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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Matt's Messages - Ready to Launch

“Ready to Launch”

November 19, 2006

It’s time again for Church Family appreciation. Heather and I have designated November as Church Family Appreciation Month. We’re still dining off of gift-cards that many of you gave us last month, and very much appreciating your love for us. So we want to love on you.

Two weeks ago, we thanked you for your expressions of love and care for our family. Last week, we thanked you for loving the lost with the Gospel. And today, I want to thank you for loving those who are different from you.

I’m not sure altogether why, but many churches that believe the Bible like we do also have a problem with loving people who aren’t like us. But this church is famous for loving people who are different from one another.

Remember when the current crop of young adults were teenagers? And the hairdos? And the friends that got brought to church? In some places, there is this idea that you have to be cleaned up and buttoned down to be acceptable at church. But this church is not like that.

My favorite moment and most proud moment in ministry this year was Craig “Tiny” Older’s memorial service back in January. We had 30 or more bikers from his bike-club. And they didn’t look or dress or act or smell like many of us normally do. And you folks didn’t miss a beat! You loved them, made them dinner, made them feel welcome, and took care of them. I was so proud of you and still am.

A few weeks ago, at a family dinner, I saw a former drug user, an ex-con, and a state trooper standing at the sink washing dishes together and having a good old time! That is a picture of what the church should be. And I love it that our church is like that. I appreciate you.

Now, let’s get into our message for today.

This Fall, in our Home Improvement Series, we’ve been learning how to build our families on the Gospel. For most of September and October, we talked about the primary family relationship–the marriage.

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about the rest of the basic family: children and parenting.

Now today, we have reached the teen years. Those magical years of growing up between being a child and being an adult.

How would you describe the goal of the teen years?

If you are a young person in your teen years, what would you say is the God-given goal for this season of your life? It won’t be long until you are past these years, you know that? I know it seems like forever, but it will pass quickly.

If you are the parent of a teen, what would you say is the God-given goal for your parenting of your son or daughter in this season of their life? You won’t have them for much longer, you know that? I know it seems like forever, but it will pass quickly.

What is the goal for these teen years?

Well, I’m sure that there are a lot of ways to answer that question, but as I was thinking about it this week, it all boiled down to this for me: “Ready to Launch.”

If you are a teenager, God wants you to use this season of your life as a preparation season for launching into Christian adulthood.

And if you are a parent of a teen, your job right now is to get your son or daughter ready to launch into adulthood.

Not just to endure the tumultuous changes.
Not just to get through school and get a diploma.
Not just to survive white-knuckled through learning to drive and waiting up for them to get home.
Not just to wait for that driver’s license, or 18th birthday, or finally getting out of the house.

But to be ready to launch into independent, Christian adulthood.

That’s the goal.

I don’t think many parents, including Christian parents, have that goal firmly fixed in front of them.

I know that most teenagers don’t have that goal firmly fixed in front of them.

Becoming adults is what being a teenager is all about.

And for Christians, it’s not just being an adult by whatever definition you supply for that, but being a fully functional Christian adult–an independent, stand on your own disciple of Jesus Christ–that’s what you are getting ready for.

Ready to Launch.

I have less than a dozen years until my daughter turns 18.

Somebody said to me this week, “Oh to keep them young forever!”

I said, “I don’t know about that.”

And I thought, “I’ve got to focus now on getting her ready to launch. I’ve only got less than a dozen years until she turns 18. And I want her to be ready to launch before that.”

And if you are a teen already, you’re much closer to launching (or at least should be!) than Robin is.

So we have to get serious about getting ready.

Well, to go along with the rocket-ship theme, I have a countdown this morning of 10 pieces of counsel for teenagers to get ready to launch.

Parents, you are invited to listen in, and I’ll try to give you some ideas, as well, for how to help your teen to get ready to launch.

This first one is absolutely foundational. #10. DECIDE (NOW) TO BE A DISCIPLE.

Teens, you’ve got to make your Christian faith your own.

God has no grandchildren–you aren’t made acceptable to God by your parents being Christians.

You have to be a Christ-follower yourself.

And to be a disciple–a Christ-follower–requires not just to put your trust in the Cross and what Jesus did there, but to–by faith–follow Jesus in every area of your life.

You have to answer the question, “Am I going to follow Jesus with my life or not?”

The biggest mistake that I have seen Christian teens fall into for the last 11 years of pastoral ministry, is not getting the Lordship question answered.

“Am I going to trust Jesus as my Savior and my Lord?” So that everything in my life is submitted to Him.

