Kevin, a teenage boy, has an opportunity to be alone with Tiffany, a girl that he is attracted to. If he thinks that he might get caught and his parents will find out, or that he might get a sexually-transmitted disease, he might decide not to be with her. However, suppose he thinks no one will find out and he can use protection to keep him safe. In addition, he and Tiffany have devised the “perfect” plan to hide their encounter. Thus, the fear of consequence fades against the powerful lure of temptation.
It is no secret teenagers face powerful temptations. Parents want to make sure that consequences are in place to help protect their children. And it is good to put deterrents in place for behavior that is unacceptable and sinful. But, for your teenager, it comes down to that moment of decision; is the consequence enough to make a difference? For Kevin, it was not.
Kevin’s problem is that he is being motivated by perceived consequences rather than how he can love God. His choice was made between unpleasant consequences and moments of pleasure with Tiffany. Furthermore, deciding not to be with Tiffany because of negative consequences is just selfish as wanting to be with her. Fear of consequences does not have the power to guard the heart of your teenager. Deciding to do the right action for selfish motives will only act as precursor to becoming a person who is interested in pleasing himself.
So, are consequences necessary? Absolutely!
But it is important to grasp that by themselves, consequences are not enough to overcome the allure of sin. The only real protection against the temptations of the flesh is a deep love for God. Will your children value loving God more than they love themselves and the anticipation of immediate pleasure?
The love of God and his word planted deeply in the heart is only protection that can be fully trusted. The Psalmist offers the motivation that is pleasing to God when he says:
I have treasured your word in my heart
so that I may not sin against you.
Consequences are warnings of bad things to come. This makes them useful. However, avoiding negative consequences is not enough to keep your teenagers from the call of sexual sin. They may act as a temporary deterrent, but the lusts of the flesh are relentless. Ultimately, only a deep love of God and his word will be the motivation that can truly protect your children.
When young Joseph was confronted with willing and eager temptress, he had the means and the opportunity to sin, but not the motivation. His love of God and his honor protected hm. Remember his words when he faced temptation.
How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.
Parents, do you model the fear of consequences or the fear of God in leading your family away from temptation. Yes, consequences have an important role to in protecting your children. But, by themselves they are not enough to defeat the enemy. Model the love of God to your family. Are you motivated by fear of bad consequences more than your love for God? God knows the answer and so do your teenagers. Lead your teenagers to love God as you shepherd their hearts towards Christ.