James Meehan - Following Jesus as a Teenager
- Get involved
Well, I am honored to be with you tonight. I have two goals for this message. Goal number one, if you are a Christian, my hope is that you would be challenged to take your commitment to Jesus to the next level. Goal number two, if you're not a Christian, man, I wanna invite you to be a part of the greatest movement in history, a movement that Jesus introduced to the world 2,000 years ago. You see, at the end of Jesus' ministry, He brought together His followers and He gave them what is called the Great Commission. You can read it in Matthew chapter 28, verses 18 through 20, where Jesus says this. He says that, "I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age".
That passage is called the Great Commission, and it is our mission as Christians, a mission that Jesus gave to us 2,000 years ago, a mission that one generation after the next, people have said yes to be a part of, a mission that has absolutely changed the world as we know it today. A great example, Martin Luther King Jr. who led the Civil Rights movement here in the United States. Another example is a guy named William Wilberforce, you may have never heard of him, but he led the movement in England to not only abolish the slave trade, but also to get rid of slavery in England altogether. A final guy is a man by the name of Henry Dunant, Henry Dunant. He was one of the founders of the Red Cross, and he was actually the first ever Nobel Peace Prize winner.
And what's interesting about all three of these people is all three of them were committed Christians, all three of them were a part of bringing people the hope of Jesus, all three of them were committed to their different movements because they knew that Jesus loved us so much that He was willing to die for us, so they were willing to give their lives for others to show them the love that Jesus is offering every single one of us. The world we live in today has been shaped for the better because of the message and the movement of Christianity. And that is a movement that you are invited to today, because today Jesus is inviting you to follow Him. He's inviting you to make a difference. What will you say? I hope that you will say, "Count me in".
Now we have to acknowledge, though, is that the world we live in today is not the easiest place to be a Christian, right? Especially if you're a teenager living in the year 2020. There are so many different things in the world that are trying to distract us from what God has for us and what God wants for us. We live in a world that values comfort way more than it values purpose. We live in a world where people are more isolated than ever before, where we are overwhelmed with information to the point where we're not even sure what to do, where consumerism is the new norm. We live in a world where honestly, people are more skeptical to the message of Jesus than they've ever been before, because people have always asked the question, is Christianity true? But more than ever, people are asking the question, is Christianity even good?
But what I've seen time and time again is the words of Jesus cutting through all the noise and the confusion of our modern world just as powerfully as they did 2,000 years ago, and I've seen time and time again people be invited to the movement of Christianity and say yes, and through them saying yes, they have been a part of something that is so much bigger than they ever could've imagined, that God is using them to make a significant difference right where they are, because they said, "Count me in".
The unfortunate reality, though, is that for so many of us as Christians, we have settled for a version of Christianity that is so much less than the version that Jesus introduced to the world so long ago, because for so many of us, right, we think of Christianity as sort of like running a race, but the way that we view it is we think that saying yes to Jesus is us finishing the race, that we've done it, we've done all the work, that that's all there is to it, and that the rest of our lives, between the moment where we say yes to Jesus, to the moment we die, if we wanna do anything else, that's just extra credit, right?
We're just running extra laps, we're doing extra conditioning, but in reality when we look at the teachings of Jesus, when we look at the writings of the apostle Paul, what they talk about is this idea that following Jesus is like a race, but saying yes to Jesus isn't finishing the race, saying yes to Jesus is starting the race, and that the rest of our lives are running the race that God has called us to as we continue to pray for people, we love people, we forgive those who hurt us, we go the extra mile, we turn the other cheek. That's what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus. And for so many of us, we've settled for simply believing in Jesus instead of truly following Jesus, and when we take the step to move beyond just belief and actually put our faith into action to follow Jesus with every part of our lives, guess what happens? People start to see the good news in us and through us.
The message that Jesus introduced so long ago is He's inviting you to help people see that as the good news it has always been. What will you say? Will you choose to keep sitting on the sidelines, or will you choose to run the race? Because today, Jesus is inviting you to make a difference. What will you say? These Switch students, they said, "Count me in". This is a group of students from the Life.Church Edmond location who saw a need, and they saw something that they could contribute to. That need is called Operation Christmas Child. One of our global mission partners here at Life.Church is called Samaritan's Purse, and every year Samaritan's Purse has Operation Christmas Child, which is this program, this initiative, dedicated to help kids around the world get toys, essential supplies, and clothing for Christmas.
And so these Switch students, they said, you know what, I think that we could be a part of this. This is a group of high schoolers. And so what they did is they planned a fundraiser, they organized it, they executed it all on their own, to raise money to get the supplies needed to put together these different gift boxes that would go to these kids around the world so they could have presents on Christmas when they wouldn't otherwise be able to. So these Switch students did this fundraiser, and together they raised over $4,000. Right, that's a bunch of teenagers, that's people just like you who said "I want to make a difference". They raised $4,000, which allowed them to put together over 200 of these gift boxes.
Here's what that means. That means that there are over 200 kids around the world who, at Christmas, had a present under their tree when they wouldn't have otherwise. Why? Because of students just like you choosing to make a difference, choosing to say, "Jesus, I wanna make a difference, so count me in". Galatians chapter five, verse 13, Paul writes this. He says that "you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself". These are Switch students who are using the freedom that they have from Jesus to serve others in love. They were invited to make a difference and they said, "Count me in". You are being invited to make a difference. What will you say?
