This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years160
This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years160
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This Changes Everything
How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years
By Jaquelle Crowe
Good News PublishersCopyright © 2017 Jaquelle Rose Crowe
All rights reserved.
Has anything ever changed your life?
I can think of a handful of moments that changed mine. My little brother's birth, for one. Starting my first job. Moving to Texas. Finding out my grandmother had cancer. Passing my driver's test. Getting accepted into college. Sending my first article into TheRebelution.com.
I know you've had your share of life-changing moments too. You started a new school or got your first car or met someone famous or went somewhere cool. You know what they are. From the impressive to the seemingly insignificant, we've all had these remarkable moments that shifted our perspectives and, in some way, changed our lives. They spring-boarded us in new directions or launched us on new paths.
But while these moments made important marks on our lives, they never changed us in our entirety. We were still the same people. We looked the same and talked the same and believed most of the same things.
That's what makes Jesus different.
Jesus changes everything about a person's life, from the obvious to the unseen. He shatters black and white into brilliant color and shakes the asleep until they're wide-awake. Jesus-followers don't live like they did before following him. We don't talk about the same things or read the same books. We no longer dress or act or think the same way. Jesus makes people one hundred percent new. He takes the spiritually dead and makes us thrillingly, beautifully, and abundantly alive.
There's a Problem
But this is where we encounter a problem. There are people all across our world — from magazine cover celebrities to the soccer mom down the street to perhaps that person who occupies the locker next to yours — who claim to follow Jesus but actually don't. While saying they have hearts devoted to a passionate pursuit of God, they live unchanged lives. Indifferent lives. Lives that blend in, conform to, and meld with the world. Jesus changed nothing in their lives.
And this problem is getting bigger. Drew Dyck, a Christian author and editor, once heard this message at a youth conference: "Being a Christian isn't hard. ... You won't lose your friends or be unpopular at school. Nothing will change. Your life will be the same, just better." Drew was stunned, but apparently the teenagers weren't. In fact, they weren't even listening, instead they were flicking Doritos at each other. Drew couldn't help but think, "And why should they? ... Who cares about something that involves no adventure, no sacrifice, and no risk?"
If Jesus changes nothing, they're right. Who cares about Christianity? But the opposite is true too. If Jesus changes everything, following him is worth risking all. And that's the truth. If you take away one thing from this book, let it be this: Jesus has no half-hearted followers. He demands all. And when he saves you, he changes it all. The inevitable question is only — How?
How This Changed Paul's Life
Meet Paul. He was born like you and me — a sinner, with a tiny fist curled in rebellion against God that grew to be a giant fist that declared, "I hate Jesus so much, I'm going to persecute his followers." An incalculable antagonist to Jesus, Paul wanted to squelch his following. He wanted Christians dead, and he worked against them every step of the way. And then Jesus found him and said, "Paul, you are mine" (see Acts 9). Like the sudden snap of a switch, the Jesus-hater became a Jesus-follower.
Everything in Paul's life swiftly and radically changed. His life and dreams and ideologies and passions and motives and work were twisted inside out, irreversibly upended. Once persecuting Christians, he now became their greatest champion. He dropped his old life and followed Jesus to a brand-new but much happier life of global missions, church-planting, and preaching about Jesus to anyone who would listen.
The Spirit of God also inspired him to author thirteen books of the New Testament. In one of these books, a letter to the church in the ancient city of Philippi, Paul gave a definition of what a Jesus-follower — a Christian — is. It's long, but he packed in everything. Read it carefully.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:8-11)
What is a Christian? According to Paul, a Christian is someone who does six things: (1) treasures Christ, (2) devalues everything else, (3) puts faith in Christ alone, (4) knows him, (5) suffers for him, and (6) becomes like him.
