The Urgent Duty of the Young, Part 2
OUR FATHER, we don't hate sin as we should. We don't fear you as we should. We don't love you as we ought. And we're dependent upon your Holy Spirit to change us so that we will. We cry to you, O God, that you would see us in our need tonight even we who come in the midst of our worship not doing as we ought, not bringing from our hearts the fullness of devotion that ought to represent us. We pray you would see it, but not turn away from us because of it, but help us. And give to us that which we lack and that which is missing in us to bring us more into conformity to your dear Son and to His pleasure. Lord, we would be tempted to think that because you were so near to us last Lord's Day morning as we considered these things, automatically there would be the same flush of emotion and feeling this week. Help us not to be deceived by the Evil One who would deceive us and beguile us into presuming and waiting for something to happen that should not, that may not. But let us again, by your own working, hear your Word with good minds and hearts ready to obey you. Lord, do come in your Spirit and do your bidding tonight. And break down the barriers of hell against the Gospel of Christ, and exalt your name in our hearts. Hear us now and give help from heaven to those unworthy children who come upon your promise and ask for good things. Hear us in Jesus' name, Amen. Amen.
Where I want to take you now is back to something I only mentioned in passing the last time. There are some notable examples in the Bible that will give you encouragement in seeking the Lord while you're young. I want to encourage you young people and you children to do what the Scripture says to do. And I want to do it by directing you to some of the notable biblical examples of young people and children whom God delighted in because at an early age they remembered their Creator.
First of all, turn with me to the Old Testament. In I Samuel 2:18 there's a young boy. We're reading a text that follows hard on verse 17 which describes a contrast. Look at verse 17.
The sin of the young men was very great before the Lord. For the men despised the offering of Jehovah.
The young men even the sons of Eli, the high priest of God were wicked beyond description: perverting the law of God at the doors of God's house, selling themselves and buying the bodies of the women of Israel in lewd sin before the shadow of the house of God, perverting the offerings of the Lord and taking the best for themselves selfishly! That was the state of affairs in the days of Samuel's birth. Well, now that's the kind of culture they were in. That's the kind of world it was. The young men (not to mention the old) were very grievously sinful.
But in verse 18:
But...[That holy conjunction introduces this verse]. But Samuel ministered before Jehovah, being a child, girded with a linen ephod. [Now notice what kind of child this was in the next verse.] Moreover his mother made him a little robe, and brought it to him from year to year.
We've got a little child. And what's he doing, this little child, this little guileless child, this little boy who doesn't know much? He's not even very capable of understanding the voice of God. He's just ministering before Jehovah as a little child. He has to have a little robe. This isn't a full-grown man. This isn't an older teen-ager. It's a little boy.
Now, you remember the story why he was ministering to the Lord as a child. His mother had given him to the Lord. She had prayed for a son, and she had vowed that if God would answer her prayer and give her a son he would be given to the Lord. And sure enough, after she weaned him, she brought him to the temple, gave him to God and to God's service all his days. The thing she wanted more than anything else more than her life God gave her, and she gave him back to the Lord.
You know how God honored and blessed Samuel all his days. A man greatly favored of the Lord, even so that his name is mentioned by one of the prophets when God says to him, "Even if Samuel [and another] stood before me to pray, I wouldn't hear" (Jer. 15:1). God so esteemed this Samuel that his prayers were among those that God was prone to hear before anybody else's. Even if Samuel were to pray, God said to the prophet meaning that normally if anybody is going to be heard in heaven it will be Samuel. Now that's this man.
As a child, he ministered to the Lord. He was ministering to the Lord when most of the youth of the country weren't. Most of them were pursuing the sins of their fathers. Most of them were running the way of the world. Most of them were chasing after money and pleasure. But Samuel stuck in the temple, locked in the house of God, not able to have all the fun the other kids had, spending his whole life every day ministering to the Lord. And he did it till he died. All his days till he was an old man ministering before the Lord.
