Youth Minister, ‘But Now’ You Are Made Right
In youth ministry, we can find ourselves wearing so many different identities.
We are the leader. We are the friend. We are the organizer. We are the planner. We are the mentor. We are the teacher. We are the pastor. We are the advice-giver. We are the servant. We are the cleaner. We are the food-preparer. We are the dishwasher. We are the speaker. We are the counsellor. We are the safety officer. We are the director. And on and on it can go.
Looking through the singular lens of all these roles and tasks, we can find ourselves overwhelmed. We can begin to wonder what we are really doing and who we really are. We can begin to question our own identity.
Thankfully, there are two simple yet undervalued words in the English language I find particularly encouraging in helping me think about myself. I believe these two words can encourage any of us who are involved in youth ministry.
The two words I’m talking about are, “But now.”
We first come across this phrase in Paul’s writing to the Roman church. Paul presents the gospel in terms of being made right with God and articulates this way:
But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, attested by the Law and the Prophets. The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented him as an atoning sacrifice in his blood, received through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. God presented him to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.(Romans 3:21-26)
God has enacted his rescue plan for the world through the person and work of Christ Jesus. Completely unable to meet God’s standards, we are made right with God because of his action, his grace. The great news for all people, and in all times, is that God has made us right with him despite our own sin and selfishness. That which could have been held against us has been dealt with through the cross. Suddenly and decisively – but now– we find ourselves in right standing before the Almighty.
No longer is our righteousness obtained through an archaic law and sacrificial system. Nor is it achieved through excessive work, being nice, and giving into the cultural mores of political correctness.
Having been made right with God through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, our ‘rightness’ is only contingent on these two words, but now, that turn our world upside down and reshape how we might think of ourselves.
With these two words, God provides us with clarity about who we really are and where our hope should lie. They provide us with encouragement in the many roles and tasks we have. Like a cold drink on a hot day, this small phrase brings refreshment. It re-calibrates our thinking off of ourselves and onto our Saviour.
These words don’t just direct us in the way we should go, they name and assure us in who we already are. They help us understand the way God intended us to be since the early moments of creation.
In these two words, we can understand something different, something greater, about our identity.
Our identity, as well as our worship and obedience, is found at the cross. Nothing else matters, nothing else suffices. Yet in the chaos of our jobs and calling, how often do we forget this? Like clouds above, slow and silent, we find ourselves drifting from this truth among the busyness, the self-importance, and the variety of youth ministry. We lose ourselves in the thrust and hustle. We seek to serve God and those in our congregations, yet we find ourselves wondering who we are amongst it all.
‘But now’reveals our true identity to us in a way that feels like we’ve just walked into a glass door. Once we were a people who performed in order to be worthy, now we are a people who achieve through the free grace we receive. These two words set us back on the path to rest and rightness.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a well-regarded and highly acclaimed preacher of the mid-twentieth century, said this about these two mighty words, ‘but now’,
“There are no more wonderful words in the whole of the Scripture than just these two words ‘But now’. What vital words these are! These are the words with which the Apostle always introduces the Gospel. He first paints his dark and hopeless picture – and this is not only true of this Apostle but also of the others; but it is especially true of the Apostle Paul and of his particular style. He first of all paints his black and his sombre and his hopeless picture. Then, having done that he says, ‘But now’…can there be two words which are more blessed and more wonderful for us than just these two words, ‘But now’?…”
The power and assurance of these two words impacts our identity.
They impact who we are.
As we seek to minister to students, grow in Christlikeness, and labor for the church, let us allow these two words to jolt us back into our true identity – where our righteousness has already been won on the cross. We can remind ourselves during times of temptation, pressure, stress, and anxiety. We can lift our eyes from ourselves to our God, and know that but now, we have been made right with Him.