Christians Treasure Christ
Paul suggests that everything — even the most valuable, mind-blowingly awesome treasure out there — is worthless when compared with Jesus. Have you ever seen National Treasure? This movie follows a group of fictional American explorers who attempt to hunt down the greatest measurable treasure in the world — a collection of historical artifacts valued at billions of dollars. When they (spoiler alert) find it, the treasure is even more expensive and spectacular than they had imagined. Yet Paul says even this is nothing compared to Jesus.
Jim Elliot knew this well. A missionary to Ecuador in the 1950s, Jim was murdered by Hauorani Indians, the very people he was serving, before he turned twenty-nine years old. Here was a man who adored Jesus so much, he was willing to lose everything to tell others about him. Jim wrote a famous line that stands as a statement of his life: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." Jim knew he could only find soul-deep satisfaction when he recognized the ultimate worth of Jesus. He also knew that his Savior could never be casually regulated to a mere part of his life, compartmentalized like math class or football. Jesus was life. And that meant he was worth dying for.
But just as much, that meant he was worth living for. Most of us are probably not going to be martyred for our faith. Yet we can still take up our cross daily and follow Christ. No, we must. Christians are called to follow Jesus in death but equally in ordinary, uneventful, everyday life.
Christians Devalue Everything Else
When Paul says that he counts "everything as loss," maybe you think that he doesn't mean everything. What about the honor roll? Popularity? Comfort? Family? Friends? To Paul, that's like comparing fruit cores to a king's feast. They are indescribably inferior. No, that doesn't mean all of those things are necessarily sinful or unimportant; what it means is that when they are compared to Christ, they're nothing only because Jesus is everything.
Paul was the quintessential example of devaluing everything because of how much he treasured Christ. He suffered brutal shipwrecks and bloody beatings, lashings and imprisonments, starvation and snake bites, thirst, discomfort, loss, loneliness, and pain all because Jesus was worth it (2 Cor. 11:23-28). Jesus was better than safety. Jesus was better than health. Jesus was better than food. Jesus was better than friends. Paul counted everything as loss because Jesus was so much better than everything.
You and I, we have to look at our lives and ask ourselves, Do I do that? Do I live like Jesus is better than my phone? Is Jesus better than my body? Is Jesus better than makeup? Is Jesus better than sports? Would I gladly give it all up, without hesitation, for Jesus? Would I really?
While I'd love to quickly and confidently answer, "Yes, of course," I know my real response is too often, "Not really." Sure, there are beautiful moments when Jesus is supremely valuable to me, but then there are moments when he isn't. Those are the times I'm distracted from the treasure by trinkets and trifles. I'm too busy obsessing over how I look, or addictively checking my phone, or getting angry about a lost baseball game, and I'm living like Jesus is second-best. Those are the times I most desperately need this reminder: Christ is my treasure. He's my reward, my joy, my everything. And as his follower, my task is to live like it.
Christians Have Faith in Him Alone
My brother Travis is a self-admitted rule follower. Down to the last letter of every law, state-imposed or otherwise, he obeys. He won't even let me smuggle lollipops into the movie theater because the sign over there prohibits outside food and drink. It can be tempting for him, or others like him, to think that following rules will save him. If he can just be good enough or nice enough or, like Pinocchio, prove himself "selfless, brave, and true," he'll earn a shot at redemption. The lure is to trust in his own righteousness. But as a Jesus-follower and Jesus-treasurer, he's learned the ultimate futility of that misplaced trust. The Christian recognizes his own sinfulness and believes that only Christ's righteousness can rescue him from God's wrath (Gal. 2:16).
That's a counter-cultural message, though. We live in an age of self-help, where following your heart is the contemporary path to salvation. If you can just muster the strength and summon the courage, you've got this. You're the hero, the deliverer, and the savior. We're consistently told, have faith in you or believe in yourself.
