This sermon is directed mostly toward our teenagers, but secondarily at their parents who are responsible to God for being the first stage of training for them to be in His kingdom. The sermon is largely a warning against being complacent, because God will not allow us to escape our responsibility. It matters not whether you're a teen, or whether you're an adult, because we all have responsibilities and God expects us to carry them out.
I want you to understand at the very beginning that I am giving this because I'm a husband, I'm a father, I'm a grandfather, and I am a great-grandfather, and a minister, and I love you; and secondly, because I Corinthians 7:14 shows that you are sanctified by God because of your parents calling, and I don't want you to lose what is undoubtedly the greatest gift you have been given in your life to this time. You may not see it that way, but as a minister I do see it that way, and I want to pass onto you a bit of wisdom I think that I ought to be able to give to you.
Now just as assuredly that we parents can lose our sanctification, you children can lose your sanctification that has come upon you as a result of your parents' calling. Life is serious business. It is not all fun and games, and I am calling upon you parents to interpret this for your children and to make it practical.
We're going to begin in II Peter 3:3-4.
II Peter 3:3-4 Know this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts. And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
I know that this is hard for teens to grasp because of their lack of experience, but the world you are living in is not normal even for this world. In six thousand years of human history, only one other time equates what you are living through, and that is the time that Peter mentions within the context of this paragraph, and that is the period of time leading up to the flood of Noah. Out of that horrible mess, kids, ...I want you think about this, ...only eight people were saved alive. In terms of the number of those who will be spared from horrible deaths, it won't be quite so bad this time around, but only because of God's purpose, God's promise, and the existence of the Church.
I want you to go from here back to the Old Testament to Daniel 12:4.
Daniel 12:4 But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
One of the signs of the end time is what is described here: "Many running to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." I think it's pretty easy to see that many are running to and fro. We just flew out here to Phoenix. The airplane was full. When we left the Charlotte airport, it was full of people. When we got to Phoenix, it was full of people milling around, going here and there within the terminal, waiting for somebody to come in, or to get on an airplane. I know that this is just a microcosm of what is going on all over the world.
It says there that "knowledge shall be increased." This is also self-evident. Anywhere you look, the technological knowledge that the world you are living in right now has, did not exist, except in a very early form even fifty years ago. Fifty years ago television was just coming on the scene. It had been invented by the late thirties, but it was only a laboratory item until about the late forties and early fifties when it began to hit the stores. Radio is much different now from what it was then, and so are many, many others things as well. So we're dealing with things that are evident even to somebody who did not live through the entirety of that period—that people are running to and fro, and also that knowledge has increased. Of course this knowledge has to include biblical knowledge as well, and that has to come in the mix.
There is something else about this verse I want you to think of seriously. That is, this phrase "to and fro" is not to be limited to people literally going from one place to another. Indeed it does mean that, but the words in Hebrew that make up this little phrase can also indicate something that is going on entirely invisible within a person's mind. In other words, the minds of people are casting back and forth as though they are in midst of a puzzle, a mystery, an enigma that they can't figure out; or they are all stressed, and their minds are flashing back and forth because of all the stress that is on them.
So "to and fro" includes things that are obvious, and things that are not quite so obvious as well. But whether it is in the mind, or actually taking place, it is part of the terminology God uses to describe what is happening in this world. The pressure of events can be described as "to and fro" as well. Great perplexity or excitement have the possibility of pleasures, or maybe even fear, that one will not be able to escape the dangers that are on the horizon. You are living in unusual times to say the least. It is so unusual that Jeremiah 30:1-7 describes it this way. Listen to these words young people, because they apply to this time.
Jeremiah 30:1-3 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Thus speaks the LORD God of Israel, saying, Write you all the words that I have spoken unto you in a book. For, lo, the days come says the LORD that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, says the LORD, and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.
This has not happened yet. We are in the time that is immediately before the captivity a second time of the children of Israel and of Judah.
Jeremiah 30:4-7 And these are the words that the LORD spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah. For thus says the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask you now, and see whether a man does travail with child? Wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble: but he shall be saved out of it.
