Christian Living, Church, Culture & Society, Death & Dying, Faith, Sin & Repentance, Theology

Why Our Young People Go Astray

2 Samuel 13:23-39

     “And it came to pass after two full years, that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baal-hazor, which is beside Ephraim: and Absalom invited all the king’s sons. 24 And Absalom came to the king, and said, Behold now, thy servant hath sheepshearers; let the king, I beseech thee, and his servants go with thy servant. 25 And the king said to Absalom, Nay, my son, let us not all now go, lest we be chargeable unto thee. And he pressed him: howbeit he would not go, but blessed him. 26 Then said Absalom, If not, I pray thee, let my brother Amnon go with us. And the king said unto him, Why should he go with thee? 27 But Absalom pressed him, that he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him. 28 Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, Mark ye now when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, Smite Amnon; then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.

     29 And the servants of Absalom did unto Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose, and every man gat him up upon his mule, and fled. 30 And it came to pass, while they were in the way, that tidings came to David, saying, Absalom hath slain all the king’s sons, and there is not one of them left. 31 Then the king arose, and tare his garments, and lay on the earth; and all his servants stood by with their clothes rent. 32 And Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother, answered and said, Let not my lord suppose that they have slain all the young men the king’s sons; for Amnon only is dead: for by the appointment of Absalom this hath been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar.

     33 Now therefore let not my lord the king take the thing to his heart, to think that all the king’s sons are dead: for Amnon only is dead. 34 But Absalom fled. And the young man that kept the watch lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came much people by the way of the hill side behind him. 35 And Jonadab said unto the king, Behold, the king’s sons come: as thy servant said, so it is. 36 And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of speaking, that, behold, the king’s sons came, and lifted up their voice and wept: and the king also and all his servants wept very sore. 37 But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day. 38 So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years. 39 And the soul of king David longed to go forth unto Absalom: for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.”

The life of Absalom, son of David, can be summarized very simply.  Absalom was a handsome and talented leader who broke his father’s heart by leading a revolt against him.  Avenging his sister Tamar, who had been attacked by his half-brother Amnon, Absalom killed Amnon and was forced to flee for three years. Although attempts were made to bring David and Absalom together again, Absalom felt slighted and began to use his natural charm to win followers.  His plot against his father nearly succeeded even causing David to flee from Jerusalem. And there you have it.

David, the man after God’s own heart.
David, the sweet singer of Israel.
David, one of the most majestic figures ever to walk across the stage of human history, knew what it was like to lose his beloved son to the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Today, there are Christians who are concerned about their own children being lost to the world. Some are asking, “Why”? “Why do young people in Christian homes go astray?” “Why do children of the Church leave the faith in their maturity?” Let me suggest the follow.

First, some of these individuals might maintain a profession of being a Christian, but they live life like a practicing atheist. God is not in their thoughts, and their parents do not want to confront them with their lifestyle and philosophy. Christian parents comfort themselves by saying, “My children know better. They were brought up in Church.” There is a false hope that one day, the wayward children will return to the Church, and honor the Christian faith they once confessed.

It is not easy to address this issue, but if the gospel truth were told, so many young people leave the Church, and Christ, because they have never been converted.  “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 John 2:19).

Many sincere Christian parents, teachers, pastors, and even Christian kings, like David, want so desperately for their children to have a profession of faith, they forget that what a person needs is authentic regeneration.

But, good Christian parents remember, and then they rely on a child’s early confession of Christ. They remember, and rely on, their child’s early baptism experience, and the child being privileged to hear the gospel on a regular basis. Because of this false reliance, Christian parents of wayward children neglect to pray any more for their child’s salvation. What is forgotten is that salvation of the Lord. Salvation is based upon the redemptive work of Divine grace in the soul. Salvation is not based on a public confession of faith, baptism, or early religious training. Those things are important and helpful, but they do not necessary constitute a conversion and salvation experience.

