Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pizza, Ice Cream, and the Apostle Paul.

As a youth group, we just finished up our study through the book of Matthew. It was an awesome chance to be able to go in depth to a well-known book of the bible and dive in to some of the more famous stories and passages of scripture with a group of students who were more excited to learn than I was at their age.

It's almost enough to make a full grown man cry...

I said almost. Get back in there, tear.

It was an excellent way to be able to begin to explore how the gospel as a whole interacts with different aspects of our lives.

Something I learned from the Navigators bible studies is that ever-present question that ended each Thursday night: How does this passage point to the Gospel?

That's a really great question when you're studying 2 Samuel or Deuteronomy. It really challenges you to dig deep in to your knowledge of the character of God and the Old Testament Messianic allusions.

But when you're studying the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ atoning for the sins of the world:

How does this passage point to the Gospel?

Ummm... Well, it is the gospel, so...

When we ended Matthew, I felt so blessed to be able to work through the book with the students, but then I felt pulled in two different directions. Do we want to continue following the remaining eleven disciples in their journey of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ? Or do we want to change gears and challenge the students to a study through the book of Judges?

Both options hold merit and great potential as a series.

On one hand, we can continue studying characters and concepts that we've grown familiar with these past twelve weeks, strengthening and solidifying this New Testament theology for which we've laid the foundation.

On the other hand, we can take our fresh knowledge of the work of Christ on the cross and apply it to the beautiful imagery of redemption and undying love that God displays towards His people in the book of Judges.

There isn't a right or wrong answer in this conundrum. You can't really go wrong when you're studying the gospel.

It's like trying to choose between pizza or ice cream. 

Both are excellent choices, both are good for the soul, both are so full of possibilities, but both are drastically different.

I want to be able to take the New testament theology that we've been studying for weeks now and be able to take any passage of scripture and find how it points to the gospel, and by extension, our own lives in interaction with Christ. I want to be help guide the Uth through the transition and consistencies throughout scripture.

In essence, I want my pizza covered in ice cream.

So for the past few weeks, I've been scouring scripture and praying, trying to find a way I can help guide the students in this.

And then I found it.

I found a scoop of rocky road ice cream covered in peppers and sausage, smothered in marinara and melted cheese.

Paul of Tarsus, born Saul, was both a Jew and Roman citizen who was apprenticed and taught by the most famous rabbinic scholar of the time, Gamaliel. Tarsus was a city famous for learning and study. Saul was a man who knew the scriptures. He knew the Old Testament law like he knew his own name.

After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the gospel spread fast, changing the lives of thousands of Jews and Gentiles all over the Middle East. As the church grew, Saul became one of its greatest enemies, hunting down and arresting followers of Christ, also known as followers of the way. Followers of Christ would be arrested and tried as heretics, often being imprisoned or stoned to death.

After a dramatic and life changing experience with the risen Christ, Saul's life is changed forever. He becomes the first missionary, laying the foundation for all future missions. Paul's life brings thousands of people to believe and follow Christ. Out of the 27 books of the New Testament, Paul is the author of 13, being one of the most influential players in the Christian faith.

Paul's life illustrates the redemptive work of Christ as well as the seamless connection between the Old and New Testament. Paul's mission changes the face of the world forever. God uses a man who calls himself "the chief of sinners".

Throughout Paul's letters and writing, he makes references to the power of the cross in his life, how Christ has forever changed his life.

That's what I want for my students. I want the students of Ridge Uth to not only know the Word of God, but experience Christ in a way that changes their life forever. I want to see the work of Christ inspire the students to live a life glorifying to the creator of the universe.

I'm trying to be as descriptive as possible without giving away too much of what we'll be talking about on Wednesday nights.

Just like Paul, we are all flawed and broken, prone to wander from the fold of God, desperately in need for the salvation and grace that can only be found in Jesus Christ alone. Just like Paul, our sins have been atoned for, and we have been forgiven. Just like Paul, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, capable of changing the Earth for the glory of God.

I am so excited to start this new journey with the Uth as we work through the life and teachings of the Apostle Paul.

Most High God, I pray that you would give us the wisdom that can only come from you, that we may discern Your Word and Your will. I pray that we would experience the redemptive power of your word and grow in knowledge of Your holiness. You alone deserve to be praised and glorified, and I pray that everything we do would an act of worship to you, directing attention and glory to You. Thank you for all that You do everyday; gravity, oxygen, forgiveness, family, food. Thank you for everything that You are everyday for eternity. 

Nate T B