Summary: We are all youth. As youth, we encounter the culture of society that continues to redefine sin as something more acceptable to secular eyes. We need to keep God's Word close to remain true to His wisdom.
When Oliver Wendell Holmes was still on the U.S. Supreme Court, he and Justice Louis Brandeis took walks every afternoon. On one of these occasions Holmes, then ninety-two, paused to gaze in frank admiration at a beautiful young girl who passed them. He even turned to look at her as she continued down the street. Then, turning to Brandeis, he signed, “Oh! What I wouldn’t give to be seventy again!” (Hodgin, Michael E., 1002 Humorous Illustrations for Public Speaking, Zondervan: Grand Rapids. 2004. Pg 22.)
Youth is in the eye of the beholder. Now, I’m not suggesting that we should be eyeing young women as they pass us by. But, youth isn’t just a number assigned to our driver’s license. It’s more an attitude of how we choose to perceive the world, an experience that understands the implications of our actions, and a wisdom that has learned from the past.
Today, our sermon is based on Psalm 119 that has a warning about youth wandering away from the faith. As our children grow to become teenagers, they believe they know everything. They feel they understand the world, the risks and the hazards that are all around them. But, their lack of experience, their failure to understand the effects of their actions, and the belief that they are invincible with an unlimited amount of time often allows them to stray away from the faith, and away from God’s commands. Since we’re all young in our own way, we too can commit these same errors and make ourselves victims by not looking to the outcomes of our actions.
As youth, we have much to learn. Tonight, I want to talk to you about following God’s commands. Although together we represent many different generations of people, we are the youth that Psalm 119 warned may stray. Each of us, in our own way, is youth who needs to learn more about God’s Word and its application to our lives. We need to understand that we’re not invincible, but prone to error. It is us that King David wrote about when he penned this Psalm to look towards God’s instruction book for our teaching and to learn from His wisdom.
Being youthful, we’re surrounded by a world that we don’t always understand, and doesn’t always agree with God’s guidelines. One of the problems we need to deal with, is a society that defines terms differently than God envisioned. This is a big problem as we don’t always recognize the dangers around us. We live in a world where moral absolutes are not accepted, where truth is relative to one’s position rather than a bedrock fact one can rely on. On a regular basis, we find sin being redefined as something else, something more acceptable, something more explainable, perhaps even less offensive. No-one likes being told that what they do is wrong. Even if that accusation is coming from God himself.
Look at the things that have become not only common place, but seemingly acceptable to a world that has moved away from a moral standard. Teen pregnancy continues to be on the rise. Single parent households are normal today, rather than the exception. Drug use is at epidemic levels in many areas. Lying, stealing and cheating are considered acceptable rules and norms for business deals. Hurting others, abortion, and even murder are found to be justifiable and acceptable ways of dealing with problems. It seems like the moral standard that was useful to us in past generations, has become outdated and ill-suited for today’s way of thinking. However, this problem really isn’t anything new.
Our former President, Abraham Lincoln, faced a similar situation during his time in office. While discussing a matter with a stubborn colleague, Lincoln said, "Well, let's see how many legs has a cow?" "Four, of course," came the reply disgustedly. "That's right," agreed Lincoln. "Now suppose you call the cow's tail a leg; how many legs would the cow have?" "Why, five, of course," was the confident reply. "Now, that's where you're wrong," said Lincoln. "Calling a cow's tail a leg doesn't make it a leg." (Lincoln, Abraham. As quoted from Bits & Pieces, July, 1991. Available on-line at http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/l/lincoln.htm)
Society has lost sight of the standard that God set for us. Instead, He’s been replaced with a secular, moral frame work where nothing can truly be called morally right or morally wrong. The attitude seems to be to do your own thing, invent your own standard, and choose how you will live your own life. Above all, never call anyone wrong because… well, that’s just not nice, and we wouldn’t want to offend anyone would we?
Instead of seeking out a standard to follow, people are looking for validation for the way they choose to be, rather than looking toward the image that God created man to be. Instead of people looking to improve themselves, they’re looking for others to say “you’re okay, just the way you are”. But, is that a true reflection of what God intended?