All around us, at school, work, even in the home, the devil plants his devices of evil! There is no place that is safe from temptation, no place that is devil-proof. He can twist us when we least expect it, tempt us even in things that do not usually tempt us, and surprise us in the even the most innocent places.
Understanding how to resist the devil in our social activities is absolutely important to the Christian and maintaining his or her righteousness in the eyes of God. When we can learn how to control ourselves around our friends and co-workers, especially those who are not Christian, we can say that we have truly resisted the devil!
Humans are naturally social beings. We want to be with other people and share our lives with people who we love. Even from the beginning, with the first man and woman, society was important. Although Adam and Eve’s society was very small, limited to themselves and their children, we see that God has instilled in man a sense of urgency in feeling loved. In Genesis 2:18, God said, “‘It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’”
It is good for a man to have companionship with his fellow mankind. And we have a need that is given to us to communicate with others and to procreate and bring our own families into the world. Also, social activities are a very good thing. Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:8 that bodily exercise does profit us a little bit, which means that good games of basketball, working out in the yard, or going on camping trips are good for us. There is absolutely nothing innately wrong with having a healthy social life filled with fun activities.
Unfortunately, man is weak, and there are times when his need to be accepted and loved leads him to do things that are wrong.
We see it all the time in the school yard. Children feel such a necessity for friendship that they often will hurt other children to be accepted. They will use foul language to impress the school bully. They will lie to a teacher. Kids will even do stupid things like take up smoking, drugs, or alcohol just to fit in with people who they want to impress. No logical person would take up smoking! It is deadly, period! So what drives a child to do something like this? What drives a child, an innocent child, to risk his life to pull dangerous stunts on a bike or skate board?
As we go through the lesson, I want to examine the problem in two primary ways. First, I want us all to impressed by the amount of responsibility that is placed upon the parents’ shoulders in rearing a child. Parents cannot sit idly by as their children are tossed to and fro by the temptations of the world. Parents cannot feign ignorance when a child grows up with the wrong crowd. So much responsibility is on the parents!
Second, we need to look at the responsibility that is placed on the child in a family unit. One cannot blame his parents for the way he is. Perhaps that is a contributing factor in the delinquency of a child, but so much personal accountability is placed on the shoulders by God! Children choose how to live. They choose who to spend time with, and they choose whether or not live righteously. Too often we hear the argument that “well, he’s only like that because his parents abused him” or “it’s not his fault!” But when a child reaches a certain age, the time when he or she understands what is right and wrong, that child is no longer given the “ignorance pass.” Usually by the age of ten or twelve, a child has adequate knowledge of right and wrong and he is then held accountable to his own decisions.
I start with the parents only because the responsibility is so great. For the first twenty years of your child’s life, it is your job to ensure that that child grows up in the fear and understanding of the Lord (Proverbs 14:26-27). We read again in Proverbs 9:10 that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” So we see that fearing God is absolutely important in leading a fulfilling life. Without the fear of the Lord, there would be no understanding, no wisdom, no lasting days! And if the job of edification and training is done well, a strong Christian will be made out of a weak, foolish child.
That right there is a concept that most parents fail to understand: Children are foolish! We read in Proverbs 22:15 that “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” As much as we hate to admit it, children are kind of dumb. They do things that make no sense. They do not follow logic in their reasoning. For example, many kids answer questions with a swift “Just because” or an illogical “oh yeah?!”
Understanding the foolishness of your child is key in rearing them well. Accepting that your child needs help is also extremely important.
Parents, do not be afraid to ask for help with children. Do not be embarrassed if you do not know what to do. Children are a handful, or at least I was, and there are certainly some children who need the help of the rest of the church to turn out right. We see this admonish in Titus 2:3-5. Paul admits here that the older women have an obligation to guide the younger women in their lives as mothers and wives.
But a proud parent, who does not see the need for help will end up harming the child more than helping! Turn to Proverbs 12:15. A foolish parent never accepts help from other, older parents, but a wise parents will seek help and advice.
How Does Satan Deceive Parents?
So the question must be asked; how does Satan deceive parents and hinder the growth of children? Primarily, Satan uses social activities that may seem innocent, or he may use image or stereotype in the appearances of children and their friends. Even worse, Satan skews the ideas or interpretations about child by his or her parents.
