Below are 5 weeks worth of follow up Devotions for the students who attended Believe with us. Please don’t share videos or link.
Week 1 – Relationships
Answer these questions in your journal or think about them as you go throughout your day.
• Why do relationships matter so much to us?
• What does it look like to have healthy relationships?
Read Genesis 1:26-27.
Genesis is the story of beginnings, and this is the part of the story where God creates human beings. God has made all sorts of other stuff – water, dirt, sharks, monkeys – but he’s finally getting to the best part. But did you catch what God says about himself? God says “let us make mankind in our image.” But then look at the next verse, “God created mankind in his own image.” So, God is described as both singular and plural.
God is one. But God is also multiple.
What is going on here? Here’s a big fancy theology word for you to stick in your noggin about the nature of God: Trinity.
Now, you won’t find the word “trinity” anywhere in the Bible. There’s no verse that says, “The Trinity is just like this….” Over the years of Christianity and the study of Scripture, people began to see the reality of the Trinity runs throughout Scripture – both Old and New Testaments. The Trinity is a pretty crazy concept – we’d call it a paradox, or a statement that is true but doesn’t seem like it can be true. One God, three persons. This is the mystery we have to live with and live for: the Trinity doesn’t make sense to our brains, yet that doesn’t mean the Trinity isn’t true or real. God as Trinity is completely unique to Christianity.
So, God exists in perfect community. God is relationship. It’s like God has been having his own party with himself for all of eternity, before time and anything else existed. I’ve heard the Trinity called “the dance” – the Divine dance … an everlasting God party.
Follow along with me: God created us – the Trinity made you – and put the Divine thumbprint on our lives. We are made in the image of God, and God is a relationship. So, you and I are created for relationship. Relationship is the foundation of everything we are, everything we do and all that we are meant to be. What matters most in this world? Relationships.
Think about the different relationships in your life right now: your parents, your siblings, your extended family, your different friends and acquaintances, Jesus. How are they doing right now? And how can you tell? Remember: you and I are made for relationship, so let’s ask God for help in forming healthy relationships!
If you knew you had only one more conversation in this world with your best friends, what would you tell them? Probably something meaningful and important, right? Maybe you’d tell them all the things you wish you’d said earlier, share hilarious insider stories that no one else would understand, or confess that it was you who broke their favorite toy in kindergarten.
Jesus had this exact moment with his best buds. On the night he was going to be arrested, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his best friends, the disciples. (The Passover was a traditional Jewish feast remembering when God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt.) At the end of the meal, the gospel of John records a long speech and prayer Jesus shares with his friends. He knew he was about to be betrayed by one of them – Judas had already left at this point – and was awaiting his own death. So what he says must be really really REALLY important. And what does he say?
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:12-14)
Love each other. Lay down your life for one another. Love like Jesus loved.
The truth about healthy relationships is that they require love. Not mushy ooey-gooey feelings love (though that can be important, too). No, Jesus is talking about love as sacrificial action. It’s not just feeling warm feelings or good thoughts about someone – it means doing something, getting into the mess of their lives and loving them with compassion and presence. It’s not enough to just say, “I love ya.” You have to actually live it out!
It takes God’s help to practice this kind of sacrificial love. Even though we’re made for relationships, we’re honestly not very good at them sometimes. We don’t make sacrifices on our own – we need the strength of Jesus to help us. Take a moment to think about one way you can practice sacrificial action for another person this week. Maybe you can give up your time for them, spending time you could be spending on yourself. Perhaps you can sacrifice your money, paying for something another person can’t afford. You could serve a sibling, parent, or teacher just by helping clean up a room without being asked.
Stop and pray for God’s help:
Jesus, thank you for loving me. Thank you for laying your life down for me on the cross. Help me to love like you love – to serve others the way you serve. Give me wisdom and strength to know how to love this week. In your name, amen.
