A couple of years ago, I accompanied my oldest daughter as she attended a leadership retreat for teenagers, checking out the teachers and the content of their messages. As the overseer of my children's spiritual lives, I wanted to make sure I knew what information would be entering her mind.
During a presentation for the young men in the group, the teacher had the boys kneel and make a commitment of chastity, a vow to be pure in mind and body. I thought it was great, but as he ended, the teacher said something like, "Now I know you're all going to fail to keep this commitment," and he went on to talk about their need to confess and repent when they did fail.
I was aghast. What a horrible way to inspire young men! First, get them to make a vow to God, then blast their confidence with assurance that they would fail. Unbelievable! It's no wonder that so many of our young people are drowning in the sea of sin. They are tossed a life raft and then someone comes along and deflates it!
But this kind of teaching is common, in fact almost universal, in the church today. Preachers tell us to be obedient, to follow God with all of our hearts, then they tell us it's impossible to obey God consistently. In fact, in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, we are told that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, and the only way to do that is through obeying the word of God, yet the same catechism tells us that everyone sins every day in thought, word, and deed.
It's no wonder the church is confused. We are told we can and should obey, yet the power to do so is denied in everyday practice. We are told to have victory, but if we were to claim that we have consistent victory, we would be called liars.
We cannot encourage heroism in our young people unless we discard this illogical and unbiblical practice of the church today. We have to promote confidence. We should remind our youth of the Bible verses that guarantee God's help as they seek to serve Him.
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)
You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4)
Our confidence is well-founded. The power to obey comes from God, and we should neither squash a young persons' exuberance to make confident vows of fidelity toward God, nor deny his testimony that he has fulfilled his commitment every single day.
This is real Christianity. This is honest Christian living. God help us to tell the truth.