Is Jesus Really the Only Way?

Recently, we just finished up a series called Get Real in our middle school ministry. During the series we addressed major questions many people, including Christians, ask about Christianity. For example, “How do we know God is real?” or “If God is so loving than why is there so much suffering in the world?” The question I tackled a few weeks ago was “Is Jesus really the only way to God?” I want to share the main ideas from that talk in this post and hope to share why we can believe that Jesus really is the only way to God.

A popular belief in our culture is that all religions are equal. Not only are they equal, but they all lead to the same place. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what religion, or path, you take, we will all end up in the same place. Some people may choose Christianity and if that’s works for them then it’s all good. Or some people may choose Islam, or some other religion, and if that’s best for them then it’s all good. We call this belief “religious pluralism.” You see this kind of thing pop up in things like the coexists bumper stickers. You know, those stickers that spell “coexists” with the symbols of different religions. As good as all this sounds, it couldn’t be any further from the truth. In John 14:6, Jesus makes a claim that goes against any claim that all religions are the same or that all paths lead to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus claims that there is only one way to God and that’s through Him. How do we know that’s true? Let me share with you three other things that support Jesus claim that He is the only way.

1. Jesus is the only way God provided. In Matthew 26:36-44 we read about Jesus going to a garden to pray before He would be betrayed and arrested. Jesus knew what was coming. He knew He was about to be beaten, spit upon, and murdered on a cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. In complete agony He prays to the Father and asks Him if there is another way to do this. He asks God that if it would be His will, could He get out of doing this. But we see Jesus complete surrender and determination to follow God’s will. Jesus goes to God three times and basically asks Him if there is another way. And three times God doesn’t repond. There is no other way. The death of Jesus as a sacrifice for sin was the only way. God’s silence screams this truth from the pages of Scripture! Think about it, if God had another way would He really send His only Son to be nailed to His death on a cross? This sacrifice only makes sense if what we believe is true-Jesus is the only way!

2. Jesus is the only way that fixes our problem. Everyone enters this world with a common problem called sin. All religions recognize this is some way. They may not call it sin, but they realize this world is broken and things are screwed up. So all religions, or paths to God, try and fix this problem. Some try and say that all we need to do is be better, try harder, and hope our good outweighs our bad. Sadly, all religions, except Christianity, just puts a band-aid on our problem. Only Jesus actually fixes the problem. How does He do that? He becomes a curse for us and take our sin upon Himself. In exchange we get His righteousness which means we continue as if we have never sinned. We are justified and stand before God perfect because of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:21 explains this great exchange to us.

3. Jesus is the only way transforms our life. No one actually experiences life change outside of Christianity. All other religions don’t change a person. In actuality all they do is become an “add on” to someones life. But Jesus comes and gives us a new start. The Bible calls this being “born again” or the “new birth.” We literally go from death unto life and experience a whole new life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” No other religions can make that statement. In their book Red Like Blood, Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington tell a story about a situation the famous evangelists Dr. Ironsides found himself in. At a Salvation Army event, Dr. Ironsides was called to the platform to share a few words. On his way up, a outspoken atheists started making remarks and yelling at him. The atheist called Ironsides out for a debate between Christianity, which he claimed was false, and atheism. Ironsides looked at the man and said this: “Yes, I will debate you this Saturday morning. But there is one condition. You bring one person whose life has been transformed by the power of becoming an atheist and I will bring fifty ex-alcoholics and fifty ex-prostitutes whose lives have been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. And then we will debate.” Christianity is the only religion that has to power to change a life.

All religions, or paths, to God are not the same. There is only one way and that is through Jesus Christ. That is the only way God provided, fixes our sin problem, and brings transformation. No other ways to God claim those three things.

Click here to view my speaking page where you can hear the audio of this sermon as well as other sermons I have preached in the past.

6 Things to Remember When Teaching Students About Sex

word-sexOne topic I think we should continually address in student ministry is sex. Sex is an amazing gift that the enemy has taken and used for evil. Our students live in a culture that is saturated with sex and the pressure to engage in sex before marriage is huge. Our culture sees sex as a recreational activity and our students are buying into that lie. Our students need to understand what sex is and how God has design sex to take place between a man and a woman.

