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God’s Word to Young People

Tuesday, September 14, 2010 | Comments (14)

Take a moment to walk with the average young person to see what he might encounter during a typical day. As he visits his Internet homepage, his eyes are assaulted with images of half-dressed celebrities, parading the sin of an independent, immoral lifestyle. The DJ from the local radio station accompanies him on the way to school. It’s usually someone with a crass sense of humor, filling his mind with contemporary lyrics that promote the way of folly. Along the road, he’s exposed to billboards and advertising designed to arouse lust and create discontentment. Any time he spends with the world’s entertainment portrays a very realistic form of make-believe. The typical television programs and movies glorify the mysterious and exhilarating life of the rebel—he’s defiant and witty, violent and sexual, rich and playful…and utterly godless (but never mind the consequences).

Get the picture? Before many teenagers arrive at school, their minds are already pondering the messages of all the images they’ve seen and the voices they’ve heard. And that’s before eight or more hours of teachers and peer influence. It’s a daily exercise in mind pollution.

It’s no secret that our age in particular has turned defiance into a virtue and made obedience something to be mocked. This warped and rebellious worldview comes through in every aspect of popular culture. Entertainment, music, and even newscasts glorify revolt and rebellion against every form of authority. Statistics show that the average child living at home in America watches at least twenty-eight hours of television each week. (For some kids, the total is much higher.) Programming that targets young people is often the very worst at deliberately glamorizing sin. By the time most teenagers graduate from high school, they’ve been overexposed to the grossest kinds of evil through “entertainment” media in mind-numbing ways—so that nothing seems particularly appalling anymore.

What’s the predictable result? Drug abuse, violent crime, sexual promiscuity, and other forms of lawlessness are at epidemic levels among teenagers. Large, disturbing subcultures exist among young people who practice bizarre forms of body modification (such as tattooing and piercing), immerse themselves in occultism, or openly practice other forms of antisocial behavior. Sin and rebellion have taken society captive, and their tragic effects are most vividly apparent in the culture of our young people.

Yet millions in society—especially among those in control of the entertainment media—glory in the evil. The apostle Paul prophetically foretold times like these. He wrote to Timothy:

Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Tim. 3:1-5, italics added)

It’s fitting that rebellion against parents is at the heart of that list of evils, because virtually all the other sins listed (especially self-love, thanklessness, a lack of self-control, headstrong haughtiness, and hedonism) are inevitable fruits of youthful rebellion against parents. A culture of rebellion breeds every other kind of sin as well.

And that is why we are living in an age of moral anarchy. That is the culture in which our children are growing up. Although the wise parent will minimize a child’s exposure to the evils in the world, there’s simply no way to isolate or insulate our children completely from all those corrupting influences—suggestive images and compelling voices. But even if we could raise them in a protective bubble, that wouldn’t solve the problem. Our children are fallen creatures, naturally drawn to evil.

So as you can see, it’s a perilous walk for the typical teenager as he travels through his fallen world. Like the sirens of Homer’s Odyssey, beautiful voices entice him to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin—“Resist authority. Taste forbidden pleasures. Take control of your own life.” But one voice stands apart, contradicting all the rest with stunning boldness. God commands young people to a simple, yet profoundly wise way of life: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

Even though that command comes at the beginning of a new chapter in Ephesians, it’s a continuation of the same subject Paul had been discussing. He was moving systematically through the family, describing each family member’s duty, and showing what mutual submission means in the context of the family structure.

Children, of course, are to show submission by obeying their parents. This is one of only a handful of texts in Scripture that directly address children in particular (see also Ex. 20:12; Prov. 1:8-9; 6:20; Col. 3:20). Virtually every time the Word of God speaks to children, the message is the same, aptly summarized by Ephesians 6:1-3: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’”

In verse 2, Paul was quoting the fifth commandment from Exodus 20:12: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” That commandment is the turning point of the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments describe aspects of our duty to God: have no other gods; make no graven images; don’t take the Lord’s name in vain; and remember the Sabbath. The remaining six commandments spell out our duties with respect to other people: honor your parents; do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; and do not covet.

The starting point, the foundation for all earthly relationships, is the child’s duty to honor his or her parents. Since that is the first relationship we ever experience, it’s the first moral principle every child needs to learn. It’s fitting, therefore, that the leading commandment in the Second Table of the Law governs the parent-child relationship.