Encourage your hearts, children, starting now to minister before Jehovah. We who are older, as we hear the Word, wish we had done it. Some wish their moms and dads had given them to the Lord. Some wish they had paid attention to what they did hear. Some were in Sunday School. Some did know about this. Some did know in their conscience what they should do, but they let the years sneak by them. They never got it settled. And here they are as adults, and they did not spend their days ministering to Jehovah in their youth. It ought to hurt and rebuke us and grieve us.
II Kings 22:18
-20 tells us about Josiah. King Josiah had received a message that God was going to bring punishment upon Israel. Josiah had had his heart lifted up. He was greatly rebuked when he found the law of God. He was a young man when he discovered the law in the temple. He was 8 years old. And he set his heart to reform Israel in obedience to God. Verses 18-20, the prophetess, Huldah, says:
But unto the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of Jehovah, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel: As touching the words which you have heard, because your heart was tender, and you did humble yourself before the Lord, when you heard what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and have rent your clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard you, says the Lord. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, neither shall your eyes see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again.
Now at this stage, I believe he was 26 years old when he heard this message. That's a young man. He started his reign when he was 8. Eighteen years later he heard this. Why did he hear it? Because his heart was tender. When he saw the law of God and read what had been forgotten, it broke his heart. He read back through the law, and as it was read to him he heard all those accounts when God said to Israel, ["If you do the following kinds of things, I'm going to turn away from you. I'm going to turn you over to your enemies. I'm going to destroy you and punish you and curse you."] You can go back through the law which was read in the hearing of Josiah, and God enumerates all they were supposed to do in His worship and in His service in keeping the law, and all He was going to do to them if they didn't.
As Josiah (having not heard those things in his lifetime) heard them read, his heart quaked within him because he looked around and knew the condition of Israel. He knew that because of the condition of his nation, God, who had given His Word that if they did those things He would come and destroy them, was going to destroy them. He knew God must.
But how did he respond? He did not resign himself to giving up and saying, "Well, God has spoken. There's no more hope." He was like the widow of Sidon who, when she tried to get the Lord to heal her child and He ignored her as though He weren't going to pay attention and pretended to walk on by, wouldn't accept that. She pursued Him. When she pled with Him, He gave her a theological answer that would have discouraged 99% of us. He said, "It's not fitting to give the children's bread to dogs." But she didn't let that deter her. She grabbed Him and said, "But, Lord, the dogs get the crumbs off the table." And the Lord, remember, said, "For this saying, your sins are forgiven. Your child is whole. Go your way in peace."
This is the way Josiah was. He knew that God was bound by His own pledge to wipe out Israel. He saw before his eyes irrefutable evidence that Israel had done the thing that God said you must not do or I will do the following. He saw it. He knew God couldn't relent. But he turned to God. His heart was broken, and he covered himself with the symbols of mourning. He repented for himself and his people. He set about to reform the things that were wrong. And because of his young heart which was tender before God, God put off the judgment until the next generation.
I would suggest that if under Moses God would be willing to spare an entire generation because of one young son's turning of his heart to God, how much more would He be willing to be merciful to us under Christ if our children in their tender years would say: "Lord our fathers have sinned. Surely you must judge this nation for killing little babies before they're born. We let men kill other men and we don't punish them by taking their lives as your law would require. Surely the blood of the innocent cries out from the earth to God. Surely you cannot let that blood go unrequited. You must judge us. And we tremble. But, Lord, have mercy on us!"
And if we with all our power put right what we can put right (in our own lives and in our own homes and according to our influence), who's to say that God wouldn't again, for your sakes, young people, because your hearts are tender, let you not have to live to see the day?
There's great encouragement in the example of Josiah.
The Little Children
In the third place, turn over to the New Testament with me. Little children are worshipping Jesus, praising Jesus. Does God want little children praising Jesus? They don't know what they're doing, do they? They don't comprehend what we grown-ups comprehend, do they? The Lord Jesus has a different viewpoint. Matthew 21:15-16:
But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children that were crying in the temple and saying [Now that doesn't mean crying and weeping. It meant shouting with a loud voice beyond the normal conversational tone.], Hosanna to the son of David; they were moved with indignation [They saw these children worshiping Jesus and attributing to Him the authority of Messiah, and they were moved with indignation.], and said to him, You hear what they are saying? [Do you know what you've done to these kids? You see what you...They've gotten carried away with their zeal. They've gone beyond propriety here in the temple, and they're saying things that we know aren't true. And you're letting them do it. You hear them?] And Jesus says to them, Yea [Yes I hear them; yes I do.]: did you never read [and He quotes their beloved Mosaic Scriptures to them], Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?