The Bible calls that “the fear of the LORD.” And it is the beginning of wisdom.

Let’s read the first seven verses in Proverbs 1. It explains the point of the book which was in many ways a training manual for young men to get them ready to launch into life. Proverbs 1:1.

“The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life [what adulthood should be], doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young [teens]– let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance [Solomon is our guidance counselor]–for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.]

The fear of the LORD is to understand that God is God, and you are not. And it is to reverently trust Him as the Lord of the Universe and worshipfully submit yourself to His Kingly Lordship.

And the fear of the LORD is the beginning of getting ready to launch.

Parents, the #1 question that you have to get answered is the discipleship question:

Is my son or daughter a faith-follower of Jesus Christ?
Does my son or daughter see themselves as orienting their life around the Lord Jesus?

Not just, “Did they pray a prayer back when they were 7?”
Not just, “Do they call themselves Christians?”
Not just, “Do they dutifully go to church with me?”

But “is my son or daughter following the Lord Jesus Christ by faith?”

Do they have “the fear of the Lord?”

If they don’t, they aren’t ready to launch into Christian adulthood.

This sets the course for all of the rest. If you don’t hear anything else that I say, hear me say, “You must decide now to be a disciple.”

You will be a disciple of something or other. But only Jesus is worthy of all of your devotion for all of your life.

Go wrong here, and you will go wrong, period. But if you orient your life around the Lordship of Christ, you will experience blessing.

#9. REBEL AGAINST REBELLION.

Teens and parents of teens, your relationship does not need to be typical. It doesn’t have to be full of tension and conflict. It doesn’t have to be laden with rebellion and stress and fighting.

There is no law that says that teens must go through a rebellious stage.

That’s not in the Bible.

Instead, teens and their parents can experience the joy of the Family Dance that we talked about a few weeks ago in Ephesians 6.

Remember that? Teens obeying and honoring their parents. Parents not exasperating their teens but bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

If #10 is in place, and you are both submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Family Dance can be danced with teenagers.

I’ve seen it happen.

When I was a youth pastor, there was a delightful family named the Petersons. And the Petersons had 2 teenagers at that time, and I was their youth pastor.

And the oldest, Josh, he loved his dad and mom. With a vengeance! He just lavished honor on his folks. And they loved Him. And there wasn’t any rebellion in that household.

And it was a joy to behold. Josh is a youth pastor now.

Teens, you can buck the trend as followers of Jesus Christ and rebel against rebellion.

There is a great website that I can totally recommend to the teens in our church to check out. It’s call TheRebelution.com. Notice the interesting spelling.

This website is run by two twin brothers, Alex and Brett, that are 17 years old. They are actually, Joshua Harris’ brothers, so they come from a pretty interesting family already. They lead what they call the Rebelution which is a rebellion against teenage rebellion and a revolution in teens becoming mature Christ-followers.

They have tons of great stuff they’ve written and links to other rebelutionaries.

Alex writes, this website, “challenges you to throw off the shackles of what society expects of you. The teen years are not a vacation from responsibility. They are the training ground of future leaders who dare to be responsible now.”

Parents, do you believe that your relationship with your teen does not have to be typical? It doesn’t have to be a war between you and them?

I highly recommend Paul Tripp’s book about parenting teens. It’s called Age of Opportunity. This is a season of getting them ready to launch. If you are both disciples, it doesn’t have to be a warzone.

Rebel Against Rebellion.

Teens, honor your Mom and Dad.

Let me tell you a secret. Don’t listen, Mom and Dad. If you consistently honor and obey your Mom and Dad, you will get more and more freedom until you won’t know what do with all the freedom you get!

If you consistently honor and obey your Mom and Dad, you will get more and more freedom until you launch out on your own.

Rebel Against Rebellion.

#8. FIND YOUR ID IN CHRIST.

Find your identity in Christ.

One of the major struggles that I see teens go through is the identity crisis.

“Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What does it mean to be me?”

Are you struggling with that question?

I did when I was a teen. I went through several different phases, some of them at the same time:

I was the happy to be a geek guy. I actually wore a pocket-protector to high school! For fun! For kicks!

I was also the band-guy. I was in symphonic band, concert, jazz band, choir, barbershop quintet, and marching band. I was the drum major for the marching band!

I was also a goody-two-shoes.

And I went through a black-trenchcoat phase.

And I did the going to dances and trying to get girlfriends thing for awhile.

On our vacation, I subjected my wife to going through one of my highschool yearbooks. And on every other page, I was reinventing myself. Who was I?

