Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 7, 2015 By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker (What Appeal Does Church Have for Young People?) Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
The Apostle Paul says, "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Christ is risen! Jesus is risen, indeed! And because He lives, we too will live eternally, and nothing can snatch us away from that Good Friday/Easter accomplishment of Christ, for you. Amen.
The Apostle Paul is talking about life under God's gracious hand of reconstruction. He is confident that no matter what is going on in his life at the moment, it's nothing compared to what life will be eternally with His Lord and Savior Jesus. That's a future that holds. That's a hope that lasts. When God is the Master Builder of your life, that's good news indeed!
Building, rebuilding, projects; it's that time of year again, isn't it? The weather is getting nicer. The summer provides a little more time for many. A little more breathing room is in sight. In fact, right now I'm actually doing a little work on my outdoor patio as well. With the coming of June, you may be thinking about getting outside, taking some time off, and trying to relax a little bit as well.
This can be a relaxing, even refreshing time of year. But this season also causes me to notice something else about life: I notice that it's a time when many people take a vacation from God too, living as if He isn't part of their life at all.
Think about what happens in the summer. The weeks whiz by. They are filled with activity. There's more to do and think about than you could ever fit in. It's possible to spend all your time doing projects, traveling, taking care of chores, talking with friends and neighbors, shining up your car, worrying about problems, getting annoyed at erratic drivers, watching or coaching sports teams, pursing hobbies, or just reading a few good books. Hurried, harassed, hassled; but scheduled with everything else but time with God.
If your life is so busy that you have no time for God, for His Word, for prayer, you are too busy, my friend. But, I see people living like this all the time. People get caught up in the now, temporarily going from day to day, missing God's presence, His help, and His counsel. You can avoid the issue of whether or not your life has a deeper purpose than merely the issues of the day, at least for a time.
But here's what I also have seen this season. In spring and summer, I can't help but see even more clearly God's amazing grace. You and I may be tempted to overlook the eternal. We may plow ahead in life with no thought of God, often until it's too late. But God won't stand for that! No, He loves you and me too much to let us fritter away His gift of abundant life. He is passionate about being your strength and salvation. So He breaks in. He disrupts the ordinary flow of your life in order to draw you close and call you back to Himself. You may be cruising along on life's highway, so God steps in with some real road construction. Lane shift ahead. Slow down. Pay close attention. Yes, in the midst of your driving-your-own-life- thank-you moment, God puts up some detours.
Let me illustrate. The summer season is also a time for what? That's right, road construction. You know it's true. The potholes of winter are deeper than ever. The weather is finally letting up a bit, so road crews can get to work. I know it's not popular to talk about road construction, but where would we be without it. If our roads and bridges were allowed to sink into disrepair, then we'd all have to be stopped for good. If that widening project didn't happen, we'd be in eternal traffic jams. Hey, I've lived in New York City and in Los Angeles, you don't want that to happen, believe me. Without construction, things would begin to just fall apart.
Maybe it's bad where you live today, too. My home state of Michigan has Detroit, a serious contender for a city with the most road construction, repair, and road repaving. And it's not just happening in the U.S., even our friends in Canada can't escape the road repair season. Last summer, "The Globe and Mail," a Canadian newspaper, featured an article called "Four Canadian Road Construction Nightmares." The article pointed out that due to a key bridge closure; it was faster to ride a bicycle into downtown Vancouver than to try to make it in by car.
Such things slow us down, yes; but even more, they get our attention. They show us the challenges of our modern lives and lifestyles. Things get real when we have to deal with the hassles of getting somewhere or getting to someone through the maze of construction and repair.
Well, if that's what a little road construction can do, how about God flagging you down, putting up a detour sign, or a sign, "construction ahead," in your life? Amidst the craziness of summer, God still wants to reach you. He wants to get into your life and take hold of your heart. He wants you to know that He is present and that you really need Him. So, at times, God gets your attention with some detours and discomfort. He's trying to get you to see things from His point of view; to change. That's life under God's construction and reconstruction and it is a blessing to let Him have His way with your life!
So, I'm going to put up some orange construction cones today for your life journey and mine. I want to talk to you about three areas of God's construction for your life so that your life will not fall apart. I want to talk about God's reconstruction plan for you, to bless you with His grace and love, His strength and hope, His help and eternal salvation. I'm just asking, will you let God have your attention today?
Orange Cone Number 1, this is the most important question. Will you let God have a Word with you? Yeah, it's the first area of construction, and, believe me, it is a major repair. It is filling in the pothole of all the noise and commotion of the world so you can hear God's voice.
Think about it: you need more than your own thoughts and opinions. You need more than what your friends say. You need more than the latest headlines in the tabloids or opinions in trendy blogs. You need something bigger, deeper, and more meaningful. You need to hear God's voice. You need His direction and His input for your life. The fact is there is emptiness without Him. A void. Life is incomplete. Many years ago King David said, "As a deer pants for the flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O my God" (Psalms 42:1).