Practicing healthy, Jesus-centered relationships takes serious skills and wisdom – the kind of skills that can only grow through time and experience with Jesus. This week, find yourself a relationship mentor … someone who seems to have genuinely good relationships with other people. He or she should be kind and generous, approachable and fun to be around, and seem to always be thinking about others more than themselves. Don’t just settle for someone who’s “nice.” There’s a big difference between being “nice” and being “loving.” If you need some guidance, seek out your youth pastor or a volunteer in your youth ministry to help.
When you find this relationship mentor, approach them this week – call or email them – and ask them a few questions about relationships:
What do you think are the most important characteristics of a healthy relationship (family, friends, etc.)?
How do you practice Christ’s love in your relationships with your family? Your friends?
What comes into your mind when you hear the word “church?”
A building? A specific time on a Sunday morning? People gathered singing songs? A pastor preaching a sermon? Those communion crackers and juice (or wine, depending on your church tradition)?
I have to confess, sometimes I think church can be boring. Maybe you’ve felt the same way at some point. Waking up, sitting through a sermon, doing the same thing the next week … blah blah blah. Why do we do this every week? Can’t we just read the Bible on our own, or listen to a sermon we downloaded?
Church was never meant to be boring. Christianity was never meant to be done alone, as individuals. In fact, church was never meant to be a building or an event – the church is the people of God on a mission with him to save and heal the world. Jesus tells his disciples this: “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21).
The church is people in relationship, sent by Jesus to share the Gospel.
Church = people. The church is a movement – Jesus inviting you and me to be a part of what he’s doing in our world today, caught up in the adventure of grace to share with others about the eternal life available to all. And it turns out that we actually need each other as the church. For followers of Jesus, the church isn’t optional, it’s absolutely essential for us. I’m not taking about 100 percent church attendance on a Sunday morning. I’m talking about relationships. You and I need deep relationships with healthy Christians. Without relationships – without the church – our faith ends up falling apart. In relationships, God works in and through us in amazing ways.
So, how can you grow in your relationships in the church? Who is someone you can get to know better or serve alongside? Maybe the first step is just befriending another person in your church through your preferred social network. Maybe it’s committing to regularly attending your youth group so you can know your church better. Maybe it’s finding two or three other Christians at your school and praying together for your classmates and teachers. Find a way to continue to grow in healthy relationships as the church, sent together by Jesus to be good news in our world!
Week 2 – Creation
Answer these questions in your journal or think about them as you go throughout your day.
How can science and the Bible work together to provide us answers about Creation?
What differences between science and the Bible cause confusion for you about Creation?
Read Psalm 19:1-10. If you can, read it while you’re outside somewhere, or can see the sky.
My favorite part of this verse is the part that says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”
Have you ever been outside late at night, when there are no street lights around, and just stared up at the sky? There are a ridiculous amount of stars up there. I could just lie on my back and stare for hours into the twinkling dots of light.
Or how about a sunset? The color of the sky, the light bouncing off the clouds and mountains, the beams of light and warmth shooting off in all directions – it’s all incredibly beautiful and awesome. There is something spiritual about the experience of being in the beauty of nature. King David, the writer of Psalm 19, would look at the stars and the sky and the sunset and say, “God did this.”
When we look at creation and notice God’s handiwork, we call this revelation. No, not like the last book of the Bible with all the crazy imagery and numbers and beasts. Revelation has to do with God revealing himself, making himself known to and through creation. The sun and sky and stars reveal God. But King David also notices that this revelation is incomplete – we need more than just nature to understand God’s character. That’s why God gave us the Bible – what David calls God’s law – in order to know him better and follow in his ways.
God made the heavens, and he also made you! And if you’re a part of God’s creation, then you’re also part of God’s revelation – you have the image of God stamped on your life, and you can reflect God’s character. You’re not an accident or a mistake or the result of a series of random events – you are intentionally made, designed by God the Creator, which makes you valuable and loved.
Take some time to be outside in God’s creation today. Notice God’s character in one particular creation – people – as you go about your week. How do you see God in the created world around you?
