Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Don't Be A Statistic: Letter to the Rising Generation - Part 1

This is a blog-version of the opening week in my new youth ministry series called: "Don't Be a Statistic", which is based on a collection of sermons by Jonathan Edwards called: "To the Rising Generation".

I am really excited about this series, which launches next week, and I thought I would post the lessons one by one up here to invite feedback and to help in working out my own thought about each of Edwards sermons. (For those of you that enjoy reading dead authors as much as I do, isn't it exciting to think of a group of 25-30 teenagers learning from Jonathan Edwards for 6 weeks?!)

Week One: The First Fruits.

"And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father" (2 Chronicles 34:2-3)

In the above text we see three things in the text:

1. Josiah did that which was right in the sight of the LORD. There is a great difference between doing that which is right in the site of men and doing what is right in the site of the Lord. (1 Samuel 16:7)

2. How he did that which was right in the site of the Lord: He (a.) walked in the ways of his father and (b.) did not stray to the left or right. This doesn't imply he had no failings, in fact we know by scripture he did, but it implies he was universal in his obedience to God, not particular (obeying what he thought was more important or what he thought he had the strength to obey).

3. There is special attention given to the fact that he sought God in his youth.

STATISTIC: (statistics taken from Barna Research Group, and available at

78% (or almost 4 out of every 5) of Christians under the age of 21 claim they will, "take their faith more seriously in their adult years".

73% (or nearly 3 out of every 4) of people under the age of 21 who claim to "have no interest in faith or religion", claim they will look into "spirituality and religion" when they are going to start a family.

In my own teenage experience and in my 4 years of active youth ministry leadership I have, over and over, ran into a very apethetic, very dangerous mentality that as young people we can (and will) sin now and repent later.

We think that it is too hard to live a pious life now, that temptation is too great and our wills are too weak to dedicate ourselves to righteous living as young people. We tend to think we will, either at the time of marriage, or when we start having kids, eventually get more serious about our faith and begin developing holy habits later in life.

There are two main difficulties to this thinking:

First of all, history teaches us that this rarely works. According to a recent study done by the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University, 71% of adults over the age of 40 claim to be "of the same mentality and discipline in regards to spiritual living and understanding" as they were in their early twenties! This is a remarkable statistic. In other words, most adults over the age of 40 are on par with where they were spiritually as a youth/young adult.

The second fault in the "sin now repent later" mentality is our assumption that it makes little or no difference to God whether we come to saving faith and desire to serve God whole-heartidely now or later in life.

In the verse we opened with the third thing we observe from the passage is that there was special attention given to Josiah because he "did what was right in the eyes of the Lord" while in his youth.

We are told in the first verse of this chapter that Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, therefore he was 16 years old when he began to seek after the God of his Father (David). This seems to be the main reason for the special commendation found within these verses: that he would seek God in the years of his youth.

In a sermon titled "Early Piety is Especially Acceptable to God" Jonathan Edwards states: "any Excellent Endowments & Qualifications seem to be peculiarly amiable in those that are in their youth . They are more taken a notice of by men in such than in others. So it is in natural endowments: when a young person appears forward and of prompt and promising abilities, this is much taken notice of. So it is in moral qualifications: if a young person be sober and remarkeable for moral motives, it makes them especially lovely in the sight of men. It seems to have a peculiar loveliness in that age... and when a young person has not only morality, but true grace, this is especially lovely in the site of God Himself. It is most peculiarly pleasing and acceptable to Him."

Why is this so?
Edwards gives us a variety of reasons, let's focus on 3 of them in particular:

Reason #1: All that we have, we owe and should give to God, but He is especially pleased when we give Him our best.

Edwards says, "Those who are pious early dedicate the flower of their life to God. Our youth is on several accounts the best part of our lives. The nature is in its bloom, farthest from any decay; then the body is most lively, active and beautiful, and the powers of the mind are in many respects sprightly. And it is very pleasing to Godwhen persons offer Him such a sacrifice as themselves in their youth."

Think about Abel, whose sacrifice God looked upon with favour. It was looked upon with favour because it was the first of his flock (Genesis 4:4). Or think about the principle we still call tithing when the children of Israel were commanded to bring their first ripe fruits and offer them to God. (Exodus 22:29) Offering our lives to God at a young age and living for Him from the beginning follows the principle of giving God our first fruits.

I know it's tough, so did Edwards, "The devil is sensible that when persons give their youth to God, this is peculiarly to God's honor; and therefore he ever seeks to rob God of this honor and to assume it to himself."

So Satan strives, by all possible means to tempt young people to give their youth over to their lusts, their depraved passions, their curiosity and their rebellion. It is a small victory for the devil if he can distract young people with sin long enough that when they offer themselves to God, they are offering an old, tired mind and body, worn out in service to sin so that there is nothing left for God but Satan's leftovers. This is similar to the sacrifice Cain offered, which God did not look upon with favour.

This is why we always see a battle against the young employed by Satan. Every generation is more wicked and depraved than the one before. Molech swallowed the babies of those that desired to sacrifice to the devil for worldly gain in the Old Testament, and today we see young people trapped in strife, bitterness, rebellion, lust and violence.

Reason #2: It is especially pleasing to God because it is appropriate that we would begin our lives with God.

Again, Edwards writes: it is exceedingly most suitable that we should begin our lives honoring God... All things should begin with God for He is the beginning and the end, the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega. He is the creator of all things, the foundation of all being and all good and he alone is worthy of most excellent praise.

...To begin our lives with God is but a suitable acknowledgement of our origin, of the God who has formed us."

Here is the point, when a creature is made, his or her first respects ought to be to thier maker, thier creator. Since God has created us as rational beings, our first exercise of reason ought to be given to God.

Reason #3: When a person is pious at a young age not only is more of their lives dedicated to God, but a great deal of sin is prevented.

"When persons are pious early more of their life is given to God than if they began later; doubtlessly then they offer a better sacrifice than those who give God less of their lives... by this means a great deal of sin is avoided and prevented."

When people don't give their youth to God but spend it in sin and service to the devil there are countless terrible things done , to the sinner, to those they are sinning against and most importantly to God, against whom is the greatest sin.

How much sin, animosity, emotional and spiritual scarring would be prevented if we learned to fear and obey the Lord when we are young? So much rebellion, ingratitude and contempt of God would be prevented.

"And as God hates sin and is of purer eyes than to behold evil (Habakuk 1:13), and cannot look on iniquity, so early piety must be peculiarly acceptable to Him on this account because it prevents so much sin and gives Him so much more of our lives."


First of all, if we know God is especially pleased in godly youth, then we know he is ready and willing to bestow the grace necessary to overcome the schemes of the enemy. If you lack the wisdom or the faith to follow God in your youth you should pray and ask God for both (James 1:6). He does not ask us for something and then leave us ill-equipped to fulfill it.

Secondly this is why we have each other. We need to seek the approval and support from other brothers and sisters who have the same desires that you have. There is no sense seeking early piety if you will not resolve to be unpopular in wordly terms. Non-Christians at school WILL think it's strange, they WILL try to persuade you otherwise... we must recognize this as the very scheme of the enemy to counteract your desire to serve God at a young age.

No comments:

Post a Comment