(Regrettably, we were unable to record this sermon. Please enjoy the transcript instead!)
Welcome to the first youth group of the school year! I hope you’ve had a good summer of vacation, Youth Games, VBS, sleeping in, and more. If this is your first time at Youth Group, welcome!
- And an extra special welcome to all the new 6th graders. We’ve been praying for you, and we’re so thankful you’re here.
- And to the many parents here, hello! We’re so happy to be able to serve your kids! Thanks for joining us for our welcome night.
- To the rest of you, welcome back! I really enjoyed our psalms series during the summer, and I hope you did too.
If we haven’t met yet, my name is Keith; I’m one of the youth leaders that serves in youth group. I’m so thankful to be here with you all.
Brief logistical things
- Anytime you need to go to the bathroom, go ahead; no need to ask for permission
- Before you leave, your parents must check you out. This is a new process. We are responsible for you and want to make sure everyone makes it home safely! Again, you must check out with your parents (or another approved family member) before leaving YG.
- After small group, we have our own snacks! So please don’t eat the snacks that belong to Beacon, the college fellowship.
- Parents, after the sermon you’re welcome to hang out in the foyer until small group time is over. Thanks again for joining us! It’s really special.
What Is Youth Group?
Before I start preaching, I want to give an introduction to “what is youth group?” For you 7/8 graders, of course it will be all old news to you, but we all need reminders. And for you 6 graders, you’ve probably had more new changes in the past couple weeks than you know what to do with. So think of this like a quick crash course on ‘the basics of youth group,’ to make you feel a little bit less nervous.
So, what is youth group?
Youth Group is kind of like going to church on a Sunday.
- We sing praises to God
- We pray
- We eat snacks
- We see our friends
But Youth Group is also not Sunday service.
- Obviously, we’re not children’s ministry. You are official not children anymore. Whoo! No more bedtime! Just kidding. I mean, I still have a bedtime.
- We listen to a sermon. Who sat in for their first Sunday service last week?
- But the biggest difference of YG, I think, is small group.
What is small group?
Many of you have seen your parents do small groups. They just sit in a circle and talk and pray and stuff, right? Ours are basically the same, but I want to give you some “tips and tricks” about small group.
- The 2 main things you do in small group: (1) talk and (2) pray.
- Every week the sermon will come with discussion questions—which your may or may not choose to use—to provide opportunities for you to share what you learned, and to hear what other people learned.
- So here’s a tip: if you want to say something, speak up! SG is not about getting the right answers; it’s about sharing what you learned, sharing an honest opinion, or just asking a question about something you don’t understand. Again, we’re not looking for right answers; we just want to hear you.
- The second main thing you do in small groups: (2) share prayer requests and pray.
- Usually, it just means just answering, how are you doing and how can we care for you? Share about how life has been hard, how you got into a fight with your siblings, how making fiends is really challenging. We’re here to help and to bring your requests to God together.
So again, 2 main things you do in small group: talk and pray. Seems pretty doable, right?
- Even more important than what you do in small group is what it’s for. Small groups are to help you love God, and love on another. Small group is supposed be fun, full of joking and laughing and friendship. Small group is for asking hard questions, and getting good answers. Small group is for asking for help, for love, for sharing your life with others. Small group is for being yourself; that means you can be honest. Or as I like to say, if you haven’t had said something really dumb in small group, you’re probably not being honest enough!
- The adults leading your small group are your youth leaders. They are there to help guide the discussion, to answer questions, to pray for you, to be your older brother or sister to help you.
Some of these things I’ve written on the back of your notes, so when you get a chance, you can review those.
Okay, now that we’ve explored a little bit of what youth group is, let’s open our Bibles and get ready for the sermon. Some tips before we start preaching:
- Have a Bible. If you don’t have one, there are some in the front.
- Try to follow along in the notes. You can write down questions, write down things you learned or things you liked, whatever. This isn’t homework; no one is going to grade it. If you draw a picture of pikachu sitting on top of my head because that helps you pay attention, go for it.
- You won’t remember everything every sermon; that’s okay! No one does. Make it your goal, every week, to just learn 1 new thing, and ask 1 new question.
For the first youth group of the school year, I usually preach a short message trying to answer the question, “Why youth group ministry?”
To answer that, let’s open up to Hebrews 4.
Just one verse for tonight: Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)
16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
In our culture, middle school marks the beginning of the transition from childhood to adulthood.
After all, you are definitely not a child anymore. Your parents expect you to dress yourself, feed yourself, go to the bathroom by yourself—and you do, well, most of us…most of the time. You are your own person with your own responsibilities, opinions, and personality.
But, at the same time, you’re definitely not an adult. You can’t drive, move out of the house, pay rent, start your own family. You are responsible, but not ultimately responsible for yourself. I mean imagine if you had to start a job right now to pay for all your needs; thank God for parents who take care of you!
