Enhancing Your Teen's Relationship with Christ
- Friday, March 23, 2007
This week, my son Mike has asked to share some of the significant experiences of his high school years. I thought many of you would find his perspective encouraging. He has not always been so focused or spiritually-minded. Here are the key events God used in his life to direct his attention towards Him:
When I turned thirteen my head swelled with ideas of the idealistic teenage life. Have fun, be young, drink Pepsi, right? For some reason I believed that once you hit the magical one-three your sole purpose in life was to have a good time. Why worry about a job, school, or the rest of your life. Now, as a seventeen-year-old, I look back and see how immature I was. During the past four years I have found that this is a critical time for spiritual growth. I have found many things that have enhanced my relationship with the Lord. Three particularly stand:
Understanding the Cross
Two summers ago at a retreat, our youth group re-enacted the crucifixion. The performance opened my eyes wide to what Christ endured for my sins. Before this event, I knew He had suffered, but to actually walk through Christs final moments up to the crucifixion was very sobering. Many of the teens in my church still talk about the significance of this event. It was especially moving for me, as I was chosen to portray Christ.
If you ever have the opportunity to do this I would encourage you to make it as vivid and real as possible. Our re-enactment included whipping me, as Christ, thirty-nine times with a rope covered with mock blood. I wore a crown of thorns, and was tied to a cross for about fifteen minutes. Hanging on the Cross affected me personally because I realized how much pain Jesus endured. I was annoyed by the pain in my legs from standing and by the flies buzzing around my body. To think that Christ was actually beaten, speared and nailed to a Cross for six hours and I complained about my fifteen minute stand was very humbling. Other teens played the roles of Pilate, the Roman soldiers, the thief on the Cross, and my brother Gabe portrayed Simon of Cyrene. Those without speaking parts were part of the crowd that mocked Jesus as he made that ultimate sacrifice for us. Like never before, each one of us present realized that our sins had put Christ there. The fact that we walked through every detail of the event, line for line, lash for lash, stirred many peoples hearts. An overwhelming experience was to worship with hymns as Jesus was on the cross. Everyone who participated was deeply affected by the reenactment and we now have a new appreciation for what the Son of God endured for each of us personally.
Getting Into the Word
This past summer I got together some teens and our youth leader at church and started a Bible study that I led on a weekly basis. We had a simple format: Gabe led worship (maybe about four songs) on his guitar and then we would read excerpts from the book of Galatians. I used Warren Wiersbe's Be Free book on Galatians as a guide. It is an easy to understand commentary that walks through Galatians section by section. Anyway, I would ask the group questions to start a discussion. For example, What is grace? And What are areas of grace in your life?
We would circulate that topic around the room for a while before moving onto my next question. What I found is that nothing compares to the Word of God. You can read all the commentaries and books you desire, but nothing can take the place of the Bible. Thats something that I loved about the Bible study. It got us into the Word and we found out how it applied to us, word for word, line for line. Another issue of importance that I would like to stress is making sure an adult is present. Our youth leader, a homeschool dad, faithfully attended each week (even though his own five kids were too young to come). Whenever we got off track or someone said something that was not biblically correct, he would take the wheel and drive us back onto the road. By the end of the summer we had grown from a group of seven to a group of thirty people. As we grew in size, I split us into groups of four or five people so everyone would then have an opportunity to talk. After that we would come back as a whole and discuss what we had learned. Finally, we would end with prayer. The friendships, the knowledge, and the maturity that I gained from the Bible study have affected my life so much this year that I would encourage any youth that have considered starting one to go for it!
Reading Important Authors
A third thing that I would encourage teens to do is read beyond their age level. Many youth devotions place an emphasis on youth topics, such as appearance, peer pressure, dating, etc. All of these need to be addressed, but I have found that reading material written for adults has caused me to mature and grow beyond those issues to what really matters in life. Some of the most helpful material that I have found are books by John Piper; particularly, Desiring God and Future Grace. Both dramatically changed my life and my thinking. Also, Phillip Yancy is a good author as well as Charles Colson. I would strongly recommend reading Colsons book, Loving God. And anything by C.S. Lewis is bound to be good. Finally, reading commentaries on the Bible really can enhance your understanding of the Word and help you grasp the whole meaning. Ive used Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, for instance.
Finally, I encourage teens to be bold. Do not think that your parents have to make everything happen for you. If you are interested in re-enacting the crucifixion talk to your parents about it and then go for it. The same with a Bible study, if you want to start one, start one! These experiences will not only mature you, but mature the friendships you have with other teens as well.
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