Now here is God who has perfected praise in the mouths of children (babes and sucklings)! You understand that? I don't understand that, but I tell you what: I accept it; I believe it. What I'm saying is that you ought, from the crib, to be teaching your little ones to praise Jesus. God perfects praise out of their mouths.
I don't comprehend that. But sometimes we get so big in our Reformed britches, that we start expecting the kind of requirements of worship that go beyond what Jesus Himself expects and then fall short of what He loves and is pleased with. Here is the Lord who loves and delights to receive the praises of His children. He doesn't get over-scrupulous about it. He doesn't start breaking it down and analyzing all its parts. He considers this to be perfect praise, wrought by Jehovah! It's one of the encouragements of my young adult life to hear my children sing praises to God. I'm well aware they don't comprehend much of the theology of it. But God hears the praise and loves the praise and inhabits the praises of His people.
Young people, praise the Lord. Sing to Jesus. Learn to love to sing to Jesus the best you can do. He loves to hear it. He loves to receive your praises. He'll bless your life if you grow up praising Him and worshiping Him and attributing to Him the attributes that God has attributed to Him and that He owns as being God.
The Lord also, you remember, probably as a matter of course in His life, received little children on His lap or around Him and taught them and accepted them. Sometimes the disciples thought He ought to get rid of them. They were bothered by them. These kids were getting in the way. They didn't understand decorum.
They didn't understand the rules of order. ["Could you please cool it with them and get the kids out?"] "Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:14). So the Lord Jesus gives His glad approbation to children coming to Him, hearing from Him, learning from Him, and worshipping Him.
In the fourth place, a young man back in the Old Testament, I Kings chapter 3, beginning at verse 7 (the prayer of Solomon):
And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in.
Look at the might of this little child to whom God had given enough wisdom to comprehend that he didn't know how to go out or come in. You see, God is not interested in your getting to a place where you think you know how to go out and come in.
God is interested in getting you to a place where you know you don't know how to go out and come in. The mature man seldom has discovered this principle. Most of you men in your 30's are living for the day when you don't need anybody else's counsel, when you can come home to your wife and present yourself as Mr. Brilliant. "I decided to do this, Hon. I didn't need to ask anybody. I've sure grown a lot. Have you noticed? I've learned a lot about life in these years, and now I'm able to make these kinds of decisions and God blesses..."
No, no. The older you get and the wiser you get, the more prone you'll be to pray the prayer of this young child, Solomon. "I don't know how to go out or come in." Here's a child humbling himself before God. Far cry from a child who, when his dad says do this, says, "No!" as though he thinks he knows better what he should do than his father. Far cry from a proud, arrogant little boy who tells his mom and dad what's right rather than listening to them. "I'm a little child. I know not how to go out or come in."
Your servant is in the midst of your people which you have chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
How did Solomon know all this? His daddy taught him. He had grown up in the Scriptures. He knew the heritage of Israel. He understood the ordinances. He had memorized them. He understood that God had chosen these people. How did he learn that? They had passover every year and he would be asking, "What does this mean?" Dad explained it. Mom explained it.
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this your great people? [And look what happened in verse 10.] And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
And you know the answer. God not only gave him what he asked. But because he asked what he asked, and not for all the other things, God gave him that plus all the other things. He set his heart to seek God and God's guidance and God's wisdom for the good of God's people, and God then gave him all the other stuff.
I'm not so sure the Lord Jesus wasn't thinking of this when He said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).
That's the biblical principle. Seek Jesus. He'll give you better than all the things you want. You'll never be dissatisfied. You'll never be empty if you trust Jesus and follow Him. He may not give you everything you think is best. But what He gives you will be so much better than what you wanted that you'll always praise Him and thank Him. Be wise as Solomon, and be encouraged to come to Jesus.
