Our teens often struggle with reality. In essence, reality is what is true. Reality is what is factual. When we break it down to essential and unchanging truth, we are then talking about God's truth. God's truth is eternal and unchanging. It flinches or gives way to no one. The culture continually seeks to give our teens a false reality through lies about what is real. Lies about God. Lies about his truth. Satan is behind this strategy. He always has been, since that day in the Garden of Eden. He is good at what he does. That fact coupled with youthful ignorance and our teen's easily deceived sinful heart results in bad thinking.
Whether that false reality is related to laziness, popularity, authority, sex or a hundred other things, false beliefs about reality are nothing more than Satan's lies covered with new garb. These lies about what is real, what is true, results in bad thinking. Bad thinking results in bad actions. While our hearts can be "deceitful and desperately wicked," sometimes our hearts aren't so much the issue as the thinking. Often we want to see the two as one, and it is, sort of. The Bible tells us, "as a man thinks in his heart, so is he." It seems that there is a distinction that the heart (inner man) is where man does his "thinking." That thinking is what results in the kind of man he is. It is like the thinking results in how and what values are placed on certain things. We see this distinction when new guys are placed with us at Victory Academy for Boys. Many times the teens come through our doors ticked off and despondent toward their parents. It is easy to presume that there are heart problems, and often is the case. However, upon really talking "heart to heart" with them, many want a good relationship with their parents and even with God, but they don't really think maturely about the connections of how they are thinking and the resulting impact of living out that thinking on their relationships and the corresponding trust, freedom, and honor.
"upon really talking "heart to heart" with the guys in the Academy, many want a good relationship with their parents and even with God"
As parents we often prefer what looks to be the easy way of parenting; tell the child what to do and he does it. That is simple, but only effective as long as you stand there and wield power over him. The first-time parent learns that at some point before his little man hits 2 that this method is going to begin to show serious signs of failure. Accept it and get to the work of parenting. While obedience is foundational for the early years to help establish the understanding of authority structure and crucial for gaining experience in truth, by the time you enter the double digits, the real work is figuring out how to help the child become a good thinker.
The goals that we have in our parenting need to be wrapped around helping our children fall in love with truth, and ultimately we want them to learn to love the God of Truth. 1 John 2:15 holds an interesting command, "do not love." Similarly, Deuteronomy 6:4 commands, "you shall love." The significance of this is that we (along with our children) are commanded to think a certain way so as to result in a choice to do a certain thing, a certain deep and personal thing: love. Not only are we to love, but we are to love God, and to love Him supremely! We are to love Him differently, with an intensity that forms a grid whereby we consider (think) all else to be less-- less important, less desirable.
How do we teach ourselves, much less our children to think like this (warning, this could get convicting)? The key to thinking correctly is truth. Christ taught in John 8 that he was truth, and that abiding (living) in His truth sets us free (from sin). While smoking cigarettes may look like a good thing (millions are spent to help us come to that conclusion), truth is it isn't. It may feel great to yell and scream at your child, truth is it isn't. Harboring bitterness may seem like the best way to get even, but the truth is bitterness eats at YOU. When we really see truth as the truth, we don't fall for the lies. We have to teach our teens to think TRUTH....Biblical Truth about life.
Certainly we are in a life-long process of growing a stronger trust in truth, thus choosing more often, to respond to the compulsion to love God above all else. Do we make our walk with truth and the God of Truth compelling or repelling? Do those around us see the truth we claim making our lives and our interaction with others desirable? Considering our children, how are we making truth (His Word) central in our family. Where is truth applied to our decisions throughout our day? When it is applied is it done positively so they see the desirability of the resulting fruit of righteousness? Is the power of this truth evident in a way that they are developing a passion (intense desire) for personally "owning" (taking responsibility for) truth?
To think correctly, we must come to the right conclusions of what is right, correct, true, really what is more lovable. Before you cry "simplistic," think. What we love is a choice and what we love is what we think about. The more we see truth, the more we will see its power, and the more desirable it will be. The more we learn to love it and teach or kids love it, the more they will think about it. Adding to this, the ministry of the Holy Spirit in their lives, truth begins to take permanent hold in their daily thoughts.
Give me a little liberty to paraphrase a famous Proverb (22:7) on parenting, Train up a child in truth, and he will never forget it.
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Training in Truth