There are many things that a parent could say to his/her son/daughter from the ages of 13 to 19. These years, called by most the “teen years” because of the obvious appellation of “teen” in the numbers, are for many the most difficult, strange, and scary years for them. That is, the mind of the one who used to play in yard pretending to be an airplane, cowboy, or dinosaur is now interested in earning a living, physical appearance, and his future. The mind and heart has now shifted to greater realities and the days of pretend are changing to the stuff of reality. What do you say to a teenager in these years? What would a conversation look like from a Christian parent to their “teenager”? Here goes:
“God has designed that you, my son/daughter, are maturing past the things that used to hold your attention. You are “growing up” and as such you are learning to shoulder responsibility. You are beginning to learn the priceless, and most difficult aspect of adulthood: self-sacrifice. You are beginning to see that you cannot simply do things you want to do without consequence. In short, it is exactly what Jesus Christ said in relation to following Him. In a world that tells you to fulfill your dreams, Christ says to deny yourself. Let me explain.
Jesus taught that entrance into the kingdom of God only comes at the expense of a complete denial of yourself. This isn’t a self-righteous thing that you do in order to get accepted by God. That is not how God operates. It is that you realize that the sin that is in your heart and mind, and you know it well by now, keeps you from God. You have come to see and understand, as Mom and I have instructed you, that sin really does live in you. You are seeing more and more of your impulses, reactions, and desires are, basically, selfish. You most often think of your future, your interests, and your life. You find it difficult to think past your hopes for the future and the present responsibilities seem to be an intrusion into your plans. You understand little of how the inconveniences of doing the dishes and mowing the grass can further your future plans. However, Mom and I are not nearly as interested in your future plans in life as we are concerned about your life in the future. By that I mean we are most concerned that you follow the Lord Jesus Christ right into His kingdom. And that does not require a résumé, or an itinerary, nor does it require a bank account and a three-piece suit. What is required, quite simply and most impossibly, is the rejection of yourself and a complete submission to the will of Jesus Christ.
It has been said that you cannot serve two masters. You have heard this many times. However, have you ever considered this in light of your life? Ask yourself, “Who am I serving?” If you don’t know, examine whose will you are following. Self-interest, self-promotion, and self-aggrandizement are, well, all about self. The display of your own glory by means of your looks, skills, interests, right down to the car you drive, is not the will of God. However, the display of the glory of God by means of your looks, skills, interests, right down to the car you drive, is the will of God. You know this, I realize that. You have heard it many times before from Mom and I. However, you are prone to forgetting. And, unfortunately, it only gets worse.
Son, daughter, don’t follow your own will. Submit your will, hopes, plans, dreams, all the stuff the world tells you to achieve, to the will of the God of your Father and Mother. We have been following Jesus Christ now longer than you have lived and we can tell you that He is worthy of all our allegiance. He is worthy of our lives.
You might think, “Then what do I do? Do I not plan for the future? Do I not pursue work, family, and things that my heart wants?” No. That is not the point. I am talking about your will, not your works. Don’t miss it. It is as simple as asking yourself, “What do I want?” You can have all that you plan for, as long as it is the result of the pursuit of obedience to the will of God and His glory. Or, you can have all that you plan for as the result of the pursuit of your own desires apart from God’s glory. Subject all that you are thinking about your future to the eternal will of the Father as explained in the Bible. In summary, do all that you do for the display of God’s brilliant glory and everything you do will be established in His pleasure. This is a pursuit that is full of light and is glorious, at the expense of your life. However, to pursue your life at the expense of the will of God is extreme poverty of soul and darkness. James said it like this,
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”
14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.
17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
Son, daughter, Jesus Christ is God, the Son of the Father. He has come in order to take away sins. He has come in order to live and die in the place of those who would ever believe in Him by His doing. He is coming again in holy array and will take His church to Himself. When that day comes, it will not matter if you were a ditch-digger or a neurosurgeon. The only question that matters is: “Did you deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Him?”