In the beginning of the gospel of John, we read the following:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)
So there’s this “Word” person, who also happens to be God, and who created absolutely everything there ever was. Cool. But did you notice the first three words: In the beginning? There’s another part of the Bible where these words appear – it’s the very first sentence in Genesis, the start of the whole story. This is like a flashback in a movie, with the wavy lines as the characters remember something that happened at the beginning. John wants us to know something: this “Word” created everything!
Spoiler: Jesus is the Word.
This is a big deal, because it means that Jesus, the Son of God, created everything there ever was, including you and me. I think this makes Jesus the smartest person who ever existed. He didn’t just know math – he invented math! He didn’t just know scientific facts – he created the facts. He didn’t just have a good understanding of human emotions, brain chemistry, or how many stars there are in the universe – he made all that stuff. He thought it up and spoke it into being.
There are all sorts of debates about science and creation, about evolution and God’s role in the cosmos, and they can get frustrating and confusing. Here’s the truth about creation: Jesus was and is the best scientist. If he created everything, then he knows and understands anything, including your science homework. Science and faith don’t have to be opposites, as long as we hold fast to the truth that Jesus is the Creator behind all the science and nature stuff.
Take a moment to pray and thank Jesus for his creation:
Jesus, thank you for creating everything, including me. Thank you for being the source of life and wisdom in our world. Give me wisdom to know how to trust and follow you as the Creator in everything I do. In your name, amen.
So many people who love and follow Jesus are also active in exploring his creation. This week, find and contact a Christian adult whose job is deeply involved in nature: a biologist, a science teacher, an environmental activist, someone who works at the zoo, for the water company, etc. You may need to ask your youth pastor for help find the right person, but get creative and seek them out. When you’ve found them, ask them some questions about the relationship between Christ and creation:
In your job involving nature, where do you see God at work?
How can I be faithful to Jesus in the ways I view and treat God’s creation?
When God first created human beings, he gave us a really important job:
“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28)
Humanity’s first job was gardening. We were gardeners in Eden, taking care of the plants and animals God had created. Everything was perfect, and humans had the best job ever – we got to explore God’s world and make sure things went smoothly! Human beings were meant to cultivate life and flourish on the Earth, but we went and messed it all up. Sin entered Eden through the first humans’ disobedience to God, and the rest of creation has been affected by it ever since.
But God hasn’t forgotten that first task. You and I are still supposed to be the caretakers and gardeners of this planet. “Going green” and caring for the environment isn’t just a political thing or a nice trend – it’s a deeply spiritual and Jesus-y thing to do!
Following Jesus means caring for all his creation.
When Jesus came into our world to die on the cross and rise from the dead, he didn’t just save human beings – he saved all of creation! Jesus loves trees and rivers and mountains and birds and fish and cats and dogs and monkeys. Jesus cares about our world, and one day you and I will live with him on a renewed and resurrected Earth. Heaven isn’t somewhere in outer space, floating on clouds as ghosts wearing white ponchos and playing harps for eternity. Heaven will be this Earth but renewed and healed – it’s the best of this world, filled with God’s presence. We’ll get back to gardening with Jesus, caring for and exploring our new world without sin. Doesn’t that sound awesome?
You and I can start doing this today by getting creative and helping care for God’s creation. It’s more than just recycling your soda cans. Look up some ways you and your youth group can be involved in helping the plants, animals, water, and other parts of God’s good world. Put together a plan with your friends to do something this week to start taking a step toward taking better care of our Earth. We can start practicing heaven on earth today!
Week 3 – Jesus
Answer these questions in your journal or think about them as you go throughout your day.
• Who do you think Jesus is? What do you base this belief on?
• What’s the problem with having the attitude that we all can just believe what we want about Jesus and agree to disagree on some things?
• Does what we believe about Jesus actually impact our everyday lives? How?
• What three things in your life can you trust Jesus with?
Read Luke 9:18-27.