You remember the story of Daniel. He was brought over to Babylon in the captivity as a young boy. As a child, Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not accept the king's dainties, but that he would keep his heart pure according to the ordinances of the God of Israel
(Dan. 1). And remember, God favored him and blessed him and promoted him and took delight in him. Later in his life when he came before God to ask insight in the meaning of Scripture, the Lord sent an angel who said, "As soon as you began to pray, Daniel, I was sent out" (Dan. 9:21-23).
The implication there is that when most of us pray, there is not immediate jumping going on. Most people when they pray, there is a little delay before they know the answer. With Daniel, as soon as he began to pray, God sent a messenger to answer his prayer and tell him what he needed to know, right then. For most of us we need to study and think. But with Daniel...immediate. And what does the angel say? "For you are greatly favored."
Here's a man who from his youth refused to defile himself with the sins of his time, with the authorities who forced upon him sins against God and his own conscience. He would not give in. He stood alone against the tide of his day. He didn't do what all his friends were doing.
After church, when they want to play a game that shuts out one of the other children, Daniel wouldn't have done that. He would have said, "No. When God's Word has been preached, and I'm still standing in God's house, I don't want to be playing games against little children. I think it's not the time to do that. I want to be careful what I do in the place where God's worship is designated." And in his older years, God was able to look at him and greatly favor him so that when Daniel prayed heaven shook.
Wouldn't you rather, children, (if you had your choice) have everything in this world and all of the riches and the money and the cars and the toys and the fun of this world, or would you rather (if you had your choice) be able to pray and have all of heaven answer your prayers and get excited about it?
Which would you rather have: your basketful of things that are going to rot and rust and wear out, or the ear of God and the heart of God, so that when you pray, the God who made the worlds hears you and favors you and gives you what you ask?
Parents, this is the choice to lay before your children every day: whether to remember their Creator and then to come into His favor, or to forget Him and some day cry to Him when He can't hear and won't hear. Let it not happen.
Finally, we want to encourage you again from Timothy's life (II Timothy 3:14, 15) to seek the Lord while you're young.
Abide you in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them; and that from a babe you have known the holy scriptures which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
The apostle Paul, again in the first chapter of this epistle, recalls the faith that dwelt in his grandmother Lois, and in his mother Eunice, and he's persuaded is in Timothy also. And what heritage did Grandma Lois and Mamma Eunice give to little Timothy? Did they focus primarily on giving him the things of the world? No.
The heritage that set him apart later in his life the thing the apostle Paul could draw strength and encouragement from he had learned as a babe the Holy Scriptures. They had steeped his little mind in the Scriptures so that when he grew up he knew the thing that is able to make you wise unto salvation.
You know what the real tragedy is today? In most cases if you were to go down the streets of this city and interview the 20-year-olds, or the 25-, or 30-year-olds, you would find that they have no conception of what is in the Bible.
You would have to go all the way back to Genesis and inform them of basic Bible facts before you could ever get through to them about the need of salvation. To start off with, "Have you ever accepted Jesus as your Savior?" doesn't work because they have no foundation. It's one thing for Peter to preach to a collection of orthodox Jews on the Day of Pentecost and declare that, "This is Messiah" because they all knew what the Old Testament said about Messiah. They all knew that He was coming. They knew about the attributes He would have. They anticipated it. And when Peter preached on "Messiah has come in Jesus," the Spirit of God pricked their hearts because his sermon matched up with their knowledge of the Bible.
That's one of the major reasons you very seldom ever see 3,000 converted in one sermon anymore because we're preaching to an audience who does not know the Holy Scriptures at all. They don't have an idea that God made the world. They have been taught the opposite of that in a Christian nation!
They've been taught there is no Creator. It's not legal even to mention it as one possible view of origins. In Arkansas, the courts struck down a law that required creationism to be taught alongside of evolution as one alternative. "No!" the court said. That's in Arkansas, conservative porker country. They've been taught there is not a Creator. How can they remember what they didn't know there was? They can't. That's what is so frustrating in your witness. You have no reference point to begin with.
The apostle Paul had an idol setting up in Athens he could start with. And he went from there directly to a Creator. But at least in Athens, there was apparently some concern. In America, there is not even that. Man has replaced God. America is irreligious and fast becoming more so.
