If you have worked with teens for very long, you have talked with quite a few who have managed to entangle themselves in sin – even at their young age. Often part of the story includes a statement something like, “Since I had already committed xyz sin, I figured it didn’t matter that much if I committed abc sin (or xyz sin over and over).” Whenever I hear a teen or young adult say that, I just want to cry. They have bought Satan’s lie about a “tipping point” sin.
Somehow, these young people didn’t learn how to recover from that first sin and continue on a Christian path, where they still sinned, but didn’t give up and turn their life over to sin. It’s heartbreaking, both because it was avoidable and because turning their life over to sin causes all sorts of negative consequences. They can restore their relationship with God, but those earthly consequences may continue for the rest of their lives.
So what do we need to teach our kids so when they reach that decision point they don’t give up, leave God’s path and live a life of sin and its consequences? There are no guarantees, but making sure your children understand these important principles, may help them recover from their sins in more spiritually healthy ways.
- When God forgives our sins, it is as if they never happened. Share Hebrews 8:12 and other similar verses with your children. If your teen is a Christian and asks God to forgive this “tipping point” sin, not only is it forgiven, but God doesn’t keep any record of it ever happening. There is no reason to attempt other sins, since they “already have a record” with God. At the point of forgiveness, their record with God is as clean as the day they were baptized. They can continue to keep it clean by avoiding sin.
- Grace is not a license to sin. Life is often a pendulum and religion is no exception. Many churches have preached such a strong message of love and grace, they have neglected to point out the requirements for obedience. Paul wrote a great scripture addressing this issue that evidently started fairly early in the church. Read Romans chapter 6 with your children. Talk about the difference between sinning and choosing to live in a sinful state because God’s grace will cover it.
- God can forgive our sins. I know this probably sounds silly to have to say, but sometimes young people think certain sins like premarital sex are basically unforgivable. They may never give voice to that thought, but that is also often the motive behind giving up and giving into a life mired in sin. The thinking is something like “Since I have already done something which cannot be forgiven, why bother?” Share I John 1:9 and other verses that show God is willing and able to forgive our sins. You may also want to share stories from the life of Jesus about the people who the religious leaders of the day refused to even acknowledge because of their sins, yet Jesus forgave them.
- Repentance implies an effort to turn away from that sin. This is tough to understand and at times even tougher to do. Your children need to fully understand that when they repent and ask God to forgive their sins, they are also saying they will try to turn away from that sin and not commit it any longer. (Proverbs 28:13 and many others) They won’t always be successful, but that commitment means they may need to make some changes – at times drastic – in how they have been living their lives. If certain situations or people tempt them to commit that sin again, they need to avoid them. This is not the time to shrug their shoulders and lean in to the sin, at times committing it more than ever. It’s the time to turn their back on that sin. Period.
- Everyone who ever lived (except Jesus) has sinned. (Romans 3:23) At times, the pure mortification of thinking about that sweet little old lady at church finding out they have sinned, may make your children want to avoid church and eventually God. It is vitally important your children understand that sweet little old lady and you for that matter have also committed quite a few sins in your lifetime, too. It’s a shame we aren’t more transparent with each other. The lack of transparency often makes our young people think we are perfect and they are the first ones to sin in a “major” (in their minds) way. No matter what their sin, they need to understand no one else can “throw a stone” at them. They need to realize their church family loves them, can help them stay on God’s path and can help them avoid leaving for a life mired in sin and its consequences.
Your kids are going to sin. Some will commit sins that Satan will use to try and convince them they should give up trying to be a Christian and live the life Satan wants them to live. Giving your kids some extra tools to use when they do sin,may just help them ignore the lies Satan will tell them.