Sadly, this whole week is going to be so busy that I’m not certain there will be any blogging here at Agent Tim Online. Tomorrow evening, I will be speaking at a youth event for our church on the topic of “The Gospel and Our Response” (see here, here, here, and here for some idea of the outline and substance of “response” part of the talk). So, I would greatly envy your prayers tomorrow night at about 7 EST.

Also, I’m going to leak out a rumor that there may be some changes around here. You’ll have to find out what kind. Have a great week.

The Case Against Adolescence

Phsychology Today is out with an amazing article about Psychologist Robert Epstein’s new book “The Case Against Adolescence,” in which he argues “that teens are far more competent than we assume, and most of their problems stem from restrictions placed on them.” Here are just a few clips from this insightful article that all of us teenagers have known all along.

The whole culture collaborates in artificially extending childhood, primarily through the school system and restrictions on labor. The two systems evolved together in the late 19th-century; the advocates of compulsory-education laws also pushed for child-labor laws, restricting the ways young people could work, in part to protect them from the abuses of the new factories. The juvenile justice system came into being at the same time. All of these systems isolate teens from adults, often in problematic ways.

What kind of problems?

What are some likely consequences of extending one’s childhood?

Imagine what it would feel like—or think back to what it felt like—when your body and mind are telling you you’re an adult while the adults around you keep insisting you’re a child. This infantilization makes many young people angry or depressed, with their distress carrying over into their families and contributing to our high divorce rate. It’s hard to keep a marriage together when there is constant conflict with teens.

We have completely isolated young people from adults and created a peer culture. We stick them in school and keep them from working in any meaningful way, and if they do something wrong we put them in a pen with other “children.” In most nonindustrialized societies, young people are integrated into adult society as soon as they are capable, and there is no sign of teen turmoil. Many cultures do not even have a term for adolescence. But we not only created this stage of life: We declared it inevitable. In 1904, American psychologist G. Stanley Hall said it was programmed by evolution. He was wrong.

If teens are so competent, why do they not show it?

What teens do is a small fraction of what they are capable of doing. If you mistreat or restrict them, performance suffers and is extremely misleading. The teens put before us as examples by, say, the music industry tend to be highly incompetent. Teens encourage each other to perform incompetently. One of the anthems of modern pop, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, is all about how we need to behave like we’re stupid.

Teens in America are in touch with their peers on average 65 hours a week, compared to about four hours a week in preindustrial cultures. In this country, teens learn virtually everything they know from other teens, who are in turn highly influenced by certain aggressive industries. This makes no sense. Teens should be learning from the people they are about to become. When young people exit the education system and are dumped into the real world, which is not the world of Britney Spears, they have no idea what’s going on and have to spend considerable time figuring it out.

There are at least 20 million young people between 13 and 17, and if they are as competent as I think they are, we are just throwing them away.

This article is not one to miss, with so much truth found within the statements of this man on the myth of adolescence. Every teenager in this movement should read this article.

HT: Tim Chalies.

Why Regenerate?

I have been pleased and blessed to see that the last few posts have been a great encouragement and blessing to all who have read them. For some, you may have noticed some phrases within those posts which led you to believe these posts were not simply articles, but rather a devotional speech. If anyone had that hunch, you hit the nail on the head. Those three posts are three of the points in my five point speech. Post one highlighted sacrifice, post two highlighted passion, and post three highlighted obedience. The next two points will be remembering, and finally taking action. For those who are able to decipher the “code” hidden within these points — well, we’ll think of something to give you.

The main thrust of this presentation is to talk about how we are to live as young believers in Christ. How do we go about each day becoming more like Him in every way? My next point was remembering. What, pray tell, are we to remember? Good question. It all boils down to what I talked about in my latest article in Regenerated Magazine, entitled Why Regenerate. In it, I examined closely our purpose as an organization, and very simply, our reason for existence. I encourage you to take a look at that article, and hopefully it can help you as you work to live more like Christ.

Regenerate Our Culture. It’s a catchy name with a lot of potential. But what does it really mean? How does it affect our lives, and why should any Christian teenager be a part of this “regeneration”? How is it different from other organizations and movements that call teenagers to change the world, to stand up, to fight the world? And is it worth the fight to change the culture that we see so quickly disintegrating?

Like Christ Alone

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘be holy as I am holy.’” –1 Peter 1:13-16

It’s a powerful peice of Scripture, packed full of direction for our lives, whether we are brand new Christians, or verterans of the faith. It is a passage of Scripture that hits hard when you really consider what it asks of you and I, young men and women who have decided that we want to become “holy as [He] is holy.” It is not easy to be holy “in all” that we do. No matter how hard we try, we either slip into one category – we fall way short of holiness, or we go too far into the realm of legalism – and once again are being unholy in the sight of God.

The question is, how are we to be holy as God is holy?