Both our middle and high school ministries did a series on sex and relationships this past month. It was a great series and I believe we communicated God’s truth about sex and relationships well. I hope every student pastor does at least one series a year on the topic of sex. It’s extremely important and our students need it. Here are a few things I believe are important to remember when teaching students about sex.

1. Be bold. Talking to students about sex can be awkward. It’s not only awkward for you, but at times it’s awkward for the students (especially if your teaching middle school students). Break through the awkwardness by being bold. Don’t be afraid to use the word “sex” or other words that come up in a conversation about it. Students have heard all the terms about sex and associated words, you’re not going to say anything they probably have not heard.

2. Keep the Gospel central. When teaching students about sex make sure the Gospel is clear. There are a few reasons this is extremely important. First, you don’t want to teach students that just being a moral person in regards to sex is ok. Many students believe that staying a virgin until marriage is the ultimate Christian teens goal. So instead of striving after Jesus they strive to reach the standard of being a virgin. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the goal is not just to be a virgin. A student can still be a technical virgin, but still commit sexual immorality according to the Bible (more on that in a minute). Second, many students in your group will have already lost their virginity or have messed up sexually in some other way. These students need to hear the Gospel! They need to hear Jesus still loves them and He wants to forgive them. They may feel dirty, used, and broken, but God restores and wants to redeem their failure. One last thing, please be careful with the “dirty rose” illustration. Watch this video for more on that from Matt Chandler.

3. Define sex Biblically. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people define sex as just intercourse. According to Scripture sex is more than just intercourse. In Ephesians 5:3 the Greek word for sexual immorality is pornea, which covers all sexual activity outside of marriage. This includes heavy making out, oral sex, friends with benefits, and masturbation. Those are things that most students don’t consider sex. So if they do all of those things, but stay a virgin they think they are fine, but that’s a lie! God says sex is any form of sexual activity outside of marriage. Define sex Biblically when teaching students about it.

4. Have a time for genders to be both together and separate. Don’t be afraid to teach about sex in a mixed group. In fact, it may be a healthy thing to address sex with a mixed group of students. However, it’s also good to have a time where guys get with guys and girls get with girls to talk in more detail about sex. Have a balance and try and do both.

5. Address current trends. Make sure you relate the topic of sex to current trends in students culture. Help students see what God says about sex relates to how they use their bodies, social media, and other things. Hit things like sexting and Snapchat. Talk about how sex relates to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Take the truth of Scripture and help students apply it to their current culture.

6. Lastly, equip the parents. As good as it is for us to talk about sex with our students, the parents talking about it to them is more important. Encourage parents to have conversations with their student about sex. Help them do this by giving them whatever resources you can. Tap into things like CPYU and Focus on the Family for great resources on this topic. One of the things we did was offer a parent seminar for our parents about technology and how it’s being used by our students (click here to listen to the audio of that seminar).

Again, teaching students about sex is important. I hope these simple reminders will help you next time you address this issue with your students. If you have more additional thoughts, feel free to leave them in a comment below.

Teen Sexting Infograph

Last week I ran across a very eye opening infograph about sexting on Youth Ministry Media’s blog. I want to share that infograph here on my blog to help inform parents and other youth workers about the popularity of sexting among our teenagers. Sexting is basically using standard text messaging to have sexual conversations as well as sending semi-nude or nude pictures to someone. With popular apps like Snapchat sexting is becoming more popular and easy for our teenagers to engage in. Here are some major things that stand out to me about the infograph on sexting below:

86% of sexters never get caught. Many parents and youth workers may say sexting isn’t a problem with their teens, but if this stat is true than they probably do and you just don’t know about it! Teens that sext usually don’t get caught.

53% of teens that sext are girls. This one blew my mind. Everyone thinks it’s the teen guys who struggle with lust and porn so it would only make sense they are the ones enaging in sexting the most. But it’s the girls who are leading the way in sexting! We must not target only the guys when it comes to this issue. Teen girls are just as, or even more, engaged in it than teen guys.

