How Far is Too Far?
There is an age-old question in youth ministry: how far is too far? The teen asking the question wants to know how far they can physically go with their boyfriend/girlfriend without falling into sin. Maybe they want to know how graphic the R-rated movie has to be for it to qualify as a sin. Perhaps they want to know what they can and can't do at the big after-party at prom this year. Whatever the situation, this question has an unspoken question: "how close can I get to sin without actually sinning?" I want to challenge you, a teenager or parent of a teenager, to ask a different question. Instead of asking, "how far is too far" ask, "how can I glorify God at this moment?" This shift in thought takes the focus off of "what can I get away with?" to "what will please Almighty God?" We have already lost if we live our spiritual lives seeing how close we can get to sin without sinning. It would be like hanging off the side of the Grand Canyon and asking yourself: "how many fingers can I use to hold myself up before I fall?" That mindset will only lead to disaster and ruin. The Christian life is not just a life of avoiding sin (although that is undoubtedly a part of it). It is a life of delightful and joyful obedience to God's commands as we rest in the finished work of Christ that secured our salvation.
Psalm 1 tells us that the blessed man is the one who delights in the law of the Lord. Psalm 37:4 commands us (not suggests or recommends) to "delight yourself in the Lord." The prophet Isaiah says that repenting of sins will cause us to "take delight in the Lord" (Isaiah 58:13). Acts 5:41 says that, after Peter and some of the early apostles were persecuted for their faith, they "left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name." Even while suffering, the apostles rejoiced greatly in who God is. As John Piper puts it, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." God is glorified not when we begrudgingly avoid sin but when we joyfully pursue His ways in every area of our life.
To shift our minds and hearts from "how far is too far?" to "how can I glorify Christ at this moment?" we must understand, believe, and trust who God is and what He says. The glory of the Lord must enthrall us as it is revealed in the cross and resurrection of Christ. We must see sin for what it is: treason against a holy God. We must believe God's commands over our lives are for our gain. God is not the overly strict chaperone who won't let any kids have fun on the field trip. He is the God of the Universe who delights in His blood-bought and redeemed children. Out of His abundant mercy, He has shown us how to live to glorify Him and what is right for us. Pray that teens and adults will live their lives not merely getting as close to sin as possible but living with a joy-filled pursuit of Christ in every situation. Over the following few newsletter articles, we will look at practical ways teens can glorify Christ in various areas they may be tempted.