As the Apostle Paul pointed out, the fifth commandment is also “the first commandment with a promise.” In fact, this is the only one of the Ten Commandments that comes with a promise. Two other commandments (the second and the third) are accompanied by threats. The fourth commandment is followed by and extensive explanation of the reason for the commandment. But “honor your father and your mother” is the only commandment with a benediction for those who keep it.

It’s a promise of long life, blessing, and prosperity. Writing under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, Paul brought together the promise of Exodus 20:12 (“that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you”) with the fuller language of Deuteronomy 4:40: “that it may go well with you . . . and that you may prolong your days [on the earth]”—so that there are two parts to the promise. On the one hand, it promises quality of life (that it may be well with you). On the other hand, it promises length of days (and you may live long).

The “promise” was a divine pledge to the Israelites as a nation. As far as individuals are concerned, this is really more of a maxim than an ironclad surety. In other words, it is a truism, not a guarantee. Some people honor their parents and die young anyway. There have undoubtedly been cases where people who have despised their parents’ authority have nevertheless lived to old age. But as a general rule, the principle is true. Rebelling against parents has built-in consequences that tend to shorten one’s life.

The apostle Paul’s instructions to children in Ephesians 6 are notable for their straightforward simplicity. There’s no long list of duties, no complex set of instructions—just one simple command: “Obey your parents.” Of course, all other duties—such as love for God, love for brothers and sisters, love for neighbors, and all other important moral precepts—will be covered by this rule if the parents simply do what they are commanded in verse 4: “Bring them up I the training and admonition of the Lord.” Children who learn how to obey their parents will thereby also learn to obey God. This highlights once again the supreme importance of a Christian family.

In a future post, we’ll get a little more specific about children obeying their parents. For now, here are a few questions to discuss in the comment thread:

  1. Can any of you attest to the consequences—either good or bad—of how you obeyed (or disobeyed) your parents? How have you found God’s Word to speak the truth in this matter?

  2. Children growing up today face a very different world than their parents experienced. Children, what influences and pressures do you face from the culture that you find difficult to resist?

  3. Parents, how can you minimize the influence of the culture on your children, and maximize the influence of God’s Word?

Tackle one or all, but join in the discussion. Your comments are often helpful to others who are struggling through the same things you face as a parent.


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#1  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Tuesday, September 14, 2010at 7:09 PM

umm, when I was little. I was emotional abuse by my dad as a kid. I

was a brat and hateful as a kid. I hated people for a long time and

when I read the bible. It took time for Jesus to open my eyes and my

heart. I learned to repent of my sins to Christ and learned forgiveness the hard way. Jesus is merciful! Yes, I do feel guilty but I need to always remember my past sins are forgiven by the Lord. He removes it far from me. I learned a lesson of life what God wants from me. I am still growing and learning. I know sin will remain in me until I die. I need to ask Jesus to forgive me and forgive others daily, I started to learn that as a teen. I did'nt know forgiveness when I was a child!

Even I was made fun of in school but I forgave them when I learned about Jesus said about forgiveness.

We need to teach children forgiveness when they are young. So they will honor their parents, as well the Lord too.

God bless JM for his faithfulness to Jesus.

#2  Posted by Michael Peters  |  Tuesday, September 14, 2010at 10:02 PM

Hello my name is Michael Peters I have some incite to share on this dilemma happening to the youth in America and all over the world. I became a Christian last October, I'm 20 years old. I never learned to obey my parents as a young boy. My parents are not Christians or my family. I think a big reason kids are becoming disobedient is because parents are not disciplining their children. It is no longer lawful for parents to give their children spankings or the rod. My father never disciplined me as a young boy so i rebelled and became defiant. He did not assume position as godhead of the family because their is no God in my family. He gave a superficial love that did not punish or reprimand disobedience. I care for my family dearly and i am learning to live with them but that was a major sin that i grew up dealing with and my sisters still struggle with. I now am overcoming that sin with the power of The Holy Spirit, Jesus, and The Father and Gods word. Even now i still struggle with it at times. I am so blessed to be forgiven of how disobedient i was and still am so i just thank God and confess my sin and ask for forgiveness when I fall short. Praise our loving, merciful, holy God who would save a wretch like me.