Did you know that there are more than 200 different names for Jesus recorded in the Bible? He’s been called the Alpha and Omega, the Bread of Life, the Captain of our Salvation, Prince of Peace, Healer, Shepherd, Savior … names and titles that all point to one undeniable truth: He is the Son of the Living God!
In this passage in Luke, Jesus asks his disciples what the crowds of people are saying about him. He’s doing research. Then he asks the more important question: what do his disciples believe about him. When Peter uses the title Messiah, he is saying that Jesus is the one God promised long ago to send who would be greater than Moses and would truly free people. Most had thought of this in earthly terms as slavery to a specific nation. But God had in mind a much stronger and bigger slavery – slavery to sin. Jesus then describes himself in third person as Son of Man.
In verse 22 describes the horrible future that awaits him. Then he makes it clear in verses 23-26 that people who choose to follow him will have to live a similar life of sacrifice and be willing to face the similar hardships – the reward for this, of course, that we get to be in a relationship with God.
This is not the picture we usually see of Jesus. This is certainly not the Jesus that most people think about at Christmas. As you think about Jesus as a servant and as living out this example for us who want to follow him, how does that change how you think about him? How does this change what you think about what it means to follow him?
When people look at you, what names do they use to describe you? If you started living a life boldly for Jesus, would those names change? What do you think people would say about you then?
There’s a difference between “hearing” and “listening.” You can hear something and do nothing about it, but when you’re truly LISTENING to something, it should elicit a response.
This is especially true of our relationship with Jesus. It’s easy to read his Word or sit in youth group and hear the teaching and merely shrug it off. But if we really LISTEN to Jesus, the natural response is to obey – because obedience is one of the best ways that we can show God that we love Him.
Here’s a good example: During the course of Jesus’ ministry on earth, he comes across a paralyzed man. Instead of immediately healing the man, he instead offers the man forgiveness for his sins. Immediately the skeptics question whether Jesus has the ability to do that, because that authority only belongs to God. Jesus responds by saying, “Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk?’ So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins. (Jesus turns to the paralyzed man and says) “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” (Matthew 9:1-8)
And do you know what the man did? He stood up, picked up his mat, and danced his way home!
What a great example of hearing vs. listening. The skeptics weren’t listening to what Jesus was really saying – that he was the Son of God with all the authority of the King of the Universe who had come to offer them the greatest gift of all: forgiveness for their sins.
But the paralyzed man was listening, and when Jesus gave him a command, HE OBEYED! The challenge for you today is to be like the paralyzed man. What do you think Jesus is asking you to do?
When you read the Bible – specifically Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – you repeatedly find the disciples asking Jesus to explain things to them. After hearing him teach in front of large crowds, they often needed some one-on-one guidance to understand the deeper meaning of his words. It’s like being part of a team at practice and then asking a coach to help you with some one-on-one time to improve your game. Or it’s like listening to your teacher, but then asking for help from a parent or tutor so you can better understand the lessons from your class.
This should be true of our faith. As you begin to ask questions and seek answers to the truth of who Jesus really is, you need others who can give you that one-on-one time to help you grow in your understanding and living out your faith.
This is HUGELY important. You can read in Acts 2:41-47 and see how important those relationships were in the church as it started. They are still that important today. And it’s important to lean on the right person.
Take some time to think of one or two people who are spiritually wise – and older than you – to whom you can lean on to ask questions and get help and guidance as you grow in your faith. Even if you can’t meet with them right away, make plans to text, email or call that person today. If you’re in doubt of who to ask, talk with your parents or contact your youth pastor.
Once you have your person, ask them these two questions:
• What makes Jesus more special or important than anyone else in history? How does this affect your everyday life?
• When you think about me as a Jr. high student, how should the importance of who Jesus is be affecting my life? How can I do a better job living as a person who believes in the authority of Jesus?
Many people know Jesus’ name, but don’t really know him. They don’t understand the significance of what it means for him to be the Son of God. “Christ” or “Messiah” is not his last name, but these are titles that Peter used when explaining the reality of what makes Jesus so special. As we read Jesus’ own words describing himself, we realize that it’s no easy task to follow him and live the kind of life that he modeled for us. At the same time, we should be encouraged at his power and authority being ready to help us as our Lord and Savior.
