So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22
Sin’s deceitfulness targets teenagers particularly. As Timothy warns, youthful passions must be avoided and righteousness pursued with great energy. We have already addressed the youthful scheming of Jonadab and Amnon. Amnon’s desires made him an easy target. He craved his sister, Tamar, and was willing to take whatever shortcuts and schemes seemed viable in order to satisfy his sensual passions. His headlong pursuit of immediate gratification had a fatal outcome. That is where living for the moment can lead.
In the 21st century, the entertainment media and advertising industry have assumed the role of Jonadab for our teenagers. You can have it. You deserve it. Do what it takes to get it now. Commercials that offer fast food, beer, cars, clothing, and safe sex all emphasize this unholy trinity of sensual desire (Eph. 4:17-19). Jonadab could have earned a rich living on Madison Avenue. So, this is how teenagers and adults are being encouraged to live. What do you do? Somehow, simply saying, “Don’t do that!” rings empty.
Notice Paul’s encouragement – flee youthful passions and pursue God. This must be your message – flee and pursue.
Encouraging your teens to pursue God with passion is a difficult challenge if you, as parents, are not wholeheartedly pursuing God yourselves. The best way to counter living for the moment is for you, yourself, to have a vision that extends well beyond the moment. Tedd Tripp says that you must have a three generation vision to be an effective parent (Psalm 78:4). In other words, your parenting must include a vision for your grandchildren. If you discipline only to solve problems for the moment you will confirm for your children that only the moment matters. You will help promote the very patterns of sin you are seeking to avoid.
For example, telling your children to be quiet because their play is preventing you from listening to the game can only reinforce the desire to live for the moment. Discipline must always have God as its focus. Teaching children to be considerate must be based upon God’s directions. Your game, in and of itself, has no more value than your children’s play. I have seen situations where the remote is used to turn up the volume as the children get louder. The louder the TV, the louder the children become. Finally, Dad explodes, “Can’t you kids see I’m trying to watch the game?!!” The kids run for cover and Dad quickly turns back to the game because it is third and goal.
God has not been honored in this situation. These types of situations with younger children will not lead to the conversations that your teenagers will need to combat the deceitfulness of sin that seeks to ensnare them.
What does God want? He wants parents to consider the dangers of living for the moment. Youthful passions are driven by tyranny — I want what I want, and I want it NOW! Parental training must envision more than a quiet house. Parental training must envision a life that is lived for God. If the game, the movie, or the political show are, in actual practice, more important than the careful discipline and training of your children, you are encouraging your children in ways that are harmful.
Take time to work with your teenagers to show them the impact of following youthful passions. Passages like 2 Tim. 2:22 and Ephesians 4:17-19 provide the conceptual framework for your discussions. Passages like 2 Samuel 13 and Proverbs 7 depict the life experiences that are behind these concepts. Plan to have discussions that show the long term impact of living for the moment. Don’t lecture, but engage your teenagers. These kinds of conversations call for wisdom that is skillfully applied. Think carefully about how to approach your teenager. Perhaps these are the very areas where you struggle as well. Let me know your thoughts.