In Absalom, David was the father of an unconverted son. Today, many Christian parents are living on false hopes because they are living on the broken reed of past memories. But the children are grown up. They have gone out of the Church, and departed from the faith, if the truth were told.

Some children might maintain a quasi-religious profession, but they are not converted. There is too much evidence. When we ask people, “If you were to die tonight and Jesus was to ask why He should let you into heaven?” let us also ask other questions.  “Do you know that God has worked a work of grace in your heart?” “Have you been born again?” “Are you converted?” “Have you been saved?” “What is the evidence?”

Some young people are growing up theologically astute, Biblically correct with religious answers, but, in many instances, unconverted.  Like the rich young ruler who knew all the right answers, and then walked away to eternal destruction, many young people, like Absalom, are walking away with knowledge of the way of salvation, but no brokenness over sin.

Simply put, they do not love Jesus, and they have no respect for the Church. Their hearts are cold, made that way in part by a well-meaning religious message that gave them a false assurance of salvation, while making no demands on their life, and leaving them with a deep rooted sense that the gospel does not convert anyone.

They know they are not different.  Some know they are only professing to be a Christian to please mom or dad, but in reality, they are morally and spiritually out of control.

For many years, as a pastor, and as a school administrator, reports came to my attention, on a regular basis, about a young person in a state of gross immorality, drug abuse, or involved in a crime.  Parents, pastors, Christians, if we really want to help young people, let us study afresh the whole issue of salvation.

My counsel to the Church of the 21st Century is to go back and read the Puritans. They gave a great deal of thought to the way of salvation, and wrote extensively on the subject.

The year was 1738.  The date was May 24.  About 9:00 pm that evening, while listening to someone read the introduction to Martin Luther’s Commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, a minister of the Anglican Church had his “heart strangely warmed,” and was converted.  His name, John Wesley.

I submit to you that many of our young people are not as truly in a state of saving grace as an early profession of faith, and a childhood religious environment would have us to believe. A tender young heart does not always reflect a converted heart, as time tells.

Then, second, some of our young people fall away because they perceive the spiritual impotence in the life of religious leaders, pastors, teachers, and Sunday school teachers.  Discerning young people get the message. Many want nothing to do with religious hypocrites. They see Christians who are angry with one another. They are aware of Christians with problems of addiction. They know of Christians who are without love.

Somehow, God’s people must find a way to express the love and the holiness of Jesus Christ so that the young people want to return to the Church, or better yet, never leave it.

Now mark this truth down. Spiritual beauty still attracts.  A holy life is a lovely thing to behold.  “O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth” (Psalms 96:9).

If we are so busy struggling with defeat over our own personal defects, if we have no ability to forgive, or to love, we will continue to lose the young people for they can find enough ugliness in the world, and in their own private lives.

A gospel exhortation comes now to those of us who trust in the Lord. Let us do what we can to help those who are rebelling against the Church and Christ. Let us do the following.

First, let the Church examine herself.   “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Second, confess all known sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).

Third, forsake all known sin. Make no provision for the flesh.

Fourth, become accountable. Have a mindset to live with personal integrity.

Fifth, restudy the matter of salvation, and then re-evangelize those who will listen.

Finally, be honest and confess to those who will listen that the gospel was not fully understood, or presented. This is what has been learned.

Someday, if possible, it would be interesting to talk to Absalom.  I believe he might have some harsh, but true thing to say as to what contributed to his downfall. “Did Absalom get too much of what he wanted in life as the king’s handsome son?” “Did Absalom resent the spiritual inconsistencies he saw in his father, a man who could plot the murder of his most loyal and trusted soldier?” “Did Absalom ever deal with his own wicked heart in honesty, or did he presume on the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?”

I submit to you that, if we are going to stop losing our young people, we must provide a loving environment wherein is proclaimed an intellectually honest and biblical gospel which is personally fully understood, and then, we must be like Christ in the integrity of our hearts.

May the Lord help us as Christian parents not to lose our children to false hopes, an unclear gospel message, and an unattractive lifestyle.

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