First, let us think about the question of social activities that seem innocent. A parent may not entirely know the full story behind an event that a child desires to attend. The parents may not even see a problem! For example, joining a sports team. It seems innocent enough, right? But without knowing what kind of kids will be on the team, what kind of coach, what kind of people sponsor the team, a parent may be sending his or child into a death trap. There is a very popular basketball league that is run primarily be the Latter-Day Saints’ Church. Most of the teams are comprised of Mormon kids, but each team is allowed a certain number of non-Mormon teammates.
Most parents may see this as an opportunity for their child to be around good kids and play a wholesome activity. But children are naïve and susceptible to peer pressure in more things than just drugs and the like. The kids see how fun and how happy Mormon children are in their groups, and feel a desire to join them, to fit in, to be a part of the group.
Also, college students who join such groups as Campus Crusade For Christ may end up adopting some of the error that is taught by such groups.
Another example would be Christian rock concerts. While many parents do not see a danger in allowing their children to attend Christian rock concerts, there is the danger that, being surrounded by so many apostates, the child may long to be a part of the group. Youth groups, church-sponsored camping trips, and other events are all hotbeds for liberalism and apostasy.
The answer would be to get your child involved in groups from the church of Christ. Show your children that enjoying the company of other Christians from the church is just as fulfilling as joining groups who teach error.
Second, Satan is very clever at using stereotypes and images against parents and children. Perhaps your child brings home a friend from school and introduces you to him. The friend seems nicely-dressed, polite and cordial in how he speaks to you. Without researching further, you allow your child to attend a party at this person’s house and it turns out to be a disaster.
Some parents are gullible and they fall into the trap of clever children easily. And let me tell you, children are more clever than one might think. Perhaps the friends that you should be worried about are not the kids who wear black and spike their hair. Perhaps the children you should be most concerned about are the clean-cut ones.
The answer is this; do your research first. Call the parents of this “new friend” and ask about him. Perhaps you should let your child and his friend work their way up to bigger events such as birthday parties, movies, or concerts. Start by just letting the new friend spend some time at your house. Then work up to more appropriate events. Do not start with sleepovers! Make the new friend earn your trust.
Remember, it is your responsibility as a parent to take an active role in your child’s social life. Do not be afraid of asking for phone numbers of other parents, of requiring a curfew, or of asking your child to “check-in” using the phone every couple hours or so.
Satan is out there! He is waiting for you to slip-up. He is waiting to catch your teenage daughter or son in a web of trouble. He is waiting to seduce them, to tempt them, to catch them off guard. And you have the God-given mission of raising your children in the fear and understanding of the Lord!
A third way that Satan deceives parents is by implanting skewed ideas about children into their parents’ heads. Some parents, when confronted about a trouble-making child will cry “Not my little angel! She would never do such a thing!”
It is a terrible fallacy, though, and one that leads to destruction. Parents do not always want to admit that their children may have attitude or activity problems. They do not want to believe that it was their own child who kicked an elder, stole a dollar from their wallet, or blatantly lied to one of the men from the congregation. To those kinds of parents, their children could do no wrong!
The Answer For Parents
When we consider all of the possible temptations and problems that could occur in a teenager’s life, it is often staggering for parents! What do you do to help save your children from Satan? How do you keep them strong and teach them about the Gospel in a way that will appeal to them?
The answer is to take an active role in their lives. Know where they are going. Ask them who will be there. Do not give in to them when they complain about the strictness of your rules.
Above all else, however, a parent must show the child that to live in a Godly manner is more desirable than to live in an ungodly manner. My father gave me advice one time. I asked him how he handled it, and how he did such a good job with us. His answer; “Start by living the life of a Christian.” If a parent lives the Way and he shows how happy it is to have fellowship with God and instills in his child the joy, peace, security and purity of the Christian lifestyle, that child will want to emulate it. Turn to Titus 2:6-8. Also, turn to Ephesians 6:4 where Paul writes that fathers are to “bring [their children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” When discipline and instruction are based entirely upon the Lord, it will impress upon the child a stronger motivation to obey. Too many parents simply use their own opinions or judgments to punish or raise a child. Why not use what the Lord has said? Why not tell your children, especially teenagers, that they are sinning against God every time they show a bit of disobedience? Use a Bible verse whenever possible to illustrate a point!
