Previously, we considered the generational realities facing our young people and how those realities affect the way they view the world. Next, I would like to discuss two spiritual realities that should shape our conversations with our young people regarding their worldviews.
What is the ultimate nature of the problems our young people face, and what should we consider the solution to those problems to be?
It is easy to get bogged down with all of the statistics and studies being done regarding our young people. What is often overlooked is the spiritual nature of all that they face. As different as their world is, the ultimate problem has not really changed. Nor has the solution.
The Problem Is the Same
Every well-formed worldview must have an explanation for why the world is the way it is and why humans behave the way we do. Over the centuries, theologians and philosophers have offered their explanations. Their conclusions vary greatly, but their approaches more often than not fall under one of two categories:
- The problem is out there. Many have asserted that every problem experienced by humanity is the result of their environment and their past. The evil we find ourselves committing is because of the evil that surrounds us. Change the environment, and you change the experience.
- The problem is not there. Many have redefined the conversation by suggesting that humanity’s problems are all a matter of perception. Much like “up” and “down” are very different directions depending on which side of the globe you stand, “right” and “wrong” largely depends on which side of the circumstance you find yourself. Change the perception, and you change the problem.
Common to both approaches is, whether we externalize or relativize our problems, we as human beings are not culpable. We wash our hands from the problems of the world. We declare ourselves either victims or bystanders. Regardless, we are innocent.
The Christian worldview, on the other hand, presents an explanation that is altogether different. The problem is there, and it is in us. Romans 5:12 states, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” That is how God’s creation became corrupt—death by sin and sin by us.
The Bible steadfastly refuses to allow us to find the cause and substance of the human problem outside of ourselves. Instead, the Bible points directly to our individual culpability, even as it affirms that every single human being inherits Adam’s sin and guilt. The complex of human sinfulness is so vast that it encompasses every individual human sin and the totality of human depravity as demonstrated in the rise and fall of nations and the course of human history.
How do our young people view the problem of sin? In their worldview, what do they see as the ultimate source of problems in the world? There are many answers to these questions vying for their agreement. But, the Bible only offers one answer. Sin is the problem, my sin, your sin, their sin.
While technology, culture, and circumstances have changed drastically throughout our history, our sinful nature has not. We would do well to remember that. New avenues for temptation have surfaced, but it is the same sin nonetheless.
Pornography is easier to get than it ever has been, allowing for 73% of teenagers to see porn online before they turn 18. But, it is the same lust of flesh that lures them. The obsession with self-image and comparison with other people’s online image has perhaps never been experienced at this level, with 76% of teenagers using any given social media platform daily. But, it is the same lust of the eyes that presents the obsession. Personal autonomy is a non-negotiable for young people today, demanding to be whoever—and whatever—they want to be. But, it is the same pride of life it always has been. Perhaps the flavor of our sin problem has changed, but the nature of it never has. The challenges our young people face are different, but they are not new. The problem is the same.
But, here’s the thing…
The Solution Is the Same
In an incomprehensibly wonderful way, God offers himself as the solution to our sin problem. What his holiness demands, his grace supplies. Just as the problem of sin is the same, the solution of our Savior Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. There is hope for our young people, but it is not in our parental, pastoral, or educational abilities. Their solution can only be found in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
The gospel provides us the opportunity to offer our young people a beautiful alternative to the ideologies and temptations of our world. It enables us to expose the fleeting joy of sin for a season and the empty myths they are being told by their culture. It allows us to invite them to that life more abundant promised by our Savior.
How do our young people view the solution to their sin and the emptiness and the pain it brings? In their worldview, what do they view as the ultimate solution for the world? Again, the Bible only offers one answer to these questions. Jesus is the solution, my solution, your solution, their solution.
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for producing Christian young people. There are no multi-step processes to see your children trust Christ, grow in grace, and live for God. We all want our kids to realize their need of God’s grace and embrace a robust faith in Christ. But, the gravity of that desire ought to be enough to make us see that this runs much deeper than any programmatic approach could go.
So, how should we go about raising, teaching, and engaging our young people, considering the different world in which they live and the differing worldviews that are competing for their allegiance?
Even if there was a sure-fire trick to ensure that our young people flourish as Christian adults, our hope would then rest more in the method than in the Savior. As one pastor warns, “…when we consider the overall context of the Bible, we see how counterproductive it is to try to train our kids to trust in God if what we model for them is that we trust in our training.” We must constantly examine our own hearts to ensure that we are trusting God, “[b]eing confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in [them] will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
…Expressed in Prayer
We must rely on the Holy Spirit to do the work we cannot do, and that reliance is best expressed in prayer. We should pray for the Spirit to illuminate our young people as they hear God’s Word preached and taught. We should pray for the Spirit to sustain our young people as they walk through the difficulties of life in this world. We should pray for the Spirit to guide us as we guide them. And, we should pray these things without ceasing.
…Exercised in Training
In Deuteronomy 6:1-9, a relationship of reliance on and obedience to God is bound up in the command to teach that relationship to our children. With full “thou shalt” authority, God commands that we teach our young people at home and elsewhere, as we rise for the day and lay down for the night. Teaching our young people is our obedience to God and our obligation to them. To trust God is to teach them. To teach them is to trust God.
For further discussion on practical considerations for how we go about this immensely important task, tune in next time.