When we take a look at this particular passage of Scripture, and work to understand how to be holy, we must look at the very first word in this paragraph “therefore.” “Therefore” directs the reader to the “fore” or what came before this passage of Scripture. So what do we find there? We find Peter speaking of the “living hope” from Christ’s death and ressurection (v. 3). He is speaking of how great and marvelous is this inheritance that we have recieved (v. 4) – and inheritance that gives us faith, and that faith brings us to rejoice even through sufferings (v. 6). These sufferings will prove our faith “gunuine” (v.7). This faith also leads us to love a Savior whom we have never seen, yet will see someday when he returns. (v. 8) And to make things even more amazing, this wonderful story of salvation was told to the prophets who foretold the coming of Christ. The passage concludes right before the “therefore” that “even the angels long to look into these things.” (v. 12)

So, because of this marvelous grace shown on sinners, we are to “prepare [our] minds for action.” What does this mean? It simply means that we are to be prepared for the second coming of Christ when our sanctification is to be completed. So does that mean that we are not completely holy right now? Not in the least! We, as Christians, are still living in the “old man” or the “old creature.” Though it has been put to death, we still fight a battle against our sin nature. The process of sanctification, or perfect Christlikeness, is ongoing, and will not be complete in this life. But it will be completed when Christ returns. It is the inheritance spoken about in verse four. For now, we must rely on God, throwing all of ourselves at His feet and allowing Him to transform our lives. Of course, that does not mean we do nothing in our pursuit of holiness.

We are to prepare our minds, be self-controlled, and we are to set our “hope fully on the grace to be given” to us “when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (v. 13) Then, as “obedient children” of God, we are first of all “no longer to conform to the evil desires” that we previously had when we “lived in ignorance.” We are to put off those evil desires, because they have already been defeated. Peter continues from telling us what not to do to telling us what we are to do. We are to be “just as he who called you,” holy.

God alone is holy. There is none like him in all the universe. No one can claim that they are perfect and without blemish. God can say he is perfect and holy, but a human being cannot. All we have to do is look around at the world and quickly see that we are not holy. Our nation, our generation, and our family is not holy. But, as Christians, we are to be putting on the qualities that mark Jesus Christ. And only by His spirit can we do that.

These qualities can be found throughout Scripture, but one of the best places to find them is in Galations 5. In this passage we find Paul speaking about many of the same things that Peter has just mentioned.

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflinct with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.”

Do you see it again? The sinful desires? The living by the Spirit, who is part of the trinitiy, and is God – so therefore is holy. So, we are to live in holiness, and not in sin. When we are led by the Spirit, we no longer are condemned by the law as we were before we were saved, but are now growing in holiness.

After Paul tells us to live by the Spirit and not to gratify our sinful nature, he tells us what a sinful nature looks like. Again, what not do, and then what we are to do or be like. What we are to be like is outlined in the “fruit of the Spirit.” This fruit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.”

Paul continues to clarify by saying:

“Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”

In other words, we have put off, or literally “stripped off” the old man, crucified it, and with it goes the condemning nature of the law of God. Now we belong to Jesus Christ and are characterized by love, by joy, by peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. All of these are wonderful character traits that show us whether or not we truly are saved and are living a regenerate lifestyle.

Due to this regneration, or this new life in Christ, we are to be living holy lives. In Colossians 3, Paul outlines for us very clearly the rules for living in holiness are regenerated beleivers.

We are to set our “hearts of things above” and to set our “minds on things above, not on earthly things.” We are to be what many call “kingdom minded” or “heavenly minded.” When our minds are on what is to come, on heaven and on Christ, we begin to live in obedience, knowing that Christ may come back at any time.

Paul continues in this chapter with many others rules. We are to: “Put to death sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Why is this? “Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” God’s holiness and wrath is going to be shown, and without repentance, we will surely recieve he judgement. None of us are without excuse — we know what God expects of us, yet as we all know, no one is perfect and holy. Therefore we all deserve eternal punishment. Yet Christ has saved those who have repented and put their trust in him.

And now, as regenerate believers we must ride ourselves of “anger, rage, malice, clander, and filthy language.” These are things we used to do in the past. Again, we are to “have taken off” our old selves”with its practices” and “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator.” Sanctification.

So, we understand what we not supposed to do. Yet that is not the end. Thankfully Paul does not conclude there. He continues to show us what we are to be doing.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humilty, gentleness, and patientce. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grivences you may have against another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtures put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

That’s a lot to do! We are to show compassion to other, we are to be kind, we must be humble, we must be gentle, and we must show patience — all extremely hard things to do in our age of speed and the “me-first” attitude. It’s completely revolutionary. Completely opposite of what is expected. We are to forgive those who have wronged us, not seeking revenge. We do this because Christ forgave us. And above all, we must love! It’s so hard to love someone who treats you like a no-one, as “dirt,” as a simple-minded kid. It’s hard to forgive insults and put-downs. It’s hard to show compassion to our enemies, people we are to hate. It’s hard to love a brother, or to speak kindly to everyone you come in contact with. But the Bible commands it, because Christ showed it all to the vilest of people — you and I.

