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 Both of them have seen God work to such an extent that what had enslaved them for so long has been replaced by freedom and a life given over to serving God and others rather than serving themselves.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.

The evening progressed and as I was slowly recovering my bearings after a well aimed pillow to the head, and as we were all dropping exhausted onto our sleeping bags after a long and full day, these two gutsy guys got our attention. They proceeded after a few introductory words to share how deeply they had struggled with this oft entangling sin but far more than that they shared about how deeply they had experienced the healing work of Jesus. This was not one of those exhibitionistic displays that tries to cover a glorification of sin with the veneer of churchy words. Though they were clear about the areas and seriousness of their bondage I was profoundly impressed by the discernment they displayed in framing the whole conversation in a wisdom that filled me with joy and no small amount of amazement.

As the conversation came to an end one of the young men leading the discussion said, “let me summarize.” And he proceeded to give the following counsel:

1.      We all need to be discipled. We need accountability. We were not designed to fight this fight alone. And the best person to walk alongside you is your father. Seek out your dad and let him fight alongside you.

2.      Fences are not the answer but they are a blessing and if we are serious we must establish solid fences within which we can better grow in maturity and prepare for those times when there are no fences. Rather than being annoyed or angry at fences we should seek them out. He then proceeded to give very specific examples of software and practices that make for effective fences.

3.      Most important is a growing relationship and love for Christ. This means we must establish good consistent habits of reading God’s Word and talking to Him in prayer. More than anything, it is a consistent time with God that has made the difference.

If we challenge our young men to put away their immaturity are we willing to trust them when they do? Do we really believe there is more to young men than couches on fire? Thank God that the adolescent heart is no match for the grace of God, and that when God moves in the lives of young men peer pressure can then produce a harvest of righteousness leading others away from lust and all manner of sin and toward the joy of freedom in Christ.

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