With the plethora of directions bombarding teens and young adults today, mapping out life can become a pretty complex task. In this digital age, with the touch of one’s finger, the world is at their "beck and call." From ‘peer’ pressures "to be part of the crowd," to ‘academic’ pressures to "excel on every occasion." From ‘social’ pressures to "be cool and fit in," to the ‘digital’ pressures of staying "relevant and noticed."
It’s very easy to be entangled in this digital age with ‘voices’ pulling in every direction, and with an increasingly clear call 'away' from godly principles towards immorality, teenagers and young adults are especially vulnerable to populous opinions that represent ungodly agendas. The majority of these opinions are usually in favor of laws established as standing authority within the land that counter the Christian perspective, and are generally established with little foresight of unforeseen future consequences, thus inviting us into ‘Pandora’s Box’ of what is now an "Identity Crisis."
So, can a Teenager stay true to their Christian Identity?
There’s a saying that’s goes “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Even though I agree with the intent, I believe we need to not just stand for “something,” but we need to stand for what is 'right and just.'
Under constant pressure to subscribe to these populous opinions, some who claim to be “in Christ,” have lost their minds, drunk the “kool-aid” of indoctrination, and are endorsing evil in the name of "progression." The standard of the Bible they "claim” to live by, seem irrelevant when ‘praises, applause and accolades’ attributed to them by men ‘in their honor’ is at stake.
"Satan doesn’t mind you serving God in 'some areas of your life' as long as you compromise your belief and value system to serve him in other areas"
With the social media world exploding, it has not only invited us into ‘Pandora’s Box,’ but, many lives are now stuck on what I call ‘Pandora’s Wheel.’ Our spiritual identity, spiritual maturity, intellectual independence, emotional growth, desires, wants and needs are now shaped, molded and cycled through momentary snapshots of someone else’s life, opinions and ‘portrayed personas.’ There may even be tendencies to yearn after, and subconsciously want to covet what is portrayed online by others, and herein lies the confusion that many face when it comes to their identity in Christ.
It’s easy to be impressed with someone’s opinion as long as it sounds good, is entertaining, and is popular, but the question is - "Is it biblical, and holding to the canon of ‘truth?’
Parents raising teenagers understands that “Teenagehood” brings its own set of battles - Puberty hits, hormone level rises, tempers flare, disobedience to parents seem to be a well developed skill, sexual tensions and experimentation stretches to the max, and self indulgence engulfs like a raging inferno.
But here’s the truth – even at such a tender age, our choices can affect and can determine the path and foundation for our future. The idea that teenagers have to “find their way” before fully surrendering to the Lord, is a lie that should never be entertained.
It should be noted that not everyone is on the bandwagon of compromise, and that's why our heart here at The X-Change Square is to share their lives as well.
Contrary to modern theology that we should adapt to, morph into, and sanction the culture and environment, that counters the Christian perspective in order to secure acceptance and live in a conflict free zone couldn’t be further from the truth. We need to realize the “conflict free zone” no longer exit, and the culture war has already started that's trying to redefine the Christian identity.
It’s clear that doing what’s right is now scoffed at, doing what’s wrong is celebrated as a 'good' thing, and doing nothing simply means not taking sides in the name of maintaining our comfortable life, not having to offend anyone, and not having to give an account for our faith.
"Our environment should never dictate our commitment to God"
So how can a teenager and young adult stand firm in their faith in the midst of this culture clash?
A lot can be learned from King Josiah’s life - 2nd Kings 22-23. He was crowned Israel’s King for the Southern Kingdom of Judah at the age of eight years old. God knew He could trust Josiah even though the generations before him were evil, corrupt and had defiled God’s covenants. Josiah had very few models to follow. At the age of sixteen, he set his heart towards God and never looked back. As a young king, Josiah restored the Word of God to the nation, he restored proper worship to the temple, he tore down and desecrated the places of idol worship, he repaired the temple that had deteriorated, and he reinstated the Passover. By the age of twenty-six he ignited the reformation for the restoration of godly principles, and God’s Word became the standing authority for the Kingdom of Judah.
