♣ Conform or Transform
“…Pursue righteousness,… Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…” 1 Timothy 6:11-12
“So flee youthful passions…along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17
Although the apostle Paul wrote personally to Timothy, who was a marked and exemplary leader, the above references (1 & 2 Timothy) are just as much applicable for every professing Christian youth, whether or not in leadership. Paul excludes no age group having been made wise unto salvation; he is equally concerned for their sanctification and has in mind those that are mature in the faith as a pattern to the youth.
This is not an easy subject to write on; no doubt many will sharply disagree with some of the things I will be mentioning, but I hope that the few will take to heart some of the things observed over the last 15 years or so that have been of concern. By far, I am not the first or the last to raise these issues.
One of the tragedies within the church is the many senior and youth pastors compromising and condoning worldly methods to draw young people in and to gain their permanent committal to the church. Many will look at this in a positive and encouraging way – the youth have been brought in off the streets and have made a declaration of faith. So long as they make a decision by putting up their hand, responding to an altar call and by repeating the ‘sinner’s prayer’, they are in the kingdom. But so many prove to be a false conversion; they may have made a profession of faith but not the way of faith according to the New Testament; the majority of professing youth are temporarily converted to the institution of a church, not to Christ. The saviourship, not the lordship of Christ, is preached. What has drawn much of the youth into the church and what message is proclaimed? What emotional buttons are pressed in order to get a response? Much of the practices that take place in most meetings are certainly orchestrated by man, not God. As A.W. Tozer said, that if God were to withdraw the Holy Spirit from our meetings we would not distinguish the difference as we have already got on fine without Him! Leaders can use all kinds of manipulative techniques with success, but nowhere has God been at work; no spiritual regeneration has taken place and many of the youth remain as blind and lost as they were two or three hours before. There is no conviction of sin, no sense of the great need of mercy and forgiveness in light of how they have rebelled against a holy and righteous God; no law is preached where comes the knowledge of how far they have fallen from the glory of God. Christ is not proclaimed, Who took their place in order to follow Him as Lord and Master. But of course, this is not popular, mainstream teaching today; it’s ‘outdated’, such methods have ‘proven’ to be ineffective and even ‘dangerous’! So the message of the gospel is diluted or even reformulated so the youth are not driven away by challenging and heart searching truths. Leaders resort to a more contemporary and trendy way of speaking the language that appeals to self and ego – it is all about what you can get out of it and none of the truths that when you belong to Christ, you are no longer your own master and it may even cost you your life. Instead, it’s about reaching the ‘max’ in life – in education, career and self development and along the process Christ will get you there; He will fulfill all your dreams! With all the flashing lights, music, charismatic personalities along with an electrifying atmosphere – it all ‘sounds’ so appealing and many are taken in by it, deciding for a ‘christ’ that doesn’t even exist! But God is the power, the message of the gospel – “Him we proclaim” (Colossians 1:28). THAT is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). No other methods should be used, but the church has foolishly used the ways and wisdom of the world, man’s might and power to do what only God can do. Man can build a club but never a church. There is one Master Builder and those that build with Him are to follow His instructions, not what they think is best. Preach the gospel in its entirety, God will honour His word. If many youth walk away because the message is too hard, then let them go rather than let them make a false profession that leads to judgment, eternal misery and separation from God. It is not converts that count but disciples of Christ.
Because many leaders have succumbed to the pressure of replacing the pure gospel with a message that appeals to ego wrapped in a shrine of entertainment, many youth have taken the way into the kingdom – so they are led to believe. “Enter by the narrow gate”, the Author of our salvation clearly taught, “wide is the gate and easy is the way that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).
One of the hallmarks of many that enter by the broad way is the lack of pursuing God; He does not take preeminence in their lives. They want to live a little, travel, pursue careers, get married and then maybe get serious about God. But surely that is the wrong way around. One of the vital signs of regeneration is a radical shift of priorities from self to Christ; it is either there from the moment of a sound, spiritual rebirth or it isn’t. Is it any wonder that we hardly hear from our pulpits to make sure of one’s election which scripture exhorts us to be certain, and to test whether or not we are in the faith.
There is no middle ground in the hearts of those who do not seek after God; it is either the system of this world or the kingdom of God. In the economy of God it is impossible to have two masters (Matthew 6:24). Many professing Christian youth are more at home with this world than with God. It doesn’t take long to observe what enthuses their hearts – “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). From their perspective, it is about self image, fashion and keeping in with the world’s trends to the point of almost being indistinguishable from non-believers; we are called not to conform to this world, but rather be transformed by the renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:1-2). Many may abstain from immorality but there are many non-Christians that live upright and moral lives. After all is said and done, it is not so much what you abstain from but what you pursue; what is the driving force and passion of ones life? We may live ‘clean’ lives but omit the greatest commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind. Our perspective of what we regard to be clean and righteous is alien to God’s standards (Isaiah 64:6, Matthew 5:20). The devil is all too pleased to promote morality based on self-righteousness. He will make the world seem ‘harmless’, to enjoy its pleasures without ‘overstepping’ the mark. His lures are always subtle, having the ‘appearance’ of wisdom, but seldom do we find Christian youth raising the standards of God’s word to counter such wiles and deception, that to love the world – the ways and mentality of it – clearly shows that the love of God cannot be in their hearts (1 John 2: 15-17). This is not narrow-minded but God’s truth that is so often twisted way out of context to suit ones preference.