And God, ever faithful in His gracious construction for your life, He doesn't hold back. He spoke to His people through the ages. He sent Jesus, the Word made flesh, to walk this earth, to live and understand our lives, and to show His complete love for us as He gave His life on the cross. Even now, God speaks to you in His Word, the Scripture, the Bible. He reaches into your life with forgiveness through the blessing of baptism. He lives in you through the gift of the Lord's Supper. God steps in. He breaks through the background noise and the chatter.
That's the construction Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians, chapter four. He said, "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
It is so good to be connected to God's eternal truth, to the wellspring of refreshing renewal in God's love and grace. It's such a blessing to receive eternal life; not just temporary sound bites of the latest happenings in life. Today, God says, "Stop, look, listen! Here I am for you!" And that's what really matters in your life!
Do you remember when doctors made house calls? When I was young, a few doctors still drove from their offices to the homes of their patients. Into the homes they would walk with their black bag filled with instruments and medicine. People were sick and doctors brought the help they needed. Doctors don't make house calls anymore, but God does. He meets you where you are in your life and He brings the good news that He loves you, that He knows your heart, and that He will help you now and into everlasting life. Open up your Bible, the proof is in His Word, the proof is in Jesus. God breaks in to rebuild your life and to bring you close to Himself. Sometimes He stops you in your tracks and interrupts your plans to bring you the love you really need. Will you welcome God's construction for your life?
How about another orange cone? Orange Cone Number 2 - Will you let God show you what really matters for your life; in work, in relationships, even in leisure? Will you let Him demonstrate what really matters most? Let's be honest: in order to make your life complete, you need more than the latest big screen TV. To see what life is really all about, you need more than a talk show, a concert, or a sports event. I hope you want your kids to hear more than fashion tips-even though as a father of a daughter, I realize that fashion is very important. I hope you want your loved ones to have a connection in life that is more than just what their friends on Facebook tell them about it. We need a connection with what really matters.
So God, in His grace, puts your life under His construction. You heard the Apostle Paul say, "We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, temporal, they don't last. But the things that are unseen are eternal." God connects you to what is best. He lets you know that you are His. "You are not your own," Paul declared. "You were bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God bought you with the blood that His Son Jesus Christ shed for you. "In Christ," the Bible says, "you are a new creation." That's what 2 Corinthians 5:17 says. And then, He calls you to watch out for the things that will take you away from Him. Peter says, "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Be on your guard. Even if you're a long-time believer and church member, you may fall into sinful behavior that disrupts and hurts the body of Christ, even yourself. Watch out and remember that you have a new life now. You're cleansed. You're purified, forgiven, brand new. God wants us connected to the things that matter at all times, in all places. How is God flagging you over to attend to eternal things instead of all things that pass away so quickly? How is God urging you to focus on what really matters? Think on these things!
Finally, Orange Cone Number 3 - Will you let God repave your walk as a difference maker in the lives of others? Instead of life being about yourself, which is a road to nowhere, you're now a smooth highway to other people so they can receive and know the love of Jesus Christ through you.
For me, this highlights, once again, the amazing value of a church community. Think about what you can be a part of when you combine your resources, graced by the Lord, with a group of people who long to receive and to show Jesus' love too. You may not be able to make a big impact on your own, but together with people who yearn to change lives, you can accomplish so much. You can bring God's Word to other nations, to the inner cities, to the lonely, and to those who are forgotten. You can help change communities as the light of Christ shines brightly in dark places. You can provide alternatives to gangs and drugs. You can help the hungry, show care to single moms, and bring joy to the elderly. You can pray for your neighbors; you can pray for the world.
It's so important to be a part of that. I need to be. You need to be. The community that receives and reflects the love of Jesus is the only community that can ultimately bless the world in which we live today! Why, because Jesus is the only One Who can do that with sinners of every kind. That's a community that lasts because Christ is at the center of its worship and its service!
With June upon us, do you want to know what a lot of churches are doing this month? Right, Vacation Bible School. I know that some people see it as glorified babysitting, but it is more than that. You know, I can even remember the times when I went to VBS when I was a child. There was this high school kid who read Bible verses to us, talked about what they meant, then played football with us, wiffleball, dodge ball, and even did some crafts with us too. I remember how much fun I had and how much I learned about the Bible that week. Who knows, maybe that's one reason I'm a pastor today. I saw faith alive in someone I respected (in addition to my parents, that is).
Have you ever been to Vacation Bible School? Have you ever volunteered for one? These are powerful community connection events that bring the Good News of our crucified and risen Savior to children and adults alike. Even as you're hearing this message, thousands of volunteers around the nation are getting ready to help teach and model the love of Jesus to young people and their families. Now, I want to tell you, Vacation Bible School is not convenient for those volunteers. Instead of getting used to the mid-summer stride of sleeping in, volunteers have to appear at church early in the morning during Vacation Bible School week. Adults and teens, who help spend the day on their feet, in demand, and surrounded by commotion. This is not a summer break. But the difference it makes in the lives of children and adults is powerful. Making a difference is, most of the time, totally inconvenient. It may be very uncomfortable! But it is a part of God's beautiful construction in our lives.
