Friday, September 28, 2018

Advice For My Teenage Sons and Daughter

Over the past several days, watching national news on TV, these thoughts have been heavy on my heart, and I am going to use my blog space to work them out. These are things I most want my not-so-young-anymore children to hear often and hopefully grasp and take to heart. 

Number one, and this is the absolutely most important thing I want to share with my children, if they hear nothing else, please let them hear this: Love Jesus. Know Him. Pursue Christ and His Kingdom first and foremost and most of all. Recognize your need for His salvation. We have all sinned, every single one of us, we have all gone astray, no one is righteous, no not one. (Isaiah 53:4-6, Romans 3:23). Jesus is the ONE and only mediator between God and man. He is the only way to be reconciled, made right and restored to right fellowship with God. While we were yet sinners, rebels against our Creator, Christ died for us and He rose again, just as the Scriptures said. He lived a sinless life, fulfilled all of God’s law, and suffered the wrath of God that our sin deserves on the cross for us. Through repenting of our sin and trusting in His sacrificial death which satisfied God’s wrath against our sin and His resurrection to life, we have Jesus as our High Priest and we can go before God with confidence, forgiven and made a new creation, fit to live for Him.  And knowing this, know that He has demonstrated the greatest love for you! Learn to rest all your hope in that love! Learn to love Him and rejoice in Him, knowing that in Christ there is no longer any condemnation for those who have placed their trust in Him alone, and you have been set free from the power of sin.  (Hebrews 4:14-16, 1 Timothy 2:5-6, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Romans 5:8-11, Romans 8:1).

Number two: Never treat any sin lightly, but recognize it for the rebellion it is. “Boys will be boys,” or “Kids will be kids,” or “Aw, they’re just teenagers,” is NEVER an excuse for sin. First of all, sin is an offense against the God you were created to worship. Sin also has consequences, often long-reaching ones. If you ever laugh about sin, it will be that much harder to take it seriously. We are created to worship and glorify and enjoy God forever. When we have surrendered to Him as Lord, we are not our own. He is LORD. He has saved us from sin to live in a manner worthy of Him. Purpose in your heart to represent Him well and to repent quickly when you realize there is sin in your heart, thoughts, or actions. When you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you will become a person who hates your own sin. You must put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh. When you do sin, be quick to confess it and repent, knowing that it is God who works in you to will and to work His good pleasure as you work out your salvation, and confident that He is faithful and just to forgive you from all unrighteousness. (Ephesians 2:4-10, Ephesians 4:1-3, Philippians 1:27, Philippians 2:12-13, Colossians 1:10-14, Romans 13:14, 1 John 1:9)

Number three: Do not just “go to church.”  Be a faithful member of a Bible-teaching and believing, faithful, solid church. Go regularly, engage with and love the people, listen well to the teaching and apply it to your life as you search the Scriptures and embrace the Faith as your own, join in the mission of the Church to be a growing follower of Christ and to help others to become growing followers of Christ. (Philippians 1:27-2:4, Hebrews 1:24-25)

Number four: Read and esteem God’s word. How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to God’s word. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. Set your mind on the things of the Lord and tune your thinking to accord with His word. Learn to discern truth from error and search the scriptures and measure all wisdom by the truth of His word and train yourself to love godly wisdom and discern the foolishness of worldly wisdom. Become very familiar with the book of Proverbs and hide God’s wisdom in your heart. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Psalm 119:9, Ecclesiastes 12:1, Proverbs 1:7, Colossians 1:6-8, Colossians 3:1-4, 2 Corinthians 10:5-6)

Number five: Treat other people with dignity and kindness, and live at peace with everyone as much as it is possible and as much as it depends upon you, not quarrelsome but a peacemaker, not seeking to hold a grudge or remember a wrong, but remembering how very much you have been forgiven and what mercy you have been shown by our Savior. The people you encounter are made in the image of God, and your character and how you treat them matters very much. God helping you, practice loving your neighbor as yourself and walk in humility, preferring others before yourself. Again, when you fail, run to your loving Savior quickly and repent, and be quick to apologize and to do what is right when you have wronged others. (Romans 12:18, 1 John 1:9, Ephesians 4:32, Philippians 2:1-11)

Number six: Choose your friends carefully. You very often are like the people you hang around most. Be kind to everyone as much as you possibly can, but make sure your closest friends and those with whom you share your heart are the kind of people who will not lead you into sin or distract you from following closely after Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:33-34, Ephesians 5:1-21 READ THIS!!)