Not only is the world patent among Christian youth but many, who are older in years, turn a blind eye to what they see and make excuses, even sharply disagreeing with those that raise concerns – “They’re young with so much energy… let them live a bit, they’ll soon wise up… stop being so serious…” Where are the spiritual mothers and fathers in the church today?!
I vividly remember the impression left upon me when reading the ‘Memoirs and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne’, particularly some of the testimonies of young children, 5-8 years of age speaking of their faith in Christ, one of them whom was facing death. The young boy’s grasp on cardinal doctrines – that even some adult Christians are ignorant of – astounded me, and it wasn’t a mechanical repetition of the Westminster Catechism of Faith; you can drum into children to repeat, parrot-fashion, the words contained in this beautiful, Christian literature, but how real is it in their lives and experience? But with these children mentioned by M’Cheyne during the 1830’s, we are talking of such whose faith was so real and strong it shamed adults who professed faith. This was not mere repetition but the Holy Spirit moving mightily in these young souls. These were at an age well below their early or late teens; so to say that youth are not ready for deep spiritual realities is an utterly ridiculous and absurd insinuation to make. We ought to be shamefully sorry for the excuses we make. We should be blazing examples, yearning and praying to God on their behalf. In the name of God, ministers and youth leaders get back to delivering God’s word in its purity and entirety. Worldly methods do NOT work! Stop fearing the consequences and start acting on the fact that God works where He is honoured. We do not need worldly trends to make the gospel attractive. Many movements in the church foolishly use these methods because they have no clue of the power of God. What an insult to God; how ridiculous to use a rock band, some rap artist, or strobe light shows in order to make up for what God ‘left out’! No wonder many churches have a ‘form’ of godliness while lacking the power that makes all the difference.
While the power of the gospel is not realized because many church leaders choose to adopt the strategies and psychology of this present age to ‘draw’ in the world, should we be surprised that the youth lack a godly zeal to be effective witnesses for Christ? Is it any wonder why the majority of young aged Christians find it an embarrassment to even mention the name Jesus Christ among their peers? How can the tongue confess in the power of the Spirit if the knee has never bowed to the Lord of lords?
Fellowship – in the New Testament sense – has been replaced by a mere socializing, where a thirst for the things of God remain absent. Get them to speak of sports, fashion, box office hits, music charts, academics, succeeding financially in the business world – things that give instant gratification and you have their attention and their very heartbeat.
Study the Welsh Revivals, the Great Awakenings and the Hebridean Revival and read of how many youth went soaring into the kingdom. Many of the youth during those periods were immersed in the ways of the world, but when the Holy Spirit moved with power by conviction of sin, softening their hearts and giving revelation of Jesus Christ in His majesty and splendour, nothing else could satisfy; what they enjoyed prior to their conversion was trivial in comparison to the beauty of God. Many accounts speak of how the youth met on a regular basis for genuine fellowship, prayer, worship and study of the scriptures until early hours of the morning! Seldom do you find that in our day. It is not fashionable to speak of Jesus Christ, to marvel and wonder at His grace – that’s for the older folk who have almost croaked it! Many Christian youth keep a limit on how much they muster up to do their good deed of ‘evangelism’ every once in a while for fear of ruining their reputation in the eyes of the world, but have them speak of their number one rock, pop, rap star or film and TV icon, and there you will observe what fascinates them. I will add here that I am not against music, films, sports and other healthy activities; the concern is what takes first place in our hearts that says so much about each one of us.
The Christian youth are in desperate need of a heavenly sobering and earth-shattering, spiritual awakening. They are the future that will influence and mold a society to reflect the attributes of God. No philosophical or political reform has or ever will positively alter the course of history for the better until the heart has first been touched by the very breath of God.
Posted on November 10, 2011, in ♣ Devotional and tagged 1 John 2: 15-17, 1 John 2:15-17, 1 Timothy 6:11-12, 2 Timothy 2:22, Colossians 1:28, Conform or Transform, devotional, Isaiah 64:6, Mark Anthony Williams, Matthew 5:20, Matthew 6:21, Matthew 6:24, Matthew 7:13-14, Romans 12:1-2, Romans 1:16. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.