Young Man, Pursue Holiness; Pursue Humility

As I’ve prayed for my two adult sons over the past few months, my main requests have been alliterated: that they will grow in holiness and humility. My premise is that these two virtues are especially necessary in young men today.

Of course pride and lust are not just the temptations of young men, but they do seem to be especially prevalent in young men. When I was a temptable teen, it was hard to get pornography, and the few times I was exposed to it weren’t enough to develop an ungoverned habit. While sexual lust is a temptation for me—I doubt I’ll ever outgrow that in this life, I have a decades-long habit of fighting it. Young men today are exposed to pornography earlier and longer than I was at that age.

That’s why today no one is surprised when a young man is snared by internet pornography. In fact, it’s the rare young man that isn’t. He’s the oddity. So holiness might seem an obvious prayer for young men.

But I also pray for my sons to grow in humility. I don’t think this is nearly as important to most parents as it should be. We fear our child being caught by pornography, but we don’t care that much about pride. In Scripture, pride seems the bigger concern of God. He hates it (Prov 6:16-19). It’s interesting that in that list sexual sin isn’t even mentioned. It’s sin so surely God hates it too, but it didn’t make the top seven of that list in Proverbs. Pride did.

In one epistle we find both holiness and humility commanded.

1 Peter 1:14–16 (ESV) As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

The Apostle Peter tells us that children of God shouldn’t pursue their former lusts. That means more than just sexual lust, but it means that as well. Looking at pornography in a darkened room by the light of a screen is not holy conduct. It’s anti-holy behavior. Instead, pursue holiness because God is holy.

Later, Peter also talks about humility.

1 Peter 5:5–6 (ESV) Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,

Here Peter addresses young men specifically and tells them to be clothed with humility. In fact, they are commanded to humble themselves. There’s a warning and a promise. The promise is that at the right time, God exalts the humble. The warning is that God is opposed to the proud. To the degree that a man is proud, to that degree God resists him.

I believe pride is linked to pornography in two ways: First, the young man given to porn imagines that others exist to please him with their bodies. He’s the sun in his universe. But others don’t exist for you; they exist for God’s glory. Porn is selfish, not selfless.

Second, the lustful man doesn’t get help unless he humbly admits his sin to someone else. Those that try to fight porn in the dark, don’t win. The shame of this sin prevents many proud young men from ever getting victory. Growing in humility helps growing in holiness.

That’s backed up by a helpful phrase in 5:5 that says God gives grace to the humble. Do you need grace to fight porn? Then humble yourself under God’s mighty hand. He lavishly gives grace to the humble.

So, young man, pursue holiness and humility.

The young Christian man that is both holy and humble will be refreshing to his pastor, his friends, and his family. But mostly, he will be pleasing to his God.

Gospel Parenting

It’s a weakness in our parenting that sometimes we think our efforts will eliminate sin from our kids’ lives. What I mean is I think if I’m faithful in discipline, my kids will sin less often. God-pleasing parenting involves discipline, but our hope isn’t in our discipline. Our hope is in Jesus Christ.

Someone has said this better than I could.

We talk a lot about training our children and raising them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and we should be doing that. But we must never forget that we cannot train sin out of our kids. Their sin must be atoned for. We also talk a lot about the importance of spiritual discipline and being in the Word regularly, about training ourselves in godliness and righteousness. We should do that, too. But friends, we must not forget that we cannot discipline ourselves out of sin. Our sin must be atoned for.

Parents, as you work with your children, and Christians, as you go about your own spiritual disciplines, do not forget to apply the gospel to your life and to your children’s lives. It is the atoning death of Christ that they need and you need. Do not depend on training; depend on the work that Christ did. And realize that this is a work that only Jesus Christ could do. Only Jesus can make atonement for sin.
–Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence, It Is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement (Crossway Books, 2010), 95.

It’s always a great time to renew your resolve in the spiritual disciplines both for your own life and for your children’s lives. But keep in mind that your self-discipline doesn’t earn you any favor with God—it isn’t the Gospel. Your sin was paid for by Christ’s death. That’s your hope of change.

Use the times of discipline to regularly remind your children that they are sinners and that they need Christ’s death. Good parenting confronts children with their need of the Gospel. Remember, you don’t discipline them because their disobedience has inconvenienced or irritated you. You discipline them to please God and see their hearts changed by the Gospel.

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