The pressures of living in this world are mounting, because God is drawing the entire world toward the conclusion of the plan that He is working out. There is nothing we can do about those operations, because the timetable of events is in His powerful and capable hands, and nobody can turn Him aside. We can, however, change our attitude about what is going on in order to take good advantage of it. The choice is up to you, and you cannot honestly blame anybody but yourself if you waste your knowledge of what God has mercifully made available to your understanding because He has called your parents.
Did you notice how God illustrated the uniqueness of the times that we live in? Have you ever heard of a man giving birth to a child? That would really be unique. That's how different the times you are living in right now are, even from the time before the flood. There is no other time period that can compare to what you are living into, that we have entered into over the last fifty years or so.
By way of illustration, here in the United States of America, our nation is not merely in drought, but forty percent of it is in severe drought, including Charlotte, where we just came from. Never in the history that people have been keeping records in the United States of America has so much forest land burned in one year. Check out the first chapter of the book of Joel. Meanwhile, in Europe, and most specifically in Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, over a trillion dollars of damage has been done by unprecedented floods. Southern Russia is also experiencing major flood damage. Terrorism, and counter-terrorism continues unabated in the Middle East. In Africa, almost a whole continent is gradually dying from a combination of desertification, and in Central and Southern Africa from dissemination from AIDS.
Yesterday we heard a statistic which to me is mind-boggling. Every day in Africa six thousand children die from drinking contaminated water. This is just one continent, and just the children [who are dying] from drinking contaminated water. Ignorance of AIDS, the cause of AIDS, and how to combat it appears to be largely responsible for those people's problems with it.
But we also have an AIDS problem right inside the Church. No, it's not the Acquired Immunity Deficiency Syndrome, but the Adolescent Invincibility Disorder Syndrome, and ignorance should not be a problem unless you, young people, in your determination to have a good time, stick your head figuratively in a bucket and ignore what is going on around you; or worse yet, be aware of what is going on around you, and wittingly, willingly choose not to do anything positive about it.
One of the changes that has taken place in the last fifty years is that adolescence begins much earlier now than it did then, and it ends much later than it did then. Irresponsibility is a major hallmark of immaturity, and irresponsibility is a hallmark of our time. The adolescent thinks that he is immune to disaster, impervious to harm, indestructible, immortal, and invisible.
The city of Charlotte is a typical medium-sized city with roughly one and a half million people. It doesn't have the huge population of a New York, or Chicago, or Los Angeles, and it doesn't have the reputation for violence either. But there is not a week that goes by without the news media reporting of one or more teenagers being killed, or killing someone, doing something stupid. For the most part these are not bad kids. They are not gang-related incidents that I'm talking about, and for the most part they aren't even drug related. They are careless and foolish kids who are essentially unaware of the dangerous circumstances they put themselves and others in, and they pay with their lives.
When we got into Phoenix yesterday, we almost immediately heard on the radio of an accident that took place during the lunch period of Canyon High School, I believe it was, where three kids were in a pickup truck coming back to campus from eating lunch at a Burger King restaurant. You guessed it. One of those kids is dead because they were going too fast. The other two, I guess, went to the hospital.
My question to you is, "What are you going to do about your life?" You stand in a unique position when compared to the young people in this world. I want you to consider that the average person on earth is illiterate, undernourished, and has a life expectancy of only 45 to 50 years. So maybe if you lived in the Sahel (the southern edge of the Sahara Desert) of Africa instead of the United States or Canada, and you knew the drift of the world and where it is headed, you would still be virtually choiceless.
But the fact is, you don't live there. You live in the Western world. You are not ignorant. You are not undernourished, and your life span is in excess of seventy. Now you might be foolish and careless, but you still have options most of the kids in the world do not have. You have access to all of the technology, and to libraries, and your life is virtually carefree by comparison, but there are still choices that must be made. And I repeat, ...must be made. They cannot be avoided, because you are unique in having the most important of all options given to young people anywhere on this planet.
One of the most important understandings revealed to the Church of God directly involves you, and it gives you an option that no other young people in this world have. In I Corinthians 7:14 it says, "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean; but now they are holy (meaning set apart)." All of mankind is cut off from God, but not your parents, and not you.
