|Three Conditions of Discipleship|
Lisa Barry: Elisabeth Elliot talked yesterday about the destructive trend in society toward immaturity. She calls it the juvenilization of America. At an age when teenagers should be exercising self-discipline and setting a course for the rest of their lives, they seem increasingly aimless. But before you teenagers conclude that the only intention this week is to criticize, Elisabeth Elliot wants to speak to you directly today. She has words of wisdom, hope and challenge just for you. So get ready for this Tuesday edition of Gateway To Joy coming up next.
Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, talking today about teenagers. This is for you who are teenagers who may be listening, and of course it's for your parents, and maybe some of the rest of you will be interested.
Yesterday I touched on the foolishness of what I call the juvenilization of America-the whole culture of teddy bears, stuffed toys, Disney cartoon critters, balloons. Do we need them? I'm convinced that this unavoidable scene is shaping our characters, unless we make a rigorous effort to ignore them.
How about growing up? Help your children to grow up. Remember that what's appropriate for a six-year-old is not at all appropriate for a 12-year-old. The Apostle Paul said, "When I became a man, I put away childish things."
Do you help your 12-year-olds to make decisions about the use of their time, the use of their money, their thoroughness in schoolwork? Do they clearly understand the rules, which are different for a teenager than they were for a child? Do they know why those rules are made? Remember that there are far more hazards for teenagers than there are for smaller children. All sorts of temptations, which may not touch the smaller child.
It's no wonder that when Peter Marshall's mother helped him pack his trunk for his first job away from home, as she walked to the little iron gate with him she said, "Do not forget your verse, my laddie. 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.'"
Then as her blue eyes smiled, she went on, "Long ago I put ye in the Lord's hands, and I'll not be taking ye away, no. He will take care of you. Do not worry." And I'm sure there are some parents out there listening. You need that exhortation from Peter Marshall's mother. "Do not worry." If you've put that child in the Lord's hands, don't take him back. Let the Lord take care of him and don't worry.
Well, with all the foolishness that I've just been discussing, it's no wonder that teenagers are so often out of control. Unfortunately, there's a mindset that simply assumes that teenagers will be out of control.
I remember when Valerie was about ten years old. A friend asked me, "What kind of a relationship do you think you have with your daughter?" I thought a minute and I said, "Well, I think I would have to describe it as a pretty perfect mother/daughter relationship." The other woman just sort of rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders and she said, "Wait till she's a teenager!"
Well, you know what? I'm still waiting. My daughter is over 40 now. But we have not had any separation between us, other than geographical. How I thank God for that!
Sometimes people say, "But they need a childhood." Yes, I agree. By the time they've reached 12, they've had it. As far as I can see from the Scripture, there are only two classes of people. There are children and there are adults. There are no teenagers. They've had their childhood.
Remember what Jesus did when He was 12. He was found seated in the temple, confounding the experts in the law. He was a boy who had learned the Scriptures in His growing up years, and He was now capable of asking questions that they couldn't answer and answering questions that they asked.
Thomas a' Kempis wrote, "Blessed is that simplicity that leaveth the way of hard questions and goeth in the plain and steadfast way of the commandments of God."
Is there a mother or father listening to me today? May I ask, "Have you faithfully taught your children?" Did you read the Bible to them from the time they were very small? I can remember my son-in-law reading the Bible to his newborn son, Walter. It wasn't easy, because of course the child began to scream as soon as family devotions were initiated. I guess it's our adversary, the devil, that makes sure that that happens in order to discourage parents from trying to do anything at all about regular, faithful Bible reading and prayer. Parents have a very solemn responsibility before God to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Now to you teenagers who might possibly be listening to me today, suppose you were to go to heaven and knock on heaven's gate and God were to answer the knock. And if He were to say, "Why should I let you in?" would you reply, "My folks are Christians"? That's not going to qualify, you know. You are responsible before God for your obedience, your trust, your commitment to Him. Your parents can never do it for you.
Let's begin by pondering the three conditions of discipleship. Jesus said, "If you want to be My disciple, you must 1) give up your right to yourself." Do you find that easy? Well, neither do I. But that's the very first one, and Jesus knew what He was doing to choose that first. "If you want to be My disciple, you must give up your right to yourself."
The second condition: "Take up the cross," which of course has got to mean suffering. What else could it possibly mean? Jesus Himself was crucified. He was speaking these words before that crucifixion, but He knew what lay ahead of Him. So He is giving you and me previews of coming attractions when He says, "If you want to be My disciple, be prepared for self-abandonment and suffering." The second condition is suffering. Take up the cross.
And the cross, as John H. Newman said, is no great action done once for all, but the continual practice of small duties which are distasteful to us. Shall I read that again? The taking up of the cross is not one great action done once for all, but the continual practice of small duties which are distasteful to us. Nothing dramatic. Nothing very heroic. But those small duties. I don't suppose there is anybody listening to me that has trouble thinking of any small duty that is distasteful.
And the third condition of discipleship: Follow. It simply means obedience. Put one foot in front of the other and follow the Shepherd.
It says in 1 John 2, "The man who says, 'I know Him,' but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
Verse 6 in that same chapter of 1 John says, "Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did."
Verse 24: "See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He promised us, even eternal life."
In the second letter of John, verse 9, he writes, "Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God. Whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son." It's that continuing which constitutes the third condition of discipleship. Number one, give up your right to yourself. Number two, take up the cross. Number three, follow and continue in the teaching of the Father and the Son.
In the Book of Jude, which is the next to the last book in the Bible, verse 21 says, "Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life." Wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.
May God enable you to act as a faithful parent of teenagers, or if you're the teenager, a faithful son or daughter to your mother and father. God bless you.
Lisa Barry: As we close today, I would like to say a word to you teenagers who are listening, or should I say, you adults? You will spend the next several years trying to determine what God's will is for your life. He has given you the ability to find it through the Bible. In other words, if you face a situation where you know what's right, yet you choose wrong, you'll take a step away from God's will. If you know what the right thing is and you act accordingly, you'll stay in the center.
But in order to do that, you need to be sure you have an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ, apart from your Christian heritage. Pray a prayer of assurance tonight and tell God that you know that Jesus' death on the cross was the only way you'd ever make it into heaven and that you've accepted His free gift of eternal life. Then invite Him to come into your life and prove that you're serious by committing to prayer and Bible study.
If you'd like more information on all of this, by all means write to Gateway To Joy at this address: Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible.
Tomorrow Elisabeth makes a very important distinction between love and lust in the mind of a teenager. That's next time on Gateway To Joy.