The Ripple Effect celebrated one year as a youth group in December. We’ve grown in fellowship, worshiped together, and focused mightily on the amazing love of Jesus. For most of 2013, we studied Luke, and among other things, it was great learning about how Jesus called sinners, just like us, to get up and follow him despite our flaws. We talked about how we get so focused on our appearances and reputations, but in the end God only really focuses on our heart. It was an awesome year, and we as youth leaders have been totally blessed to get to know our students and experience Jesus with them.
But why? Why follow him? Its not always easy doing so. Life throws distractions at us constantly, and you know what, life can seem pretty alright without Him. In fact, Satan absolutely loves it if we get distracted by how ok life can be on its own without Jesus. Over the Christmas break, God convicted me that our youth needed to be able to answer the question “Why should I follow Jesus?”
Jesus came to save. He is the way, truth and the life. He is the way to the Father. Accepting His gift of salvation, His coming to earth as a man and carrying all burdens of sin in dying on that cross so that we could be saved…….. is the best decision you can ever make. Its as easy as just telling Him that you accept him. How great is the grace of God! I’m so thankful and humbled that God loved me enough to not only send His son, but to make it so easy to have access to Him.
But once you have accepted him, He is in you. The Jesus that had to go through absolute pain, temptation and rejection as a man, is with you. He had to fight for us. Jesus gave us a promise what will happen if we fight for Him and follow Him.
John 15:9-11 (NLT) says: “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”
Honestly, for a long time when I read the word “joy”, I equated it to happiness. And sure enough, if you read the definition of the word “joy” on Google, it says “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness”.
That’s not the joy Jesus is speaking of. The Greek word used in the bible here is “chara”, which means joy and gladness. The definition of gladness is “a feeling or state of well-being and contentment”.
This is God’s promise to us. That when we follow his commandments and teachings, when we walk in Him, our life will be FULL of joy. We will have a fullness of life that we cannot get anywhere on this earth. This isn’t a guilt thing. Jesus didn’t die for us so then we’d feel guilty about our sin and try to follow him. NO! He died for us as an example of perfect love, so that we can experience JOY to the fullest.
Society screws up the concept of love. It minimizes it to a flighty sense of happiness. You see so many characters on shows and in songs say “I love you”, but it’s based on the giddy butterfly feelings we get. And then randomly they have a change of heart and say “I don’t love you anymore”…. It’s focused on feelings. On the butterflies. On me, me, me, how I feel.
The love that God has for us is deeper than we could ever imagine. Jesus sweat blood in the garden of Gethsemane, knowing the pain he was going to have to endure. He had metal barbs rip into his back, He was prodded, He was spit on, He FOUGHT for us. THAT’S the love that is worth fighting for. That’s the love that allows us to have joy to the fullest.
We played the song “Love is War” by Hillsong United at youth group (video below). The song cries out to God, saying:
Turn my eyes to see Your face
As all my fears surrender
Hold my heart within this grace
Where burden turns to wonder
Is it easy? No. It’s a battle. It’s not about the surfacey feelings that we have. (Yes, I’ve decided that surfacey is a word, ha). Sin is easy. It makes us feel better for just a moment. When you are insecure about how a peer feels about you, it is easy to gossip about them. That temporarily makes you feel better about yourself right? Then what happens? You slowly realize that the insecurities get worse.
Our prayer for The Ripple Effect is that we fight to follow Him. All the time. ALL THE TIME! When we obey His commandments, focusing on His love, His desires, His vision…. we will be overwhelmed with joy.
“I will fight to follow
I will fight for love
Throw my life forever
To the triumph of the Son”
The Ripple Effect is going to be digging deeper in 2014 into the awesomeness He has for us. I can’t wait.