Well, Timothy, from a child, a babe, had learned the Holy Scriptures. I have a feeling that Grandma would rock him and sing songs into his little ears. I have a feeling that Mom would lead him around the house and have catechism and teach him the Scriptures. And I have a feeling that by the time the kid was a teen-ager, he could quote back to you great portions of Scripture and answer all sorts of questions.
That's the heritage that ought to encourage you little children. Now, you see what happened with Timothy? He listened when he was little. He learned his Bible. He didn't get upset when Mom and Dad said, "It's time for catechism. It's time for devotions. It's time to read the Bible." He didn't resent it when they sent him off to read his own Bible when he got old enough to read for himself. In fact, he didn't even need to be told it.
You children who have learned how to read ought to be asking Mom and Dad to teach you what passages of the Scriptures you can start reading and asking them to explain them to you so you will understand your Bible.
My temptation is to think that everybody ought to do it the way I did it. I started when I was 11 memorizing Bible verses and reading my Bible every night before I went to bed. Nothing could stop me. My mom would have to come in and say, "Turn off your light." And I would say, "I'm reading my Bible." She sometimes would be a little less patient than at other times, but God gave her enough grace to know that she ought not meddle with that. She would say, "OK, but just another minute." And I would try to honor that.
I tell you, it made all the difference. If you can, start at 6 or 7. I'm not ignorant enough to think that a 6-year-old can sit down by himself and read the Bible and understand as much as an 11-year-old. No, no. But set the pattern. Set the habit, and learn the Holy Scriptures. Set a time every day when you're going to go be alone with God and read your Bible.
Parents, don't assume they've got to wait until they're as old as you were when you first started that. (Some of you haven't started it yet.) One of your biggest faults is that you're afraid to enforce upon your children something that you never did because you feel like you'd be a hypocrite. Let me tell you something. You'd better teach them to do what you didn't do, or they're going to turn out and be like you! You care about them? You don't want them to fall into the pit that you fell in, do you? Then teach them the Bible.
Well, children, gain encouragement from the children of the Bible (and we've not shown them all) who pleased God greatly and who were greatly used of God because from a child they sought His way and sought His Word.
Directives for Your Safety
Now listen to some directives for your safety. This will especially apply to the older children among us.
Directive No. 1: Avoid at all costs bad company. Turn with me, please, in your Bibles to Proverbs chapter 13. This is a summary verse of a principle taught all through the book of Proverbs. "Evil companionships corrupt good morals (I Cor. 15:33)." We are told in Proverbs 13:20:
Walk with wise men, and you shall be wise; But the companion of fools shall be broken [or, shall smart for it].
Let's break that down. What is a fool? The Bible says, "The fool has said in his heart there is no God" (Psa. 14:1). At the heart of the matter, a fool is a fool because in his heart he is not living as though there is a God. He may be going to church every week, but he lives as though there is no God. When he's in private and he doesn't think anybody is watching, it never occurs to him that there is a God watching. When he's doing what he wants to do and having the fun he wants to have, he has no thought that there is a God that is going to judge him for it. He works out that foolishness in the way he conducts himself in the world. He does things that ought to scare him because he knows they break the law of God.
But they don't scare him because he's not afraid of God. He doesn't believe God. He doesn't believe God exists. So his life is not harnessed in and protected by the restraints of the fear of God. He acts in ways that bring the wrath of God down upon him, and he's not worried about it. He has a good time sinning. He laughs when he sins. He can't understand why you don't want to sin. He'll call your mom and dad old fogies. He'll say your parents have not taught you fun things when you say, "I'm sorry, Mom and Dad taught me not to do this. I'm not allowed to say that. I'm not allowed to listen to that kind of a dirty story. I'm not allowed to look at those pictures. I'm not allowed to go to that kind of party." And, young people, I'm not suggesting that you say, "I can't because Mom and Dad say no." I'm suggesting you say, "I can't because the Lord says no."