Teen Sexting Infograph

So what should parents and youth workers do with this information? First, don’t assume your teens are not sexting. Don’t wait until they get caught to have the tough conversations with them. Talk to them about why sexting is wrong and the devastating consequences that can come from engaging in it. Second, protect your teens. Don’t give them a smart phone (or regular phone for that matter) and let them have free reign. Set up boundaries and rules to help protect them from things like sexting. They may not like it at the moment, but as they grow up and walk with Jesus they will be grateful.

Parents vs. Technology Seminar

Last week our student ministries pastor, Todd Iannetta, did a seminar for our parents called “Parents vs. Technology.” During the month of March, both our middle school ministry and high school ministry has been going through a series on sex and relationships. As a ministry we recognize that technology is playing a major role in our students world when it comes to sex and relationships. Todd shared a lot about how technology is going after our students, how parents can fight against technology and protect their kids, and resources that may be helpful for topic. Click here to read more about the seminar form Todd himself.

I want to share the audio of that seminar here on my blog so the parents of our church that wasn’t able to attend can listen to it when they get a chance. Also, I want to encourage parents outside of our church to take the time to listen to this great seminar. I promise you it will be with it and you will find it helpful. All you have to do is click the link below and start listening!

Click here to listen to the Parents vs. Technology Seminar

Common Questions from Teens About Homosexuality (Part 2)

imagesHomosexuality is an issue our teenagers are facing more and more as time goes on. Our culture says it’s ok, but as Christians, who believe God’s Word, we believe it is sin and not part of God’s design. Our teenagers are hearing both sides of the argument and many of them have questions. In the first post of this series, I answered two common questions teens ask about homosexuality. In this second post I want to answer two more common questions I have heard teens ask about homosexuality.

Is homosexuality worse than other sins? I believe many teens ask this question because they see Christians respond more severely to homosexuality than other sins. We need to be careful our teens don’t see us “categorizing” sin as if some sins are worse than others. An important principle to teach teens is that all sin is equal, but earthly consequences are different. No matter how “big” or “small,” sin is always sin and it will send you to hell unless you repent and believe in Christ. However, the earthly consequences of sin may differ (note I said earthly because the consequences are the same after death-hell). For an example, someone may get angry and become bitter towards another person. That is still sin, but they may not face any horrendous earthly consequences. But someone could go out and murder someone and face major earthly consequences. Both are sin, but the earthly consequences are different. Don’t let teens believe homosexuality is different than other sins. It’s still a sin Christ died for and can forgive. Homosexuals are no worse than other sinners. The ground is level at the foot of the cross and the Gospel covers all sins.

Why do some Christians hate homosexuals? One of my biggest pet peeves is Christians who show no love for people in sin or who oppose their Christian faith. The best example of this, and why many teens will ask this question, is Westboro Baptist. Westboro Baptist is this “church” that has built it’s ministry on expressing what they believe is God’s hate for homosexuals. They picket funerals and waste their time holding up signs that say “God hates fags.” They are not Christian at all and I do not believe they have ever experienced real Christianity or accepted the Biblical Gospel. Many teens see this and get turned off to Christianity because they believe it is what Christianity looks like. Let’s do our best to show teens that true Christianity is loving the sinner and doing whatever we can to share with them the life changing truth of the Gospel! Those “Christians” who hate homosexuals do nothing but make Christians look less like Christ. Please hear me, I’m not supporting homosexuality and saying it’s ok (it’s not!), but I do not believe Christians should hate or treat homosexuals differently. They are real people, like you and me, who have a fallen sin nature and need a relationship with Jesus. Show them Jesus, not hate.

I hope these posts have been helpful to you as you talk to teens about the issue of homosexuality. It’s a growing issue in our culture and we must equip our teens to view and approach it in a way that’s God honoring and faithful to His Word. I hope these two posts on answering teens questions about homosexuality have been helpful. I encourage you to spend time in God’s Word, build your convictions on this issue from that, and in love communicate to your teens about why homosexuality is wrong.