We have a problem with purity in the church. Students in our culture are bombarded with sexual imagery and speech seemingly at every turn. Sex has become more casual and pornography has become more available and both are wrecking lives in your student ministry and in your church at large. This is no longer just an issue isolated to your older students or the guys in your ministry. The age of exposure to pornography and sexual content continues to decrease and girls in your ministry deal with these issues just as much as your guys. This is probably not earth-shattering news to you. Sexual immorality isn’t a new issue. We see the evidences and consequences of it throughout Scripture as well as the history of the world in general. The most significant change from then to now is the ease of use. The many benefits of technology have also brought with it a staggering level of temptation.
But that’s not the problem with purity.
The problem with purity is we spend too much time talking about it. The vast majority of the time churches spend talking about these issues is focused on the problem of impurity, the sin of sexual immorality itself, and the consequences of it. In taking this approach we focus students toward the sin. We focus them toward the guilt that they feel if they happened to have fallen to some kind of sexual temptation. In leading this way we take the focus away from Jesus.
That’s not to say we should avoid talking about the sin entirely. The Bible speaks to the sin of sexual temptation, shows its consequences, and gives warnings against it. We should pass these very important words along to our students. However, the greater testimony of the Bible speaks to the reality that Jesus lived a perfect life because we couldn’t, and that His perfect life is transferred to us at salvation. Even sexual sin and impurity is taken away by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. You know this already, but do your students?
The problem with purity is when our students become too focused on their own sin and guilt, and as a result, they begin to see purity as the ultimate goal of the Christian life. Sexual purity isn’t the ultimate goal here. Following Jesus and becoming more like Him is the ultimate goal, of which sexual purity is a part. The difference may be subtle in language but it is enormous in application. Jesus comes first, not purity. And so it should be with our teaching on this issue.
Here’s what this looks like:
- Teach students what Scripture says about sexual issues in conjunction with how Jesus strengthens them and empowers them to follow Him in this area.
- Show them the magnitude of God, who He is, how He has provided for them, how much He loves them, and watch their own love for God grow and influence their lifestyle decisions. Bottom line, students will never consistently live a life that honors God unless they stand in awe of God.
- Help them understand the theological reality that the perfect life of Christ is applied to them. They don’t earn perfection. It is a gift. This perfection includes the removal of sin and its guilt. They can’t lose standing or approval from God. It is there through Christ. Always.
- Shine the spotlight on Jesus more than on either the sin you are addressing or the opposite good behavior.
- Teach your students how to study their Bible. This is the most important thing that a student can learn and do for the rest of their life. Through knowing the Bible your students will begin to know Jesus, His desires for them, the life He calls them to live, and how He empowers them to do it. If you really want your students to live their lives for Jesus the best thing that you can do is teach them how to know Him through His word.
As a student pastor I desperately wanted my students to follow Jesus. I wanted them to avoid sin, and as a result, its consequences. I wanted them to live a Colossians 3:17 life. I know that each of you want the same things for your students. You and I can’t take them there. There isn’t any amount of hand-holding and walking through life with them that will get them to that place. It is only as they have more and more contact with God and who He is that a Colossians 3:17 life will begin to take shape. Our job then is to introduce them to the Lord, through His Word, at every turn.
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Student Ministry