Yet there may be no message more destructive to biblical Christianity. It is one so hideously and thoroughly rotted with self-idolatry that Jesus came to destroy it. Jesus came instead to call us to die daily to ourselves and trust in him as the true and perfect Savior (1 Pet. 2:24). So yes, have faith. Have great faith — but not in yourself. Have faith in Christ. Look to him. Ask his Spirit to give you unshakeable and unwavering trust in him alone and then pursue it.
Christians Know Him
You cannot be a Christian unless you know God. Not just know about him. Even the demons know about God (James 2:19). You have to know him as Savior, as Lord, as Redeemer, as Justifier, as King, as Friend. A Christian has an intimate relationship with God. It's not one-sided, impersonal, surface-level, or long-distance. It's present and active and messy and real and fearful and divinely wonderful. It is a holy God loving imperfect humans and making a way for authentic communion with them.
This makes me think of Facebook. It took me until I was nearly eighteen to get a Facebook account, and when I did I was pumped to connect with my friends. But then, slowly but surely, something else started happening. People who weren't my friends started sending me friend requests. We had mutual friends, or we were distant relatives, or we had met once at a barbecue, but we didn't know each other in "real life."
Being friends only on Facebook is weird, because even though I saw these peoples' pictures and their status updates and found myself learning quite a bit about their lives, I still didn't know them. I had never had a face-to-face conversation with them. I knew nothing beyond the flimsy superficial. I didn't know what their character was like, what their dreams were, or what they wanted most from life.
This is what it's like for those who claim to follow Jesus but don't actually know him. They can tell you he died on a cross. They say they pray to him sometimes. They listen to some Christian music and occasionally share Christian memes. But they don't know God relationally.
It's important to recognize that this is not God's fault. He gives us every opportunity to know him through his Word. That's where he reveals himself, his character boldly displayed on every page. Furthermore, he allows us to speak to him through prayer, a holy conduit of communication. Because Jesus removed God's wrath, he made a way for us to pray directly to God by his Spirit (Rom. 8:26-27).
A Christian knows these truths, loves these truths, and so communes with God personally and joyfully.
Christians Suffer for Him
To say that Christians won't suffer is a terrible lie. Suffering is a reality as certain as salvation itself. Just ask Paul or Jim Elliot ... or Jesus. When God saves you, you sacrifice a life of ease. "Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me'" (Matt. 16:24). Christians should expect suffering, while also recognizing that we have a great responsibility in the midst of it — to glorify God.
But it's hard for us to understand sometimes, isn't it? We hear the blood-stained stories of Christians in China and North Korea and the Middle East who are tortured and murdered for Jesus every day. We hear of their dramatic and horrific suffering, and we don't know what to make of it because that doesn't happen to those of us in the West. We get to go to church above ground. We get to pray in public places. We get to read our Bibles in front of police officers.
Yet that doesn't mean smaller bits of suffering for our faith won't happen. They will. We might be bullied because of our faith in Christ. We might be shamed. We might be fired from work or failed in a class. We might be mocked. We might be passed over for something good. We might lose friends. We might have to give up our dream school or dream job or dreams period. Suffering will come for the Jesus-follower. If it never does, that's a clue we're in trouble.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Pet. 4:12-13)
Christians Become Like Him
Jesus-followers strive to become more holy as God's Spirit works in our hearts to make us more like him. We demonstrate our allegiance to Christ by daily conforming to his image (1 Pet. 1:15-16). And that's what the rest of this book is about: the gospel changes everything.
That means we understand the staggering weight of what God did for us, the depth of our sinfulness, and the height of God's mercy. That means we don't serve God in isolation. We join with the community of his church, and we become a family who lives to worship God together. That means that we run from sin — from our selfishness, gossip, insecurity, pride, lust, greed, discontentment, jealousy — and we repent and glory in grace. That means we cultivate disciplines in our lives that make us more like Jesus, reading and memorizing his Word, praying, and sharing the good news of the glorious gospel with others.
