Samuel Kuo—Flushing, New York, USA

During the week before His crucifixion, Jesus Christ spoke of “the sign of [His] coming, and of the end of the age” (Mt 24:3). Amid sharing several signs and prophecies, one consistent message that Jesus emphasized was to not be deceived: “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Mt 24:24).

Since we are living in the end time, as the day of the Lord approaches, it is imperative for us to cultivate a love for the truth so as not to be deceived. This is especially so for the younger members in the church. We have been entrusted with an unchanging truth; we also aim to have an unchanging faith. How can we help our youth to love the truth? These are some suggestions based on the Bible and personal experience.

YOUTH-CENTRIC SUGGESTIONS

The Importance of Early Contact

When we brainstorm ways to encourage the youth to love the truth, we should first and foremost examine the nature of love. By definition, love is not forced. As the Song of Songs thrice repeats: “Do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases” (Song 2:7, 3:5, 8:4). It is an affection that arises organically and is confirmed through free-will commitment.

While the youth cannot be forced to love the truth, love can only have an opportunity to be awakened through contact and exposure. How can they love someone they have never encountered? Therefore, while believers are still in their childhood years, it is important for them to come into contact with the truth. The church and, more importantly, their parents are to build up a Christian worldview within their young minds. The religious education (RE) system and the family altar become essential tools to help them establish their own budding relationship with the true and living God.

Isaac is one such example in the Bible. As a young second-generation believer, he observed how his father worshiped the LORD. Thus, when he was at Moriah, he was able to recognize that they lacked the lamb for the burnt offering (Gen 22:7). This fledgling faith eventually blossomed into a mature one, as seen in his patient prayers for his wife’s infertility (Gen 25:20, 21, 26) and in how he blessed Jacob in faith (Gen 28:3–4). God eventually called Himself “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” when He revealed Himself to Moses hundreds of years later (Ex 3:6, emphasis added).

Timothy is another example. He was a third-generation Christian. The genuine faith “dwelt first in [his] grandmother Lois and [his] mother Eunice” (2 Tim 1:5) and eventually dwelt in Timothy himself. This was partially because “from childhood [he had known] the Holy Scriptures” (2 Tim 3:15). He later also learned about the Scriptures from Paul (2 Tim 3:14). This early contact caused a love for the truth to bud, so much so that he dedicated his life to evangelism and ministering to the churches—so that they too could grow to love the truth.

With early exposure, our young members would also be given the opportunity to love the truth that we have received. It is strongly advised that children always attend Sabbath services, RE services, and other church gatherings. Moreover, children need to be raised amid a culture of fearing and worshiping God in their own homes. Have them read the Bible with you. Have them learn to pray alongside you. Have them understand and know Christian values. As Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

The Importance of Experience

One aim of early exposure is for the youth to be captivated by the truth and enraptured by God, or in other words, to experience God Himself.

The Psalmist invites us: “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Ps 34:8). The apostle John likewise reminds us that the truth he declares is “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled” (1 Jn 1:1–3). These are passages on having direct, life-changing experiences with the one true God.

Jacob’s transformation was clearly marked by his experience at Bethel, where he had a dream of a heavenly ladder, with angels ascending and descending on it (Gen 28:12). It instantly caused him to make a vow to God (Gen 28:20). He never forgot that dream, even on his deathbed (Gen 48:3; cf. 28:19).

When Peter beheld the transfigured Jesus in all His glory, he declared, “Lord, it is good for us to be here” (Mt 17:4). He proposed building three shelters on an otherwise deserted mountain for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, completely neglecting himself! In his old age, he used this majestic experience to encourage others who doubted the legitimacy of the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet 1:16–21).

It is vital that the youth also experience God, so that what was originally just theory becomes reality. However, having an experience is not fully within our control. In the end, it is God who chooses when, where, and how He reveals Himself to us (Rom 9:18–21; 2 Cor 12:9). Nevertheless, we should always encourage the youth to pray with faith and reach out to God in any circumstance (Heb 11:6). Each experience, no matter how trivial, builds up their faith, knowledge, and love in the invisible God.

The Importance of Taking Root

While divine experiences certainly leave deep impressions, they are not enough. It is likely that we all know some members who had many spiritual experiences and yet still somehow departed from the truth. In the end, we must be rooted in God’s truth itself (Col 2:6–7).

This is akin to the five thousand who were fed by the Lord Jesus Christ and immediately proclaimed, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world”; and yet moments later, they “walked with Him no more” (Jn 6:14, 66). In the end, the vast majority were not attracted by truth; they merely followed Jesus for the physical blessings (Jn 6:26).

