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The Church Prepares Youth to Live for Jesus

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Over 70% of church attending teenagers…teenagers who regularly attend church when they are in their parents homes…over 70%…walk away from Christianity within a few years of leaving their parents home…this number has risen over the last few years alone. Which means less than three out of 10 church attending teenagers in America persist in their faith and this number is falling briskly.
And remember those are the ones who regularly attend church. 
On top of that…at no other time in modern history and in no other culture in modern history is it more likely that a child will have 2 unbelieving parents.
And in a recent study of American youth in which youth from various backgrounds were asked basic questions about the Christian faith…those youth claiming to be Christian scored lowest on the test…about the Christian faith.
This is why…in the generation under the age of 25 when using biblical definitions of who are the saved, it has been recently estimated that less than 5% of this generation is saved. 
As someone who has a passion and heart and concern for the future…especially the eternal future…of young people…these numbers tell me something…they are a direction and a diagnosis.
And they call us…the Church…parents...to something...
We believe God is powerful and in control of all things…we believe His promises…
We believe in the power of His resurection and the power of the Church…the body of Christ.
We believe that without faith we can do nothing…but with Jesus…all things are possible. No matter what the situation.
To the trajectory seems grim and not headed in the right direction. Our kids are up against it and swimming in dangerous waters.
And we are on a mission for God…we are devoted to Him and united in this mission with one another…we hold the sword of the Spirit in our hands and have the power of the Spirit within us. God has put us in this very place at this very time for a reason.
Romans 8:28 ESV
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
And church this is one of the purposes He has called us to.
To prepare the youth in our homes…in our church and families…and even those whom He sends on Wednesday nights...
To prepare them to live for Jesus…no matter what the world around them says or does…we are called to empower the youth in our midst to...
Live for Jesus by the Power of the Spirit for the glory of God!
And persist in that faith not only when they leave our homes…but until the end.
Months ago Tadd said…I think God may move in this church through our youth.
A few weeks ago Ryan said to our youth…this is not just your parents church.
As I think about these statistics and the direction of our country and society over the next generation…I have 2 very strong competing emotions.
The first is urgency…because putting these together means that most of the youth in our communities are not saved and most of those who claim to be Christian know very little about the faith and do not truly know Jesus and will therefore walk away from it soon after leaving their parents homes.
The second emotion is hopeful expectation.
Our God is not a God limited by statistics…He is sovereign over all creation…and all people…and all cultures.
He is faithful to His promises…and He tells us.
2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
This situation of our current culture that I have described is the situation we see over and over in the Old Testament.
The culture is bad…and in that…those calling themselves God’s people not living as God’s people…but God’s people by name only.
Not bringing up their children to honor God and live fully for His glory.
Not truly living in a way that glorifies God. Living like the pagans…not living set apart from God. Therefore not truly His.
The Lord says it like this in the time of Isaiah:
Isaiah 29:13 ESV
And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
And 2000 years ago Jesus said the same thing about His generation.
Matthew 15:8 ESV
“ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
They are what the New Testament would call lukewarm or false...living like everyone else…with hearts far from God...
Therefore God sends punishment or curse upon them…
AND God quite often does something else in these times...
He raises up someone…many times a young person or young people...
Even some of the disciples were likely fairly young when they began to follow Jesus…some teenagers.
This gives me great excitement and anticipation…because...
One of the distinctives of our church…and I think you can even say of the Church is this...
The Church Prepares Youth to Live for Jesus
As many of you know one of my great passions (and the initial call God put on my life when He called and equipped me to teach His Word) is to teach God's Word to the youth.
We take this very seriously as a Church.
And for me there is this excitement...this desire to make sure that a few things will be clear and obvious to our youth...
God’s Word is the truth…
There is great power in prayer...
Living for Jesus is the only way to live…because He is everything.
My great desire and hope is that we rise up a generation in the midst of these cultural pressures who are standing on the Rock of their salvation…in love with the Church…and ready do do anything for the Lord!
There a few characteristics of this youth Generation that we need to understand.
They are searching for answers.
They can tell a fake from a mile away.
They have less preconceived notions (for better or worse) than some of us have built up over years in the church.
They are searching for purpose and not finding it in the world.
