Youth at First - July 2014
This past month, we took the youth to Student Life Camp in Orange Beach, Alabama. It was a wonderful time to draw away from the noise of life and spend some time focused on God and in fellowship with one another. For this month’s newsletter, I just wanted to share with you some insights into what we learned during the week.
For starters, I want to say thank you, FBC, for being so supportive of your youth ministry and the spiritual growth of your students. Teenage years are a vital time of formation in life, and it’s great to serve a church that understands and believes in that. We wouldn’t be able to take students to camp if it wasn’t for the support of the church, so thank you.
This year the camp’s theme was “Who do You Say I Am?” from Mark 8:29. We took a look each day at what people say about Jesus, who He truly is, and what impact that has upon our lives as his followers. In this space, though, I want to share with you a wonderful insight from Matt Papa, the camp’s worship leader for the week.
Matt Papa serves as a shining example of why worship leaders need to be sound theologians as well as musically proficient (which, I might add, our own Jason Haynes totally qualifies in both of these categories). As we gathered for the morning and evening worship services, he took time to explain the biblical background and theological importance of the words we sang. Our focus idea of the week came from Numbers 21 and the story of Moses lifting up the bronze serpent in the wilderness. The SparkNotes version goes like this: the whole Israelite camp was overrun by a number of “fiery serpents”—which God sent upon the complaining people in the first place and whose bites were both painful and deadly—and God provided a strange way of rescue from them. Instead of just driving the snakes out, God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and lift it up on a pole, and anyone who looked at the bronze statue would survive their snake bite.
On its own the story stands as a strange example of how God operates, but when Jesus comes, he explains that it was a sort of historical parable meant to teach us a larger spiritual lesson. In John 3:14-15, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus came down from heaven, willingly gave up his own life, and was lifted up on the cross that we may look on him and live. In the same way that the Israelites looked at the bronze serpent and were saved from the snakes, we can look upon and believe in the crucified Christ and be saved from the sins that we live in.
Paul describes our transformation by Christ in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” When we turn our eyes toward the cross and remind our hearts of what price Jesus paid for our sins, we cannot help but be transformed to be more like him. We grow into the glorious mold of what we were created to be, away from the sin and death of the one man Adam, and to the grace, justification, and life of the one man Jesus Christ (Romans 5: 12-21).
Our beholding of Christ and subsequent transformation are not singular undertakings, but repetitive actions. We must constantly be transformed by the continual renewing of our minds and hearts through beholding the glory of God and the salvation found through Christ. This is why we worship, and this is how we worship. By lifting our gaze from the natural to the Supernatural, from the creation to the Creator, to the Author and Perfecter of our faith, we can rejoice in the depth of life we have in Christ and find the strength to grow in that life day by day.
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