With God’s help, we can have strong families that love serving Christ and serving others. Families who pray together, read the Bible together, visit the elderly together, make meals for those less fortunate, help do work for a family, these are the families that produce strong, Christian children.
Understand, first of all, that when I say children, I mean anybody who is old enough to understand right and wrong, but young enough to be dependent on his or her parents, and young enough to still be influenced greatly by the actions of a legal guardian or parent.
I say this because the term child is quite relative. There are people who still need a lot of help at the age of 25, yet there are also people who reach a high level of maturity and moral fortitude at the age of 18. The actions of a parent in raising a child is completely dependent on the needs of that child, specifically.
However, there are some very valuable general lessons that can be applied to children and parents of all ages.
First, children, when they reach a certain stage in life, wherein they understand the difference between sin and righteousness, are held accountable to their decisions and actions. Some people want to argue that children are made the way they are entirely by parents. And while parents have a great deal to do with raising their children, even children of evil, cruel parents can grow up to become quite righteous. And children with very good parents can sometimes grow up to be evil in spite of their parents’ good teaching. Take a look at Ezekiel 18:5-18. Here, we find that if a good man has a son who sins continually, than that son is held accountable to his own actions and receives the just punishment. But if an evil man, one who oppresses and lies and steals and does all sorts of evil, has a son who is good, than the son is not punished for his father’s iniquity, but is rewarded by God.
Also notice Ephesians 6:1, which says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” It’s important to realize that the verb here is obey. It is a choice. Paul is making it clear that obedience to parents is a choice and that they are responsible for following their parents’ orders.
How Does Satan Deceive Children?
I would again make note of the fact that children, like all humans, have an innate desire to fit in. Kids want to impress their buddies or look the coolest or play the best basketball. Kids want to feel like they are important and they want to feel like they are wanted.
Unfortunately, too many kids today want to impress the wrong people! They want to fit in with the wrong crowd! Our society has a skewed idea of what is cool and what is not. Going to church is not cool. Praying before meals is just old-fashioned. The elderly dress funny. And the quiet kids at the middle schools and high schools are always the ones picked on by the obnoxious jocks. To pick on weaker individuals and to take advantage of people is the way to impress others now.
And our children see this and want to emulate it!
Social activities are one of the easiest ways that Satan wins over us. When we spend time with the wrong crowd of people, the evil that they exude ends up corrupting our own potential good. It was Paul who said, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” in 1 Corinthians 15:33. When we participate in social activities with people of bad moral character, we put ourselves at great risk!
One of the best examples of a young man who fell into the wrong crowd is found in Luke 15:11-24. This is the story of a prodigal son who left his home and found a group of hooligans and wasteful people who corrupted him and wasted his money.
Teens today have a need to feel accepted by their peers. And when their peers are the kind of kids who drink or smoke, or go to inappropriate movies, or attend the prom, or do other deeds that are not becoming of a Christian, than it is often the morals that go out the window first!
Drinking is an example of this. Even though it is clear that drinking kills brain cells, causes obesity, heart problems, and liver and kidney malfunction and failure, teens today seem to think that alcohol consumption is one of the most exciting, fulfilling activities. After all, it is not a party until there is alcohol there!
Logically, there is no good reason to drink alcohol. When one considers all the health problems involved, as well as the fatalities while driving drunk (understand that drunk driving accidents result in the most deaths of teenagers in the United States) there is really no good reason to drink! And then we think about what God has to say about it (Proverbs 23:19-21).
The prom is another perfect example. Everybody goes because it is a high school tradition. All your friends are going and getting dressed up and buying their outfits. Dinner plans are made. Dates are found. The frenzy and fun of the event makes you want to go, too, does it not? But most teens do not realize that the prom is a dark place filled with kids touching each other and dancing in inappropriate movements. Girls are dressed immodestly. There is alcohol being snuck in the back door. All of these things are sinful, and it is impossible for a Christian to maintain his righteousness at a place like this. It would be the same thing as saying that you only go to Hooters because the hot wings are good!
Some try to argue, “NO, it’s not impossible, it’s just hard to do.” Well, I would argue that it is impossible not to lust or commit other sins at the prom. I say that because we are human. We are imperfect. And the temptations that are inherently involved in the prom are too great for a weak teenager to endure. Besides, it is wrong for a Christian teenager to even be named among those people committing such deeds (Ephesians 5:3).