Number seven: Choose who you date even more carefully, and treat them with respect. Character matters. Godly faithfulness matters. A biblical understanding of the gospel matters. Sex and sexual behavior are for marriage only, one man and one woman in covenant for life. You want to marry someone who loves Jesus and is first committed to Him. (Hebrews 13:4)

Number eight: Avoid all appearance of evil. Stay away from parties where drunkenness and sinful and undisciplined behavior are evident. If you find yourself in such a situation, leave! Sure, avoiding the parties may mean you aren’t hanging with the most popular kids. Being popular is not worth losing your reputation or your soul. I can’t help thinking that if the man in the news recently had not been known to frequent the types of parties where alcohol is present, then there would be no doubt cast upon his good name now. But he cannot say he never went to this type of party, only that he wasn’t at the one in question. And though this may not be a popular thing to say, same goes for girls. Protect yourself and stay away from these situations. Even as a teenager, live in such a way that your life is above reproach. What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his soul?  A good reputation is hard to recover once it is lost. Even more importantly, we are to be Kingdom minded people, sober minded, not wasting our lives frivolously. Cultivate the wisdom you want to be characterized by as an older adult by rejecting foolishness now in your youth and seeking wisdom. Getting drunk is not the character of a wise person. Flee youthful lusts and run toward wisdom. As I’ve watched the news this week, I couldn’t help being thankful for those lonely times when I didn’t fit in with the popular crowd that I thought at the time were a hard thing.  Living a life without that kind of regret is a thankful thing, and a life lived in integrity is a treasure and a testimony to the gracious God who has saved you. If you live from your youth in integrity, you do not have to fear false or other accusations that may surface in later years. (Genesis 39, Proverbs 22:1, Proverbs 20:7, 1 Thessalonians 5:22)

Number nine: Be careful with your words, they reflect on your character, even thirty years later. You don’t have to immediately say whatever comes to mind, and venting is not a virtue. It is my opinion that social media and smart phones have been more of a negative influence than a positive one for many reasons. Be wise and careful how you use them. It is so easy to sin with our words - and that includes typed words. Once our words are out there, we can’t take them back. Once words are typed or put on social media, they may be out there for years and years. Be careful how you present yourself online. Your character matters, and just because online communication feels more disconnected, it’s still your words and your character you’re showing. It is not true that words don’t hurt, but at the same time, refuse to take easy offense at the words of others. More on that in the next point. Avoid crass or blasphemous language, even if everyone else you know talks that way. We are to be light in the midst of a dark world, and one very powerful way to do this is to refuse to be foolish and choose to edify with your speech - spoken and written. But here again, when you blow it, run to Jesus. He is your Savior and your friend and your High Priest. Be quick to repent and quick to apologize for harmful words. (James 1:26, James 3:1-12, Proverbs 29:20, Proverbs 29:11, Ephesians 4:29)

Number ten: Be slow to take offense. Love is patient and kind and does not hold a grudge. You have been forgiven much, learn to be forgiving and treat others the way you would want them to treat you. Being offended is a choice. Assume the best for as long as you can, and put the best construction on what others say and do for as long as you can. Remember, as much as you are able, be at peace with others. Do not assume motives.  You cannot know what is in someone else’s heart. If you have an issue with someone, go to that person directly and seek either clarification or reconciliation, do not gossip to others. Learn not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think and not to look down on other people.  Remember the parable of the prideful Pharisee and the humble tax collector - the tax collector prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner! - and he went down to his house justified. (1 Corinthians 13, Luke 18:9-14, Matthew 18:15, Proverbs 20:19, Proverbs 11:13, Proverbs 16:28, Proverbs 26.20)

These are just a few morsels of wisdom I’ve been thinking over in light of the constant news coverage this past week. My husband and I were talking together about how much a good understanding and knowledge and application of the book of Proverbs could benefit a young person who determines to love the Lord wholeheartedly. In all these things, a healthy remembrance that we do not live this life in our own strength, but in surrender to the gracious love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit by faith in the redemption bought by the blood of Christ and the power of His resurrection. Hallelujah, what a Savior! 

 I close with this:
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 “17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 

In light of all that, God helping you and in grateful joy, seek to live like who you are in Christ.