Students are broken over pornography, voyeurism, oral sex, sexting, “hooking-up,” sexploitation, sexual abuse, sexual pressure, sexual addiction, same-sex attraction, date rape, virtual sex, masturbation, etc.
How sad it is that so many kids are broken over something that God created to be good, and beautiful and guiltless.
The good news is that Christ came to give us His righteousness and to redeem us from slavery to sin and its devastation.
Jesus told us the problem is the heart:
And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23)
What are we up against? (These categories are David Powlison’s from his article, “Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken.” This article first appeared as a chapter in the book Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor, Crossway, 2005)
1. Unholy Pleasure – Sexual Sin
Students are seduced by a wrong object of desire. Whether or not our cultural context views such things as acceptable, or even entertaining, they are sin.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)
- Call sin what it is.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:1-6)
- Rooted in misplaced trust (idolatry) – trusting sex to meet needs that only the Lord can meet. Powlison says, “Sexual sin makes sex too important (and makes the Maker and Redeemer of sex irrelevant). Sex becomes our identity, our right, our fulfillment, our need. That is nonsense. Each ends up degrading sex, as a mere urge that must find an outlet. That, too, is nonsense. Whether exalted or degraded, sex ends up disappointing, self-destructive, and mutually-destructive.”
- Not just a male issue. What is the difference between a man and a woman? A woman wants one man to meet her every need, while a man wants every woman to meet his one need.
- Students who are broken over sexual sin will experience conviction, and may struggle with guilt and shame and may wonder how God can ever forgive them.
- Important to distinguish between godly sorrow (repentance) and worldly sorrow (remorse):
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
- God gives fresh mercies, grace and forgiveness to those who repent.
- Point students to David’s repentance and restoration as a model of Godly repentance. In many of his psalms, David deals with confession and repentance: Psalm 25, Psalm 32, Psalm 38 and, of course, Psalm 51.
- David’s sin brought immediate and severe consequences (2 Sam 12:10-12, 14)
- But David was truly forgiven:
“David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.’” (2 Samuel 12:13)
- Above all, point them to Christ & ask Him to stir their affections for Him. Puritan Pastor Thomas Chalmers’ sermon, The Expulsive Power of A New Affection, is a great read on this.
2. Unholy Pain – Abuse or Trauma
I highly recommend the book Rid of My Disgrace, by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb as an additional resource on this topic.
- Many students experience pain, fear and a sense of helplessness as a result of sexual abuse or trauma.
- Jesus’ kindness redeems both sinners and sufferers. He rights all wrongs. Jesus is merciful to people who do wrong (forgiving and changing you). He is merciful to people who are done wrong (comforting and changing you).
- Students might feel guilt, shame, and self-hate over what someone else did to them.
- Christ understands how they feel. He understands sexual abuse. Just look at the cross!
- Don’t respond with shock, horror or disgust, but with compassion. (Luke 15:20, the father of the prodigal “felt compassion” for his son)
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)
- Remember that complete confidentiality is unlikely, so don’t promise it. It may be necessary to involve and receive counsel from parents, youth staff, counselors, etc.
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)
- Sexual abuse of a minor has to be reported.
- Don’t offer simple or trite answers, but encourage with God’s unfailing love.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
- Don’t say anything if you’re not sure what to say. Just listening is okay. So is silence.
“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:13)
- Build a support network
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
Help Students Take A Long-Term View
- Don’t promise easy, one-and-done fixes.
- The day of “completion” will not arrive until the Day that Jesus Christ arrives (Phil. 1:6).
- When we see Him, then we will be like Him perfectly (1 Jo. 3:2).
- The wiping away of all tears, the taking away of every reason for sorrow, crying, and pain, will not come until God lives visibly in our midst (Rev. 21:3-4). Someday, not today, all things will be made new (Rev. 21:5).
- Much of the failure to fight well, pastor well, counsel well, arises because we don’t really understand and work well with this long truth.
- Eugene Peterson called sanctification “a long obedience in the same direction.”
- The first of Luther’s 95 theses was: “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent,’ He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
|Common Emotions Teenagers May Feel||Scriptural Truth in Response|
|Anger||“Be angry and do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26)|
|Hopelessness||“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)|
|Shame||“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)|
|Minimizing/Regret over telling the truth||“,,,you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)|
|Hopelessness||Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise. (Jeremiah 17:14)|
|Fear||“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)|
|Forgiveness||“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)|
What Forgiveness Is and Is Not
When teenagers need to forgive someone else who has wronged them, it is important to lead them to a biblical understanding of what forgiveness is and is not.
- To forgive is not to embrace or agree with.
- Forgiveness is not approving or diminishing sin.
- Forgiveness is not enabling sin.
- Forgiveness is not denying that a wrongdoing occurred.
- Forgiveness is not waiting for an apology. You can, and should, forgive without an apology. It only takes one person to forgive.
- Forgiveness is not forgetting.
- Forgiveness is not ceasing to feel the pain.
- Forgiveness is not a one-time event.
- Forgiveness is not neglecting justice. Leave justice to the Perfect Judge.
- Forgiveness is not trusting.
- Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Repentance takes one. Forgiveness takes one. But reconciliation takes two.
- Forgiveness is simply saying, “I am not going to let what you did in the past control me. I am not going to be enslaved to anger, resentment and bitterness.” Forgiveness is leaving the other person to Jesus. Anyone who has sinned against you has ultimately also sinned against God. Either that person will repent, in which case you will get your justice at the cross of Christ where Jesus’ blood was shed in their place for their sin just as it was shed in your place for your sin. Or they will remain unrepentant, in which case your forgiving them does not mean that they are ultimately forgiven.
If I can come alongside to help in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me.