And there is a host of inappropriate movies out there now, too. Sex has filled the silver screen like no other time in history. And when a Christian pays to see a movie filled with sinful activities, he is essentially supporting that activity.
And this brings me to the most pertinent subject of the lesson when it comes to children and social activities; sex. Almost every aspect of social entertainment revolves around sex and lust. Britney Spears concerts, movies that are supposed to be comedies but are really just filled with sexual innuendo, television shows that display sex with no discreteness (shows such as “Sex and the City”, “Will and Grace”, “Friends”, and just about every reality TV show out there), and even music lyrics (just listen to any song by Britney, Christina, and the likes and you will see what I mean).
And the unfortunate side of all this is that sex really does sell. Teens are so high on hormones that any product or show that has anything to do with sex is an instant success. Teens are so easily led astray by sex!
Take the young man in Proverbs 7:6-23, 24-27, for example. His first mistake was wandering in the direction of the harlot. His second mistake was accepting her invitation. Sex appealed to him. He smelled the spices and felt the comfort of her bed. But destruction is all that results from pre-marital sex. Vanity and emptiness are all that result from lust. The only way that this man could have beaten the sin was to have avoided the situation altogether. A teenage Christian would have no problem drinking alcohol with his friends if he simply never associated with them at times when they would be drinking. You would never be tempted to commit indecent sexual sins if you never allowed yourself to be alone with a girl in a secluded setting. The answer, friends, is summed up in 2 Timothy 2:22 where it says, “Flee youthful lusts.”
Satan knows all of these things, and he is not afraid to pull out all the stops to deceive us. Satan wants you to participate in evil deeds, and he wants you to feel accepted by your peers. He wants you to get comfortable with the idea of drinking, or listening to inappropriate music, or engage in pre-marital sex with you girlfriend. He wants these things and he has a whole host of weapons to use against us (Ephesians 6:16). It is a scary thought to think that Satan is out to get you. It is a scary thought, indeed, to think that Satan has the entire world at his disposal to accomplish evil through you (1 John 5:19).
The Answer For Children
So how do we beat him, then? How do we maintain our Christianity in such a sinful world? Is it possible to have a happy social life and participate in fun activities yet not sin? Indeed it is! The key to all of it is found in Ecclesiastes 12:1 in the statement “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth. . .”
If we remember God and His Law, then we will surely have life. If we center our social life on pleasing the Lord and serving Him, then all else will fall into place. When we put God first in everything, than everything else in life, friends, popularity, having a nice car, suddenly means a lot less. In Ecclesiastes 11:9, the writer there admits that young people have all these conflicting passions and desires. But when it all boils down to it, no matter what you pursue in life, no matter what evil or sin you allow into your heart, you will be judged for every deed. As young people, we have all these desires that tear us apart. We have all these romantic goals and dreams and all of the lust in the world.
All of it means nothing, though. All of it. In the end, serving the Lord matters more than anything else. And being a friend to God is more valuable than being a friend to the sinners of this world.
The point in all of this matter is found in Philippians 4:8. Do you want to know how to live for God? Do you want to know how to maintain your righteousness in a world of sin? Do you want to know how to keep lustful, sinful thoughts out of your mind? By filling your head with God’s word! By making your mind dwell on what is good and true, what is pure and honorable. The more of God’s word that you have in your head, the less room there is for Satan!
Perhaps, instead of seeing a movie filled with violence and sex, you and the other teens from the church can visit some of the widows. Perhaps, instead of walking into a situation where you might be tempted to lust over a girl, you go the opposite direction and read a couple verses from the Gospel. Perhaps, instead of associating with the lowly sinners of the world, you should reacquaint yourself with other Christians!
There is nothing wrong with having fun. There is nothing wrong with playing sports or watching movies. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a good workout, spending time friends, or watching a little television. Paul admits in 1 Timothy 4:8 that bodily exercise does profit us a little, but “godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
So the next time you are tempted to do something you know is wrong, ask yourself why. Why would you trade eternal life for a drink of alcohol? Why would you trade eternal life to attend a stupid dance? Why would you trade eternal life to impress the sinful people of this world? How much is popularity worth? It is not worth your soul!