I remember a classic illustration of that problem when I was in my late teens. In those days a lot of Baptists preached against dancing. In the South that was a big issue. And there were good reasons for it. Well, a lot of young people wouldn't dance because they were good Baptists. A girl told me one time, "When they say, Come to the dance,' I say, I can't. I'm a Baptist. I play the piano at our church.'" I was rather horrified at that response and said to her, "That's no reason. You mean to tell me the reason you don't dance is because you play the piano at the church? What if you were Methodist? Would you dance then?"
The question was designed to make her understand that if the days came in her life when she was no longer bound by a Baptist who said, "You can't dance," she'd start dancing. I wasn't so worried about whether dancing was right or wrong; I was concerned about the reason she gave. Her reason was not because the Lord would not have her do it. It was because her peer group at church didn't believe in it. It made her feel super religious and spiritual that she didn't dance. You know what happened to that girl? Later on, she lost all of her position and relationship to the church. She justify it and went out and fell into great sin and destroyed a whole family, wrecked a marriage and lost her peace and happiness.
Proverbs says if you hang around people like that who do what they do without the fear of God you'll pay the penalty for it. "He that is a companion of fools will smart for it, will be broken for it." If you hang around them, you will take on their characteristics. You'll be like them.
Don't think you're an exception to the rule. God has built it into your system. You will not seek the company fools and avoid foolishness yourself. You cannot, any more than he who takes fire in his bosom cannot get burned, or walk on coals and not burn his feet. Don't listen to their conversation if you can avoid it. Don't read their books. Don't watch their movies. Don't worship their heroes, or you'll become like them.
But a companion of wise men will become wise. You read the books of wise men, listen to the words of wise men, copy the lives of wise men, make good righteous men your heroes, and you'll become like them. Does this not say a lot about the selection of the material we let our children read and see and deal with? Our own family, right now, is reassessing the whole issue, and trembling. The Scriptures are filled with warnings about our companions.
Turn with me to Psalm 119:15. Here's the spirit of a man who loves God's law and loves to do right.
Depart from me, you evil-doers, that I may keep the commandments of my God.
Whenever your friends or companions begin to make it hard for you to obey the law of God, get away from them. Parents, do not put your children in a situation in which they cannot exercise this right. Depart from me evil workers. Why? So I can keep the commandment of God. That's why I'm alive. That's what my life is all about. Nobody is going to be allowed to stop me from doing that, by God's grace. I will not, for the sake of keeping somebody's acceptance and favor and love, get myself in a position where it's hard to keep the commandments of God. Nothing will I sacrifice for that. You see? Avoid at all costs bad company.
Second, seek at all costs godly companions. In the same chapter, Psalm 119:63, the same man says:
I am a companion of all them that fear you, all of them that observe your precepts.
Get away from me, evil-doers. Come and gather round me you that love the Lord and keep His Word. You want to grow up and be prosperous under God and have the smile of God and know God and be able to have your prayers answered and have a happy life? Then surround yourself with godly people who pray and who are happy and who know the Lord and do His will. And get yourself rid of the people who aren't like that.
I didn't say don't speak to them. I didn't say be rude to them. Be kind to them, but don't make them your companions and your friends. Don't make them the folks you copy and run around with. Teen-agers, I know what you're thinking. "But Pastor, there aren't any godly people. Where do I find them?" My dear friend, I don't know. The very fact I don't know proves my point of the time in which we live and how dreadful it is.
Where did Daniel find his? Where did Samuel find his? Where did Solomon find his? Where did Timothy, pray tell, who was born and reared in the Roman-Greco Empire, find his? Well, I'll tell you where you're not going to find them. You're not going to find them by looking for them out there. "What if there is only one kid in church that's near my age? You mean I'm limited to one friend?" You better ask God that question.
If some of you young people are old enough to know who Christ is and who believe you've come to faith in Christ would hear me, you know what you'd be doing? You won't be expressing frustration and complaining to God and your parents for not giving you more Christian friends. You'll be giving your life to winning more Christian friends. You'll set your goal to pray that God will build this church up and bring families with teen-agers and save them. You'll give your heart to that instead of satisfying your own desires. You'll start thinking of the kingdom of God.
