Growing up in youth ministry, there are certain phrases or concepts that are tossed around often. They are in the song lyrics, they are the titles of sermons or teaching series, they are said over and over by your small group leaders. And honestly, it’s easy to get sick of hearing them, especially when you don’t fully understand the necessity of them. That’s how I feel about the phrase “live one life.” We say it so often, but what does it mean and why is it so crucial that we understand it?
It’s not uncommon for one of you guys to talk about one of your friends to a staff person. You want to let us know about the things that they are doing at school or on the weekends, or the fact that they are “a different person when they aren’t at Escape.” You want to make us aware of the drinking, the drugs, the partying, the swearing, and the relationships that they shouldn’t be in. You tell us that we don’t actually know them, that they are living a double life. This breaks my heart for a lot of reasons. When you are watching one of your friends live within two identities, it’s important that you check your own heart as well. You need to make sure that your intentions in bringing others into the situation aren’t to judge them, gossip, or “tattle,” but that it’s rooted in genuine concern for their salvation and a desire for them to be seeking Christ. That being said, it’s important that we all know that living in the midst of multiple identities leads to death. Claiming Christ when you are surrounded by Christians and denying Him as soon as you are around your peers is one of the more dangerous things you can do. To believe that this double living makes you a Christian is incorrect, and to live your life in that balance is to assume a lot of lies about the gospel and about who Jesus is.
It’s only appropriate that we look to one of the greatest examples of someone who lived one life proudly for the sake of the gospel, Paul. In Philippians he writes, “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” (Philippians 3:8-11).
Paul’s words aren’t an exaggeration, but it’s the true attitude of his heart that we should be working to models our own hearts after. Jesus died, giving up every part of His life for us, and it’s so appropriate for us to offer Him every part of ours. Jesus doesn’t just ask us to die to the activities that we have on Wednesday nights so we can offer Him those couple hours. He asks us to die to ourselves entirely in order that we may gain Him! “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3).
It’s incredibly easy to slip into the double life living – especially in high school. Everyday you are surrounded by the temptation to sin, the darkness and brokenness of this world, and the people that you so desperately want to please. I know this because I’ve been there. You can absolutely get by with being one person in front of your small group, or as you worship on Wednesday nights, but be a completely different person on a Friday night, or even on a Thursday morning. It’s time to put that life to death and give Jesus you’re everything. Not just because He asks for it, but because it is so wonderfully worth it.
I can tell you for a fact that when we die to the things of this world, we start to experience true joy and contentment as we learn that life surrendered to Christ means true life eternally. But life with one foot in this world, and one foot leaning towards Jesus leads to death and destruction. This sounds jarring, because the gospel is jarring, it is meant to confront the things of this world, not comfort it. God knows us infinitely better and loves us infinitely deeper than anyone or anything in this world ever could. It’s because of that love that He knows that dying to ourselves is the absolute best thing for us. He doesn’t ask us to give up the sinful things just because He wants to, but because He knows that He is so much better!
My hope and prayer is that some of you will read this and start to feel the sting of familiarity with the person that I’m describing. Maybe you are the one who is giving God your Wednesdays but keeping every other day of the week, or you are willing to be a “Christian” around certain people, but not others. If this is you, it’s time to face who you really are, and who you could be in Christ. As odd as it may sound, it is actually a far healthier place for someone to admit that they aren’t a Christian, than it is to be claiming Christ with your words, but not with the way that you live your life. Or maybe you are someone who is reading this and knows that you genuinely know and believe that Jesus died for you and then rose three days later, but there are still sins that you find yourself slipping into repeatedly. So from the outside looking in, it appears that you’re living a double life, but you’re identity is set in Christ, you just haven’t been able to fight the sin to death yet.
Wherever you are, know that living one life for Jesus is so unbelievably worth it! It’s in Jesus that we find ultimate security, joy, contentment, and peace in knowing that our approval is set in Christ, and we no longer have to find our value in the things of this world. There can finally be freedom from insecurity, pain, and disappointment as we choose to surrender who we want to be, for the sake of who Christ made us to be. Every part of your life, every one of your desires, every plan you have for yourself, all of your sinful desires and temptations – I would plead with you to give them up to God. Rid yourself of all the identities that you have for yourself, and find your identity in the fact that the God sent His only Son to die for you out of sheer love, mercy, and grace. And then in power, Jesus was raised to life, defeating death so that we no longer have to die. That’s not just a story, but truly the reason that we live. So don’t give up your double identity, for me, for Mark or Ryan, for your parents or small group, but do it for yourself, and more importantly for your Father in Heaven, so that you can find true life!
Escape22 Family, we want to talk to you all about this! If you feel like this is you, or if you have questions or if there are things that you want to confess, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of us! We want to walk with you all through one of the most trying and joyful stages of your life, that’s why we are in high school ministry. We love you guys!
-Madeline Farner: firstname.lastname@example.org