Josiah’s heart must have burned with desire to do what was right in the midst of witnessing utter defilement of godly principles that left Judah in spiritual ruin. The Kingdom of Judah invited sexual immorality and impurity in all forms, child sacrifice at any age, and idolatrous worship into the land.
I believe Josiah thought “what an impossible task” to pick up the ashes left behind by his father and grandfather – but He sensed God’s call and acted upon it.
Can God birth such a reformation in you as a teenager or young adult?
Yes, He can. God is no respector of person or age.
I’m also reminded of the spiritual maturity demonstrated by Daniel and his three teenage friends in the book of “Daniel.” Here are four teenagers who chose in the face of death to not bow down to the pressures of a defiling culture.
“The power to publicly represent your belief comes from integrity and faithfulness to God cultivated privately in the secret places of your life”
For almost sixty-six years Daniel served pagan kings within a pagan culture. He did not once compromise his integrity, character and faith. He refused to bow down to the social, spiritual, and political pressures even in the face of death.
It’s easy to conclude perhaps Daniel and his friends “matured into theses traits,” but the Bible speaks of a time when they were teenagers that resolved to honor God at the expense of being dishonored by men.
During their Babylonian captivity, King Nebuchadnezzar decreed to put Daniel’s three friends to death by throwing them into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow down and worship a statue erected in his image. Daniel’s three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego chose to serve God, and refused to bow to the pressure of idolatrous worship.
Their response to the King was recorded in Daniel 3:16-18 16 "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
The three friends were thrown into the fire and God stood with them in the midst of it, and rescued them. In the end, they were set free and released from the furnace.
“God will stand with you as you honor Him”
Daniel and his friends understood a few things:
Consecration unto God was important - It wasn’t a burden, it was a privilege.
Worshipping God was a daily lifestyle - They worshiped God on His terms, and not theirs.
God’s wisdom through His Word was for their benefit - They rejected ALL avenues of defilement - to their bodies and otherwise.
Commitment to God is not seasonal and haphazard - They calculated the cost of death because of their actions, and was willing to pay it.
Intimacy with God is paramount - Their mental capacity to reject the indoctrination of a foreign lifestyle was a conscious and intentional one.
Faith and Trust in God is what pleases Him – God’s sovereignty and omnipotence ruled in their lives.
"Popularity with God will always trump popularity with men"
Their passion, zeal and commitment to God wasn’t just conjured up at a moment’s whim. Their faith and intimacy with God was cultivated and nurtured from a young age and they invested their time into the disciplines of God.
In today’s culture, the idols we worship may not be as glaring as a six feet statue, or perhaps for some of us it is, but for others it could the insatiable need for fame, fortune, recognition, status, fitting in with the “in crowd," power, prestige and materialism. Maybe we bought the lie that it’s ok to be in an unequally yoked relationship with someone whose life doesn't attest to biblical truths. Perhaps it’s the lie that God is okay with pre-marital sex, and trial runs before marriage is a great way to test the waters. Maybe it’s using language that is acceptable to our friends but dishonoring to God. Maybe it’s a certain addiction we refuse to let go of, or perhaps it’s certain movies or music that filters through our eyes and ears that displeases the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it’s the adoption of the world’s view of life that we measure our commitment to God.
“Being in Church and associating yourself as a Christian doesn’t always mean you are living in and for Christ”
We know as teenagers, you struggle through a barrage of thoughts and emotions, but you can overcome by following Daniel’s example. As an older man, after Daniel learnt of his death penalty to be thrown into the lion’s den, he did what came naturally to him – He got alone with God and talked it out. The Bible says in Daniel 6: 10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”
Daniel cultivated the habit of talking with God and understood intimacy with God was essential in keeping himself pure and his faith strong. In the end, God shut the mouths of the lions and Daniel was set free.
Are you a teenager conflicted with external cultural pressures that lure you to compromise your walk with God?
"Don’t try to fit in when you were born to stand out"
Josiah’s testimony as was Daniel and his friends can be summed up as young men who "did right in the eyes of God,” “who did not turn aside from God," and “who walked in the ways of God.” They understood their spiritual DNA in God, and represented it well against all odds.
Can God say the same things about you?
"As a Christian, you serve an audience of ‘One,’ and when God is clapping, no other applause matters"
Age ISN’T just a number, redeem it wisely.