Parents, don't be impatient with me. I'm not laying on your kids something they can't bear. I was a teen-ager, and I did that. God gave me grace to be like that as a teen-ager. It didn't cost me anything. I didn't lose out. I lost the senior prom. I was supposed to lead the promenade. I was president of the student body. You know how I got to be president of the student body? I was the only kid in school that prayed over my meals. They all looked at me and got scared to death of me. They all voted for me, and I wasn't even running! No, no. I'm not saying that to puff anything up. It was a relatively meaningless position.
But to them I represented something that many of them wished they could be and didn't have the courage to be it. They wanted to see a kid come to that school that took a stand on something. They couldn't believe what they saw. I was voted most friendly senior, most likely to succeed, president of the student body, captain of the team, all-star on the team. How did I get all that stuff? I didn't seek it. You know what I did? The last semester of my junior year in high school, as a 17-year-old kid, I said, "Lord, I'm the only Christian I know in this school. If you will use me, you can have my life in this school. I don't want to do anything but serve you. But, Lord, I ask this one thing, give me an opportunity to have a say, have a forum, have an influence. Do something that lets me preach Christ to these people." That's all I wanted to do. A 17-year-old high school kid.
I look back on that now, and I'm amazed. I wasn't even interested in what they were doing out there on Friday nights. I didn't care. I never thought of it as a sacrifice in the least. You know why? Because I had already come to know Christ. I had already tasted that the Lord is good, and I knew that what they had to offer wasn't what I needed.
Now I readily understand that that was God's grace. It was a work of God. And that's not usual. That's not typical. But that's why I'm preaching this sermon to you tonight. I want it to become typical of this church. I want the youth of this church to be like that. If you do go to a public school, I want there to be an impact justify in your trail. If you do have exposure out there, when you're gone I want them to remember you.
Did you know when I went back to my 20th high school reunion, a girl still hated my guts because of a day when I told her she ought to get off that bathing suit and get dressed? I went out to the lake and passed out tracts to swimmers of our high school. She said, "What are you doing?" I said, "You need to be saved." She said, "What makes you a judge?" I said, "I look at the way you dress." Well, I was a little zealous and I wasn't mature. And I was a little self-righteous and all that, but twenty years later I walked into our reunion and she looked at me with a sneer. I walked over and said, "Hi, how are you doing?" She said, "You know, I have never forgotten that day." I said, "What day are you talking about?" For twenty years that had been on that girl's mind.
You know why it was? I was the only person in her life that ever challenged her. She never forgot that person and still hates him. But you know what? Her conscience has heard the name Jesus spoken into her ears, and she has been haunted by that voice. She's uncomfortable with it. Make an impact.
You know what God gave us my senior year? We started a Bible club. This was back when you could do that. We started a Bible club instead of a chess club. We had five guys. Before the end of the year we had 122. We had to move out of the little room and have it in the school assembly hall. We would invite preachers from all the churches around to come. We'd sing a hymn, have prayer, and they would preach for twenty-five minutes. That's all we did.
We didn't sit in a circle and discuss theology. We brought preachers in and preached the gospel to them in a public high school. We had kids bringing their Bibles to school, praying over their meals, praying over their tests, witnessing to each other, and God was saving people all over the campus. We didn't have any program or any plan or anything. We just wanted to preach the gospel.
Now we had a lot of problems, a lot of things wrong with us, but I tell you what: I wouldn't trade it. If I had it to do over again, I'd do some things differently, but I wouldn't quit telling the truth. When they first met me, they thought I was weird and strange. But by the time I graduated, a lot of them came to me in private and said, "I wish I could be what you are." A guy that skipped the prom to go to a revival meeting at his church. A guy who had a standing rule that he would never play a basketball game and skip prayer meeting on Wednesday night when he loved basketball as his second love in his life. A guy who made it clear that if there was ever a special Sunday afternoon practice called, he would miss it. So you know what? We never had one. We never had a Wednesday night ball game. But it wouldn't have mattered to me.
I'm trying to appeal to you to company yourself with the righteous. And if there aren't any righteous, company yourself with Jesus Christ and take your stand with him and stand alone and be content with it. And God will bless you mightily. If you're the only one in a den of lions, God will meet you there and they won't harm you.
