This Wednesday kicked off a big night for BGBC with the kick-off of a renewed CROSSROADS student ministry. (Formally kicking off Wednesday nights also means you’ll probably see a lot more blog activity over the next few months so… yay us.) Anytime we kick off a new ministry or revitalize an old ministry, the air is always filled with hope and promise of what will come. Charismatic leaders, of which I am not, can often excite the congregation and the students with promises of what might be built at their church. The problem with promises founded on man is that they are inherently flawed. Because we have sin in our lives, any promise or guarantee you receive from another person is kind of like eating a blackberry out of a box were you had previously found mold: you may feel really, really good that the blackberry you hold is perfectly clean but there is that chance it’s gone bad as well.
Since beginning working with teens in 2010, the one thing that never fails to disillusion and discourage teens from actively participating in their faith is the sting of a broken promise from peers who call themselves Christians or from leaders who they want to look at as role models. According to Proverbs, a broken promise is like “clouds and wind that bring no rain” (Proverbs 25:14). This is definitely true when you think about the hurt of broken promises as experienced by teens. When religious mentors and leaders fail to meet expectations and make good on their promises, many teens wither away from church life. They are plants desperately praying for rain.
In Isaiah 53:2-12, we are given a promise that comes from the mouth of a prophet, inspired by the One whose promise will always be fulfilled…
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong
and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
he was put in a rich man’s grave.
But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels. (Isaiah 53:2-12)
A lot is promised in this excerpt. Let’s look at just a few of them.
“There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.” – Jesus was born in humble beginnings, a feeding trough inside what is basically a cave, and lived a life free of luxury and working the profession of a carpenter. There was nothing about the person of Jesus that made people particularly attracted to him as a prophet.
“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed“ – When Christ was crucified, he was not only nailed to a cross, but also mocked and mercilessly beaten with a ‘Cat of nine tails’ (see the image on the right). What Isaiah predicted in the death of our savior, that he would be beaten and pierced for our rebellion, mirrors the events on Good Friday pretty accurately.
“He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth“ – A lot of people don’t think about this one, but Jesus stayed unusually silent during his entire inspection by the Jewish officials and the Romans. Pilate even asked Jesus why he didn’t respond to the charges brought against him but still Christ remained silent (Matthew 27:12-14). This is actually a crazy prediction if you think about it. If you do not believe in Jesus Christ as the savior, you have to look at the person of Jesus and wonder why he wouldn’t provide some type of defense. If you do believe in Jesus Christ as the savior, then you have to be at awe over His determination not to defend himself knowing what would happen in the coming day on the cross.
There are many other promises in this section of scripture, but the overriding theme is obvious: there will be a savior and He will suffer and die to that all of mankind may be freed from sin. The craziest part about all of this is that it represents a promise God made 700-ish years prior to Jesus being born yet all of it still came true. It’s not even like the promise was “pretty close”; it was exactly right and in most places it was extremely literal.
The analogy we made to the teens on Wednesday night was to imagine someone who accurately predicted what would happen every day of your life for 100 days. On that 101st day, you’re likely to listen to that person’s prediction and believe it. God, through the scriptures, is this ‘someone’ who has accurately predicted what will happen time and time again. He has proven that He is the only thing that will always make good on His promises. Unlike other religions and life philosophies, God, through prophets and Christ, has always come through.
Promises Yet To Come
Where does that leave us today? God presented us with one last promise through the vision of John in the book of Revelation. God tells of a time when Christ will come again to redeem the physical world, just as He came to redeem our souls the first time He walked the earth. If God’s promises always came through in the past, why would we doubt them now? The only thing God didn’t promise was exactly when these events would occur. Why not? Wouldn’t it be so much easier if God would have said ‘On November 7th, 2058 I am going to send Jesus to wrap this show up’, then many would probably live their lives thinking ‘Hey, I have decades before the world is going to end so I can witness to my friends/families tomorrow’. That’s not what God wants. God wants us constantly at the ready, prepared to share the Word with everyone we know as if this day might be our last.
We live a life at the ready because God has promised that one day He will come again to establish His kingdom here on earth. When that happens, we want to ensure that we and everyone we love has already made a personal commitment to Jesus and accepted grace for themselves.
If any teen has not made this personal decision or wants to talk about their faith, please approach one of your youth leaders. One promise I can make that I can stand by is that a decision to follow Christ will never be a decision worth regretting.