In family devotions last week, I went over the story of Hezekiah. He had been a godly king, and had established a tremendous track record.
But now he lies dying. Isaiah tells him to put his affairs in order. Hezekiah cries out to the Lord and begs for more time. God grants his request, and Hezekiah’s life is prolonged. However, after he foolishly shows the king of Babylon all the treasures of the temple simply because that king sent him a “get-well” card (Read it; it’s true!), Isaiah tells Hezekiah that as punishment for his foolishness, the nation will be taken captive by those very Babylonians. After hearing this disastrous news, he responds with a mystifying sigh of relief: “At least it won’t happen while I’m alive,” he tells a stunned Isaiah.
Seriously, Hezekiah? Your sons and daughters and all the rest of the nation’s children will be condemned to slavery. And you’re relieved? How selfish. What complete cowardice. When confronted with doom, his choice was to blissfully enjoy whatever he could before he died, leaving the issue to others after him.
Like the terrible future predicted by Isaiah to Hezekiah, there is a bleak future of captivity in store for our Christian young people. No, we aren’t being thrown in prisons or facing lions. The problem isn’t physical captivity. The problem is much more serious. I’m talking about being a captive of the mind. We are seeing our young people embrace all kinds of non-biblical positions, even (especially?) perversity. Why?
Social media is a pipeline for anti-biblical thought.
I can think of two key reasons this is happening. First, social media makes it crazy easy for multitudes of people who don’t have a biblical worldview to have unfettered access to our kids’ minds. Being online means being exposed. You can argue about what degree of exposure there is (“My kids only get messages from grandma”) but social media is exposure. It is impossible to be on Facebook, for example, and not have a newsfeed, advertisements, and curated content often running down the right hand column. And if your teens are anything like I was when I was that age, parents will never know everything, even if you have “good” teens.
You may think you have a good handle on what’s happening on your teen’s smartphone, but if you think you can outsmart Silicon Valley’s algorithms you are gravely mistaken., (If you only read one footnote, read this one.) Social media has the power to change the way you think. It’s using that power actively in the hearts and minds of all of us, but particularly in our young people.
There is a lack of real Christianity for our young people to see.
Second, there are very few genuine Christians serving as examples of real faith to our young people. A lot of Christian adults are consumed with entertainment, comfort, or worldly success. Others are motivated to magnify the minutae of the Christian life and become legalistic. Neither of those extremes do anything to show our young people the reality of Christ. In fact, they do the opposite.
I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately with the difficulty of the task at hand. Being vigilant gets tiring. It seems like the moment I get a chance to take a breath, a new threat takes shape. How can I possibly protect my own against the threats of today? Yes, I understand that the threats of false thinking have always been around, but now they are turbo-charged through the use of artificial intellengence! These are truly difficult times.
Frodo has these thoughts in The Lord of the Rings. My favorite quotation is Gandalf’s response:
“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.
‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’”
There is no option. I can’t pretend I’m in a different decade or fighting an easier battle. This is the time that I’m in. It’s also the time that I’m a parent of young people. The last thing they need is for me to mentally check out or coast in my spiritual life.
Let’s not be like Hezekiah who only cared about his own comfort during his own time. Let’s care more about those who are coming behind us. Let’s do everything we can to equip them for astronomical battles that only a big God can win. Let’s introduce them to that big God and let them see Him at work in our own lives.
Do you have kids? They need you to be present, doing your best to be aware of the mental threats they face. They need you to be a real Christian, not a cardboard cutout. If you don’t have kids at home anymore, you can still be a huge help to the next generation by exemplifying Jesus Christ in your life. Our churches need to be places where real people who love Jesus gather to worship Him. That genuine worship shows through to others. You may never know the impact that can have in the life of a struggling young person.
 Legalism can be in two aspects. It can deal with salvation, which would be adding works to be saved, or it can deal with sanctification. This would be adding works in order to be holy. That means a person might not be legalistic in a salvation sense, but they are legalistic in an every-day-living sense.