So what about the flip side? What can we say about the very few youth of faith who persist in their faith when they leave their parents homes?
The far majority walk away…but what about the ones who do not?
Is there something about the population of youth who claimed Christianity as a youth and remained a born-again believer as an adult?
When you look back at their lives...what were the main factors in their youth…their families…their church...to equip them with a persistent faith…one that proved to be real?
If this is our passion in this Church…to...
Prepare our youth to live for Jesus…to persist in their faith until the end...
To make an impact on this world for the glory of God.
How do we do that?
God’s word tells us…and it is simple…not easy…but simple.
We will look at 2 Tim 3 in one minute...
Before I get to that…let’s see if this plays out in the world...
Because we have a promise...
Proverbs 22:6 ESV
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
What does that mean…are there certain things that we need to focus on with the youth to give them the kind of faith that persists…that they will not depart from.
And I am not talking only about helpingthem to find a church when they are older...
I mean a real, powerful, authentic, bold faith…one that makes an impact for God’s glory.
So I have another study for us...
A new LifeWay Research study commissioned by LifeWay Kids surveyed that other group of kids...thousands churchgoers who have adult children ages 18 to 30.
The goal of the project was to discover what church and parenting practices were common in the families where young adults rose above the cultural pressures and remained in the faith.
We talked earlier about exodus from the faith in young adults in America…but what about the ones whose faith proved to be real....
What affected their moral and spiritual development? What factors stood out?
You might have some ideas or guesses...
The research (compiled now in the new book) indicated that children who remained faithful as young adults...grew up in homes and churches where these certain practices were present.
These were the 6 most powerful practices upon the faith of a Child.
1. BIBLE READING
2. PRAYER
3. SERVING IN THE CHURCH BODY
4. CHRISTIAN MUSIC
5. FAMILY AND CHURCH CULTURE, BUT NOT PROGRAMS
6. SEEING FAITH LIVED OUT IN THE LIVES OF PARENTS AND ADULTS
This is where we need to be careful…our God is not a God of statistics…the Christian life is one of prayer and faith…not formulas…
We follow a God of glory and power and miracles.
He will not be boxed in…but He also does not leave us blind or confused...
So I want to finish by opening God’s Word and seeing if this makes good biblical sense...and what we can learn…be encouraged by…and apply to our Church and our homes...
As we ask...
What kind of culture do we want in our homes and churches?
What space are we creating for our children to flourish for the Lord and overcome the world?
How are we rooting our families and church in God’s Word?
How are we modeling prayer and repentance?
What does the Christian life look like in our home?
What are they seeing from their parents and what example are we setting for the youth in our community who do not have parents that love the Lord?
What are the songs that are in our homes and hearts and on our lips and in our ears?
How are we fulfilling the Great Commission as parents and adults in the church? How are we serving and sacrificing for the gospel?
How are we serving the least of these?
Let’s continue ask these questions and beg God to work in us and through us, for his glory and our families good…and the healing of this land.
I am thinking particularly of what kind of instrument are we in our relationship to young people, the young people in our church, the young people in your family, the young people in your neighborhood, the young people, perhaps in your wider family circle.
To help us to do that, I want you to return with me to a place we were a couple weeks ago...2 Tim 3.
What I want to end with is taking what we see in Gods’ word…apply it to each of these areas…with an application for us as parents and our church.
Throughout 2 Timothy the apostle Paul compares Timothy and how He is to live…versus what is happening or will happen in the culture.
And remember in 1 Timothy he told young Timothy.
1 Timothy 4:12 ESV
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
So how? How does a young person become that kind of living example of the power of Christ?
Let’s dive into God’s Word with these verses...
2 Timothy 3:14–15 ESV
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Lets quickly look at the context and see if it seems to be applicable to our day and our church and our families and our youth.
2 Timothy 3:1–5 ESV
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
Appearance of Godliness…may call themselves believers or Christian or spiritual…but deny its power...
What power?
The power for them to overcome their love of self…their pride…their disobedience…their recklessness…they will deny the power of God to do that work in them…they will deny the power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify them...
Then to verse 10 we see the remedy...
2 Timothy 3:10–13 ESV
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
So there is an antidote to this culture of self and disobedience and pride and greed…and it is…power…the power of God in us...
And…example…the power of discipleship. The power of living this together and seeing how others endure in their love for Jesus.
And how do we know that and experience that…how do we instill that into our youth…what is the instrument the Spirit uses to empower His people?
And how will that happen?

