearts are so burdened for the salvation of your children, and listened to their joy as they recall stories of God’s grace in their lives. What a great group of people. Would you commit to pray for our student ministries this week? Would you add us to your prayer list, and bring us to the Lord in prayer?
This summer we have been working our way through the doctrines of salvation and looking at different aspects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This morning we arrive at the topic of justification, and the timing is good because this was the main theme of our summer camp. Justification is the central issue of salvation. It is the cornerstone of the Gospel, and the backbone of Christianity. Take away justification by faith and you remove the power of salvation as it is defined in Scripture.
The main question of justification is this: How can a sinful man or woman be made right with a holy God? This is an important question, but for most it is very difficult to answer. When asked this question, Barbara Walters said, “I have no idea. What I feel more and more is how important it is to live your own life in a better way, and not to worry about it. What happens will happen.” Sophia Loren said, “I pray. I read the Bible. It’s the most beautiful book ever written. I should go to heaven; otherwise it’s not nice. I haven’t done anything wrong. My conscience is very clean.”
I hope this morning that you have a better answer to this question than “whatever happens will happen.” I hope you have thought more deeply than to say, “I should go to heaven, because if I don’t, ‘it’s not nice.’” The Bible’s answer to the question of being made right with God is called justification. Let me define justification for you in one sentence: “the legal act of God by which a sinner is declared to be righteous in the sight of a just and holy God.”
Let me explain it in a different way. Justification takes us into the divine courtroom and presents us as the defendant who is on trial for our sinful lives, and we are standing before the Judge of the Universe–God Himself. Picture yourself in this situation. You are in the heavenly court–God is sitting on His throne. You are asked to approach the bench. You stand alone with no lawyer–there is no jury present, it is only you and the Judge. There is absolute silence in the courtroom, and as He looks at you and slams His gavel down, He renders His verdict—“Guilty.” His judgment is final, there is no appeals process, there is no parole, there is no escaping the punishment that is set for you–it is over, it is final.
Now go back to the same situation, and imagine that in that moment the gavel comes down, the verdict is read and He says, “Innocent.” This is the picture of justification. It is a legal setting, and to be justified is to have the Judge of the Universe declare once for all that a sinner is not guilty, but rather innocent. To help us understand this better, I’d like to answer three questions about justification. I think this will be helpful to make this a little clearer in our minds. Question #1 . . .
1. Why Do I Need to be Justified?
Many people think that because they are “good” people who do “good” things that they will go to Heaven. The argument is that I am good enough to get into Heaven on my own–they don’t need help. Most people will admit that they have sinned, but don’t think they are bad enough to go to Hell. I mean, how bad does someone have to be to go to Hell, right? Do they have to be Hitler bad? Not according to the Bible. James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”
You say, “But I have my good works–that will be enough.” God says “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” Isaiah 64:6. You say, “I have my religion–I go to church, I put some money in the plate when it goes by, I sent my kids to summer camp, that is enough.” But the Bible says in Philippians 3 that all of our religious efforts amount to nothing. In fact, the apostle Paul says they are garbage.
Jared Kunkel and I went to the top of our slide last year at camp to fix a problem–well, he to fix, me to watch. He is a real man, I am not. He rode down first and began to work at the bottom–I impatiently waited at the top for my turn. I couldn’t go because Jared was working in the pathway of the slide. So I decided to sit down, but in the process slipped, lost my grip, and fell onto the slide. I exerted all of my energy to try to stop myself, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not stop. Jared was at the bottom, oblivious to the fact that I was headed toward him at around mach 1. Even though I was screaming at the top of my lungs, he couldn’t hear me yelling because the pump was right next to him. At this point, I am desperate to stop, but I was helpless and hopelessly headed toward a massive collision. At the last second, Jared looked up and saw me with just enough time to move to one side as I sailed past him and into the water. He was gracious enough to laugh it off and give me a hug, but I am pretty sure he was ready to kill me, and could have done so with one hand.
Our struggle with sin is a lot like my experience on that slide. Every single one of us has fallen into sin and is sliding away from God. No matter how hard we try, we cannot get back to Him on our own. You have no more power to save yourself than I had of stopping myself on that slide. We are caught in sin’s power and heading for destruction. And there is nothing you can do, no matter how hard you try, to free yourself from sin. We will stand before the Judge and the gavel will fall and He will declare us “guilty.” Every single person on this planet is doomed, because every one of us has sinned. We have all missed God’s perfect mark.
“By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). This verse is very clear–you cannot be justified by your works. Your religion will not save you, your good works will not save you. The reason that you need to be justified is because you stand as a sinner condemned before God and your eternal soul is at stake. This leads us to our second question . . .
2. What happens in justification?
What is the process of justification? What actually happens in justification? Practically, justification happens through the cross of Jesus Christ. “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Romans 5:9).
So justification is accomplished through Christ’s death on the cross. God looks at the sinner and declares him or her righteous through Christ. Let’s go back to the courtroom to clarify this. You are standing before the Judge, and it is clear that you are guilty and He is ready to pass His verdict. But then Jesus Christ enters the courtroom and says I will take your punishment for you–I will suffer in your place. And not only will I do this, but I will also give you my own righteousness, my own perfect life. So when the Judge looks at you, He no longer sees your sin–but He sees the righteousness of Christ in you and He declares that you are not guilty but “innocent.”
You see, in justification God pardons and forgives the sinner–and secondly, God gives us Christ’s righteousness. You could never be right with God on your own, and so God provided a way through His own Son who He killed on the cross. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Take a look at the box on your Mueller approved outlines. To be justified is to be viewed by God:
That’s helpful to remember–and to even recite to yourself when you are struggling with sin. This takes us to our final point, question #3 . . .
3. How can I be justified?
How can a person get the righteousness of Christ imputed or bestowed on their account? There is only one way that you can appropriate this. There is only one way that you can be justified–it is by faith in Jesus Christ. Scripture is replete with verses about salvation by faith alone, but for the sake of time let me show you a couple.
“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” Romans 3:28
“Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” Galatians 2:16
“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:3
There is one way and only one way to be justified, and that is to come by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, repent of your sins, and trust in his finished work on the cross for your salvation. There are no other pathways to heaven, there is no other hope. This is it. God has given us one way to be made right with Him, and it is through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Do you want to have peace with God? Then you must come to Christ in faith, ask Him to take away your sins, and trust Christ completely for salvation.
As we close, if you don’t know Christ, then . . .
1. Cry out to God for mercy today. You can be justified today.
2. Go hard after Christ. The same God who created the world in six days, who parted the Red Sea, who shut the mouths of lions, who walked on water and raised the dead, is the same God who was at camp. And this is the same God who you can meet with every single morning in your quiet times. You don’t need to be at camp to experience God.
3. Seize your summer. Students, don’t hold back–don’t let the fire wane. Go all out for Christ, love Him, pursue Him, go after Him. Don’t let this be a camp high that fades with your tan. Get involved in D-group, read His Word, come to church, but don’t let this be a week that fades from memory without lasting change.
About Shawn Farrell
Shawn leads the college ministry and serves as an elder at Faith Bible Church