That means we grow in maturity through listening to biblically-grounded sermons and soul-enriching music and reading books that inspire us to live kingdom-focused lives. That means we use our time in a way that is profitable, avoiding both laziness and sinful busyness and practicing self-denial. That means we foster relationships that will build us up by rejoicing in our family, nurturing good friendships, and considering romantic relationships from God's perspective.
That means that we love God more. Every day we die a little more to our old selves and live a little more like Christ (John 3:30). That's why we are called Christians, because we are of Christ, for Christ, with Christ, and in Christ alone.
Embracing Our Identity
Since we're young, now is the time we ask ourselves the ageless question: Who am I? Every person aches to know why they're here. We ask: What is the thing that defines me? How am I supposed to live? We look around and see all these people who call themselves Jesus-followers yet find their identity in material success or good grades or popularity or clothes or their bodies or their interests or their parents' expectations. The truth for us is that Jesus-followers, young and old and anywhere in between, can only find their identity in Jesus.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor. 5:16-17)
The gospel changes who we are. It literally changes everything.
How the Gospel Changed My Life
The gospel changed everything for me. When God saved me as a young child, my life would never be the same. Once lost, now I'm found. Once a slave to sin, now I'm a child of God. Once living for the world, now I live for a better, bigger, eternal kingdom (Col. 1:13-14). Everything about my old life has lost its charm.
In light of eternity, it's nothing. I have a new heart, new motivations, new dreams, and keep in step with a new world (Heb. 11:16). I'm a Christian.
Excerpted from This Changes Everything by Jaquelle Crowe. Copyright © 2017 Jaquelle Rose Crowe. Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
“No longer little children, not quite independent adults, teenhood is the fast transition between the two. In all the changes, wise teens need straight talk—bold talk!—the kind of advice that is sharp enough to help them cut through the false promises and lies of our culture and blunt enough to push back all the old, tired stereotypes of teenagers. You found it! This book is fearless, lucid, God focused, and gospel drenched, all applied in concrete practices, and aimed at nothing less than your eternal joy. These precious years are not the time to slack off, Jaquelle says, it’s the time to stand out. This book stands out as a valiant work from one teen serving other teens (and those who love them)!”
—Tony Reinke, staff writer and researcher, desiringGod.org; author, Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books and 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You
“In a culture where many young people feel entitled and struggle through swamps of victimization, Jaquelle Crowe calls her fellow teens to Christian discipline. She wants them to choose the hard tasks, the road of discipline, the life of obedience and service to Christ, in response to the gospel of grace. May she and her fellow visionaries—and there is a growing number of them!—follow this path to the end, empowered by transforming grace.”
—D. A. Carson, research professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; cofounder, The Gospel Coalition
“Jaquelle Crowe writes her first book with this purpose: ‘that the gospel will change your life, that you will surrender all to the cause of Christ.’ That is a compelling purpose, and one that many teenagers will embrace wholeheartedly, thanks to this book. May Christ bless Jaquelle and use her book toward that glorious end!”
—Ray Ortlund, lead pastor, Immanuel Church, Nashville, Tennessee; council member, The Gospel Coalition; president, Renewal Ministries; author, Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel
“Jaquelle's zeal for the gospel is contagious. This book is enjoyable and practical, but the effect thereof is individual transformation with global ramifications. I pray that a multitude of teenagers would take up and read this book.”
—Gloria Furman, author, The Pastor's Wife; Missional Motherhood; and Alive in Him
“One of my hopes for the church is that we would take seriously those in the teen years, that we would speak to them as those capable of and accountable for understanding the implications of a vibrant faith. Jaquelle Crowe does this, and even better, she does so as a peer. In This Changes Everything, both Jaquelle's practical words and her positive example offer needed encouragement to other teens. And they deeply encouraged this mother of teens, as well.”
—Jen Wilkin, author, Women of the Word and None Like Him; bible teacher
“Paul told Timothy to set an example and not let anyone despise his youth. Jaquelle is a young woman who embodies this truth and demonstrates the power of the gospel for young leaders. She describes her book as a chicken nugget. It's for those old enough to stop gumming baby food. She's right. There's a lot here to chew on. I recommend this book for both you and the young people in your life.”
