the things they take in, pt 6: more real student questions

The concept is simple: students provide the questions, everyone gives input, we give an answer. The questions range in topics (as you will see), but we our aim is to give a Biblically-grounded, gospel-driven, Christ-centered answer, one that has application and meaning for each of us.

Instead of making a 10,000 word blog post (which no one would read), I want to break it up for you throughout the week. To catch up on questions here, check em out here. 

Have a question that you would like answered about faith, church, family, life, struggles, situations, me, jokes, anything, etc.? Send me an email at bucketofquestions@gmail.com. I won’t use your name in the blog and I’ll try and answer as many as I can each week.

You and I can’t imagine what it is like to like as a teenager today. I’m 24 and I still don’t understand how things have changed exponentially. So, when we take into consideration these questions, I want us all to remember that these are coming from students. Teenagers. Kids. So, if you happen to know some of the kids in this youth group (or even if you don’t), please be praying for them and for God’s grace to open their eyes to Jesus.

As always, these are real questions from real students:

What would you say was your biggest challenge as a teen Christian? 

I didn’t even get a chance to talk about this Sunday night because I opened it up the hear everyone’s thoughts before. And the response was similar.

“Christians at my school say one thing and act completely different”

“I feel like there is this perception that I need to be perfect because I am a Christian, so I can’t really be myself.”

This is a harsh reality. We tend to see the people who we know are Christians out and about, whether it’s at school or at work or the gym. At youth group, we spend time together on Sunday nights but Monday comes and life is different. Friday nights come and that Christian you know goes and gets drunk or high and is no different than the non-Christians at school.

This is a reality that extends further than high school. It is a little bit easier to notice then, but it is still the same problem. Christians worship one way and act differently Monday thru Saturday.

And … there is this huge pre-conceived notion that “Once you are a Christian, all your problems go away and you are perfect and life is carefree and when you mess up or you slip, then you aren’t a Christian and you need to fix that yourself and can’t talk about.”

Friends. If this is our idea of what it means to be a Christian, than we have it wrong.

I am screwed up. I am stubborn and narcissistic. I worship with some messed up people too. We have baggage. A ton of baggage. I go to a church that is filled with control-freaks, perfectionists, hypocrites, thieves, liars and that is just some of the people in the front row (which is typically where I sit).

Paul, in his first letter to his friend and colleague Timothy, writes “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” Let’s be honest. Compared to what you and I have done since we have been Christians, Paul is Superman and we are some runt in Metropolis flapping our wings trying to fly and yet it is this Paul who says “I am the worst guy that I know! I am the worst sinner there will ever be.” Look at Romans 7:24 “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul knew, even though he can be perceived to be this Super-Apostle, he is a sinner in need of a savior and he will continue to share that.

We need to understand the same thing. That when we go into a worship service, a Sunday school class, a small group, a home group you are surrounded by people who have fallen short. Sinners are all around you in church. We all carry baggage. We are prone to wander.

That is why the church is a good place to not be good. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to mourn. It’s okay to be distraught and broken and in need. Because I (Youth Pastor and Worship Guy) need Jesus just as much as you need Jesus.

So, be vulnerable the next time you go to your small group. Be vulnerable the next time you go your church service. Be vulnerable. Take off the masks that you’ve been wearing for so long. It’s in your weakness that the Gospel is made perfect. It is when you are humble and weak and vulnerable that you realize that grace is sufficient for you.

So take off the masks and join a bunch a broken people that proclaim, “Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow.”

And if your vulnerability isn’t received well by the group of Christians you open up to. Don’t give up. I know a place down the road where it’s okay for teenagers to not be okay. It’s okay for adults to not be okay because Jesus’ needed to save me just as much as he needed to save you.

Can you explain why Gay Marriage is wrong? 

Before I get to this answer, let me back up and first draw on some other points that, I hope, will be used to answer this question.

One) God intended sex to be for marriage, so when people have sex outside of marriage, it is sinful and wrong. In the Old Testament, love was expressed into three words: rayah [rye-ah, love between friendships], ahava [ah-ha-vah, commitment that stems from a friendship, unconditional love], and dode [dode, the mingling of souls, the sexual acts].

Two) Marriage is the institution of this unconditional, committed, sexual friendship. The first event in history is a wedding (cf. Gen 2:24). Adam and Eve are called to be fruitful and multiply … he isn’t talking about basic Algebra, God is talking about sex.