The truth of who Jesus is – the SON OF GOD – is too important to keep to yourself. In fact, take a moment to read Matthew 28:18-20. Did you slow down and see those words “make” and “teach?” Our job as followers of Jesus is to help others become followers of him and to teach them what that means.
This is your task this week. Take a picture of John 8:24 in your Bible, or a screen shot if you use a Bible app, then post that picture on your social media account. In the description/comments, post: “I’m learning more about who Jesus really is. Comment if you’d like to learn more.” Or share when your service or program meets at your church, inviting them to attend. And remember, we’re not here just to watch Jesus, we’re here to work in his Kingdom!
Week 4 – What’s Appropriate
Answer these questions in your journal or think about them as you go throughout your day.
• What parts of your thinking and feelings need some guidance from Jesus to be more appropriate to his standards?
• Who is someone in your life who seems to live appropriately according to Jesus? What do they do differently from others?
• What are three things you can do today to act more like Jesus?
Look up Philippians 4:8-9 and read it. Underline or highlight any of the words that stand out to you.
A Jesus-following guy named Paul wrote these words while he was sitting in a jail cell on death row. Not exactly a fun place to be! But it does mean we need to take what he says pretty seriously – after all, these might be some of the last words he gets to share with his friends, so he’d make sure he told them what was most important. He gives them a list of things to think about – eight words to focus on, attitudes that should grab their attention and desires. If it’s true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy, well … that’s the sort of stuff that should fascinate us and be in our minds and hearts.
The thing is, there are all sorts of other messages, images and ideas around us that aren’t any of these things. So whatever is false, shameful, wrong, impure, hateful, terrible, mediocre, or condemning – we need to ask Jesus to help us avoid these things. And Paul doesn’t just stop with our thinking; he tells us to put it into practice. We can practice telling the truth, serving others with humility, making the right choice, embracing purity … only with the power and presence of Jesus. When you’re hanging out with your friends at school, when you’re with your family, or when you’re alone in your room, you can begin thinking about these things.
So which of these eight words stands out to you? Which of these do you need to think about and practice in your life today?
Sometimes being “appropriate” means breaking the rules – because sometimes people put rules and expectations in place that conflict with God. In chapter three of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is hanging out in the synagogue – the Jewish equivalent of a church building – when he notices a man with a shriveled up hand. It was the Sabbath, which meant that no one was supposed to work; it was a special day of rest as an act of worship to God. Some religious people who opposed Jesus were waiting to see if he would heal the man with the shriveled hand – an act of “work” that would break their Sabbath rules. Jesus knew what they were thinking, and asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or kill?” Nobody answered, even though we all know the right answer – doing good and saving life is better than the alternative! So Jesus healed the guy. But the author of Mark gives us one clue as to how Jesus felt: “He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts….” (vs. 5).
Jesus gets upset and angry? But Jesus doesn’t sin when he gets angry. Instead, he chooses to heal the man on the Sabbath – to violate the religious people’s strict rules and expectations for the sake of love. It seems that being “appropriate” for Jesus might sometimes mean getting into conflict, especially when it means showing grace, compassion and love for other people. Jesus often seems to offend uber-religious folks – the churchy types – but is always welcomed and accepted by non-religious outsiders. If you follow Jesus long enough, you’ll find yourself bumping up against different rules and expectations that might make others upset with you. Whether it’s the friends you make, the way you use your time and money or the attitude you have about others – living out the truth of Jesus is a better sort of appropriate than other people’s standards. We have to make the wise choice to live by Jesus’s standards!
Take a moment to pray about it:
Jesus, thank you for being a God of grace and compassion. Help me to know the truth about what’s appropriate according to your standards, not the standards of others. I need your help. Give me your strength and wisdom so I may love others like you do. In the name of Jesus, amen.
