Like I always do, I role-play in my mind different scenarios and situations that I might find myself in to see what I would do or what I would say. Maybe I’m a little paranoid, maybe just weird. Reading T. F. Torrance's The Mediation of Christ has brought to my mind, once again, what I would say and do if I ever had to preach as a church summer camp.
"Likewise sin has been so ingrained into our minds that we are unable to repent and have to repent even of the kind of repentance we bring to God" (85).
My fear is leading teenagers into the kind of struggle that I was led into so that they feel like each year of their summer camp experience they have to have this one significant moment of repentance, usually following a respiratory marathon of singing, thus utterly exhausting them, which could actually be the cause of their crying out to God, where they "feel" like they have done it this time. They could say with confidence, "I have repented!"
Wouldn’t it be better to preach the gospel in such a way that indicates, as God establish in Israel, that we can never bring true and real repentance? Wouldn’t this actually make it gospel?
“But Jesus Christ laid hold of us even there in our own sinful repentance and turned everything round through his holy vicarious repentance, when he bore not just upon his body but upon his human mind and soul the righteous judgments of God and resurrected our human nature in the integrity of his body, mind and soul from the grave” (85).
I do not want to erase moments where teenagers have had a specific experience of encountering God. I believe that summer camps can be particularly useful in helping teenagers in their development from the emotional to cognitive and hopefully disciple them into a balance between the two towards worshipping God, who alone in Jesus has restored true humanity. However, the current, and longstanding, trend of revival needs to be reconsidered. At the very least, the language we use about God in such times needs a revision.
Confessing that God was in Christ reconciling the world indicates that our repentance needs to be more than just a static/completed moment. It needs to be a way of life in which we find ourselves caught up in God in a continual turning towards reflecting His image. Even in my own denomination, The Church of the Nazarene, this is being attempted. We hold that we are entirely sanctified, but we speak of this growth in grace. I am not sure I particularly like the language, but it allows me/us to let teenagers/adults walk with God, rather than maintain with God.
It seems that because there is still space and time where sin roams, that what it means to be caught up with God in Christ involves the space and time to allow such to occur.