-In Christ

Michael

#3  Posted by Frank Dornik  |  Wednesday, September 15, 2010at 12:51 AM

Question: How do Eph 6:2-3, Prov 1:8-9, and Prov 6:20 apply to Christian unmarried children ages 21-24 not living at the home of their Christian parents?

#4  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Wednesday, September 15, 2010at 5:25 AM

Frank,

Children living away from home are still under the same obligation to honor their parents as children living at home. I am a grown man who is married with a family and I still honor my parents as it were.

Generally, when folks ask about children not living at home, it is believed they are no longer under any obligation to honor their parents or the parents are no longer obligated to "make" them honor them by discipline. Obviously, the type of honor a young adult of 21 will give to his or her parents will be a bit different than say a kid of 9 years, but children can still honor their parents. The relationship is a bit different. Certainly a 25 year old doesn't go to his father to seek his permission to buy a house or to figure out which college courses he is going to take during the year. But I would hope a young adult like that would honor his parents by seeking their wisdom and carefully considering their advice.

#5  Posted by Bronson Simmons  |  Wednesday, September 15, 2010at 9:30 AM

God's providence brought me to this article and I praise Him for it..

I am Bronson and I am 20

Right now I go to a community college where I am bombarded with worldly attitudes and ideas. I find it incredibly hard to keep a dominance of Christian influence in my life. I praise God I can come to sites like this for reformed edification. Cultural things that I have to battle are immodesty, foul language, and frivolous lifestyles(even from within the church). It only takes moments of a lackadaisical attitude to start being sucked into it..

One side effect of this situation is a clouded mind.. sometimes so many ideas are thrown at me that I just need to stop and meditate on the perfection of God's Character because although I don't have all the answers and refutations, but I know that God is faithful.

WOW almost missed the biggest one; tolerance. Everyone always wants to be tolerant. The whole post modern spiell...

Hope that answered question number 2

-Bronson

#6  Posted by Jean Selden  |  Wednesday, September 15, 2010at 10:57 AM

I am a 60 year old mom who spent a good many years working alongside my husband in youth ministry. We watched a very drastic decline in standards for the youth in a very short period of time. I find that most parents rely too heavily on the youth pastors/leader to help direct them in parenting in spite of the fact that most youth leaders are barely more than youth themselves. I watched reverence for God disintegrate under these 'youthful' well-intentioned pastors. We saw the disrespect for adults increase dramatically. It was way more cool to be relevant with the culture than relevant to God. When leadership is reduced to that standard, it becomes totally irrelevant to God's purposes for our children. Is it any wonder that our kids are dishonoring their parents when even role models in our churches can't even honor God's Holy Word? It might be wise for the change in honoring parents and authority begin in the church.

#7  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Wednesday, September 15, 2010at 5:34 PM

Frank,

I am almost 40yrs old, and I live with my parents. I do have a greatest

responsible to care for them and do chores around the house. I am very

good with my hands in garden. I cook too. Smiles. I am deaf and it takes

time for some deaf people to get on their own. Good suggestion. Yes, I

have to honor my parents until end of my parents' time or my time.

#8  Posted by Edward Johnson  |  Thursday, September 16, 2010at 7:26 AM

Sometimes I am not sure when someone rebels against tradition if they are always rebelling against God or just against human conventions apart from God. For example if a child wanted a "south-at-the-top" map, a calendar with Wednesday to the left of Tuesday, or a book with right-side binding - I wonder if that would be a rebellion against God or just against a society that he or she considers to be too narrow or mechanical in areas that are not connected with moral or spiritual purity. I guess I am getting at the tension between rebellion against God and agains human traditions that are not directly discussed in the Word of God.