Christ Alone

Until recently, very few knew the story of William Wilberforce. Many were familiar with the name of this great Englishman, but his true story had long been forgotten on the pages of the history books where he was known only as a great reformer and leader in the abolition of the slave trade in England. This indeed is magnificent and is once of his greatest accomplishments, but this history books have left out his great faith in God. This faith — reconciled with participation in politics — was the greatest thing about this man. He lived in a day of moral bankruptcy, just as we do today. Any world filled with slavery is a world morally bankrupt — again, just as our world is today. The sin he saw was great, as men decided that they could buy and sell other men just because of their color. It was a tragic time.

It was during this time that he said the following about his faith and those who called themselves believers in Christianity.

“In contrast, servile, base, and mercenary is the notion of Christian practice among the bulk of nominal Christians. They give no more than they dare not withhold. They abstain from nothing but what they dare not practice. When you state to them the doubtful quality of any action, and the consequent obligation to refrain from it, they reply to you in the very spirit of Shylock, “they cannot find it in the bond.”

In short, they know Christianity only as a system of restraints. It is robbed of every liberal and generous principle. It is rendered almost unfit for the social relationships of life, and only suited to the gloomy walls of a cloister, in which they would confine it. But true Christians consider themselves as not satisfying some rigorous creditor, but as discharging a debt of gratitude. Accordingly, theirs is not the stinted return of the constrained obedience, but the large and liberal measure of voluntary service.”

What he was saying, I believe, speaks of our teenage culture within the churches. It is full of “nominal Christians” — Christians in name only — who “give no more than they dare not withhold.” In other words, their bare minimum. As he says, “they abstain from nothing but what they dare not practice.” They live on the edge, testing the boundaries, only going as far as they dare go. When you tell them that what they are doing is wrong, they respond that they see no problem, no set boundary for their actions. They see Christianity as “only a system of restraints” that takes away any freedom from its followers, making it a system unfit for the real world and fit only for “gloomy walls of a cloister” where they would love to keep it.

Yet this is not how we as Christians are to live today, whether we are 7 or 70. We are not to live our teenage years on the edge of the boundaries we hate with so much passion, deceiving ourselves into thinking that we will return closer to Christ later on in life. True Christians do not believe they can put off “satisfying some rigorous creditor” but rather as “discharging a debt of gratitude.” It is not a “constrained obedience” but rather “large and liberal measure of voluntary service.” We do not live holy lives just because it is a rule, but rather out of a love for the savior. It is because of the cross that we lives worthy of the gospel. This gospel must be our central passion.

God has given us passions, gifts, and abilities. Each one should be centered around the cross, not around the passion. Our purpose must be bigger than our passion. God will do great things in our lives when we allow the gospel to be the center of everything we do. For some, they will be architects, artists, writers, surgeons, doctors, nurses, cosmetologists, novelists, fashion designers, politicians or whatever else God has given you a passion for. For others, it is a passion for teaching, for some even, preaching. One is no greater than the other. Being a Pastor is not greater or more spiritual than being a nurse.

We need to forget the secular/sacred division. There is no “career” and then “christian life” or “education” then “christian life.” People get the idea that we are to live our lives in two separate spectrums. This is certainly not right. It was something that great men such as Francis Schaeffer understood. One of his students’ name is Nancy Pearcey, writer of this magnificently large volume “Total Truth” (that I assure you I have not read 100% quite yet. Here is what she had to say about this division.

“We have to reject the division of life into a sacred realm, limited to things like worship and personal morality, over against a secular realm that includes science, politics, economics, and the rest of the public arena. This dichotomy in our own minds is the greatest barrier to liberating the power of the gospel across the whole of culture today.” (page 20)

Do you see what is going on in our minds? We have this passion that is set aside for certain days of the week, certain settings, certain times during the day. Every teenager needs to understand clearly their is not divide between the secular and the sacred. In all, our passion must be for Christ alone, no matter what we are doing in life. Our Christian lives, if we are Christians, must affect everything we do, not just some things.

I read a rather telling story that illustrates this in Total Truth.

There was a young woman who worked for a Planned Parenthood clinic. Each day she saw young girls come in, pregnant, and ready for an abortion. Each time she offered the all the possibilities. Most times the girls became impatient and even angry. These girls believed there were no other options. The young woman then had to fall back on protocol: “This is my job,” she said. “I have to do it.”

This young woman was a practicing Christian, and she believed she was there showing compassion to those who were considering abortion. Everyone else in that clinic were also regular church members, since the clinic was located in the heart of the Bible belt. On breaks they discussed things like Bible study groups and Sunday school programs.

“I may have started out picking up bits and pieces of a secular worldview to sprinkle on top of my Christian belief’s,” said the young woman. “But after I graduated [from college] and worked for Planned Parenthood, the patter was reversed: My Christianity was redueced to a thin veneer over the core of a secular worldview. It was almost like having a split personallity.”

I don’t know about you, but that scares me. And I believe there are many of you who feel that split personality. Something has gone so wrong. You just have a thin layer of Christianity on on the outside. That’s not how things are supposed to be. And for all who do not feel that, beware– this world teaches it, and we see it every day. Our lives must be ruled completely by Christ alone. There is not a division in our mind. The gospel must influence everything that we do.

So, the questions are these:

  • Is our passion for Christ alone?
  • Does the cross and the gospel shape our every decision? Our words? Our Actions?