1. BIBLE READING AND TEACHING

2 Timothy 3:14–15 ESV
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The biggest factor by far in this study of youth who endure in their faith…and the Biblical calling on us...Bible reading and teaching.
Children who regularly read the Bible themselves and hear the Bible taught and explained to them...are more likely to persist in their love of Christ.
This should not surprise us. God’s Word is powerful.
We just read this prayer from Paul...
Philippians 1:9–11 ESV
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
The Bible lays out the history of our world and helps us interpret our lives and make decisions within the framework of a biblical worldview. The Bible tells us of our savior and the depths of God’s love and grace towards us…and the gospel of salvation.
Bible reading is a constant reminder that we live as followers of a powerful God. Our King has spoken. He reigns over us. We want to walk in his ways.
It makes us wise to our salvation.
Why wisdom?
Proverbs 4:5–7 ESV
Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.
And we get that from reading and living and seeing and studying and hearing and the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.
Notice how wisdom functions. It is a path to a goal. The Scriptures make you wise unto salvation.
How can we persist and be wise unto salvation if we do not pursue wisdom found in God’s Word?
In wisdom we are also pursuing happiness...
Proverbs 3:13 CSB
Happy is a man who finds wisdom and who acquires understanding,
Consider
Proverbs 24:13–14 ESV
My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.
So this makes sense...
If you (and our youth) find true wisdom, it will lead you infallibly to a happy future. And that future will last forever…because it makes us wise to our salvation…those who pursue wisdom are the ones who will persist in their faith until the end.
Why…because every truth we implant in our hearts and minds from scripture is imperishable…not like the ways of the world which come and go like the flowers in spring which are gone by November…the Word of the Lord shown to be true and applicable and worthy to the heart of a child…is imperishable.
Every truth from God’s Word taught and learned and cherished in the heart of a Child…will bloom and not fade or be replaced.
1 Peter 1:22–25 ESV
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
This is why we as a Church read the word.
During the week we read God’s Word …we believe it is true…we learn it…we gather together to teach it…and discuss it...and apply it to life…
This is a worthy way to live…it is the path to true and everlasting joy...
And that may be the most powerful thing to give our children in this world of no truth, flimsy faith, and secularism.
If our youth leave our homes and church with the truth implanted in their minds and hearts…and the confidence that the Word of the God is powerful and necessary...
We have given them the power of the Sword of the Spirit…we have given them the power of God.

PRAYER AND SERVICE

Two more factors follow close behind Bible reading and teaching.
Prayer and service in church.
The practice of prayer did not specify whether it was private or corporate, before meals or before bedtime, or in the morning. But prayer was consistently present.
This should also not surprise us.
Our God is a personal God…prayer is a real conversation with our Father…God loves to bless His children...
Prayer is also an act…a display of faith.
Hebrews 11:6 ESV
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
And I also believe that prayer is one of the major influences on the faith of our children because those who rely on prayer are also praying for the faith of their children…and if we ask…we shall receive…but if we do not ask...
James 4:2 ESV
You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.
One interesting note is that Church attendance was not on the list…but youth serving in the Church was super high on the list…obviously to serve in the church youth need to attend the gatherings of the church body…but it was playing an active role in the body...not just attendance…is what meant their faith was real and strong.
It wasn’t just that parents took their kids to church (where “professionals and programs” could feed them spiritually), but that the children were included and integrated into the church through service to the church body. The habit of serving others in the church and community likely formed these young adults in a way that kept them from identifying merely as a churchgoing “consumer,” or a christian by name only…showing up to check a box...but instead as a contributor to the building up of God’s people. Given gifts to serve the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:7 ESV
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
This includes our youth…may we empower them to build up the body for the strengthening of their faith!

