For decades now, Youth Group generally involves some 2o something dude, who may or may not be a little bit creepy, telling kids about staying “pure” until marriage, avoiding the world’s music and movies, what swimsuits girls should wear, and that boys should “bounce” their eyes so as not to ensnared by the inevitable lust.
We lived in terror of our children becoming worldly, so we amped up the pressure, laid down the law, covered everything up and valiantly warred against the flesh.
And we are now reaping the results. Not so good.
What we were actually doing, according to the scripture, was catering to the flesh, believing that righteousness would come by the law. And we are reaping the results of sowing. It is a pretty ugly crop, and exactly what God said it would be:
(Galatians 6:7-8) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
Everyone has the deep desire, the idolatry to seek to purify themselves. We insist that we can fix our own problems if we just apply the right technique. The Bible calls this “the flesh”, and nowhere was that more evident than in the “purity culture” of the past decades.
All we have accomplished is increased guilt and shame, fueling greater and greater lusts seeking to overcome guilt and shame, which in turn increases guilt and shame even more. We have given our children no tools whatsoever in the battle against the prince of the power of the air, and we have reaped the whirlwind. Despair and death reign, for we made a covenant with death and turned our back on the Lord of life.
Look at your own experience. If you went to youth group, did you hear more about the evils of Harry Potter, exposed collar bones, swimsuits that exposed the tummy and the dangers of lust?
Or did you hear about the Lord of glory, dying for your sin? How he took upon himself our shame and guilt? How he is softly and tenderly calling you into his arms?
Did you learn all about your wrong choices? Or did you learn about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, who has broken the bands of death so that we might live forever before him?
So here are some things that I think are far better things for our youth to learn. Let’s start teaching these things instead of “purity culture.”
- Boys and girls are created by God. They have dignity and worth as image-bearers of God.
- Minds and souls and personalities and gifts are wonderful things and ought to be celebrated and honored.
- But mankind is fallen. We have corrupted ourselves because we wanted to be gods and serve only ourselves. So now we are lonely, miserable, isolated, shamed, guilty, because we were not made to serve ourselves. We were made to reflect another.
- But God loves his creation and doesn’t want anyone to perish. So he sent his only begotten Son into the world to redeem us from the bondage of lusts and shame and guilt and misery.
- His goal in sending his Son was not that you might continue to live in shame, but that you might be free and clean and holy and dressed in his righteousness alone, worthy and acceptable in his sight.
- And now God is calling us all to lay down our weapons. Lay down our demands to serve ourselves, and come home.
- Whatever we have done, and whatever others have done to us, in Jesus’ sight, you are not filthy, unclean, dirty, unwanted, unloved.
- You can stand before him exactly as you are. You don’t have to pretend anymore. You don’t have to hide. He already knows. He knows what you have done. He knows what was done to you. He knows your hurts. He knows the dark, secret places; he knows where the cancer is and he desires to take it on himself and nail it to his cross.
- And he desires that you simply come to him. He wants you to take that guilt and shame that you have been carrying around, and leave it with him. He looks right at you and says, “Do you want to be healed?”
- And he wants you to receive what only he can give you – a clean conscience. Purity. Worthiness. Dignity.
- You are worth it. He fights for justice for you and will make every crooked path straight. You can leave that with him.
- You are worth it, for he died and rose for you.
- You are worth it, for you are not a ruined flower, you are not a dirty person, you are not whatever wicked men have said you were. You are in Christ. A dearly loved son or daughter. Accepted in the beloved.
- You are not your own, but belong to your faithful savior Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all your sins and redeemed you from all the power of the devil, and so preserves you that without the will of your Father in heaven, not a hair can fall from your head. In fact, all things must work together for your salvation. Therefore by his Holy Spirit, he also assures you of eternal life and makes you heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto him.
- Wow. I am loved. Valuable. With dignity. With honor – because I am not my own, but belong to my Savior.
Can you imagine how different our lives would be and the lives of our children would be if we (and they) understood and believed these things?