Now you may try to persuade yourself that this world is one which by nature does not give a person a chance for making good, that it's one in which there is nothing but the fatalistic acceptance of defeat. I'm here to tell you that such is not the case with you, because God says you are clean. That means He holds you to be clean. It does not mean sinless, but you're still legally clean in His sight. You are therefore acceptable in His presence, and you have the opportunity to have true success in life as a result of this. You have the opportunity to believe God, to cast your lot with Him, and to be spared the horror of having to face the terror that is in this world—a terror of a level of absolute terrific turmoil that we are not very far from.
I believe the majority of you believe as your parents do, (and that as much as your age and your understanding permits) that this is part of God's True Church. Some of you though are hostile, and may even be attending against your will, and you may feel this Church cramps your style, that you would rather be elsewhere having fun. But whatever your reason for being here, I still want you to think seriously about your future because your future may be just as clouded as those kids in the Sahel.
Now perhaps above all, I don't want you to be careless about your sanctification. Let me ask you something, and I want you to answer this to yourself, and I know that you know the answer to it. Can your parents lose their sanctification because they don't pay attention to God, and thus go into the Lake of Fire? Now you know the answer to this is "yes." They can lose their sanctification. Now what makes you think different rules apply to you? I want you to understand a very simple principle: Law plays no favorites. Law doesn't care whether you're male or female, whether you're thirteen, nineteen, or ninety-three. I'll give a simple example: If a ninety-three year old male jumps off the 80th floor of the Empire State Building, which direction will he go? Now what if a 16-year old girl does the same thing? Do you get the drift? The law of gravity doesn't play any favorites at all. We have to remember that.
Law doesn't care what your race is, what your sex is, or what your age is, and so if parents who are sanctified break the laws of God persistently, what's going to happen? They're going to lose their sanctification. If a seventeen year old, or an eighteen year old does the same thing, even though their parents are sanctified and the children are held to be clean because of God's judgment on that, you can lose yours too.
Titus 2:1-6 But speak you the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity [or love], in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becomes holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things: That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children. To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
I want you to look at these verses in an over-all sense. The over-all intent of these instructions to a church pastor is an exhortation for the various age groups to hold to a sense of duty in regard to their conduct. But what is important in an overall sense is that none of the instructions given here should be ignored simply because they are not addressed directly to you, to your sex, or to your age group. Let me give you an example. If it says "girls should be discreet and modest," does it mean then, because it's addressed to girls, that a fellow may be as indiscreet and immodest as he wants because he's a guy? Do you get the drift? Simply because the fellows are not mentioned in regard to that does not excuse them from being discreet and modest as well. In an overall sense here, God is telling all of us—parents, young people, male, female, whatever—to be sane, sober-thinking, serious about our responsibilities, exercising self-control, curbing our passions, and that we are to aim at self-mastery.
There is a proverb that teaches: "He that rules his spirit is better than he who takes a city." Ruling one's spirit involves self-discipline. Self-discipline is willing yourself to do the right, regardless of feelings. It may not be glamorous, but young people, I hope you will take this from me—it is the stuff of life.
All of us have to understand that youth is a time of danger, because youth has a strong tendency and a long history of being shortsighted, lacking vision, and over-confident. A short-sighted person is always reckless and lacking in discipline because he sees no reason why he should think soberly and hold himself in unless the reason is immediately in front of him.
Think about that young man who was killed yesterday on his way back to school during the lunch hour. He was short-sighted. He was speeding in a place where he had no business speeding, but they were hurrying to get back, and because of that carelessness he ends up dead. Now suppose, on the way back to the school, something happened to make him slow down, regardless of him being short-sighted, if that something that made him slow down happened to be a cop. You see, it would have been right in front of him, and the chances are very great, that because the warning was right there, right then, he would have slowed down, and he would be alive.
What I'm getting at here is that youth has a tendency not to think ahead of the possibilities that his acts are putting him in danger of being hurt by. The reckless, the foolish, simply have not discovered all that can go wrong, because they have a careless tendency not to count the cost of doing something until after they get hurt. That's why this advice is in Titus 2:1-6.
Let's go back to the book of Revelation, and we'll pick up chapter 3, verses 9 and 10. This is something that I think you are all familiar with. This is part of the message to the Philadelphia Church.
Revelation 3:9-10 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
I read that because all of you young people know that God has offered this Philadelphia group protection from the worst of the problems that are coming on this world, things that are sure to happen. That's an extremely valuable piece of knowledge that is backed by God's absolute promise.
