The Wild-Draw-4 Card Gospel

There is nothing more exhilarating while playing UNO than being dealt a Wild-Draw-4 card. It basically means you can do anything you want. You can play it right away to get out of a bind, make amends for the terrible cards you’ve drawn, or save it until the end and savagely drop it as you win the hand. Regardless of how the game is going, you know you have the Wild-Draw-4 card ready to play in a worse-case-scenario.

Often times, we treat the gospel the same way. We see the gospel merely as a message about how to have our sins forgiven so we can go to heaven when we die. Our evangelism efforts hinge on “where would you go if you died” questions. Life after death certainly is an aspect of the gospel, but it has little impact on the daily life and situations a teenager walks through.

Jesus and the writers of the New Testament have a very different view of the gospel. Jesus seems to think that the gospel of His Kingdom should affect our sexuality, speech, attitude, life decisions, community, and the way we treat people (Mark 1v13-15, Matthew 5-7). The writers of the New Testament seem to think that there is life after life after death. Meaning that where we go when we die, and the age to come, are two very different things (Eph. 1v21). What we do in the present has massive ramifications on the age to come (Revelation 21v24)!

If we are going to help our students be faithful ambassadors of the gospel, we need to ensure we give them the full scope and effects of the gospel. Let me suggest two ways we can begin to help our Youth understand how the gospel changes every area of their life.

1. Share a complete gospel
The good news of Jesus spans the entire story of God (Luke 24v27). We see it from Genesis 1–Revelation 22. But an incomplete gospel says, “You’re a sinner and making Jesus the Lord of your life gets you into heaven.” Now don’t get me wrong. That’s part of the simple gospel of 1 Corinthians 15v1-4. We are absolutely sinners and confessing with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believing in our hearts God raised Him from the dead (Rom 10v9) does give us eternal life. But I would argue that’s not the full scope of the message of the gospel.

When we skip Genesis 1 and 2 and start with our sin in Genesis 3, we miss the grace of God and His design for our flourishing before sin even came into the picture. We see God’s grace in the beginning of Genesis when He created us, sustained us, gave us community, marriage, sex, occupation, vocation, family, and endless joy by calling us to create a city where heaven and earth could dwell together. But we sinned and chose to be our own kings and queens; we listened to the enemy, and determined right and wrong for ourselves. The heart of our sin is not doing bad things, but rather an exchange of flourishing for fleshly desires. But the good news of the gospel is that Jesus came to make that right! He came to pay the price of our rebellion and usher us back into relationship with our Creator. Through His Spirit we can now enjoy His good design for our flourishing here and now. Not only that, but someday Jesus is going to come back and make all things new! We will spend forever in the New Heavens and New Earth creating a city where heaven and earth can again dwell together in complete harmony and peace with Jesus as King (Revelation 21v1-4).

That message has massive implications on how students respond to the circumstances, difficulties, and situations throughout their lives. Our messages need to be less about “heaven and hell” and more about “living in the present reality of the Kingdom of God.” That was Jesus’ vision and should be ours as well. But we don’t need to just share a complete gospel, we also need to share a consistent gospel.

2. Share a consistent gospel
I often tell my students that there is no area of their lives that the message of the gospel doesn’t apply to. It affects their attitude in science class, effort on the basketball court, response to sin, and reaction to failing tests and quizzes. I say that because I don’t want to preach an inconsistent gospel.

An inconsistent gospel is only shared at halftime during evangelistic “super bowl parties.” And an inconsistent gospel says that evangelism is mainly about sharing with your friends how they can avoid hell when they die. An inconsistent gospel saves us, but doesn’t sanctify us.

I want to preach a consistent gospel.

I want to give the gospel every time I preach, not just at evangelistic parties. I want to help my students see that evangelism is mainly about helping people see the life Jesus offers now AND in the age to come. I want the gospel to save AND sanctify my students; every minute of every hour of every day of their lives. I want every situation they encounter to be met with the goodness and grace of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

A consistent gospel means that when they fail, miss the shot, or have disappointment in life, they can rest in the finished work of Jesus for them. They can go to sleep knowing that the work has been accomplished and they never have to prove themselves to anyone ever again.

So instead of giving our Youth a “Wild-Draw-4-get-to-heaven-when-they-die” gospel, let’s give them a complete and consistent gospel. Let’s show them that Jesus is King, offers them an unparalleled life, and is worth following with everything they have.

Joseph Peterson serves at the Director of Youth Ministry at Westside Church in Vancouver, Canada. He is married to his best friend Nicole, and they have two children, Haddon and Ivy Jay. Joseph loves cycling, specialty coffee, and Harry Potter.

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