ONLINE CHURCH BULLETIN
Why Not Be a Prodigal
Author's note: This series is not written for prodigals-those now in the far country of sin. It is not even written for those who have "come home. " You are not discouraged from reading, but it is not written with you in mind. It is written for those who are still at the father's house, but who are looking wisffully down the road that leads to the far country. You are urged to read.
Many young people who grow up "in the church" believe the prodigal son had it right. When they hit the mid-to-late-teen years, they decide to take a vacation from God. Experience sin. Taste alcohol. Smoke a few cigarettes. Dance at the prom. Watch some dirty movies. Hit the college night spots. Maybe get high-once, just to know what it feels like. Get wild on Spring Break and graduation night. Experiment with parking, petting ... get serious with a boy/girlfriend and "go all the way." Sow some wild oats. Give the devil his due. "You're only young once."
Then, the thinking goes, "I'll come back to God later. I'm not going to stay away from church. About the time I get married, or at least when I have a child, I'll come back home. Repent. Start over. No harm done. Heaven and all that."
In other words: sin now, repent later.
Is there anything wrong with this "best of both worlds" approach to life? Did God put Luke 15 in the Bible to encourage teens to follow the prodigal to the far country? No, this game plan never came from God; it's straight out of the devil's playbook.
What's wrong with experimenting with the prodigal lifestyle?
THE FAR COUNTRY WILL TEACH YOU MORE THAN YOU WANT TO KNOW. One of the devil's sales pitches is as old as Eden: "You mean you haven't tried it?" You've never tasted beer? You've never smoked a cigarette? You've never worn (or watched) a bikini on the beach? You've never gone to a wild party? You've never seen an R-rated movie? You've never shoplifted? You've never been high? You're the last virgin in our school? Many young people, like Eve, stupidly fall for the serpent's line. Sure, you'll get an education-but you'll stay after school, put in long hours of homework, and work on weekends to get it. You'll wish you'd never signed up.
In a way, she was in her "teen years." We are not sure how long had passed since creation, but she was facing her first test with the devil-much like teens. The first sin in Eden, then, is typical of many "first"' sins now. The devil played on Eve's innocence. He made her feel that she was missing out because she had not experienced sin. She did not know enough. "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:5). One of the things that made the tree "to be desired" was that it would ,'make one wise" (3:6)-that is, it increased one's knowledge. And, as soon as Eve and Adam ate the fruit, their eyes "were opened, and they knew..." (3:7). They had expanded their education. They knew things they hadn't known before. What things? Not the things the devil said they would know. They were not more like God. (They had been made "in His image," 1:28; now, with sin-sullied souls, they were less like Him.) They did not know any more about good and evil than before. They had already known that obeying God was good and disobeying God was evil. What things, then, did they know post-sin that they did not know pre-sin? They knew shame (they realized they were naked, 3:7) and guilt (they hid from God, 3:8). For the first time, they knew separation from God (3:8), fear of God (3:9), and punishment from God (3:16-19).
These are the things sin teaches young people today. One thousand American teens started drinking today-365,000 will begin this year. If you're one of them, alcohol is sure to give you an education. You'll have Nausea 101 and Hangover 201. You may take a course in Wrecked Car and Bad Grades. You'll likely get a degree in Embarrassment and may take a minor in Fighting and Breakup. Many graduate to Binge, then attend Addiction U., and usually take some graduate courses in Relapse. Some stay in adult education until they finish with a doctorate in Cirrosis and Cemetary. Won't ever happen to me, you say? So does every other teen who starts drinking. Look around at the next party and count nine others. Statistically, one of you will be an alcoholic and three or four of you will be "problem drinkers." And guess how many will end up in heaven?'
Sex will give you an education, too. The tests in this course can be really hard. They go in a similar pattern to Eve's: shame, guilt, separation from God (even if one continues to "go to church," singing "Nearer My God To Thee" lacks something), fear of getting caught, a bad reputation, loss of self respect, worry over pregnancy, thoughts of suicide. Of course, punishment from God ultimately follows if one doesn't repent and cease (Rm. 2:11; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 5:19, 21). -in the meantime often come the difficult decisions of what to do with an unwanted child, a long hard life of trying to finish high school or college while caring for a child, changing dirty diapers, paying expensive food and medical bills, and missing many of the "fun" things other young people are doing.
Many teens have the mistaken idea that they'll be a disappointment to their future husband or wife if they don't know anything about being a sexual partner on their wedding night. The opposite is true. Your partner wants to learn with you, not from you. If you know more than he or she, then he/she will wonder "how you learned." Your mate will fight feelings of jealousy and insecurity. Even if you are both "experienced," it is a detriment to your sexual relationship rather than an asset to it. Do you want to marry someone with a sexually transmitted disease? Four-thousand-two-hundrednineteen (4,219) sexually active American teens will get a STD today-and they'll marry somebody one day. Many STD's are treatable, but incurable. There are also emotional considerations. Many marriages are sexually dysfunctional because of the guilt and resentment that come as baggage from previous sexual relationships. When old boy/girlfriends are introduced, what goes through your new spouse's mind? Why not plan now to give your future partner the one gift that you can give only onceand don't let him or her open it until the wedding night.
Part 1, Allen Webster
Glad Tidings of Good Things
Vol. 8/April 17, 2003