The reports come in on a daily basis. Another young person has succumbed to the temptations of our times and is now paying the price. Another family has received the news of the meltdown of their child’s life and now they are left to deal with the aftermath of guilt, shame, hurt, and heartache that accompanies the news. The tentacles of treachery reach out from the life of the child who has found him or herself caught up in a web of destruction they never intended to spin for themselves. When the news becomes public it shatters heart after heart like dominoes falling in cadence.
We were talking in Bible study on Wednesday night about the young people that we love so much, those of you right here in our church. An older, wiser lady said, “I think it is much harder to grow up now than it ever has been.” Make no mistake about it – she is absolutely right.
For past generations there have always been temptations that were lurking around the corner, waiting to dismantle our lives, but today those of you who are young can hardly escape those temptations. The temptations that you face today are legion and the tools that we have given you to guard your hearts are few!
At a time when your hormones are raging you can’t turn on the television, log onto the internet, listen to the radio, or look at a magazine without having sensuous, sexually arousing pictures thrown in your face. Those are just mediums to stir your desires. On a more personal note, you face kids at school every day that are trying to get over, hook up, and get what they want with no shame. They will say whatever they have to say, do whatever they have to do, and go to any length to take advantage of youÉor maybe you are the one taking advantage of others.
At a time when you are trying to make decisions about life and figure things out there are a ton of opportunities for you to get involved in things that can set the course for your life for the rest of your life. There are drugs on every corner, getting what you want when you want it is exalted as a virtue, cheating and lying are called clever ways to better yourself, and getting money at any cost is justification for any action.
I would encourage you to talk to a fifty or sixty year old alcoholic or drug addict. Ask them how low getting high can take you? Ask them if what they are experiencing now is what they thought they were getting into when they were twelve or thirteen? Ask them about how much money they have lost? How many jobs they have lost? How many times they have stood before the Judge in court? How often they have lost friends because of their habit? Ask them.
It seems like today there are many folks that, whenever they talk to kids, they spend all of their time going through the statistics of all that is wrong with our culture and kids today. I have done that in the past, but this morning I want to do something different. I believe that yours is a passionate generation. Many of you have seen the apathetic attitudes, casual, half-hearted commitments, and double-minded mentalities of many adults and you have said, “No thanks.” You want to live life to the full. You want to take a risk. You want to step out on the edge and try something that allows you to feel your heart beating in your chest. I want to urge you on. I want to encourage you to step out a little further. I want to challenge you to keep taking risks. I want to feel my own heart racing like it is going to jump out of my chest. I believe this is the call of Almighty God – to live, fully live this one life that He has given to us. I want to challenge you to really live, really commit, really pursue living like you’ve never pursued it before.
You can do this in one of two ways: You can think about things – what you would like to do, what you would like to experience in life, come to your own conclusions, and set out on the journey. The other path that you can take is to pursue the Lord with all of your heart and allow Him to determine your path, your passion, and your purpose for living. Jesus said,
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 NIV)
Satan is a deceiver. He will seek to convince you that you know what is best for your life and that you shouldn’t allow anyone to make decisions for you. You need to know that if we choose to determine what we want and go after it then we will destroy our lives. On the other hand, if we will allow the Lord to inflame our hearts and set our course then we can experience a fullness about life that nothing – not sex, not money, not getting high – that nothing can match!
Let me tell you about some kids who are experiencing what I am talking about this morning. Back on September 9, 2000, over 400,000 young people came together on the Mall in Washington D.C. for a day of fasting, prayer, repentance, and reconciliation.
Just eleven days after the terrorist attacks in America 50,000 young people ignored national alerts issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft and rallied together in New England for prayer and seeking the Lord.
There are millions of teenagers each year who load church vans, charter buses, and hop aboard airplanes to go to places where poverty is plentiful and need is known as an everyday companion. These young people are going on mission trips to share the love of Jesus Christ as well as food, clothing, and labor because they are radically committed to their Savior.
Last summer in Dallas, Texas tens of thousands of teenagers came to Texas Stadium the night before the Billy Graham Youth Mission night to walk around the inside of the stadium and pray over every seat that would be filled by their friends the next night. Those kids gave up their Friday night because they believed with all of their hearts that the power of Almighty God can change a generation.