Another question: What is it that puts the Philadelphian into the position where he is able to be a recipient of this promise? God gives the answer. He says, "Because you have kept the word of My patience." Young people have a tendency not to be patient. The Philadelphian thinks ahead of the possibilities, and he disciplines himself to be patient with life, and wait for God to provide whatever it is. That's really going to pay off for the Philadelphian.
Let's ask another question: What makes you think that you will be there? Does God say that all the Philadelphians are in any one group? No, He doesn't say that. Does everybody in that group receive the promise simply because they are attending services? No. I don't see a promise anywhere in which it says that you have a free ride because of mom and dad. You can be sure that your parents don't have a free ride. What I am getting at here is that there is a price to be paid for this protection. It doesn't come willy-nilly. It comes because the Philadelphians are laying down their lives day by day, patiently doing it.
What if one doesn't yield to actually become a Philadelphian? Is God going to take him anyway? Now you know very well that He won't. Now why? Because that would be rewarding him for being lazy and foolish. God doesn't judge like that. The message to the Laodicean proves that conclusively. There is a distinctive difference between those two groups. One patiently does the will of God. The other said he doesn't need it. Where does that put you?
Well, because you are sanctified, it puts you in pretty much the same position as your parents. But you are unconverted, and possibly you are drifting, ...not being cut off from access to God, and at the same time possessing tremendous knowledge that other young people in the world don't have, and doing nothing, or being outright disobedient, uncooperative, and maybe down right nasty with your parents. It would do you well to rethink your position and drop any complacent recklessness, because you have very much to be held accountable for. "To whom much is given, much is also required." Jesus didn't say that this only applies to converted parents.
I give this warning partly because this world's Christianity has given the world a faulty unbalanced portrayal of God by emphasizing His mercy at the expense of His justice. I am afraid that many are taken in by this thinking of God in human terms. But God is not man, and His judgments are high above man's. Many of God's perspectives are revealed in His law, and His laws are given to achieve some social order as well as to prepare people to be in His image and living in His kingdom. We're going to look at one set of laws covering family relationships, and a child's attitude and conduct toward his parents.
We're going to go back to the book of Exodus, chapter 21, verses 12 through 17. I want you to understand this is God's law, not Ritenbaugh's. It's His law that He gave to Israel.
Exodus 21:12-17 He that smites a man so that he die, shall be surely put to death.
There it is—the death penalty.
Exodus 21:13-17 And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand [meaning it's something that happens accidentally]; then I will appoint you a place whither he shall flee. But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbor, to slay him with guile; you shall take him from my altar, that he may die. And he that smites his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death. And he that steals a man [kidnapping] and sells him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death. And he that curses his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.
It doesn't have to go all the way to murder. Maltreatment of a parent through striking or cursing is placed on a par with murder and kidnapping, and is punished in the same way—capital punishment: death. There are going to be no rebels in the place of safety.
Men may overlook and reject God's judgments, but do you think that God will overlook His own law? I don't think so. Do you know what curse means? It means something that is not as strong as you might think it is. It simply means to belittle. Have any of you young people belittled your parents? Almost all of us do going through life. It means "to make light of." It means "to be contemptuous of."
I don't know whether you've ever heard of Hammurabi. He was an ancient king. Archeologists have dug up things that pertain to the laws of the land that he ruled over. Hammurabi's punishment for a youngster who cursed his parents was to cut off his hands. Maybe you think this is really harsh, but do you know that the records show that in 1671, in what became the United States of America, the Puritans put a teenager to death because he cursed his parent. You live in an age when permissiveness is the order of the times now, but it hasn't always been that way.
In the book of Matthew, as Jesus was giving the Sermon on the Mount He said:
Matthew 5:21-22 You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council.
Do you know what "Raca" means? It means empty-headed; moron. You see, that's cursing. It's belittling. It is speaking contemptuously of. The person who says this shall be in danger of the council.
Think of what I just said about what the word "curse" means. It means to belittle. It means to speak contemptuously of. Jesus is saying there that He agrees with Exodus 21:12-17. For a child to speak contemptuously of, to consider his parents as being foolish, puts him in danger of the death penalty.