—Dan DeWitt, Director, Center for Biblical Apologetics and Public Christianity, Cedarville University; author, Christ or Chaos and Jesus or Nothing
“In this gospel-saturated little book, Jaquelle gives a courageous and winsome call to young people to treasure Jesus above all, and to see how faith in him touches and transforms every area of life. Teens, I commend this book to you, as well as the witness of a godly young woman who is living boldly and openly for the glory of Jesus Christ and his life-changing gospel.”
—Jon Nielson, Ministry Director, Christian Union, Princeton University; co-editor, Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry
“Jaquelle Crowe is an outstanding writer, not just ‘for a teenager,’ but for anyone. Writing takes work, as does following Jesus, and in This Changes Everything, the author has done her work well. Reading this book was a pleasure; it’s biblical, challenging and refreshing. Jaquelle’s heart comes across clearly, her theology is strong, and what she says about church is desperately needed. I highly recommend this book both for teenage Christians and their parents.”
—Randy Alcorn, Founder and Director, Eternal Perspective Ministries; author, Heaven, The Treasure Principle, and The Ishbane Conspiracy
“Jaquelle writes as a teenager to teenagers. She writes with skill, with passion, and with a firm grounding in Scripture. I could list the many strengths of her book, but perhaps the most effective endorsement is this: I will gladly give This Changes Everything to my own teenagers with confidence that it will be a blessing to them.”
—Tim Challies, blogger, Challies.com
“This is a great book written by a bright young person, where Jaquelle clearly shows what young people can and should be challenged with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In a brief and very readable text, the author explains what the gospel is—what it demands and how it saves more than how it benefits us. The message of the cross is not a pragmatic message but rather a radically transforming and life-giving message. Read it and you will find what I just said to be true. I recommend it, especially for young people, parents, and young leaders.”
—Miguel Núñez, senior pastor, International Baptist Church, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; president and founder, Wisdom & Integrity Ministries
“In a culture where teens have been given a free pass to live self-focused, immature, irresponsible lives, they desperately need to know that they were created for a bigger purpose. In This Changes Everything, Jaquelle brings the gospel to life by showing how relevant and applicable it is to our modern generation. This book is a must for all teens!”
—Kristen Clark and Bethany Baird, Founders, Girl Defined Ministries; authors, Girl Defined: God’s Radical Design for Beauty, Femininity, and Identity
“Powerful! Packed with the fundamental values of the Christian faith, This Changes Everything does an excellent job presenting what truly matters most to my generation. A simple, yet profound book, I would recommend This Changes Everything to any young person eager to start taking their faith seriously.”
—Trent Blake, age 17, Mulberry, Florida
“We teenagers are at a confusing and impressionable place in our culture. Without clear direction on why and how we should be living as Christians, it’s easy to just give up. With plenty of real-life illustrations, This Changes Everything clearly explains why the gospel matters so much and challenges us to live for the glory of God.”
—Olivia White, age 13, Mebane, North Carolina
“So often, as teenagers, we get caught up in school, sports, and other activities and forget that our lives should really be about God. In this book, Jaquelle points us back to the Creator of all things and his wonderful plan for us. And she doesn’t just leave it as ushy-gushy feelings. With a humble attitude, she shows what it looks like to take this good news and allow it to transform our lives. I highly recommend this book!”
—Jason Zimmerman, age 16, Ithaca, New York
“This book was phenomenal. Jaquelle writes personally and she has a way of making you think deeper than is comfortable. As a young Christian myself, this book cut straight through me and gave me a deeper yearning for Christ, as well as practical ways to live a life more like Christ’s. She is on point with everything she says and uses the Bible as the basis for everything.”
—Emma Roth, age 17, Grafton, Ohio
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