This week we’ve been exploring what’s appropriate for people who follow Jesus – who practice discernment, who think about the stuff in Philippians 4:8, and who love others with compassion. Can you think of someone in your life who seems to be able to live like this? Maybe they’re a pastor, a parent, a teacher, or a volunteer at your church. Maybe they’re even someone you don’t really know that well, but you’ve just noticed how Christ-like they act and think. Make sure they’re a Christian, and a good example of what’s appropriate. If you need help finding the right person, ask your youth pastor.
Once you’ve identified this person, make plans to contact them today – call, text, email, or do it the old fashioned way and write them a letter! Ask them about what’s appropriate for people trying to follow Jesus. You can ask them these two questions:
When it comes to making choices, how can you tell what’s appropriate and what’s not?
What is one habit you have that helps you make wise choices?
Jesus wasn’t always socially appropriate. Sometimes he made things awkward or difficult for people who weren’t interested in his teachings or his love. But he was always approachable, and even people who didn’t like him felt like they could go up and ask him questions or hang around with him. This week, you’ve looked at how to think more appropriately, how to act more appropriately and how to be inappropriate like Jesus. The most difficult part is this: you have to actually practice being appropriate!
The word itself comes from an old English word meaning “one’s own” or “ownership.” You have to own your appropriateness! Turns out we can’t really do it on our own. The good news is that Jesus did the most inappropriate thing: the sinless Son of God took our sin upon himself. The giver of life died on a cross then rose from the dead to give us new life in him. He broke all the norms and expectations in order to bring us into his presence.
Jesus is appropriately inappropriate so we can have eternal life with him.
You and I need the strength and wisdom of Jesus to know when we’re being appropriate or not. So begin to practice this short “breath” prayer (it’s called a breath prayer because you can pray the whole thing in one breath!):
Jesus, give me wisdom.
You can tweak or change the breath prayer for yourself, just keep it short and sweet – only one sentence and about six-to-eight syllables. Tell one friend or family member that this is your new prayer, and have them ask or remind you about it in the days to come. If you’re feeling bold, post your breath prayer on a social media profile to share with others – maybe they’ll want to start praying, too!
Week 5 – Identity
Answer these questions in your journal or think about them as you go throughout your day.
• Go find a mirror and as you look yourself in the eyes, ask yourself the following question: Who are you?
• Make a list of the top 10 things that make you you.
• Circle the things on your list that identify you as a Christian.
Look up and read Ephesians 1:3-14.
Does this passage make you feel overwhelmed? It feels like Paul (the guy who wrote this) is writing in a different language, saying words like “redemption” and “praise” and “glorious” and “heavenly blessings” and “sonship” … all in the same sentence. In fact, this passage reads like a run-on sentence, doesn’t it? It’s like Paul wanted to get out everything he was thinking so quickly that he just started writing and writing and WRITING! Paul is trying to communicate something he’s excited about. He wants us to know who we are – our identity – in Jesus.
Paul says that we are chosen by God! We are blessed with every spiritual blessing! God adopted us into his family – we are His sons and daughters! God lavishes His grace upon us! We’re redeemed and forgiven! We’re holy and blameless in His sight! We’re sealed with the Holy Spirit! We have salvation and redemption from sin in our lives! And this is all possible because it’s all “in Christ.” Circle all the “in hims” in this passage: verses 4, 7, 9, 11, 12, and 13. It all comes back to having our identity and life found in Jesus.
We aren’t just random people with zero purpose. God has an enormous plan for all of human history. Paul says God has not only revealed his plan to us but he’s included us in it – we’re part of God’s plan for saving the world! The Message paraphrase of verse 11 says this: “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.” In Christ alone, we find our true identity.
Read back over the passage again: Which identity statement stands out to you the most? Which promise from God do you need to embrace as your own identity today?
Once, when Jesus was hanging out with his disciples, he asked them a question: “Who do people say I am?” The disciples thought about it, and gave all sorts of answers:
“John the Baptist!”
