Recently, I had a conversation with a youth pastor from another church. “What are teenagers going through right now?” I asked. He proceeded to tell me he saw them as a generation whose world was very small, that even though they are digitally connected, many of them have no idea what is happening in the world around them. The only world they know is the world of the friends and networks they have cultivated, many of them online. In other words, he saw their digital connections making their world smaller, not bigger.
I asked him what his message and means were for combatting these tendencies. He told me he teaches them that Jesus is more interesting, that Jesus’ community is the best community, and that Jesus’ mission in the best mission for life. His response reminded me of three questions a book called Growing Young says all people ask:
1 Who am I?
2 Where are my people?
3 What is my purpose?
These are not teenage questions only; these are human questions. They are questions in search of identity, community, and meaning.
In the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus introduced a radical concept to his followers. He referred to God as “our Father in heaven” multiple times. For God to be our Father, the Son would have to die; Jesus knew exactly why He had come. His blood would pave the way for us to become children of the living God. But God as our Father answers each one of the three questions so beautifully.
Who Am I? The Father has given me an identity.
When you place your faith in Christ, you become born again, meaning you are now alive to God. Previously, we were dead in our trespasses and sins, but conversion makes us alive to Him. But not only are we born into his family, but we are also adopted into his family. By both means, birth and adoption, we are now children of the living God.
So who are you? By simple faith in Christ’s work on the cross, you are now a child of the living God. He is yours, and you are his.
Where Are My People? The Father has given you a family.
Everyone is looking for their people. Some connect to their generation. Others to their culture. Some find commonality over interests and tastes. Others gravitate to those of similar status and class. Some only engage with the same race. Others flow to those of the same profession.
But in Christ Jesus, each one of the boundaries and walls which separate humanity has been broken down. Our Father in heaven gives us a new family, the body of Christ. It is imperfect, but not in his sight. Brothers and sisters, young and old, are one in Him.
What Is My Purpose? The Father has given you a mission.
Everyone is looking for a reason, a purpose to life, a meaning for existence. If one believes humanity came from nothing and is going nowhere, a purpose is hard to find. But, in Christ, as a redeemed person who knows mankind has been made in the image of God, there is a profound purpose to life.
Having a Father in heaven blesses us with a reason for living. For one, we are called to enjoy Him and his creation, for He has given us Himself and his world. Secondly, we are called to excel in all we do, whether work or play or family and friendships. Thirdly, we are called to expand the work of the gospel, the kingdom of God, through the making of disciples in all nations. In combination, this is the greatest mission humanity could ever partake of.
Let us receive our identity from our Father in heaven, constantly, as we ask these questions. He has made us his children. He has given us a family. And he has blessed us with a mission. All our deepest questions are answered in him and his gospel.