How often do you think about the return of Jesus and God’s plan for the renewal of creation at the end of the age? Does God’s purpose for a new heaven and new earth influence your daily life in any way? If you’re like me, the answer is probably “Not much, if at all.” The book of Revelation can be an intimidating book of the Bible, and God’s plan for the end of the age can raise more questions than answers. But this biblical topic has been on my mind lately, because a few weeks ago I, along with four other amazing adult leaders, had the privilege of taking a group of CPC high school students to the RYM summer conference in Panama City Beach, Florida. If you’re not familiar with this conference, it’s a ministry put on by Reformed Youth Ministries for youth groups from all over the South (and sometimes from farther away) to come together at the Laguna Beach Retreat Center for a week of worship, fun and fellowship on the beach, and time spent under the teaching of God’s Word. The theme of this year’s conference was “All Things New,” a phrase taken from Revelation 21. In the context of that chapter, the phrase refers to God’s ultimate plan to restore fallen creation to a renewed and glorious “new heaven and new earth.”
Throughout my life, I’ve often considered this biblical theme a matter of speculation and secondary importance. When will Jesus return and what will it be like? An interesting topic but one that is not directly relevant to my daily growth as a Christian. However, one of the key teaching points of the RYM conference was that God’s plan to redeem His fallen creation is intended to be a central truth that Christians both take comfort in and encouragement from in our day-to-day walk with Christ. This understanding of God’s great plan was encouraging to me and helpful for my understanding of Scripture–and not only for me, but also for the high school students who attended the conference.
Throughout the week, we were reminded that our purpose here and now is fueled by the sure and certain hope of the resurrection and the restoration of all things. We were reminded that God’s work of new creation has already begun in the hearts of those who are in Christ. Finally, we were reminded that we have the privilege even now to bear witness to God’s work of new creation in the mundane and ordinary moments of life: in the conversations we engage in while in line at the grocery store, when we decide to put down our smartphones and pick up God’s Word, or when we speak words of encouragement to a friend. In all of these and many other small acts of faithfulness, we can bear witness to that day when God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more” (Revelation 21.4).
With all these wonderful truths still in my mind and fresh on the minds of the high school students, I asked several of the youth who attended the conference what they learned from their week at RYM. Here are a few quotes from their responses (used with their permission) about what the trip meant to them:
“Learning about the new heaven and new earth really impacted the way I think about my faith and shifted my worldview.”
“What really impacted me was how expansive and amazing heaven and the new earth will be.”
~ Josh Sotelo
“This past year I have sought to help integrate and grow with the students and leaders of the youth. RYM was a wonderful opportunity for both, and the conversations and activities have led to great growth in my relationships with my favorite community.”
~ Will Horton
“I learned that worship and praise is something that we are always doing. It’s just a matter of what or who we worship.” -
~ Clyde Haywood
“RYM was easily the best week of the year for me. I grew closer to the youth group and the leaders. It was amazing to have a week outside of normal life to get away and spend intentional time learning about God, praying, and growing strong relationships with friends. I learned who you are truly shapes you, and I truly believe RYM and the CPC youth group have shaped me to be a better person. The godly people in our youth group have made me want to grow in my relationship with Christ.”
~ Sophie Wright
I hope these reflections from our students are an encouragement to you, as they are to me. I’m grateful for CPC’s support of the Youth Ministry which allows our middle and high schoolers to go on trips like these. They play an important role in strengthening the faith and love for God’s Word among our Youth. I would encourage everyone to continue to pray for the youth of our church. Pray that the rich Truths that we learned on our summer trips would continue to bear fruit in the lives of the CPC youth, and pray that these truths would continue to lead to good conversations in our Youth Ministry in the upcoming school year.