So you’re not a child and you’re not an adult. But, what are you? Maybe a pre-teen or a teenager, but what does that even mean? That’s basically like saying you’re a post-child, or a pre-adult, which when you think about it, those terms aren’t very helpful either.
So, what are you? I like to think of middle schoolers & high schoolers as those on a journey moving from Childland to AdultLand. You’re in progress, on the way to becoming an adult.
On that journey, basically everything is new. In these next few years:
- You’ll make new friends—on your new sports team, or at a new club, at church and in youth group, some of which will last a lifetime.
- You’ll learn new things—in school and in life—and gain skills and knowledge you never dreamed of.
- You’ll have new emotions—like finding a girl or a boy cute, like being furious at injustice, like being depressed and anxious—and find yourself at a loss for what to do about it.
- You will care a lot about other’s opinions of you, and be driven to change how you dress, how you talk, who you hang out with.
- You’ll begin to wonder, “Who am I really? Am I smart? Funny? Beautiful? Athletic? What makes me, me?”
- You’ll find the tests harder, the struggles bigger, the anxiety louder, the temptations stronger, the fears scarier.
- You’ll begin to see that your parents are sinners just like you, maybe even bigger sinners than you thought possible.
- You’ll find that the pain of losing your grandparents, of seeing your friends suffer, of your own loss, is greater than anything you’ve ever known.
- And maybe more than anything else, you’ll discover that you really are a sinner desperately in need of forgiveness, of unending love, of grace that covers every wrong.
In other words, though growing up has many joys, growing up is really hard. So, what are you going to do? When you’re overwhelmed, when you’re angry, when you’re alone, when you feel lost, what are you going to do?
16 Let us then with confidence draw near [go] to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Our key idea for tonight—which basically means if you forget everything else from this sermon, don’t forget this!—is, “At youth group, we must go to God, with all our sin and suffering, together.”
I. Why must we go to God? (vv12-13)
Answer: Because we have great need.
Hebrews 4:16 is part of the book of Hebrews. (Duh Keith) Hebrews is probably a transcript of a sermon preached to a persecuted church. Because of the persecution, these Christians were considering leaving Christ in order to avoid the pain. But the author of Hebrews writes to encourage the Christians to see Jesus Christ as better, and more worthy than anything, even life itself.
The basic message of Hebrews is basically says, “Look at Jesus, this glorious Savior, this wonderful Lord! Do not abandon Him. He is your salvation! He is better than anything!”
That applies to us, too. No matter where we are, what we’re going through, we must go to this glorious Savior—because we need Him. We need comfort, mercy, grace from Him. We need an assuring word, that everything is going to be okay. We need someone to take us by the hand and say, “Do not worry, I am with you.” These are all needs that God alone fulfills.
But Hebrews 4 tells us that we have an even greater need: forgiveness.
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
In other words, our great need is for forgiveness from God, because He knows everything we’ve ever done.
When I was a middle schooler, my dad taught me how to fish. We would go out before dawn to Lake Tahoe for rainbow trout. Usually we’d catch a few, and then bring them back home to grill them for dinner.
But before we could eat them, we had to clean them, which is a really dirty task. Basically, you cut open the fish and wash out all its guts and intestines, all the blood and icky stuff. It’s the stuff no one wants to eat. It’s nasty, and it smells. Then, we’d slice it open and expose the bones, the very insides of the fish.
That’s similar to what God’s Word does. The Word of God is sharper than the sharpest sword, deadly, dangerous, piercing, dividing, and exposing the most hidden parts of who we are. By His Word, we are cut open, and all our nasty parts, our shameful deeds, our evil thoughts are exposed. Before God’s eyes, we are revealed.
That’s absolutely terrifying. We’ve got nowhere to hide our sin and shame.
What if your entire life’s history, including your thoughts and desires, were put it on YouTube for all the world to see? All the good things, yes, but all the shameful things, too, would be completely exposed. Everyone would see when you hit your siblings, when you screamed at your parents, when you stole, lied, cheated.
You’d be horrified, ashamed, right? I would be if my life were put on YouTube! Naturally, we don’t want the darkest, most shameful, most sinful parts of our life exposed.
But they are exposed—to God. Now, that’s a big problem for us. Why? Because God is holy and loves goodness, and therefore hates and must punish sin. But it’s not just the bad things we do that He hates; He hates that we have done everything for ourselves, and not for Him. In our sin, we live as if we were God, and as if He were not. We live as if we are the kings and queens of our little worlds, living for ourselves and by ourselves, refusing to honor God, the real King. We love ourselves, and our sin, and hate Him and His righteousness.
God hates such rebellion. He will punish sinners. We don’t deserve life and happiness. We don’t deserve joy and blessing. For our sin, we deserve death—both physical and eternal. We deserve to pay the penalty for our crimes against Him. We deserve Hell for how we have insulted and rebelled against God the King by our sin.