You're being invited to be made whole. Jesus is inviting you to be made whole. What will you say? Sammy said, "Count me in". I got to meet Sammy several years ago. I was the youth pastor for her at the Life.Church that we were a part of, and the heartbreaking thing about Sammy's story is that when Sammy was in the fifth grade, she came to a place where she was just so overwhelmed with the stress of life, with these different things that were going on that she just didn't know what to do with, that she had all of these emotions, all of these frustrations, all of this anger that she didn't know how to process in a healthy way, which led her to the point of choosing to hurt herself because she felt like that was the only way that she could deal with these emotions. She quickly became addicted to cutting to the point where over the course of the next year, she cut herself hundreds of times, to the point where if she was wearing short sleeves or shorts, you would see hundreds of scars on her arms and legs.
She was in the fifth grade when she started. But Sammy came to a place where she knew that wasn't who she was meant to be, and so thankfully she asked for help. She told her mom what was going on, and I got to sit down with her and her mom and just have a conversation about everything that was going on, and in the course of that conversation, Sammy opened up about the fact that the longest she had ever gone since she started cutting without cutting herself was 10 days, 10 days. But I believe that God was in that conversation because at the end of that conversation, Sammy and her mom, they committed together, to pray for each other, to encourage each other, to hold each other accountable, to remind each other of who God says they are.
And in that conversation, Sammy said, "You know what, I wanna break that streak. I don't want it to be 10 days, I want it to be 20, and then 30, and then 40, and then 50, and then 60, and then 70, and then 80, and then 90, and then 100," and tonight, Sammy told me that she has gone 408 days without hurting herself. What I'm telling you is that Jesus is making her whole and He wants to do the same for you, that somebody that was so overwhelmed with all the mess of life is being made whole. In the same way that Jesus is working in Sammy, He wants to work in you.
I love what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians when he says this. Chapter three, verses 16 and 18, he says that, "Whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is," listen to this, "There is freedom. And the Lord, who is the Spirit, He makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image". Whenever you turn to the Lord, the Lord, who is the Spirit, will bring you freedom, and He will transform you more and more into His glorious image. That is exactly what's happening with Sammy. And as Sammy is being made whole, other people are getting to see the difference in her. She's now serving at our LifeKids ministry on the weekend, showing them that the same way that Jesus made her whole, that Jesus wants to love them, to be their friend, to show them that there is hope and that there is a better tomorrow in store for them if they keep moving forward.
Jesus is inviting you to make a difference, Jesus is inviting you to be made whole, and Jesus is inviting you to be made new. What will you say? Six years ago, I said, "Count me in". I grew up going to church, and my family, we were sort of Christians but not super Christians. We went to church 'cause we were supposed to but not because we wanted to, which eventually led me to a place where I stopped going to church and stopped believing in God altogether. And I remember getting invited back to church with my mom because I was living with her, and she said, "Hey, if you're gonna live with my house, or live in my house, you're gonna go to church". So I said, "Yes, ma'am," because, you'll know this someday, but church is cheaper than rent, so choose church, it's way better.
And what's funny is as I was going to church, again, it was literally just to get my mom off my back, but I started to meet these people who, they had something that I didn't. They had hope. They had something that I wanted. They had joy. They had something that I knew I needed. They had peace. What I realized is that when I looked up what was different between them and me, the difference is that they were following Jesus and I was doing everything that I could to find those things that they had that I didn't, but nothing I did was ever working. Enough was never enough. So one day I just decided, you know what, I'm just gonna give this Jesus thing a shot.
So I made the choice to follow Jesus, to become a Christian, and man, let me tell you something. When I did, everything changed. I didn't just become a better person, I became a new person, I became a new creation. The things that had defined me for so long, the sin, the shame, the regret of my past, it didn't define me anymore. The thing that defined me now was the love of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17 talks about this idea beautifully when Paul writes this. He says that, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old uis gone and the new is here"! Jesus made me new, and He can do the same for you because you are not who others say you are, you are who God says you are, and He is inviting you to be made new. Jesus is inviting you to follow Him. What will you say?
Now a quick distinction here. Following Jesus is not like subscribing to somebody on YouTube, right? You don't just like, comment, and subscribe. Following Jesus is a lot more than that, but it's so much better than that. Following Jesus is about giving up your own way, taking up your cross and following Him. I love the way that Luke, who wrote one of the Gospel accounts, one of the accounts of Jesus' life, message, and teachings, talks about this. It's in chapter nine, verse 23 and 24. Luke says this, he's quoting Jesus, where Jesus says, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily and follow me. Because if you try to hang on to your life, you're gonna lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it".
What does it mean to follow Jesus? It means bringing every part of who you are, every thought, every word, every action, every step, every day, of who you are into alignment with God's will for your life. What does it mean to follow Jesus? It means moving from where you are today in the direction of where Jesus is calling you to be because Jesus, right now, he's inviting you to follow Him. He's inviting you to be made new. He's inviting you to be made whole. He's inviting you to make a difference. What will you say? My hope and my prayer is that you will say, just like so many people before you have, "Count me in". Let's pray:
Father God, we thank you so much for the goodness that you offer us, for the love that you offer us, for the grace that you offer us. I pray right now that in every single Switch experience that students would feel your presence in this moment, that they would know that you are inviting them to be a part of something that is so much bigger and better than anything that they could ever imagine. For those who are Christians, that they would move past just believing in Jesus and they would choose to follow your Son with everything that they are. And for those that may not be Christians, that they would realize that what Jesus is inviting them to is open to them, that there is nothing that is holding them back from being a part of this movement, and that when they chose to follow your Son, Jesus, they will be made new, they will be made whole, that they will used to make a difference as they take the step to follow you. And so God, I pray that you will move in the hearts of these students, that you will bring them into a relationship with you, and that you will use them to show others just how much you love them. It's in Jesus' name, amen, amen, and amen.