This is a distinction that we must make clear to our youth. Ultimately, we must answer these questions: who is Jesus to us? Is He just a teacher, prophet, miracle-worker, or our Lord and Savior—the one true God Himself?

Theological training is imperative for every youth. Not only do church seminars expose us to the truth and grant us prime opportunities to experience God in prayer, but they also help to root us in the faith. The systematic study of Bible doctrines and Bible books at church seminars like student spiritual convocations or the National Youth Theological Seminar (NYTS) is seldom matched in weekly church activities. Classes are often interactive, helping participants to iron out doubts and questions. As seminars are extended church gatherings, they are conducive in forming deeper spiritual friendships, so that the youth can navigate the journey of faith together. After attending such spiritual events, many youth proclaim how these are like heaven on earth. Through them, they can grow to appreciate and love the truth.

MINISTER-CENTRIC SUGGESTIONS

The Importance of Authentic Christian Living

As for church ministers, or those in a pastoral role, including parents, not only do we encourage the youth to live according to the truth, but we must also look within and improve ourselves. When the younger generations observe us, do they see people whose lives are consistent with the truth and who sincerely love the truth?

We seek to spend time with those we love. We are willing to make sacrifices for them and we strive to please them. Given that these actions are manifestations of love, how then does our love for the truth and for God manifest itself? Unfortunately, we may often live with hypocrisy, and our religious actions may stem from pretense rather than genuine discipleship.

Over time, the youth are able to differentiate between what is authentic and what is false. They may recognize a difference between their parents’ behavior in church and on the car ride home. They may notice contradictions if their ministers preach a godly message but convey the opposite through their actions. Our love for the truth, whether genuine or otherwise, will eventually be revealed, just as Paul said to Timothy:

Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden. (1 Tim 5:24–25)

Hypocrisy is a major stumbling block for the youth. They reason that if this two-faced behavior is the result of the so-called “truth,” then they want no part of it. Here, Jesus’ warning is worth repeating:

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mk 9:42)

Therefore we should examine ourselves for signs of hypocrisy and correct our mistakes before God. Otherwise, the price to be paid by us and the next generation would be far too great.        

The Importance of Understanding the Time

Apart from authentic godly living, it is also important to understand the time. David’s army was described as having men from the tribe of Issachar, “who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chr 12:32). As wise stewards of God’s household, we must also understand the times His sheep are living in, so as to give them “food in due season” (Mt 24:45).

The Germans have the term zeitgeist, meaning, “the spirit of the time”. We must have a good grasp of the current zeitgeist. In other words, what are the ideas, philosophies and values that permeate the culture enveloping our youth? Every time and space and every generation and community will vary slightly. However, observing, understanding and analyzing the times will help us to know how to best educate our youth, particularly when the zeitgeist directly contradicts the truth.

For example, developed western countries have become increasingly secular, essentially becoming post-Christian societies. Fewer young westerners go to church with each passing year. Secular humanism is the pervading worldview, dominating most forms of entertainment. A moral revolution has already taken place—things that were once shameful are now celebrated; things that were once celebrated are now shameful. The internet has amplified its influence. Are we prepared to combat these ideas that our youth are exposed to every day? Have we been giving them “food in due season” so that they stand strong in whatever ideological storm they face?

Countries in the Eastern Hemisphere, developing Africa, or other regions may have other primary influencing beliefs and ideas. However, regardless of the country, the principle is the same. We need to understand the times so that we vaccinate our youth against these ideological pathologies:

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor 10:4–5)

The Importance of Intercession

Finally, as Christian ministers and parents, we must always intercede for those under our care. Paul’s letters are full of his intercessions for the church (Rom 1:9; Eph 1:16; Col 1:9–12; Phil 1:9–11) and co-workers like Timothy (2 Tim 1:3) and Philemon (Phm 4). Epaphras likewise “labored fervently for [the Colossians] in prayers” so that they could be spiritually mature (Col 4:12).

We do not know if the next generation will love the truth, but we must exert our best effort, and then cry out for the mercy of God in prayer. The Bible tells us that God does not desire that anyone should perish (2 Pet 3:9; Ezek 33:11). We must wholeheartedly appeal to that heart of God in prayer. However, at the same time, God acknowledges the personal freedom of every individual to make his own decision.

Will our children choose to love God and the truth? We do not know. That decision is theirs to make. However, may God, who has mercy on people like me and you, also grant the same incredible mercy to every True Jesus Church youth. In the end, we can only humbly surrender ourselves to our heavenly Father.

As Jesus told us, the end is nigh. May He “who is able to keep [us] from stumbling, and to present [us] faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” guide us till the last day (Jude 24).

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