An open letter to our young people. Though the original version of this was written to the young ladies of the homeschool group to which we belonged in Pennsylvania, it applies to young men as well. The clamorous voices of the world have since gotten louder in seeking to drown out the voice of God in your lives. I plead with you to listen to God and remember: you are different.
“Nothing is more hurtful to the Christian than the words, ‘But you are no different from anybody else.’”
I came across this quote by John Stott as I was puzzling over how in the world I might reduce all that I’d love to tell you into a mere letter, rather than writing you a book. It sounds so simple, yet the implications are profound.
If Christ Jesus has made you His own, you are different from everybody else.
You are different because you are uniquely crafted by our loving Creator who fashioned you for a purpose. Out of His great love for you He planned from before the beginning of time to rescue you from this sin-soaked and pain-filled world by sending a Savior (Eph. 1:4, 5). Jesus paid the debt that you owed, but could never pay, by living a perfectly obedient life, dying the death of a criminal on the cross for you, and being raised to life again by God the Father (Rom. 3:23, 24; 4:22-25; 1Peter 1:3; 2 Cor. 5:21). For your salvation, in willing obedience to his Father’s will, the Lord of Glory became the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53). This salvation is given freely to you, but it cost our Lord so very, very much— because He loves you (John 3:16). In this gift is the freedom to know true, lasting, and deeper joy than the world can ever fathom (1 Peter 1:8).
Because you are different you can reach for your purpose. There is an ultimate purpose to your life for both now and forevermore, to glorify God and enjoy him forever (Ps. 86:12); and there is a specific purpose for your life, in the future as well as in the present. You may or may not have an idea of what your future purpose is. When I was your age I certainly couldn’t guess at my own purpose— sometimes I still wonder! And yet, God has a plan for you (Jer. 29:11). Don’t sit around waiting for writing across the sky to tell you what it is, pursue it by developing your talents and learning new skills. Read, explore, try new things, investigate possibilities, and follow your interests. In whatever you do, reach for excellence, because you are different. Glorify God in all that you do (1 Cor. 10:31; Phil. 1:9-11).
Because you are different you needn’t love as the world loves. The character of love is determined by the character of the lover. The love of the world is fleeting, selfish, fallen, shallow, and conditional (John 15:19). But the love of God is eternal, selfless, steadfast, holy, deeper than the ocean, and conditioned not upon your own loveliness, but upon His love for Christ (2 Chron. 6:14; Ps. 36:7; John 17:24). Being loved in such a way frees you to love others in a manner that seeks their good, with pure motives, faithfully, and fully, conditioned on your love for Christ (Gal. 5:13; 1 Peter 1:22). You can look beyond the unlovely surface to see the person beneath; created in God’s image, yet fragile and broken, and love them because Christ loves you.
Because you are different you can see the true value of things. You have treasure laid up for you in heaven; therefore, you can be certain that all the material wealth and reputation that is prized by the world is of little value in view of eternity (Matt. 6:19, 20; 1 Peter 1:3, 4). Search the Bible to learn what God considers valuable: His Word, His glory, wisdom, godliness, a gentle and quiet spirit, the righteousness from God that depends on faith (John 1:1-5; Rev. 19:1; Prov. 3:13, 14; 1 Tim. 4:8; 1 Peter 3:4; Phil. 3:9). Even you, dear one, have more value in God’s eyes than the rest of His magnificent creation, so look for the value in others whom our Lord came to save (1 Peter 2:9, 10). Most precious of all is the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, from which neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate you (Rom. 8:35, 38,39). All else is rubbish (Phil. 3:8).
Because you are different you can find purer joy than the world can ever know. Your joy is anchored in the finished work of Christ on your behalf, not in the circumstances that swirl changeably around you from one day to the next (1 Peter 1:3-6). God does not change; His love for you does not change; therefore, your ground for joy will not change (Ps. 138:8; Heb. 3:18; James 1:17)! Even in trials you can be joyful because you know that your Father in heaven only sends good things your way, and if a trial comes your way it is for your good, testing and strengthening your faith, which is more precious than gold and will result in praise and glory and honor for Jesus Christ (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6,7). God has showered the immeasurable riches of His grace upon you in Christ (Eph. 2:7). When things get tough and people fail you— and they will— because you are in Christ you can still rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and full of glory.
Because you are different you belong to a community defined not by the world, but by God. This community is made up of people exactly like you in that we were all formerly slaves to sin, set free by our mighty Savior; all formerly dead in our trespasses but made alive in Christ; all once living in the passions of our flesh and by nature children of wrath but now living in obedience to Christ and children of God (Eph. 2:1-5; 1 Peter 1:2). Together, we are being fashioned and built up in love into a temple, in the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to display the manifold wisdom, beauty, and glory of our God not only to the world, but to the rulers and authorities in the heavens (Eph. 3:10, 21; 4:11-16; 1 Peter 2:4, 5)! Though we come from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, and languages, we all, because of Christ, our firstborn brother, now share the same Father, family, and future (Gal. 3:26-28; Eph. 2:11-19; Col. 1:18; Rev. 7:9). Because you are in Christ, you will spend eternity with this multi-hued family from every tribe and tongue, worshiping the Lord God Almighty with greater joy than you can imagine (Rev. 19:6-8).
Because you are different, and you know your destination, you don’t need to follow the world down its path of lies and broken dreams (Eph. 4:17-19). God has granted to you by his divine power everything you need to live a life that honors him (2 Peter 1:3,4). Therefore, follow Christ, think for yourself with the freedom given you by the Holy Spirit to see the truth, and be different from the world around you (2 Peter 1:5-7; John 4:23; 8:32). There will be times when you must turn and defend yourself against the assaults of the foolish and destructive elements of the world. But there will also be times when you can hold out to the hurting and broken world the light of hope which is yours in Christ. Christ calls His own to be disciple-makers, to cry out from the rooftops His offer of salvation (Matt. 28:18-20). “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Soli Deo Gloria