So, after the Apostle Paul talked in 2 Corinthians, chapter 4 about how he died a little bit each day in order to bring eternal life to others, he said this, "It is written: I believed; therefore I have spoken.' With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know the one that raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this," he says, "is for your benefit" (2 Corinthians 4:12-15 NIV). It was worth it to speak up, to do something, to make a difference, because sharing the grace of God in Jesus Christ was what really mattered. And making sure that God's grace went out to others; that's what really counted. Did Paul say, "No, I'd rather not experience the discomfort; I think I'll be quiet and I'll keep things status quo"? No. He said, "With the same spirit of faith I spoke up for you." God's construction in your life makes you willing to be uncomfortable so that His difference can be made in the lives of others.
Reaching others for Christ, Paul says, "Nothing's more important than that." Sharing God's love in Christ with others; "What could be more meaningful?" Paul says, "Nothing."
God the Father felt the same way. He put His only Son, the One He loved, through the greatest discomfort of the cross because nothing was more important than reaching you, reaching me; each one of us with the gift of His forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Today, dear friend, God may be causing a detour for you. Let Him position those spiritual construction cones in your life to lead you back to the Good News of Jesus. If summer is about construction, will you let God have His say in your life, His Way in your life, and be open to others in His Name? That's a life that matters no matter what your age, no matter what season of life you're in, because that's a life in Christ that is eternal, right now. And it can be yours by faith in Jesus. Amen!
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for June 7, 2015 Topic: What Appeal Does Church Have for Young People?
ANNOUNCER: What appeal does the church have for young people nowadays? That's our question today for Pastor Gregory Seltz. I'm Mark Eischer.
SELTZ: Well, Mark, there has been a shift away from church attendance, and all ages actually have been affected by that, but in particular we do see a real slump in church attendance among people ages 18 to 30.
ANNOUNCER: What's do you suppose the solution might be?
SELTZ: Before we talk about solutions, let me just say that the church, the people of God, the community of faith gathered together, is a powerful and vibrant presence on earth. While the United States and Canada is experiencing decline in church attendance and drift from the institutional church, the world is experiencing a revival of vibrant Christian community--especially in the global south.
ANNOUNCER: Here you're talking about Asia, Africa, and South America. In fact, the members of Lutheran church bodies in Africa outnumber Lutheran membership in the U. S.
SELTZ: That's right. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is spreading rapidly--particularly in nations that have experienced religious persecution, dire social conditions, extreme poverty, and other life-threatening circumstances. There, people see their need for God. So, point of fact, the Church of our Lord is not withering; it's not a weak organization on its last legs. It's a dynamic movement of life-transforming love, and grace, and purpose around the world. But, the church here in the U.S., and Canada too, has some struggles in connecting with young people.
ANNOUNCER: Amidst it all, though, Jesus said that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against" His church (Matthew 16:18 ESV). The devil wants us to believe the church is irrelevant and unimportant.
SELTZ: Always, but what's new about that, right? So, amidst this deception, the truth of God will always show itself as something unique in this world. And that's where I believe the church has a great appeal for the new generation. Young people--all people--crave genuine relationships. The church, remember, it's never been about a building; it's God's redeemed people around God's gracious gifts. Church is about genuine relationships.
ANNOUNCER: And first and foremost, it is about the saving relationship God established with us through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross.
SELTZ: Absolutely! The love and forgiveness of God for us in Jesus is the ultimate life-giving relationship. Who doesn't need to know that they have a new beginning every day with God; a clean slate by God's gracious forgiveness?
ANNOUNCER: And, our relationships with each other flow out of that remarkable relationship with God. So, instead of trying to cover up our flaws and failures, we can be genuinely honest with each other because we're all people who need God's forgiveness.
SELTZ: That's the beauty of the church, Mark. No pretense or pretending is needed. It's where you can be yourself, admit our needs, celebrate God's unconditional love and acceptance. You can't even find that on Facebook! Young people, actually all people, we need the church.
ANNOUNCER: What else about the church would young people find appealing?
SELTZ: Honestly, we would run out of time in this Q and A if we were to talk about everything. But let's just talk a few points. The church is meant to be a community of believers who love each other as they have been loved by God. The church is where we can speak the truth of the Scripture to each other, where we can encourage one another, pray for each other, live "graced lives" as we come to each other's aid.
ANNOUNCER: And we need that authenticity more than ever.
SELTZ: Absolutely. No matter what people say, this generation needs it like all others before it and God designed the church to be authentic, real, and a difference-maker. There's no better movement on earth. The church is about God's truth. The church celebrates beauty, creation, and balance in His Name. The church is meant to be the leader when it comes to the stewardship of creation, physical health, and possessions. The church is an advocate for the arts and constant encourager of generosity; they're for the poor, they're for generosity. The church is where we're connected with the mystery of God and His eternal purpose for our being.
ANNOUNCER: Now, when you explain it that way, it makes me glad to be part of the church! But I know that not all local churches reflect that sort of vibrant purpose and plan. There are some real problems in our churches.
SELTZ: You're right, Mark. The church is people, and we're imperfect. On one hand we need to cut the church some slack. But, on the other, if the local church has drifted from God's purpose, we need to call it to repentance and change our sights and get refocused on what God wants for us.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
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