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.

The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

We’ve been watching a lot of Law and Order recently. We ordered YouTube TV a year ago so I could watch college football, and it allows unlimited storage of any show you want. So it took me about 3 seconds to set it to record all Law and Order episodes and within a few months I had all 496(!) episodes available. My wife and I have been working our way through them, and I don’t want to tell you what season we’re on for fear you’ll realize I’ve watched way too much Law and Order. 😉 It has been the last thing I remember before sleep a little too often. Sometimes we wake up the next morning asking each other if the criminal got convicted or sometimes even who the criminal is (must have fallen asleep really early in the show).

One thing I’ve learned (if my TV legal education can be trusted… and I think it can) is when an illegal search or an illegal interview of a defendant results in some damning evidence, it will often get tossed. It cannot be used. It’s called the fruit of the poisonous tree. If the search is illegal (the poisonous tree), then the result of that search is illegal too (the fruit).

It reminds me of something Jesus said.

Luke 6:43–45 (ESV) “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Jesus actually spoke about the real fruit of the poisonous tree! If my life produces bad fruit, it’s because the tree is bad. Clearly in this passage the tree is a metaphor for our hearts. Evil hearts produce evil. The fruit is bad because the heart is sinful.

Own Your Sin

I don’t like owning my sin, but this passage tells me I must. I want to believe that someone else is responsible for the poisonous fruit on my tree, but Jesus doesn’t allow that conclusion. Change doesn’t happen if I won’t own my sin. If you’re still pointing the finger at others or at your circumstances believing they are responsible for your sin, you won’t grow. No one else put that fruit on your tree.

Address Your Heart

All change goes through the heart if it’s biblical change. I don’t need to get better at biting my tongue; I need to get better at repenting. Jesus is not interested in my attempts to put good fruit on a bad tree. He wants the tree changed. And… thankfully, he gives heart-changing grace.

Is your counsel addressing the heart? Or are you just stapling new fruit on an evil tree?

Are you addressing your own heart? Or are you content with superficial change?