#9  Posted by Rick White  |  Thursday, September 16, 2010at 12:45 PM

Edward,

If a child wanted to use a "south-at-the-top" map, or a calendar with Wednesday to the left of Tuesday, or a book with right-side binding would not necessarily be acts of rebellion unless he expected society to conform to his standards just because that is the way he likes it. That would be selfish and arrogant which would be rebellion against God's standards. Proverbs 8:13

#10  Posted by Gerald Schumacher  |  Friday, September 17, 2010at 11:07 AM

Rebellion does not have to knowingly or directly be against God. All rebellion is about self. What do I want or what pleases me attitude. As Christians we are to be about seeking for others rather then ourselves and that seeking is always to be in line with God's precepts, not some strange or new fad. Anyone who seeks to stand out is glorifying themselves rather then God and that is rebellion. Rebellion can be carried out on an individual bases or by a group but it is always about self. What pleases me! Rebellion does not have to directly hurt or seek to change another, but it is always about self. One more thing. Even when rebellion is not directed towards God in the consciousness of a person, it is still always against God. No one's actions can stand apart from their relationship with God. All actions speak to how we feel about or honor God. We either follow in His precepts or we rebell. All actions we take are either for Him or against Him. We are to do all we do in the name of the Lord, not for our own pleasures or whims. This all children need to learn at a very young age.

#11  Posted by George Akers  |  Saturday, September 18, 2010at 1:56 PM

In response to question 2, I recently finished college and the most difficult pressures for me to avoid as a Christian were not the outright temptations of the world (sex, drugs, drunkenness), but the ones I did not recognize as coming from the world because they slipped in through the body of believers.

By this I mean attitudes and beliefs that had invaded the mindsets of a majority of believers my age (Emerging church stuff) and because it didn't have the obvious outward appearance of sin, it could slip right in. Unfortunately for me, these worldly ideas and attitudes wreaked all kinds of havoc in my life by disintegrating my Christian walk from within, therefore making me more susceptible to the more obvious temptations of the world.

I mourn for my generation of fellow believers who are being mislead by all kinds of false and deceptive teachings, disguised as Christian or more enlightened, but are really just creating pride, self-centeredness, and getting them away from the Bible.

Dr. MacArthur's books like Charismatic Chaos and The Truth War have really helped me see the truth of what is going on, and as a result I am finding solid ground again by trusting in the Word of God and not my feelings or experiences.

Here is a short list of some of these attitudes/ideas that young believers are pressured to adopt inside and outside the church:

1. Focus on doing good deeds, not truth. Loving people and doing good works is more important than what you believe. (Truth is ignored and avoided even though it is the reason why you do good deeds.)

2. Postmodernism--"How can you know anything for sure? How can anyone claim that something is absolutely true? Isn't that arrogant?" There is pressure to avoid saying anything is true because God said it in His Word.

3. Seek to EXPERIENCE God, rather than know Him through His Word.

4. God is all about you and making you happy.

#12  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Sunday, September 19, 2010at 9:05 AM

Prayer for the children.

O Lord,

Bless the little ones. Protect them and nourished them. Show them

the way that You want them grow. Provide wisdom for godly men and

women to raise them up the way You want. Those whom are lead astray,

help them back by Your power. In Jesus' name. Amen.

#13  Posted by Samuel Taylor Sr.  |  Sunday, September 19, 2010at 4:54 PM

Parenting today is challenging to say the least. Thank God we as christians have and instruction manual,(the bible),we just need to read it, study it, and then ask the Holy Spirit to help us by giving us the power to do what the manual instructs. I think we have to strive to be parents and not friends to our children, as godly parents our children will not always like us but I believe they will one day thank us and love us for being true godly parents. This means we must learn to trust God's way for raising our children and not be afraid to say no to them. It also means we will not be the popular parents in our society, but that's not our goal. Our goal is to reproduce after our own kind,(more born again belivers), we must make sure we introduce our children to Jesus Christ and not just to the pastor and the church. Our children need to have a relationship with the Father through the Son as early as possible. To many parents are happy that their children are in church, but to be in church and not in Christ is not enough for them or us. We must counteract the influence of the world with the influence of God's Word, the examples and teachings of parents through a godly lifestyle and through family bible study and prayer, along with attending a good bible-believing, bible-teaching church will help to minimize the influence of the culture and mamimize the influence of God's Word. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

#14  Posted by Pa Lee  |  Monday, September 20, 2010at 1:37 PM

I agree with Jean. It also has to do with the youth pastors. If the youth are gonna grow in God, they also need godly youth pastors who are willing to teach them and be role models. And another thing is true, that it is not his job alone...but the parents' job also. Parents must not think that it is up to their pastors to teach their kids about God and how to live. They expect them to learn every Sunday...but for the rest of the week, no one is teaching them, reminding them, guiding them in God's Words...that is the parents' duty and also the youth's duty.