Here’s how to figure out who you are. Start with #10. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

And figure out what that means for every area of your life.

Start in and move out. The Bible uses this phrase “in Christ” at least 85 times to describe who you are if you are a disciple.

Get familiar with who God says you are, and you’ll figure out your ID really quickly.

Parents, you can help a lot here, not just by listening to what they are saying about who they are (and that’s big, do that!), but also by sharing what the Bible says about who they are in Christ.

#7. DON’T ♥ THE WORLD.

Now, I don’t mean don’t love the world like John 3:16, like God loves the world. We are to love people in the world with the love of Christ.

But I mean don’t love the world like 1 John 2:15 which says this, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.”

That sounds a lot like popular culture to me.

The cravings of sinful man (TV commercials), the lust of his eyes (MTV and VH1), and the boasting of what he has and does (what everyone says about themselves on MySpace).

Do not love the world.

Worldliness is adopting the values of the unbelieving culture around us. And it is very hard to fight.

And it is especially hard if you are absorbing the media without discernment.

What are you watching?
What are you listening to?
What are you playing?

What DVDs, mp3s, CDs, and video games are you taking in?

Those things are shaping your mind and heart in significant ways.

And the amount of the world that you take in will affect whether or not you are ready to launch.

Parents, you need to be monitoring and, when necessary, protecting your teen from the pervasive forces of the world that are trying to get into their mind and heart.

For example, this is your choice (not in the Bible), but I think it is utter folly for a teen to have a television in their own room–unless you think that they are almost ready to launch.

It’s like inviting the world into your teen’s bedroom. “Here, have him!”

But, protecting isn’t good enough, is it?

That doesn’t get them ready to launch!

You’ve got to teach and train them how to navigate pop culture and the media and use biblical principles to discern it.

You can’t just protect. You’ve got to help them know how to navigate it themselves.

I know that this strikes a chord with most teens. “Hands off my music!”

Teens, ask yourself this question. Does my Lord want me to be listening to this?

Am I loving Jesus by listening to, watching, or playing with this?
Or am I loving the world?

Countdown #6. SAVE SEX (ALL OF IT) FOR MARRIAGE.

This one doesn’t surprise anyone. Teens have hormones.

Listen, sex is for adulthood and marriage.

Sex is really good. Remember my sermon on Song of Songs that you giggled your way through a month ago? Sex is really good.

God came up with sex. Think about that for a while. Sex is God’s good idea. I’m really glad He came up with it.

But sex is for marriage like fire is for a fireplace. In the fireplace, fire is great and hot and delightful.

But a fire in the middle of the living room is destructive.

Save your fire for your fireplace.

Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

I know that the world and your friends all send very different messages on this one.

But God sends a very clear message. And you are a disciple.

Save sex (all of it, I know that a lot of kids are doing everything but intercourse and don’t think that it is really sex because you can’t get pregnant, but it is sex—and save it all) for marriage. You will be glad and your spouse will be glad.

I pray at least weekly for Robin’s husband. And one of the things I pray is that he will have kept himself pure for her.

Parents, I don’t have to tell you that it’s your responsibility to protect them and train them in this area.

I know that a lot of parents out there, leave it up to the school or the culture, though. We must be vigilant. And if we have to be, we must be unpopular with our children, sex is a powerful force that can’t be played with.

Teens, sex is for marriage. If you aren’t ready for marriage, you aren’t ready for sex. It’s that simple. Not easy, but simple.

#5. SEEK WISDOM.

It’s easy when you are young to think that you know it all. But that is the mark of foolishness. Wise youth seek out wisdom from wise adults.

The first few chapters of Proverbs have this as the theme: “Get wisdom.”

Listen to Proverbs 4:5

“Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.”

Man, that sounds good, doesn’t it?

I want that for our teens. May we have the wisest teens in the area.

To do that, it involves humbling yourself.

It take admitting you don’t have all the answers.

But “esteem [wisdom], and she will exalt you; embrace [wisdom], and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.”

Now, wisdom can be defined as the art of applying truth.

So, it’s not just Bible knowledge (but you have to get that!), and it’s not just a biblical worldview (but you need that, too), and it’s not just devotional reading (but you should develop a habit of Bible reading and prayer), it’s the ability to apply what you are learning to your every day life–that’s what you’ve got to do. Connect truth with life.

I try to provide you with a healthy dose of wisdom every Sunday.

What are you doing with that every week? Do you listen? Do you apply?

Get wisdom.

Parents, you need to be wise to get your child ready to launch. Are you getting wisdom?