SINGING CHRISTIAN SONGS

It may or may not surprise you is how high up on the list this factor was:
Just beneath reading and learningthe Bible…prayer…and servingthe body...
Listening primarily to Christian music
Why would this be? This is the chiken and the egg…it could be that...
Matthew 15:18 ESV
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.
Or
Philippians 4:8–9 ESV
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
This is not a new thing…Augustine about 1600 yeas ago...
Said we sing the truth into our hearts.
When we sing together as congregations and when we praise God on our own or in our cars or homes...or sing songs that speak of our faith, we reinforce the beauty of our faith into our hearts.
God has ordained the emotions of saying truths through singing as powerful.

FAMILY AND CHURCH CULTURE, NOT PROGRAMS

For the last few decades now, many Christians have assumed that certain church programs are the key factors in a child’s spiritual development: Vacation Bible school, youth group activities, Sunday school, and so on…this has not proven t be effective.
It’s the culture of the family and church that integrate children and young people into spiritual disciplines of the family and church, not separating them from it.
When the youth are doing the same things as the adults…either with or along side the adults...and involved in what the adults are doing…reading the bible…praying…serving…that the faith grows.
Also notable in this is the impact...of the adults example of reading Scripture, serving the needy, sharing their faith with unbelievers, and asking for forgiveness after sinning.
In other words, the more the youth experience and see repentant, joyful Christian life was modeled, the more likely children are to have true faith and remain in the faith.

THE POWER OF IMITATION AND ENVIRONMENT

2 Timothy 3:10–11 ESV
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.
There is no perfect parenting formula. Don’t overestimate your power. The Holy Spirit saves, not you.
But don’t underestimate the Spirit’s power to work through the environment and example you create for your home and they see in our church.
There’s great power in faithful, Christian imitation. It is throughout the Bible...There is power in youth seeing not only their parents live and talk for Jesus…but they need to see this and live this with other adults who truly believe that Jesus is better than life.
That the word is true…that prayer is powerful.
Youth will believe when they hear…know…and SEE to be true!!!
The question is:
What are they going to take when they are gone?
If our youth leave our homes knowing that Jesus is everything…the Spirit is powerful…the Word is true…prayer is real…and God has them on a mission…with the gospel…for His glory.
Then they will persist...live for Jesus…by the power of the Spirit…for the Glory of God.
The value of knowing and seeing the life of Christ in their parents and in the life of adults in their Church is vitally important…for their faith…and their perseverance…and who knows...what our children can become despite any obstacles.
God knows!
Timothy learned the faith from his mom and grandma…a normal boy who had an example...Paul helped disciple young Timothy into a man of God and then a preacher of the Gospel…from a boy who learned the Word and faith from His mom…to a man who loved Christ…and…we get another small glimpse into the bold man that Timothy had become...
Timothy was willing to do whatever it took to live for Jesus and spread the Gospel…Timothy wasn’t walking away from His faith...
Look at Heb 13 23...
So this is the third to last verse and just seemingly tucked into the closing of the letter of Hebrews...
Hebrews 13:23 ESV
You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon.
Somebody tell me what that means…he has been released.
It means this young man who learned the faith from His mom and was discipled by Paul…at times a seemingly timid preacher who was encouraged by Paul to live and preach boldly...
This young man who knew God’s Word and lived out his faith from a young age...
That Timothy became a man so committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ that he was prepared to go to prison for the glory of the Lord.
Don’t we want to be a people and bring up a generation of children who so love the Lord Jesus Christ…and desire to live for God’s glory....that even if it means going to prison for Him…in many places in the western world…that day may may not be so far away…that nothing will stop us or them…from living for the glory of God!
So what do we do with this Church...Christian parents? Youth...
Our children’s greatest need is a church family and home where they can thrive in Christ, learn the Word, serve, and be served. And see adults who live this way live for Jesus.
May we be that people...those parents…may Revival be that Church.
Amen
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