I. FREE YOURSELF
There is definitely a stereotype that comes with being a teenager. Some of the things people often associate with youth are disrespect, rebellion, self-absorption, cliquishness, conformity to peer pressure, indifference to serious issues, and a fixation on fun as the only thing that satisfies. Unfortunately such stereotypes are formed because in many ways they are often accurate. As one who is not far removed from you, I can still remember my struggles with many of the common adjectives noted above that are used to describe teenagers.
In my time in working with youth ministry, one of the things that I have come across is that often young people will adapt to low expectations. Many times when the world tells you that all you are capable of is the problems noted above, or your parents decide that you do not deserve any trust or responsibility, instead of saying I am gonna prove that wrong, young people often fall right in line with the low expectations place over them. As a teenager I often remember wanting simply to reach the bar, no matter how low it was set for me.
Just a hundred years ago, as a teenager you would bear crucial responsibility at age thirteen on the farm or in dad’s business — or mom’s kitchen and weaving room. You would be trained for gainful employment, or domestic enterprise, by age seventeen, and would marry before you were twenty, and be a responsible husband and father — or wife and mother — by your early twenties.
This scenario is perhaps hard for you to imagine. And I am not saying we can go back to that era, or should want to. My aim is that you be liberated by the truth. The truth will set you free. The truth that you do not have to fit into the contemporary lockstep expectations put on you by your culture or your peers. This overwhelming desire to “fit in” leads to a kind of slavery. Most teenagers are slaves of the expectations of their peers and of the big industries that market their fashion and music and technology and entertainment.
My young friends, living to be liked is one of the greatest forms of slavery, and the torment of such a life can almost be more torturous than any type of rejection. Beloved if you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior then you are a child of God, and your identity is found solely in him, Free yourself from the slavery of peer pressure, and the expectations this culture says you have to abide by.
II. Fight Strong
Knowing you are in a war changes what is cool. If your family is under attack, fretting about your clothes and your hair stops. There are more important things at stake. And we are at war. The enemy is stronger than the Axis of Germany, Japan, and Italy. Indeed, stronger than all human powers put together. The battle is daily. It is fought in every locality, and the victories and losses of the battles have eternal significance.
Put on the whole armor of God, in order that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)
Fight the good fight of the faith. (1 Timothy 6:12)
Wage the good warfare. (1 Timothy 1:18)
The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh. (2 Corinthians 10:4)
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:3)
Abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)
Don’t be part of the blind, teenage masses who do not know what is going on. They think that to know the latest movie or iPhone app or hit song is to know what is going on. Those things are like cut flowers. Bright today, tossed out tomorrow. They are utterly insignificant compared to events that are shaping the course of eternity.
What is really going on is that people and nations are being enslaved by Satan or liberated by Christ. And Christ fights his liberating warfare through Christians, including teenage Christians.
But not through teenagers who are amusing themselves to death. The average teenager is so wrapped up in themselves, and how they look, and whether anyone likes them that they make poor soldiers. One of the great marks of the soldier in wartime is that their personal comforts give way to their greater mission. Fight strong teenagers!
III. Dare to Be Different
In order to free yourself, and fight strong as a young person it will require that you dare to be different.
Paul gives 4 areas that a young person must dare to be different in:
What is down in the well comes up in the bucket. Jesus taught for out of the abundance of the heart a man speaks. What you say, says a lot about what is written your heart. Ephesians 4: 29 – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Are you encouraging, edifying, and uplifting in the way you are speaking to others. Are you speaking life into those around? The tongue is a powerful weapon that can pierce the soul in ways no other weapons can. Are you using yours to defend the heart of people or are you using yours to cut them out. Dare to be different in you speech!
2) In Conduct
Colossians 1:10 – “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
How do you conduct yourself around your friends? Do people see Christ overflowing in your actions? Do you do all things for the glory of God? Do you find yourself changing the way you act based upon the friends you are hanging around?
If you are you are living beneath the call. How are you living when no one’s around and there is no fear of retribution? The greatest testimony you ever give must be the life that you live. Dare to be different in your conduct.
3) In your Love
Love is a radical word that has been robbed of all its meaning by this superficial world we live in. Do you seek to give on the basis of nothing more than the love you have for someone or is it based upon getting something in return?
Do you constantly make it known the love that you have for those who come in contact with you? Are you showing love to those who are the most difficult to love? Do you love enough to speak the truth to those closest to you even it means possibly losing their friendship? Dare to be different in your love!
4) In your Faith
Is your faith overflowing for all to see? Are you confident in your faith? Are you honest about your faith? Are you zealous for Christ? Are you humble to learn? Never forget that real faith is a contagious thing. Dare to be different in your faith.
5) In your Purity
Purity is so much more than just sexual abstinence. That is just a part of it. Purity is an entire state of being. It means to constantly align ones self with the things that are honoring to God and edifying to self.
It means to properly set boundaries, not only to protect yourself, but also to protect the purity of those around you. It is a purity of all that you are: mind, heart, actions.
Dare to be different in your purity.
My Challenge to You
This is my challenge for you today my young friends. Free yourself from the slavery of peer pressure, fight on as a warrior of Christ, and dare to be different in such a way that you radically stand out as a witness for Christ.
Don’t fit into the stereotype of the aimless, careless, superficial youth. Break the mold. You belong to Christ. Show the world that there is another kind of teenager on the earth.
This teenager is not a leaf blown along with the wind of cultural trends. Not a dead fish that floats with the current of the times. This teenager is a tree that stands firm in the strongest storms. A dolphin who slices the waves against the tide.
Dream of being a kind of teenager that the world cannot explain. Free yourself, Fight Strong, and Dare to be Different.