These are extreme days and you can see the extreme differences most clearly in the lives of our young people. Some young people are extremely rebellious and radical about avoiding everything that God says is best for them. As a result of their rebellion they indulge themselves in the whims of their hearts. Other young people are extremely rebellious and radically committed to reject what our society tells them is the norm for their teen years. They are radically committed to seeking the Lord with all of their hearts and they are willing to live a sold out life for Jesus Christ their Savior.
Paul wrote about these days when he penned a letter to a young pastor named Timothy. Paul told Timothy about days like ours when he wrote,
1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with themÉ14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 14-15 NIV)
These are extreme days. Paul says that the last days will be terrible days. When are the “last days?” That is a good question. The time between Jesus’ first visit to earth and His Second Coming are referred to as the last days. You can look at our time through the lens of the Scripture we just read and see that the signs are not just subtle; they are in your face.
None of us are unaffected by what is going on, but we don’t have to be swept downstream by the strong current. What do you do when you look up and find yourself standing in the middle of the stream? I’ve got some good news for you and a plan to help you stay strong and pursue godliness above all else.
First, Paul tells Timothy, to flee the evil desires of youth. Take a look with me at 2 Timothy 2:22.
22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22 NIV)
Timothy is told by Paul to flee the evil desires of youth. Don’t flirt with them. Don’t let your curiosity entice you to find out what they are all about. Don’t give in to them. Flee from them. You are probably wondering, “What are we to flee from?” That is a great question given the times in which we live where there are many who are calling what is good, bad, and what is destructive and harmful, good. What are we to flee from? Look back at the Scripture we read earlier.
2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-5having a form of godliness but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:2-5 NIV)
This is a great place to begin. We need to avoid at all costs these characteristics and cravings that will lead us down a road that ends in destruction. History is littered with broken lives that did not listen to Scriptures warning. We do not have to have our names added to that infamous list.
Secondly, we are to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. How do you pursue and flee at the same time? From my own experience I have learned that if you passionately pursue one thing then it makes recognizing and fleeing from lesser things easier.
Yours is a passionate generation. Allow your passions to be directed by Almighty God so that your passion propels you towards righteousness, faith, love, and peace. Don’t let anything get in your way. Don’t give your heart to anyone whose greatest desire is less than these godly pursuits.
Thirdly, we are to pursue God with others. There is strength in numbers. If you desire to pursue the Lord then you need to allow the Lord to surround you with those whose greatest passion is to pursue the Lord. If you think that you can hang out with the “cool” crowd simply because they are “cool” and maintain your walk with the Lord, then you are only kidding yourself. If you think that you can hang out with those who steal, cheat, smoke dope, and sleep around, but not get sucked into that kind of lifestyle, then you are only kidding yourself. You need to spend your time with those who are seeking after the Lord with all of their heart so that you can be encouraged in your faith.
I am constantly overwhelmed by the number of adults in this church and beyond who are willing to spend time with young people. I am so blessed each week when I see Debbie Von Feldt spending time with young teenage mothers to help them and encourage them to grow in the Lord. I am so blessed when I see a lady named Pat Broadfoot, who doesn’t even attend our church, come to BCC each week to meet with a handful of girls for Bible study. I am blessed by the volunteers who work with the Sunday school classes, youth groups, and ACT and OHLAP programs!
Young people, take advantage of this incredible resource the Lord has placed in your lives. Listen to their wisdom. Take notes of the perils and pitfalls they have fallen into and avoid them at all cost. Listen to them open the Scriptures before you and allow them to sink deep into your hearts.
The Lord has a plan for your life. It is a good plan. It isn’t just a plan to help you avoid the things that can destroy you. The Lord has a plan to raise you up as a leader. He has a plan to use you to be a blessing and lead others to Christ. He has no desire to have you wait until you are thirty, forty, or eighty years old – He wants to use you now. Paul wrote to Timothy,
12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV)
Set an example. Be an example. Live the life. Share Christ in the way you walk, the way you talk, and the live you life. I have to tell you that I am honored to work among such a gifted group of young people who truly love the Lord. Some of you have very difficult things going on your life, but the Lord is bigger than your difficulties. Trust Him. Press into Him. Call out to Him. He will answer you.
If you have never trusted the Lord with your life then I want to encourage you to do so this morning. Won’t you invite Jesus into your heart?