Again, I tell you, this is not John Ritenbaugh's law. This is God's law, and it is Jesus Christ, our Savior, saying that He agrees with it. He's going to be the God who judges. Cursing is placed on par with murder, and there is a reason why, and that is because it proceeds with this same attitude of heart, and is punishable by death. I want you to think of this now in relation to parents. The majesty and office of God is violated in the person of the parent, because God holds the parent as His representative and of types of Him, and thus the Fifth Commandment is broken, and the wages of sin is death. It's that simple. In terms of the penalty, it is just as wrong to curse parents as it is to curse God.
Leviticus 19:1-3 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, You shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy. You shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.
When they translated the word "fear" there, they softened it somewhat. But if you look in the margin, as my Bible points you to the margin, it says, "You shall revere your parents." That's a stronger word. It is a word that is normally reserved for God. We revere God, but God gives direction here to us to revere our parents. Parents have an awesomely high calling, and that calling is to be respected by the children, because that reverence that God expects precedes the reverence God expects to come to Him when that relationship with God is introduced. That reverence for parents is to get us ready to reverence God.
We're going to go now to the book of Proverbs, in chapter 20, verse 20, and kids, this is a frightening verse!
Proverbs 20:20 Whoso curses his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.
This verse ought to give any person who has some measure of respect for God's seriousness about a child's responsibility towards his parents pause to think about things. I want you to think first about the word "obscure." I don't know what translation you are using, but modern translations often choose to render "obscure" as pitch or complete. That would read then, "His lamp shall be put out in pitch darkness (or in complete darkness)." Therefore it means in an area where there is no possibility of seeing anything. Utter blindness. God's warning indicates utterly dark. Now if your lamp is snuffed out, extinguished in the blackness of darkness, how are you going to see where you are going? God is getting at something here.
A lamp puts forth light, and light is a symbol in the Bible of truth. Therefore, God is in reality speaking of having correct guidance and direction. He is saying that if children curse their parents, maybe the death penalty is not executed, but following right on the heels of this is that God says He will remove the guidance that He would ordinarily make available to you.
This proverb is then saying that God will not necessarily put one to death. Instead He is saying that the penalty for cursing parents is that one will receive no guidance from Him. But it goes on. Therefore no prosperity, no posterity, and therefore no future. Believe me, this comes very close to the wandering-stars punishment that is reserved for demons—to be able to see, desire greatly, but to be able to do nothing about it.
Proverbs 20:11 Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.
This proverb is telling us that there is no hiding for a child with the excuse that "I am just a kid." It is saying that character counts regardless of age, because even a child's character is recognizable, and traits of childhood tend to stick all the way through life. I want you to think about this because this too is very interesting.
I want to shift the emphasis here to the parents for just a little bit. In the past I think that I have mentioned a comment that was made by Muriel Beadle on the importance of early childhood development. I got this from her book titled "A Child's Mind." She took issue with Proverbs 22:6—"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Listen to Muriel Beadle's version of that proverb:
"Parents, train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will be unable to depart from it."
Muriel Beadle is a child psychologist. She has an awful lot of clinical experience in dealing with children and their parents. It is her considered opinion that when people get older they really never change. I don't think that Muriel Beadle is familiar with the Bible in the sense that she would understand the instruction from God the way we understand it.
I think, parents, that if you have been in the church long enough, you understand how difficult it is to change, how difficult it is to overcome something. Muriel Beadle thinks nobody ever really changes. From her experience she's probably close to being a hundred percent accurate. That means that parental responsibility is very great to instill the right things in a child, because then that child is going to carry them right through into his adulthood. That's why God can confidently say that when you train up a child in the way that he should go, when he gets older he's going to live the way you trained him. If you trained your children right, they'll continue, and their lives will be a success—a far greater success that it ever would have been if you hadn't given them the right instruction in the first place.
I think that her comment pretty well zeroes in on the importance of right now, parents, concerning conduct. Parents, there are things that cannot wait, and this is one of them—training up a child in the way that he should go. You have to understand that your time with your children is running out. It is slipping away, and God is still holding you responsible.
In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a succinct statement of parental responsibility.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
Parents, this is the pre-cursor to rearing children the right way. You have to love God this way first.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 And these words which I command you this day shall be in your heart: And you shall teach them diligently unto your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the posts of your house and on your gates.