I close by making an appeal. I want to ask a question: Where are the Samuels the little boys (and the little girls) who will say, "Lord, use me. I want to serve you"?
My heart and the heart of your godly parents long to see every one of you serving the Lord Jesus Christ with all your heart. Nothing would make us happier than for all our children to be in some way fulfilling the gospel call of serving Christ with a heart in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
Where are the Samuels? Where are the Daniels? Let other children blow their minds, waste their lives on themselves, you stand with Christ. You obey Christ. You prepare yourself for heaven. While they're grabbing the world, you grab for heaven. In the end you'll have both heaven and the earth. And they'll have none.
Where are the Daniels and the Samuels? Where are the unique, rare young people who give their lives and pledge their energies to the service of Jesus Christ? Are you going to be one of them if God gives you grace?
You may not grow up to be as efficient and as used as Daniel. You may not become a great prophet or a great preacher. You may be a woman who is simply content to be the mother of God in your home and teach your children the Scriptures and exemplify a quiet and peaceable life to them. You may be a dad who works with your hands, who sets an example of purity before your young men, and who turns a generation around in another direction.
You may not, in men's eyes, amount to much, but in God's eyes you become a heart like Daniel's (purposing not to defile yourself with the dainties of this world). God will honor that, and He will bless your life. And they'll not be able to hurt you or touch you. And you'll reach the end of your days in triumph.
May God give us a church full of such young people who walk in that back door and have on their minds, unsolicited, a desire to draw near to God, a hunger to hear the preacher get up and tell them about Jesus, a desire to do what's right and to avoid what's wrong, a love for righteous companions and a dread of evil companions. May God fill this place with such! And with moms and dads who have that vision.
Be encouraged, brethren. Be encouraged, little ones. If you give your life to Jesus and you lay yourself out there for Him, you'll never be disappointed. God will take that and He'll use that and He'll bless you.
Parents, don't you be discouraged. You keep praying. Keep telling them. Keep chastening them and keep spanking them when they need it. Keep loving them and hugging them. Keep teaching them the Bible. Keep making them pay attention in church. Keep waking them up when they try to go to sleep. Keep making them force their minds to hear the Holy Scriptures which are able to make them wise to salvation. And God will honor your labors.
You children, hear me. Remember now, this night, to get right with your Creator and remember your Creator. Ask God, right where you sit, to make Himself real and known to your heart. Ask Him to teach you His Word. Ask Him to make you a righteous Daniel, or a Samuel, or a David, or a Solomon, or a Timothy, or one of the people of God.
You young women, ask God to make you a Hannah. Ask God to make you a Ruth. Ask God to make you a Mary. Ask God to make you an Elizabeth. An Anna. Ask God to use your life and bless you and fill your heart, and you seek Him. He will respond to you and you'll never be sorry. Remember now your Creator now, in the days of your youth.
Let's pray. Our Father, we are confessing and aware that we are not sufficient for the things we've attempted to tackle. We have sought, O Lord, to deal with the consciences of the young. We have sought to lead into the hearts of those who, in many cases, could not even understand the words we used. We are aware, Lord, that there is great limit in our ability to understand and to explain and in their ability to receive. But there's no limit to you who have formed us from the dust of the ground. Lord, our prayer is this: that there not be a single child or young person in this church that you would fail to come to you to save from sin and to invoke into your service. Lord, we would not be unreasonable in asking more than you could do, but we haven't. We would not be presumptuous in demanding you would do more than you wish to do, but you have said that it is your will that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the Savior. And so, our dear and Holy Father, Almighty God, come and stir in the hearts of the little ones. And for those who heard what was said tonight and whose consciences were affected, we pray that you would build a hedge around them that the Evil One could not get in until the work has been performed and perfected that makes them your own and makes them to live in such a way that we will see the difference and give you praise for it. Lord, hear our appeal. Hear our prayer. Have mercy upon us, O God, and save the young and those who've wasted their youth and even do now look back and say, "Where have I been? What have I been doing?" O Lord, our God, help those to remember now, before it really is too late, the One who made them and the One who alone can save them. Help them, O God, in Jesus' name, Amen.
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