What are we to do?
We must go to God.
Wait, what? How can we go to God? Isn’t God the one who is angry with us for our sin? Isn’t He the one who will punish us? Wouldn’t it make more sense to run away from God, to hide our sin, to try and escape the judgment?
You can’t hide from the One who already knows everything. Just ask Adam and Eve; it doesn’t work. Just ask Jonah; it doesn’t work. Just ask Peter; it doesn’t work.
God hates our sin—and that’s terrifying—but God is the only one who can forgive us our sin. God is the only one who can forgive us our sin. Our greatest need from Him is for forgiveness. We can’t run; we must go to God.
II. How can we go to God? (vv14-15)
How can we stand before the One who knows we are guilty?
Answer: Because Jesus is a great Savior.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
To put it simply, we can go to God through Jesus, because Jesus is the great high priest.
High priest? What’s that? A high priest is a one-of-a-kind of priest that brings the people into the presence of God.
In the Old Testament, a priest was a special man who brought the people of Israel to God. His job was to help the people worship, pray, and sacrifice to God. There were many priests—thousands of priests—but of those priests, only one was the high priest.
The high priest was the leader of all the priests and had the special responsibility, once a year, to enter the dwelling place of God in the tabernacle and offer the blood of the Passover lamb sacrifice. In other words, the high priest played a unique role; he was to bring the people into the presence of God. Why? For the forgiveness and cleansing of sin.
That last part is so important. The high priest brings the people to God for the forgiveness and cleansing of sin.
So what does that mean for us? Even though we not Israel, we still need a high priest to bring us to God.We still need a high priest for the forgiveness of sins. We still need someone to understand us and pity us even when we fail.
And we have such a high priest, a high priest who is great, one who can never die, one who is perfect and blameless in every way: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
How did Jesus accomplish the forgiveness of sins? He died. As we learned on Sunday from Pastor Jason, He died, being truly man.
As I said before, God hates our sin, yet still He sent His Son to save everyone who would believe in Him. Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice, as the one who took the punishment for sin. He died for sinners like you and me! He drank up the wrath of God so that is truly forgiveness in Him!
If you are a Christian, by His blood, your sin is made no more. By His death, your shame is washed away. By His cross, your guilt is gone forever.
Jesus meets our greatest need. He alone is qualified to bring us into the presence of God by His death. And by the power of God, He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. Why? Among many things, in order to be our high priest right now who brings us to God.
Do you see how wonderful that is? That means that yes, all your sin is exposed to God but at the same time, all your sin can be washed away if you come to Jesus, the one who brings us to God for forgiveness. Because God knows all your sin, He hates it. But because God knows all your sin, He can forgive it. Go to God.
III. How do we go to God? (V16)
Answer: We go to God together with confidence.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
As high priest, Jesus understands His people. He walked this earth. He knows that sin is tempting, that the lies we believe are enticing, that we are frail and weak to resist. He knows because He was tempted, and yet never sinned.
- That means when you sin, He’s not mocking you for failing. Jesus is not a bully.
- It means when you get angry at your siblings, Jesus has pity upon you, not scorn. He had siblings! He knows they can be annoying! But He longs for you to put on kindness and compassion, not bitterness and wrath, and He desires to bring you to God to be transformed by His love.
- When you complain about how unfair your parents or your teachers are, Jesus understands. The religious rulers were completely unfair to Him; after all, they murdered Him! But He longs for you to put off grumbling and anger, and to bring you to God to learn what it means to love your enemies, even as God has loved you.
- When you give in to peer pressure, when you cheat on a test, when you curse under your breath, when you are anxious, Jesus knows. And He desires that you would come to him, with your sin, that He might wash you clean from the inside out and make you whole in Him.
If you are a Christian, this is your Savior! See His love and grace, His compassion and mercy! No one knows you like He does. No one loves you like He does.
If you are not a Christian, this is the Savior who offers His love and grace and compassion and mercy to you. He came to this earth for the sick and the weak, for the poor and the needy. He came for sinners like you and me; will you trust Him? There is no one else like Him. Who has loved like He has loved, even dying on a cross for the forgiveness of sins? Who else has
Now, we get to verse 16. It says, “Let us then.” The “then” connects everything we have just said to the application of verse 16.
So, in light of the fact that we have great need of forgiveness, in light of the fact that Jesus is our great high priest who brings us to God for forgiveness, in light of the fact that Jesus is a understanding and compassionate Savior…verse 16 “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace.”
Three things to note on how we go to God:
1. We go to God together
The verse doesn’t say, “Hey you, individual Christian, go to God.” It says “let us.” Remember, the book of Hebrews was probably a sermon to a church, maybe smaller than the gathering here tonight. The pastor was exhorting them to keep following Jesus, to keep holding tightly to their identity as Christians, to help one another run the race with endurance.
