Note: Read Part 1 here: God, Give Me a New Teenager (Part 1).
Let’s say your son is in high school, and he is struggling with porn in secret. By God’s grace, it comes out in the open. You sit down for a chat. Where do you begin?
Or let’s say your teenage daughter suffers with crippling fears. Thoughts of self-harm or suicide take her to frightening places. You want to understand. You long to help. Where do you begin?
Or let’s say your kids relentlessly aggravate one another, pushing those buttons that set off their siblings. You’ve had it! Now they’re going to get it! You send them to opposing corners. Where do you begin?
Or what about when lies are discovered, theft is revealed, bitterness takes root, or anger boils over unrestrained? I suppose we could come up with a thousand different scenarios of “bad behavior” in teenagers. As Christian fathers, where do we begin? How do we help our young people grow in grace?
In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul provides helpful instruction for us, and he will argue that we must start with the gospel. In other words, if your teenager has been born again, he or she is a new person in Christ. Therefore, new behavior that pleases the Lord is now possible in them.
As you sit to chat, remind them from the outset that they are no longer what they used to be. According to Ephesians 4:22–24, something supernatural has happened in them. Here are three truths your teenager must understand at the outset before behavior is addressed. This is the truth as it is in Jesus!
1. Your Christian teen has put off the old self.
I will designate the old self and the old man interchangeably. Here’s a helpful illustration I’ve gleaned from several others. The Christian is to view his life as a two-volume biography. Volume One is The Old Self: Your Life Without Christ. We used to be characterized by empty minds, darkened understanding, dead spirituality, and corrupt conduct. We were fallen and unregenerate.
But then Jesus happened to us! Volume Two is titled The New Self: Your Life In Christ, and the opening sentence of this second volume shouts, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” We are now born again. We have new life, new understanding, and gloriously new conduct.
This is your teenager’s permanent standing before God. The language of Paul in Ephesians 4:22 is such that this is an action that was accomplished in the past. When your teenager comes to faith in Christ, the old, unregenerate self has been put off (crucified in Romans 6:6)! Your child is not half saved and half unsaved. No! He or she is entirely a new person in Christ.
But though this is an action completed in the past, there are ongoing responsibilities for your new teenager. Part of putting off the old man in the past involves making a decisive break every day with the old manner. Your precious daughter or son must come to understand that since they are no longer the old man, they must put off the corrupt behavior the old man left behind.
Perhaps another illustration would be helpful for them. You have purchased a new home. The former owner died and left behind a closet full of clothes. You quickly discover the dead guy never bathed because the decades of body odor emanate from the clothes he left behind. What would you do with all this clothing? You’d remove and eliminate it! You would not keep them and occasionally play dress up. So this sinful behavior from your teenager is likened to dirty clothes left behind from the old self. The former manner of living needs to be rejected every day all over again.
Here are four words I would emphasize in your chats with your Christian teenager struggling with sinful conduct: Be who you are! This is Paul’s argument in Ephesians 4. He says in effect, “You Christians are being inconsistent. You said you were done with the old life, but you’re messing around with it. So be done with it all over again. Put it off once and for all every day.”
I know that was a long explanation. Thanks for staying with me! But our teens need to grasp that they are no longer what they once were in order to help them chart a new course of conduct. But this is not all that happened to them once they received Christ.
2. Your Christian teen has put on the new self.
We won’t spend nearly as long on this one (you’re welcome), but this is just as important for your teenager to grasp. The moment he or she comes to Christ, the old is crucified and the new is born. Take them to Ephesians 4:22 and 24 and compare the old and the new self. They will see drastic differences. The old man is corrupt, decaying, and dying; the new man is created after God. Again, the old self is full of deceitful lusts; the new self is full of true holiness.
So return your teen to those four important words stated above: Be who you are! With the new man comes the new manner. What happened in the past (new birth) has ongoing responsibilities (new conduct). So everyday dress in the new clothes of righteous conduct.
3. Your Christian teen’s mind is being renewed.
Here is yet another supernatural happening in your teenager’s life. It is the renewing of the mind! Or more specifically, the renewing of the spirit of the mind.
There is actually nothing wrong with your teen’s brain. I know, I know. Insert dad joke here. But God has given your teenager a wonderful mind, full of amazing power, creativity, and intelligence. There is nothing wrong with the instrument. But what is the operating system behind it? What governs your teenager’s thinking? When he or she chooses sinful behavior, it is proof the spirit of the mind, the governing power, was wrong. To practice righteous conduct, the spirit of the mind needs to be re-newed. Their minds need to be recalibrated every day by a new agent, the Holy Spirit.
Renewal occurs by God’s Spirit, through God’s Word, and among God’s people. Your teen cannot renew his or her mind by self effort; it is done by the Spirit of God through the Word of God (Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:10). And He recalibrates their thinking by means of the Word of God. The more they are in the Scriptures, the more the Spirit washes their minds and freshly focuses them on the way of righteousness. The Spirit even uses other Christians to provoke and prod your teenager to the truth as it is in Jesus.
So your teen needs to alter his or her behavior. How should your chat begin? Start with the gospel truths that they have put off once and for all the old man and have put on the new man. Their minds need to be retrained once again everyday in the ways of the Lord. As their minds are renewed, they will see more clearly their need to be who they are, new teenagers with the capacity for new conduct that pleases their God.
Note: Read Part 3 here.
Growing Fathers Team
Andy is a husband to beautiful Bryn, dad to 3 great kids, pastor, hymn writer, and church planter who enjoys preaching, baseball, and westerns. He lives with his family in Reno, NV.View all posts by Andy