Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Couches on fire

How two young men led their peers away from lust and toward Christ

When God grips the heart of a young man for the purpose of transforming him into material fit for His use, the process is often violent. One moment you see sparks of brilliance and the next you see sparks from the sofa he just chose to turn into a smoke signal to his buddy across the room.

So when a young man approaches me with a “good idea” my kneejerk reaction is to fall into a posture of skepticism and to swiftly but subtlety place myself between these young men and any other innocent targets of their adolescent genius.

My cynicism was dealt a welcome blow in January at the Leadership Advance (JLC), our annual conference for young men. The group of around 60 young men had been broken into smaller groups that for the most part go through the three day event as a small group together.

Two young men in my small group both of whom I have had the privilege of discipling separately the past few years had hit it off and apparently had got to talking about all that God has done in them the past three years. They are indeed two examples of young men in whom the Spirit has left no area untouched by his winnowing grace.

They came to me with a courageous suggestion. Both of them had been struggling with sexual sin when we first met. But as I have seen time and time again, this sin so deeply rooted, was no match for the strong and kind hands of our triune God. Both of them have seen God work to such an extent that what had enslaved them for so long has been replaced by freedom and a life given over to serving God and others rather than serving themselves.

These two young men wanted to do something crazy. They wanted to share with the guys in their group how they found freedom from their enslavement to lust. They were passionate and serious about sharing not so much about the depth of their struggles but the depth of God’s mercy and the freedom that is so very real at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. I knew these guys. Yes they are young and are not beyond the occasional indoor smoke signal, but when it comes to their faith they are passionate and sober minded about seeing other young men experience the joy of their salvation. They had come to see the freedom that can only come from allowing Christ to topple the lying adolescent idols that without care are as common to the young man’s heart as weeds are in my garden at home. They wanted passionately to communicate the hope that is available to young men from lips that would carry a special kind of weight. God’s promises are not wishful thinking.

I said yes and prayed that God would be glorified and I wouldn’t be mortified.

What the hell happened?

How the cross makes sense of our suffering

My Friend,

Many young Christians, particularly those growing up in nice Christian homes, avoid or are “protected” from asking uncomfortable but absolutely vital questions about God, the world, and themselves. You landed on one of the most important and one of the most thorny of those questions yesterday.

“What do you say to someone who knows there is a God, but doesn’t feel that he or she can trust that God because of the pain they have experienced?”

When I set all of the potential answers to this problem aside one another, however, I really do think that unless we center our answer around the cross of Christ it won’t matter how “right” the answer is, the truth will taste like ash in our mouths. The cross is the climax of human history, it changed the world, it was indeed the solution to the problem of sin, and it is the answer to our suffering and the suffering of those around us. The cross is the only answer that can satisfy our deepest needs, including the need to make sense of our pain.

In this regard I want to take a moment to reiterate what I said in answer to your question on Monday in hopes that it will give you something more clear to chew on and consider.

Let me start with a story that I hope will provide an analogy that may begin to provide some clarity.