Three) Marriage, as a fundamental institution, is a metaphor for God’s relationship with Himself as Trinity and God’s relationship with his chosen people, the church. Throughout Scripture, God calls Israel (OT) and the Church (NT) His bride. When God speaks of this, he is referring to his unconditional love and commitment to the church. Marriage, therefore, isn’t something that everyone is called to (cf. 1 Corinth 7), but it is an image of God’s unconditional love, commitment, and pursuit of His people.

Four) Because marriage is this fundamental institution, an image of God’s relationship with Himself and His chosen people, it is to “be held in honor among all” (Heb 13:4).

With these points made, let me define marriage as Scripture defines marriage:

Marriage is the sexual and covenantal union of a man and a woman in life-long allegiance to each other alone, as a husband and wife, with a view to display Christ’s covenant relationship with His church (Gen 1:27-28, Gen 2:23-24, Matthew 19:4-6, and Ephesians 5:24-32).

So, what then do we do with same-sex desire and orientation?

Sexual desire and orientation are not inherently sinful. God designed orientation and sexual desire to be good and without sin. But our sexual desire is corrupted by sin. Because of sin, we are under a “debased mined to do what we ought not to be done”. We are out-of-bounds when a man has sex with another man just as much as when a man has sex with a woman when they are outside of marriage as defined by the Bible. It it no more sinful for a person to be gay than it is for me to be straight. The issue is my action upon my desire and orientation.

My point is that sexual desire and orientation are not equal to sinning. Temptation/desire do not equal action/lust.

Therefore, same-sex intercourse, not desire or orientation, is the focus of Paul’s argument when he talks about homosexuality in Romans 1: 24-27 or 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

It would be a contradiction of a true understanding of love and the gospel of Jesus to endorse”gay marriage” just as much as it is a contradiction of a true understanding of love and the gospel of Jesus to endorse me to sleep with my girlfriend outside of marriage just as much as it is a contradiction of a true understanding of love and the gospel of Jesus to endorse a widow to have sex outside of marriage.

But the good news is that God saves heterosexual sinners and homosexual sinners who trust Jesus by counting them as righteous because of Jesus and by giving them the Holy Spirit to walk with them to live lives pleasing to God in the midst of their brokenness.

Don’t forget that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:11 “and such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” This is the heart of the Christianity. I was no better than my gay neighbors, than my straight neighbors, than my lying neighbors, than my perfect neighbors. I was no better and yet God brought me in.

And guess what – I still have the same desires to have sex outside of marriage. I am still a Christian. I have the Holy Spirit leading me so that desire becomes less and less, but until the day I die, I probably will still struggle with that, God help me.

What do you do when a sickness is destroying your hope? 

For a number of years I struggled with severe back pain. The end of my time in college saw me become a cripple and that led into my first job in ministry. There were nights when I cried myself to sleep. There were nights when I was stuck on the chair in our apartment at college and my friends walked out the door without me because I couldn’t go out with them. I started to sleep on a jacked up couch for a few hours a night because that was the only way I could sleep. I had friends lay hands on me and my back and pray for God to heal.

A little after I started my first job, I was hunched over and limping everywhere. I would curse and swear and yell in my car to and from work. I would cry in my apartment (on the third floor, which really made life miserable). I was in pain almost daily for five years and the last year of that was so intense, I was losing hope.

So what did I do? I prayed. I mean, I prayed hard. I was so honest in my prayers of how frustrated I was, how confused I was. I didn’t know what was going on with my relationship with God.

As I prayed, I continued to dive into Scripture. There, God led me to two very helpful verses:  Romans 8:31-39 and 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. In these verse, God showed me that the pain in my back was not punishment for me being terrible and that he loved me. He wasn’t angry with me. He loved me and nothing could ever separate me from God. Pain, death, no way. He also showed me that the Gospel is for the weak and the broken (tip: all of us are weak and broken). It is in those times when we are weak that grace is realized as being sufficient for us.

From these two truths, I regained my hope. I trusted that God would heal me. Eventually, whether it was here on earth or in Heaven, God would heal me. He promised in Revelation 21:4 that “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” I would, at some point in time, be made new. I trusted in that.

But, for me to sit around and way for God to heal me is not living in that faith. I was called to live in the trust that God would heal me. And after failed attempts at physical therapy, injections, pills, medicine, God came through and healed me through surgery.

What do you do when a sickness is destroying your hope? You don’t give up on the doctors that God has placed around you. You don’t give up on trusting your relationship with the Lord because he has promised to take that ear, take that pain, take that sickness away and Lamentations 3 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.'”

Tomorrow, I’ll continue on with more questions. again, feel free to ask your own questions by sending an email to bucketofquestions@gmail.com

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  1. Pingback: the things they take in, pt 6: even more real student questions | matthewjmcdermott

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