For many people, an event like the National Youth Gathering is an extreme mountain-top experience. There are no words to adequately describe the power of seeing tens of thousands of youth and adults under the same roof for the same reason, to worship and serve the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Other mountain-top experiences can be servant events or mission trips, or a week at a Christian camp. The emotions associated with these experiences can have a lasting affect for weeks or months. And then comes the all too familiar valley experience. This devotion (which could also be used as a Bible study) will hopefully help you and your youth continue to walk in the presence of the Lord, even in the dark valleys of life. It is simply an outline, written to help guide you in your time with the youth. It can be used as a follow-up to the devotion Awake…and Walk as Children of Light. Please adapt to fit your group so the experience is more genuine for each participant.
Hook: It would often seem that there is an us versus whomever mentality in Christianity. In the news we hear stories of Christians protesting homosexuality, abortion, and all the evils of the world, including political ideals. It would seem that the whole world is against Christians, and Christians are bound and determined to claim victory over the world.
Start this devotion or Bible study with a game of tug-of-war. Name the two teams as Christians and world, sin, temptation, or even evil. Place an item on the rope, maybe a picture depicting a controversial issue between Christians and non-Christians and let the teams battle out who is going to win. Of course, the Christian team may not come out the victor of this game, but use this as an introduction to the lesson.
Explain the book of 1 John. This was a letter written by John the evangelist and apostle of Christ. He was most likely writing to Christians around him after several controversies had arisen in the local churches and people were beginning to leave the faith. Also, there was persecution from those outside the Church. There are key passages that will be touched throughout this study.
1 John 1:5-7. It is always important to remember that we are united as brothers and sisters in Christ only because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is the reason that we are all members of the same body. It is in His name that we proclaim the Gospel message to the world. And it is only in His name that we will overcome the sin of this world. These verses are extremely important because it sets the foundation for the rest of this letter.
This concept can quickly be forgotten. In a world where the motto, “You get what you deserve,” sums up most understandings of ethics, grace is hard to fathom. However, it is grace that we believe in. We know that God so loved the world that He sent His Son to pay for the sins of the world. He even gives us the faith to believe in the truth, the faith for eternal life. Everything centers on Christ. Without this foundation, our efforts are futile. This is a great opportunity to converse with the youth about what it actually means to be in the body of Christ, to walk in the light. Brainstorm with them the different understandings they may have of this. As always, let the youth express themselves before correcting misconceptions. Ask them if they feel that they still walk in the darkness at times, and what it feels like to know they are walking in the light. Take this opportunity to dig into the faith life of your youth.
1 John 2:15-17. What is meant by the world? Are we to completely give up every possession and everything about this world because we are now children of light? How can we determine what is from the Father, and what is not?
There are many people throughout the history of the world that have tried to remove themselves from the world and focus solely on spiritual things. Find some examples of these types of people and share their story with the youth. Famous fathers of Christianity are prime examples because most of them chose the monastic lifestyle. Even find examples from different religions, such as Gandhi, to further express the misunderstanding that can follow from this mentality.
Begin the conversation of what this may mean in their lives. To understand this passage it is a matter of focus and intention more than actual possessions. The question is who do you love more rather than what must I give up. The first commandment is quite clear that it is God alone that we are called to worship and obey. Ask the youth how well they think they are following this commandment. Some will be honest, most will overestimate themselves. You could run a quick version of the question, “If stranded on an island with five possessions, what would they be?” This is a good way to get the students to realize where their focus truly lies.
These verses call us to turn our attention to the one who has brought us out of the darkness into the light. We are no longer children of darkness. Walking in the light means that we do not idolize or worship the things of this world. God is whom we love, not the world. We love God because He first loved us, and has brought us into His marvelous light.
The rest of the letter continues to talk about what it means to be children of light, those who are not walking in darkness anymore. This is what it is to be members of the body of Christ, children of the kingdom, people of the Gospel.
I John 5:1-5. Overcoming the world is not our battle. It may seem that Christians are often going against the world on a lot of issues. Many youth and young adults these days do not even find some of these issues to be issues that determine a person as Christian or non-Christian. It even hinders the faith of some young Christians when they witness the Church reacting in such strong ways to controversial issues. (unChristian by David Kinnaman brings profound perspective to this growing concern in the Church.) You can ask your youth what issues they consider to be vitally important to the Christian faith. Also, you can bring up controversial issues just to see where they land on that issue. Things like homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, etc. are very important and Christians should take a Biblical stance on these. However, that Biblical stance should be centered on the love of God found in Christ Jesus who has conquered ALL sin and whose love transforms each and every one of us.
The battle has already been won. The war is over. WE have overcome the world because CHRIST has overcome the world. He is our foundation. He has done what we could not. He defeated sin, death, and the devil. There is still a great struggle with Christians in the world. Sin is still a very real part of our daily lives. However, we have the promise that our sins are forgiven, and in the day of the resurrection we will spend eternity without sin in the new creation. We have overcome the world because Christ has overcome the world. We should live as such.
Conclusion: If Christ has overcome the world we should live as such. This does not mean we condemn everyone who is not a Christian. This is not our calling. Our calling is to spread the message of God’s love found in Christ Jesus. There will be times we must address sin and its affect on a person’s life, but the love of God is triumphant over every sin. This is our weapon against the world, the love of God. This love has already conquered all. There is nothing we have to fear in Christ Jesus.
Conclude with a prayer for strength in the lives we live in this world. Pray that the Gospel message continues to spread to all who will hear it so that the Church will overcome the world.