That brief description covers virtually every part of every day, because God is saying that no matter what you do, no matter what you say, no matter what comes into your life, every day you should be reflecting the mind of God in your own life, in your own speech, and in your own attitude. In addition to that, reinforcing your example by teaching the children verbally. God is saying that everywhere that child looks he should see examples of the way of God, not only in the way you work, but in the work itself.
Now back to you young people again. What if your parents aren't doing their job? Or what if they are only kind of "hit and miss" at it? That's the way most of us are. We're not real consistent. We don't always do a good job. We do it in spurts. I know that when we were rearing our children, our children and all of their peers who were teenagers hated to hear a child-rearing sermon, because they knew that when they did the parents were really going to get with it, and it was going to be a bad time for a couple of months. And then we parents would drift away, and things would kind of straighten out for the kids once again, and the parents wouldn't be quite so hard on them. That's really not the way to be, parents, because we don't give the kids the right kind of teaching they should be receiving.
Let's say, young people, that your parents aren't doing a good job. Where does that leave you? Are you going to go to God and justify yourself almost like everybody in the world seems to be doing these days by claiming that you can't help it the way you are because you are victims of your parents? Well kids, let me tell you, there is some justification in that because you are victims to some degree. But there are some things parents just cannot be blamed for. That justification will hold good for a little while, but there comes a time when all of us have to answer for ourselves.
Turn to Ezekiel 18:4 and we will cover the principle here. God is the speaker and He says:
Ezekiel 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins [father or son, mother or daughter], it shall die.
The soul that sins—whether father or son, mother or daughter—shall die.
Ezekiel 18:14 Now, lo, if he beget a son that sees all his father's sins which he has done, and considers, and does not such like, ...
Ezekiel 18:18-20 As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, spoiled his brother by violence, and did that which is not good among his people, lo, even he shall die in his iniquity. Yet say you, Why? Does not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son has done that which is lawful and right, and has kept all my statutes, and has done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sins, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
You see, the end of it all is that everybody has to stand before the judgment seat of Christ on the merits of his own work. So like I said, kids, the justification that you are victims of your parents will hold for awhile. There is some justification for that. However, eventually you are going to have to stand on your own before God anyway, and the best thing to do is begin as early as possible, and that means right now. Everybody has to account for their own actions.
I want to give you some suggestions about some things you should do. Another way of putting it would be, things that you should take advantage of. Go back to the book of Proverbs again to chapter 29, verse 18.
Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he.
Vision—having well-formed goals—is an absolute necessity to anybody who is going anywhere. Vision in this verse can be translated "revelation," which in turn means "divine guidance." If you're going to reform this proverb into modern English, it would read something like this: "Without divine guidance, people cast off restraint."
If you recall, one of the things I said earlier in this sermon is that your sanctification gives you an advantage over other young people in that it gives you access to God. Because of that access then, you have the guidance of God available to you, and it is from that guidance that is available to you that you can form the vision of what you want to do with your life. I'm not talking here about what you want to do in terms of earning a living. I'm talking about a vision of what you want to do in terms of conduct—what you want to aim at, the way you want to do work, the attitude you have toward other people, parents, neighbors, fellow-employees, or whatever.
You can tell from the conduct that is in this world that it ought to be obvious that people don't have this guidance. But you have access to the guidance—what God expects—and you can make it your goal in life to act that way. You can set your will to do the right thing. You are sanctified, and divine guidance is what you gain from that sanctification. That's what the young people in the Sahel don't have. That's what the young people in Greece or Russia don't have, or China, or India, or hardly anywhere in the world. You have access to truth.
Now even if your parents do not give it to you, every Sabbath that you attend you are receiving it through one of God's ministers. It's available. But like I said earlier, choices have to be made. And then a little bit later, we have to discipline ourselves in order to follow the information, the knowledge that is given to us. What I'm focusing on right now is where your advantage lies. It lies in the fact that you have access to truth about way life is to be conducted, and how you can please God. Regardless of whether your parents do or not, you can do it, because you're not cut off. Your lamp is not put out. It's available to you.
Turn to Hebrews 11:7. I want you to see an example of a man whose vision was formed by the word of God.
Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear [with reverence, with respect], prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
Noah had a choice to make, young people. He chose to believe what God said. He turned his energy to doing what God said, and what he did was the means of his life being saved. DO YOU GET IT? There is nothing complicated about that. His vision of what God said caused him to conduct his life in a way that saved him and his family in the end.
