We know that the law is good when used correctly. For the law was not intended for people who do what is right. It is for people who are lawless and rebellious, who are ungodly and sinful, who consider nothing sacred and defile what is holy, who kill their father or mother or commit other murders. The law is for people who are sexually immoral, or who practice homosexuality, or are slave traders, liars, promise breakers, or who do anything else that contradicts the wholesome teaching that comes from the glorious Good News entrusted to me by our blessed God. (1 Timothy 1:8-11)
I recall a friend once telling me that no sermon should ever include the word "should". (When you pause for a moment and reread that statement you'll notice the irony!).
There is at least some truth in this instruction. It's easy to twist "following Jesus" into "obey a list of things we should and shouldn't do". Not that such a list is wrong in itself. As Paul points out here, such a list is a useful way of showing wrongdoers what they are doing wrong. Without such laws and rules it's possible for us to do wrong without realising it.
The problems comes when we use rules and the threat of consequences as motivation to do good: we eventually we build a Christian faith based on our own performance. In verse 5 we saw that the purpose of Paul's instruction was not to simply lay out rules to be kept and sins to avoid. It was to bear fruit in the form of believers who are "filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith."
In other words, Christian faith is not just about what we do - it's about who we are. It's not just about how we behave but about how we think in our hearts.
How do you approach your Christian faith - as a set of rules to be followed? If so you'll be the sort of leader who looks for ways to point out to young people what they are doing wrong.
Instead, approach your Christian faith as a Person (Jesus) to be followed and you'll soon realise that the goal is not to change young people's behaviour but to change their hearts
When we understand this we will avoid filling our messages with "should's" and "should not's". Yes at times we'll need to apply the law to point out what is sin and what is not, but most of our focus will be on the "glorious Good News entrusted to [us] by our blessed God." This good news is of God who loved us so much that He became one of us, dying for our wrongdoing and rising again, before filling our hearts with His presence and His love.
When our gospel is centred in God's love and sacififce and not our own behaviour, we'll produce disciples who are neither consumed with pride nor racked with guilt. We'll produce disciples who know the law but pursue a pure heart, not because they should but because they deeply desire to. Not because they are fixated on rules but because they are in love with Jesus.
They'll see wrongdoing as more than breaking rules. They'll understand it breaks God's heart.
How do the young people I lead predominantly see me - as someone always telling them what they should and shouldn't do? Or as someone who loves Jesus?