That means for us today, together, we are to go to God. The togetherness of the Christian faith is absolutely essential. God has designed us to need one another for encouragement.
That’s why churches like ours have things like youth group. That’s why we have small groups, not reflection time where everyone goes and sits in a chair by themselves and thinks about the sermon. I mean, that’s fine to do that, but do that at home, not at youth group! That’s why we pray for one another and with one another, read the Bible together, have friendships together, help each other through the tough times of life. We need each other.
We must go to God, together.
2. We go to God with confidence
“Let us then with confidence draw near.” Another way to translate it is go with boldness, with fearlessness, with shamelessness. That’s shocking. We’re sinners, aren’t we? Yes. So how can we go boldly, confidently to God, who knows our sin?
Because, if we have been forgiven, washed clean, by Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have nothing to be ashamed of. Instead, we shine with light and righteousness—not our own, but the light and righteousness of Jesus. We are in Him, and therefore, we are welcomed by God.
When I first moved to SoCal to be part of this church two years ago, it was kind of scary. This is the biggest church I’ve ever been a part of, and there were so many new faces. I meant the youth group here is bigger than my entire old church!
I was a little nervous. What would people think of me? How would I make friends? What if they didn’t trust me? But then, I learned a trick. After a while I found that the fastest way to earn people’s trust was to say, “Hey, I’m Keith. I’m Pastor David’s younger cousin.
- David Lee, childhood friends of Pastor Wayne,
- David Lee, the guy who used to be the youth pastor before Pastor Eric,
- David Lee, the guy who is married to Jamie and the father of Abi, Sophie, and Owen;
- David Lee, the guy who sang “Message from the Kim” fame?”
Everyone knows, and loves David, and rightly so. So when I am associated with him, people go, “OOOOhhh cool! What’s up bro?” and welcome me. They didn’t welcome because I’m great; they don’t even know me. They welcomed me because David is great.
(As an aside, if you do not know David, he’ll be preaching for us in a couple weeks! So look forward to that)
In an infinitely greater way, we can go boldly to God because we are associated with Jesus, and because Jesus is truly great. God the Father loves Jesus, God the Son. So when Jesus brings us into God’s presence, we too are welcomed. We have confidence, never in ourselves, but in Christ, our high priest, confident that we are welcomed because of Him.
This is even more amazing when you realize that we go to God as He sits on His throne—the throne of grace. God is the King who sits on His throne in heaven and reigns. But here, and only here in the Bible, it is called a throne of grace. God is King, with all power. And at the same time, He is the King of all grace. Grace is lovingkindness, promise-keeping love, never giving up commitment. It means God reaches down because we cannot reach up to Him.
That’s what God has for His children. He is a good Father who never turns away His sons and daughters. He cannot love us more; we He will not love us less. We must go to God with confidence in Christ.
3. We go to God needy
V16. “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Like I said before, growing up is hard. You will face things you have never faced before. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at certain things. For one, I don’t trip and fall while walking like I used to. Seriously; my legs and arms grew too fast so I moved more like a clumsy mess of limbs than anything else.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also realized I have even greater needs. I need God. So do you. Whatever your issues, whatever your sins, whatever your suffering, whatever your pain, go to God.
When we sin, we need mercy—that is we need God not to punish us for our sins, but to forgive us.
When we fail, we need grace—that is love and kindness that we don’t deserve.
We need particular help, at the right time with whatever situation God places us.
And God gives mercy, grace, and help abundantly. When you’re anxious about making friends, when you have emotions you don’t know what to do with, when you’re depressed and anxious, when you are worried sick about what others think about you, when you are wondering who you really are, when things just seem too hard, too big, too overwhelming, when a loved one dies, when you see your parents sin, when you see your own sin, go to God. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our wonderful Savior. And He welcomes everyone who comes to Him by faith. We are needy—in need of Him.
There are many students here today; praise God. I’m so happy that every single one of you are here. We’re here to have fun, make wonderful friendships, do ridiculous games, learn lots. But above all, we are here to go to God—for forgiveness, for mercy, for grace, for help—through our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us go to Him together. Let us be a community that is there for one another when the times get tough, that is there to remind us of the wonderful better-than-anything Savior that we have. Let’s love God and one another to the fullest—because He loved us first.
- Tell us a little about yourself! Name, school & grade, favorite foods, parents & siblings, a favorite memory from the summer, and if you could have any super power—but only for one minute a day—what would it be?
- @Advisors, what were you like when you were in middle school? Any embarrassing stories?
- @7th/8th graders, what’s one thing about Youth Group that you enjoy?
- What is one thing you learned tonight?
- What is something you’re looking forward to at Youth Group?
- What is one question or fear that you have about Youth Group?