Abraham did the same thing. His vision was formed by what God said to him, and so it said of him that "He looked for a city whose builder and maker was God." That was the Kingdom of God. As a result of what he did—aiming his life according to the vision that God gave him—he therefore became heir of the world. I don't know whether you understand that. He's going to inherit the whole thing! That's almost incomprehensible! This earth is going to be his, and he'll share it with his children. But he did it because of vision and faith.
This is your great gift from God, that you're not cut off from truth, but you have to make choices about what you're going to do with it. We could go on and on and find that this was the pattern that all of those God called and succeeded followed.
Turn now to I Corinthians 13:11, for there is a pitfall, and all young people have to be aware of this.
I Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child. I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Here it is, young people. Right now you're in a transition stage. You're in a passage between childhood and adulthood, and it's a difficult period because you're not quite either. You're no longer a little kid, and you're not yet an adult. It's more difficult now from what it used to be because of the times and technology, and these things are making more and more options available as to what you are going to do with your time and your life, but you still have to make choices. It's going to be either one way or the other, and your future is at stake just like your parents.
What Paul is saying here is that youth (children) exhibit characteristics that define them as different from adults, and that those characteristics must be cast aside before one is really an adult. These characteristics are not just signs of youth, but are signs of immaturity at any age. However, you must be aware, young people, that this world is constantly pressuring you (convincing you) to believe that you are more mature than you actually are. The number one and number two causes of death of teenagers are accidents and suicide. What this shows me is that mentally, emotionally, and morally, teens are unable to handle the pressures of adulthood, and that they crash before ever reaching it.
Turn to I Timothy 2:22. In this verse Paul warns Timothy about youthful lusts.
I Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Paul considered Timothy a young man, but I'm sure Timothy was older than our teens. What Paul means here is that one of the proclivities of youth is that it has a tendency toward excess. The self-control thing, the discipline thing, is missing. It has a tendency to be missing because experience has not taught all the lessons yet, so youth has a tendency to do things in excess. They go overboard—not doing things in moderation—are foolish and careless (whether with their hands, their feet, their mouths, their feelings), and it leads them to take action on their longings, (their lusts) to be accepted and admired by those that they respect. That usually means their peers.
Youth has a tragic flaw in that it seems to rush pell-mell into things with little thought of consequences. Youth is plagued with an excess of impatience, self-assertion, love of argument, love of novelty, and all undergirded with an excess of self-confidence. Youth has a tendency that drives them into foolishness.
Proverbs 20:29 The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head.
This proverb shows that it is physical strength, not wisdom, that the Bible associates with youth.
Turn to Proverbs 7. I want you to look at the terminology, and then what God says about that. The terminology is simple: youth, void of understanding, twilight, blackness, darkness, snare, knows not. There are very interesting lessons in that chapter, because it is the mindset of those who expose themselves to risk and walk thoughtlessly into painful traps.
We're going to finish in Ecclesiastes 11:9. I'll just give you a very quick summary of Solomon's advice to young people.
Ecclesiastes 11:9 Rejoice, O young man, in your youth; and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes: but know you, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
It doesn't say whether it's good or bad. Just understand that you're going to be judged.
Ecclesiastes 11:10 Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.
Point #1: Rejoice in the fact that you are young, and that many of the responsibilities of life have not yet fallen on your shoulders. He says to follow after your dreams, but always within God's laws, because your actions are going to be judged.
Point #2: This begins in Ecclesiastes 12:1.
Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when you shall say, I have no pleasure in them.
Eventually this is going to happen to us all, because as we age certain things happen to our minds, to our senses, and things don't have quite the excitement, the edge I guess you would say, that they did when we were young.
Verse 1 of chapter 12 begins this thought: Solomon is saying that it grows later than you think. He says to make the most of every positive opportunity, but remember that you must be ready when the opportunity comes so that you are not haunted later by what might have been when you realize what a mess you made of your opportunities when you had the chance. Solomon was pretty wise.
Point #3: This begins in Ecclesiastes 12:10.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-14 The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd. And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end: and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Point #3 from Solomon here is: "Get and keep your priorities straight, because God's laws will always give you the best chance of making a success of life."