By Ryan Lambros
When I was 9 years old, my family went to California for a jump-rope tournament (yes, I was a competitive jump-roper…but that’s another blog discussion). While staying at the hotel near Coronado Island, we met 2 young Naval officers who were on a brief stay from the USS Kitty Hawk. My dad, being the talkative, I-can-befriend-anyone type guy, got them to see if we could go on board the aircraft carrier that night and tour the incredible ship. They pulled some strings and got my family and the whole jump rope team passes to tour the carrier.
When we arrived at the dock to enter the hugest ship I’d ever seen, we were each given passes that identified us as being with the two young men, thus giving us authorization to board the ship. I remember my dad telling me, “Ryan, if anyone asks who you are or why you’re here, you show them your pass and say, ‘I’m with him’ (pointing to one of the guys).” We continued the tour and I stayed super close to the two guys. They gave us a phenomenal tour and I even got to shoot some hoops with the captain of the ship (indoor basketball court)!
I remember going through the tour holding on to my pass with such confidence. I knew that with it, I belonged! As a little kid I envisioned guys with guns flying down to capture me if I was asked why I was on the ship and had no reason to give them. The pass also gave me confidence in the men leading the tour. That pass was a direct link to the tour guides. If I followed them, I would probably get a much better understanding of the carrier than if I just wandered aimlessly around. Ultimately, the pass had a two-fold purpose: a remedy and a design.
I should not have been on that aircraft carrier. Who they let on to military ships is a very serious deal. Left to myself, I would not have been able to get on that boat. Getting on that boat could not have happened on my own. I needed that problem fixed. The pass, provided for me by the two guys leading this whole thing, gave me the remedy I needed. It was the free, undeserved pass that allowed me to access the incredibleness of the carrier that awaited me. It was mine. No one could take that away. It was issued, stamped, signed, and delivered. Even if I were to lose the physical display of the pass, it was documented in the log book that Ryan Lambros was allowed to be on that ship.
Where does a 9 year-old boy start when wanting to see an entire aircraft carrier in 1 hour? Does he check out the deck? Does he check out the bunks? What about the airplane-holder-thingy (I’m not a Navy guy)? Well, the pass given to me was directly related to the guy who gave it to me. Maybe I just trust him to guide me? Maybe the pass was designed for me to follow the tour guide; I’m sure he knew what was best. The pass was designed for me to have access to follow the leader. It was designed for me to enjoy and soak in the incredibleness of the ship, that I would otherwise have no other way of experiencing on my own.
Two purposes of the pass that should not be mistakenly combined: the remedy and the design. The remedy comes first. It allowed me to get on to the boat. The design comes second. It allows me to stay with the leader to enjoy the tour WAY better than left to myself.
Do you get where I might be going with all this? God’s grace has two DISTINCT purposes: remedy and design. The remedy grace gives to us was accomplished through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross (Eph. 2). The design grace now gives to us is that it motivates us to say no to our desire to search the ship on our own and to follow that remedy to enjoy our “tour” much more (Titus 2:14).
So often I see people struggle with this distinction. More specifically, I see students struggle with this distinction. As a Youth Pastor, people often ask me, “If a student in your ministry believes the Gospel, yet makes tons of mistakes afterward and lives a life that doesn’t reflect the Gospel, either later in high school or in college, do you worry about their salvation? Do you go back to them to make sure they’re saved?”
Students are tough sometimes. They are very passionate; they are very “swayed” by pressure; they oftentimes think they know things before they really do. My response to the people who pose the question mentioned above is this: “My job is to show them the remedy grace provides in a clear declaration (Eph. 2:8-9). My role is to proclaim the Gospel! My job is to help them realize the design that grace provides. My job is also to show students how the Gospel should affect our lives. You know what? Believing in the remedy is the easy part for students because it’s free. Following the design is much more difficult.”
Let’s compare them to the metaphor. Students are given the free gift of grace (“this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” Eph. 2:8) just like I was given a free pass to the ship (I did nothing to deserve it). Students then have a choice to walk in the design of that gift (“training us to renounce ungodliness” Titus 2:12) or to walk in pride. Some students wander aimlessly throughout the ship of life. They try to figure out everything there is to the ship. They think they are enjoying the best of the best while those who are following the tour guide are truly enjoying the best (trust me; the two guys gave us an incredible tour). So what happens to youth who leave the tour?
If I had wandered away from the tour and an officer found me, he would say, “What are you doing?” I would respond by saying, “I am with the tour guide, even though I’m technically not physically following him, BUT I have this pass.” Instantly, the officer would have to respond, “Well, I know you are authorized to be here, but do you not realize that your pass means you should be following your tour guide? It’s way better!” See, the officer would never challenge the remedy of that pass, but would probably challenge my understanding of the design. Even if I were to lose the physical pass, which could happen if I were to get in some trouble wandering on the ship, the truth of the matter is that the physical display of the pass isn’t what allows me to be there. It is the log book that has record of me being issued that free pass.
When students mess up, do things they shouldn’t, or even “go off the deep end,” I don’t instantly jump to the conclusion that they don’t have a “pass.” I simply remind them the design of grace. It is there for their benefit. They have received such an incredible gift, but they are wasting their time on the ship if they throw away its design. Instead of tossing students who struggle with their walk with God out of my youth group, I trust in the remedy and design of grace. The remedy for the student has nothing to do with me. I am simply called to preach the Gospel and show them the pass is available! The design is something that is a bit more specific. As a leader in the tour (not the tour guide myself) I am called to show students the pass’ design and the benefits of following that. Mmm, sounds like Grace-centered discipleship…but that’s another topic!
Ultimately, the greatest line – the most comforting line – that grace gives to students, is the ability to say, wherever and whenever they are on the ship, “I might be lost and not with the tour like I should, but I’m with him!” You wouldn’t believe how incredible youth ministry is when students understand the remedy and design of grace!
Ryan Lambros is an FGA member and the youth pastor at Maricopa Springs Family Church. He graduated from Southwestern College with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.