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Last month we were investigating a statement made by the pastor of a church when a family had decided to take their children out of the youth group because of negative influences in their lives from that youth group. The pastor told the parents concerning the rock music being played during the youth group, “If your children are firmly grounded in Christ it will not affect them.” Here is a link to Part 1 of this series.
A youth who is “firmly grounded in Christ” may be aware of things he believes to be wrong at youth group. However, there are also many fun things that will pull his heart to wanting to continue attending. “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14). Those lusts of the flesh may have a stronger pull on his heart than his grounding in Christ. He may also be concerned that if he discusses problems with the youth group with his dad and mom, he might be asked to stop going to the youth group.
While on the subject of the youth group leader there is something very important to consider although not directly related to the e-mail. There is a problem that surfaces when we place our children under someone else’s leadership to spiritually guide them. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Jesus is telling us that authority and leadership needs to be clearly defined. There can be only one leader. Aren’t you glad there is only one pilot on airplanes? The pilot is the one in command, and he is responsible for whatever happens with that aircraft. This is similar to Dad being responsible to the Lord for his decisions.
Just imagine for a moment that the cabin crew is being given conflicting directions by the pilot and copilot. The crew would become resentful and possibly even have feelings against one of the two giving orders. Jesus is saying that if our children are being given different direction by their dad versus a youth group leader, they will hate the one and love the other. In fact, considering that youth groups are often fun and games, and Dad may at times be exhorting or even rebuking the child, it should not be too difficult to tell who the child will give their heart to.
I find that most parents are highly sensitive to peer pressure themselves. Why would they expect their children to stay strong and not be influenced by the youth with whom they are associating? I remember a conversation with one dad where we were discussing the merits of ditching the “beast” (TV). He was in full agreement with the negatives of the “beast” when all of a sudden it was as if a red light came on in his mind, and he exclaimed, “But what will others think of us if we don’t have a TV?” Here was an example of a group of people with whom this man associated whose influence was so strong in his life that he was mentally passing a decision by them and realizing that they would not approve of it. Even though it was just going on in his mind, it was causing him second thoughts about doing something that he had acknowledged would be good for his family. If parents can’t resist peer pressure, why do we think our children will be stronger than we are? “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
I’m convinced that most parents forget the pressure and temptations they experienced during their teen and young adult years. The power of the flesh is so strong! Crimes have been committed and countless marriages destroyed because men and women couldn’t contain themselves. Adults are supposed to be mature and have self-control over the desires of the flesh, yet one doesn’t need to go far for examples of failure. I’m thinking of a very godly pastor who was loved and respected by those who knew him. His church was devastated and friends greatly saddened by news of his moral failure. Here was a mature man who understood Scripture and preached against sin, yet he had embraced sin for a season. With so many examples similar to this, why is it that parents don’t understand the incredible temptations their children will encounter in youth groups? Why would we think our children will be strong enough to resist?
I also wonder if parents living within the bonds of marriage forget what it is like to live apart. They forget what it is like to be a youth entering puberty with hormones raging and the resulting temptations and desires. Solomon knew the power of attraction and love and warned about stirring it up too early. “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please” (Song of Solomon 3:5). Putting youth in youth groups or sitting them in front of the TV is going to stir “love.” Wise parents will encourage their children to avoid relationships until they are emotionally, spiritually, and financially ready for marriage. Then, they look to God to show who He has to be their spouse. Why would we think our children will be strong?
I believe one dad’s recent comments sums up the needed commitment for each of us. “I have served five combat tours to Iraq. I was ready to die for my country, but I will give my life to get my children’s hearts back. Jesus already owns my soul.” When I read the passion in that dad’s statements, it was like driving a hot poker through my heart. Amen and amen. This man lost his children’s hearts while away serving our country, but he was determined to get them back. Most dads are home every night. What excuse will God accept for not having our children’s hearts and raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?