Often, we, as parents, want to spout our wisdom. But we need to make sure that we are also humbling ourselves and learning and applying–not just spouting.

Seek wisdom.

Countdown #4. BE CAREFUL ABOUT YOUR COMPANIONS.

1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character.”

Who are your friends? Who is influencing you?

I can hear you now, “Houston, we have a problem. Pastor Matt is meddling with my friends.”

You need to make your choices about friends based on your disciple relationship with
Jesus Christ.

Would Jesus have you be the kind of friend you are with the kind of friends you have?

Now, I’m not saying that you don’t act as some kind of a friend to various people.

But what kind of a friendship are you developing?

Let me ask it this way. Whom is influencing whom?

And what kind of an influence are they?

If you are tuning me out because I’m saying this, are you (Proverbs 1:7), “despising wisdom and discipline?”

Parents, you need to be monitoring the friendships that your teen has and helping them to think through them biblically.

When they are younger, you can choose their friends for them to some degree. As they get older, you have to help them to choose them wisely. Because friends are big influence.

This is where I need to say something about MySpace and Xanga and Blogger and other relational networking websites.

I’ve seen a number of our young people have MySpace pages or Xanga pages. And they are very revealing of what is going on in the mind and heart and relationships of our teens. I’ve read a number of them. Many of them are public. They are broadcasting their relationships and interactions on the web.

Parents, you should be reading your teens’ web journaling activity–especially as it relates to your kids’ friends.

Getting to the end. #3. DO HARD THINGS.

I get this from the Harris twins and their “rebelution.”

They point out that teens can do a lot more than society thinks of them.

Teens can take responsibility, can work hard, can achieve amazing things when they put their mind to it.

And that is great training for being an adult.

Get a job. Create a business. Organize a youth outing. Don’t be passive or lazy, instead, lead. Act. Do hard things.

The opposite is something the Harris twins call “adultescence,” which is the Peter Pan Syndrome. “I’ll never grow up.” 27 year olds living with Mom and Dad never going anywhere. They call them "kidults."

There was a movie about that this year. What was it called? “Failure to Launch.”

Do hard things.

All of the teens in the Bible did.

Name some famous teens in the Bible.

We don’t know exactly how old they all were, but I’m guessing at least these:

David the Shepherd who killed a lion and a bear before he killed a giant.

Daniel the Prophet who stood up to the King of the Superpower of the World and looked lions in the mouth.

Esther who approached the King without being summoned.

And Mary who bore the Christ child and all of the scorn of her community.

They did hard things. You can to.

Parents, what hard things can you call your child to?

That will get them ready to launch.

Countdown #2. BE A MISSIONARY–RIGHT NOW!

You don’t have to wait until you grow up to share the gospel with your community.

On Wednesday nights, I meet with a group of 5 young men for Bible study, prayer, memorization, and discipleship.

And one of them, when we took prayer requests this week, said, “Let’s pray that we are ready to share the Gospel when we need to.”

I was totally impressed. That’s being a missionary right now.

Some of you may be called to be a missionary overseas someday. You know who goes there? The ones who have a proven track record here.

Your schools are full of lost people who need the Gospel. Are you going to stand up for Jesus and share Him with them?

I was totally encouraged last week when we had so many teens show up with rakes and smiles to serve in our leaf raking OUTReach Sunday afternoon.

Colossians 4 is talking to you when it says, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

I can’t wait to do a baptism for someone you teens have led to Christ. If you do that, they will be eternally grateful! And you will be ready to launch.

Countdown #1. BELIEVE THE GOSPEL.

You might have wondered how I was going to get it in there.

Not only do we need to believe the gospel (#10) to become disciples at the beginning of the Christian race, but we need to believe the Gospel every day all day.

It’s not just the way we start the Christian life, it’s the way we live the Christian life.

Parents, you need to keep the Gospel front and center in your parenting. Parent towards the heart–not just behavior. Don’t be a legalist parent. Be an evangelist parent.

Parents, you need to keep the gospel in front of you. Because you are a sinner in need of a Savior, too.

Your parenting will be flawed. But we have a mighty, mighty Savior to redeem our parenting and give us grace to go on.

And we need to hold out the gospel to our teens.

And teens, you need to know the gospel inside and out. Not just to share it, but to live off of it.

I recommend reading C.J. Mahaney’s “Living the Cross-Centered Life.” Again, if you already have!

Like Paul, I want to “remind you of the gospel...which you have received and on which you have taken your stand...” It is of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).

And when you have internalized the Gospel, you are ready to launch.

“Houston, we have lift-off!”

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