“No, no: Elijah!”
“I’ve heard people say, Jeremiah.”
“One of those other prophets! Can’t remember all their names…Obadiah, Zechariah, Pikachu….” (Okay, they didn’t really guess he was a Pokemon.)
Amused by their answers, Jesus asked another question, only it was a bit more personal and direct (like you do when you’re Jesus): “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
It’s the same question Jesus is asking you and me today: Who do you say Jesus is? Maybe he’s a good spiritual teacher or guru. Maybe he’s a mythical legend or fictional character, like Hercules or Superman. Or maybe he’s exactly who he said he was – the Son of God, the savior of the world. That’s what Simon says in response to Jesus: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
I imagine Jesus smiled knowingly, and nodded quietly to Simon. Then he tells Simon something remarkable: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church …” (Matthew 16:17-18a). Jesus gives Simon a new name – “Peter,” which means, “rock.” A new name meant a new identity. When Simon confessed that Jesus was God and savior, it wasn’t just identifying who Jesus was – it also changed Simon’s entire life from that point forward.
When we answer the question about who Jesus is, we’re also answering the question about who we are. How you view Jesus will directly affect how you view yourself. He is the one who gives us our true identity.
Take a moment and pray:
Jesus, I know and believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Give me a new name and identity in you. Help me to live into that identity as a follower of you. In your name, amen.
Here’s a secret: deep down in their soul, every adult is still (somewhat) the Jr. high kid of their adolescence. Our decisions, experiences and relationships in Jr. high can affect us for the rest of our lives – sometimes without us even knowing it! This week, find a Jesus-following adult and ask them about their experience in Jr. high. What were they like? What was important to them? How have they changed since then? If you need help finding a good adult to ask this question, ask your youth pastor for help! When you find this Christian adult, ask them these two questions, and pay attention to their answers:
What were you like when you were my age? Tell me about your friends, your interests, your fears, your favorite moments.
How has your relationship with Jesus affected your identity?
If you watch TV or listen to music enough, you’ll hear an oft-repeated idea: “Be true to yourself.” It’s one of the main messages we hear in our world, especially in Jr. high. Just be true to you! Follow your heart! Follow your dreams! Doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks – if you’re true to yourself, you’ll be totally fine.
But what if I’m not fine? This kind of feels backwards, doesn’t it? How can I know what my true dreams are if I don’t even know who I am yet? It also assumes that you and I have the ability to just make up our own identity – that there are no outside or inner influences that could mess up our identity-making process. But if we’re honest, we know that’s not true either. I’m not perfect. You aren’t either. What if I try to be true to myself, and I get it wrong?
It turns out that we don’t figure out our identity on our own – we are given an identity by the God who created us! Jesus gives us a new identity, a new name and a new purpose in him. When we stop trying to figure out our identity for ourselves and just give up – asking Jesus for help – he always comes through. It’s not something that happens overnight. Developing your identity takes a lifetime of following Jesus, with plenty of ups and downs. But we never have to do it alone. Jesus transforms our identity, then invites us into a community of other transformed people, ie: the church.
See yourself differently. Find your identity in Christ and Him alone – not in your social status at school, not from the family you grew up in, not in your looks or your friends or your athletic skills or your grades or your insecurities or your fears or even yourself. Give up all that trying to “be true to yourself” and allow the one who loves you and created you to define you just as He sees you – dearly loved, chosen by Him, created in His image. The question isn’t who you are, but whose you are. You are in Christ! He gives you your true identity.
Jesus gives me my true identity.
Here’s a challenge for you this week: choose one of the identity statements from Ephesians 1 (the Bible passage from Day 2) and either
a) write it down on a sticky note and place it somewhere you’ll see it every day, or
b) make the statement your background image on your phone or your profile picture for the social media app of your choice.
Personalize it, and choose a statement that will be an encouragement for you in the days to come. For instance, you could write, “I am forgiven by God,” a reminder that in Christ we have forgiveness of sins and are free to forgive others.