GROWING THROUGH THE MOTIONS SERIES
PAUSED ON PUBERTY
AUGUST 17, 1997
Every year in Junior High School the administration would divide the boys and girls up into two large groups and we would see a film on sex education. I never saw the girl’s video, but I did see the guy’s video. The film made an indelible impression on my life. It was entitled, “From Boy To Man”. The girl’s film was called, “From Girl To Woman”.
“From Boy To Man” would start out the same way every year. The actor was a pubescent youngster named Jim. It showed Jim playing basketball. He was a horrible player. He dressed about 15 years out of style, plaid short-sleeved shirt, rolled up Levis and black PF Flyer tennis shoes. The announcer would describe Jim. “Look at Jim. He is growing up now. See the muscularity, see the coordination. Notice Jim’s voice is changing.” Jim would then shout, “Pass me the ball.” And his voice would break in the middle. Then the cruel, sadistic announcer would say, “Jim is also becoming interested in girls. Let’s listen in.” Jim would put the basketball down and walk into his house. He would open up the fridge and get a big, old cold glass of milk. He would walk to the telephone, wipe the perspiration from his brow and dial. “May I speak to Sally, please. Sally, this is Jim. I am in your science class. I was wondering if you could go to the dance with me this Friday night. You can. Neato. That is great. Bye.”
Then Jim would place his hands behind his neck and lean back. The announcer would say, “Look at Jim’s arm pits. Notice the rings of perspiration? See the peach fuzz on the chin? Jim is going through puberty. He is moving from boy to man.” Then the music would start. “This is the documentary that will teach you about human development.” Every year it was the same old drill in the same old classroom. It was the same old film with the same old character named Jim. “From Boy To Man”. Jim is kind of sad. The guy never matured. He always stayed paused on puberty, didn’t he?
I am in a series on spiritual growth entitled Growing Through The Motions. Last week we talked about spiritual infancy. If you missed it, please pick up the tape. It is available at three or four tape tables that we have out front. Next week we will talk about spiritual adulthood. In this session we will talk about spiritual adolescence.
I think you know what adolescence is, don’t you? You see it all around you. It is that Tommy Hilfinger wearing, nose ring comparing, boom box blaring mentality that says, “I’m omniscient. I’m omnipotent. I know the score. I know where the game is and I also know where the post game party is going to be located. I am a teenager.” Over the next couple of minutes we are going to look closely at spiritual adolescence. Adolescence is a challenging, adventuresome, exciting type stage that our God wants us to go through. He wants us to go through it physically, chronologically but also spiritually. Go through adolescence, move on to maturity, God says. But sadly scores and scores of you who are hearing my voice are kind of like the character Jim. You are going through the same old drill in the same old classrooms spiritually speaking. You are paused on puberty. In today’s message I have two goals. First, I want to challenge you to locate the stage of spiritual development you find yourself in along the continuum of maturity. Second, once you pinpoint the stage, I want you to move on. I want you to do whatever it takes to grow and to be the kind of human being that God has designed you to become.
Having said that, let’s talk about some characteristics of spiritual adolescence. You can also apply these to physical adolescence, too. Adolescents love to advertise their autonomy. That is the first characteristic that I want us to discuss. It is kind of interesting. Before and after our adolescence we know in our minds that there are a lot of people who are more insightful, who are smarter, who are better looking, who are stronger and faster than we are. But when we are teenagers we think that we are the center of the universe. We think that anyone over thirty-five is clueless and anyone over fifty-five is comatose. No one can tell us what to do, not a parent, not a teacher, not a politician, not a coach and especially not a pastor. We advertise our autonomy.
What we do, teenagers, is we systematically cut ourselves off from the advice of those people who are mature. When we do our own thing, when we forge our own future, when we determine our own destiny, those mature forces in our lives kind of shake their heads. They know that we are going to be in trouble because we are advertising our autonomy.
Speaking of advertising autonomy and the trouble you can get into, let me share this with you. When I was fifteen years of age I secured my permanent driver’s license. It was kind of a restricted license. Back in South Carolina I could drive but I had to be in by 8:00pm during the summer months. I had driven around with my parents but one evening I walked into the den and requested the car for the following evening. It was a Wednesday night and I asked if I could use the car to take Lisa home from mid-week service. They decided that I was a pretty responsible guy and allowed me to do it with the caution that I was to be home by 8pm even though Lisa lived 16 miles from our home. My father added, “Son, be in by 8:00pm. We are going to trust you. It is your first time with the car alone.” I thought to myself that this would be a good time to advertise my autonomy since I would have the keys, the station wagon and my girl.
I couldn’t wait for church to get out. It ended about 6:30pm. Lisa and I hopped in the station wagon and I began driving her home. I thought to myself this would be the night I’d kiss Lisa for the first time. I had my Jovan musk oil on. You know, it was kind of a joke, but this year for my birthday Lisa got me a little bottle of Jovan musk oil. Anyway, that is another story.
So I get Lisa home and we are sitting in the driveway while I try to get up enough courage to kiss her. I looked at my watch and suddenly it was 7:55pm. My home was 16 miles away! But I didn’t really worry. About 8:05 we kissed. It was a magical moment because the next thing I remember was looking at my watch and finding it was 8:20pm. I told Lisa I had to go, I was breaking the law and breaking my parent’s advice. I gave her a quick kiss, jumped in my Mom’s station wagon, which by the way, had a 455 under the hood. Do you remember back when the speed limit was 55, you know, when Jimmy Carter was President? I was just flying. I wasn’t that worried because my Dad was a pastor. Since it was Wednesday night, I knew that he would have meetings scheduled after church. I knew that I could easily get past my Mom. She was so sweet, genteel and nice. There I was just advertising my autonomy driving along at 85 miles per hour.
Now we lived kind of out in the country and I pulled into what would be considered our neighborhood. I went around a rather sharp turn and suddenly I passed a car that looked amazingly like my father’s car. But then I reassured myself that was impossible. My father never comes directly home from church. It did scare me enough to say a quick prayer. I prayed to God that was not my father. I prayed it in Jesus’ name.
I pulled into the driveway and was ecstatic that my father’s car was not there. I bound into the kitchen and apologized to my mother for being late. My mother in her Mississippi accent said, “Ed, where have you been? We have been worried about you.” I said, “Mom, I am sorry I am late. Dad had a meeting at church, right?” She replied, “Ed, he is out looking for you.” Suddenly, and I will never forget this sight, I looked and reflecting on the pine trees were the headlights of my father’s car which was screaming up the driveway. Then in kind of a Starkey and Hutch power turn he stopped the car. He got out of the car and said, “Keys. Driver’s license.” I took my wallet out to try to find my license and he told me to give him the whole wallet. He said, “Edwin Barry Young, you disobeyed me. You disobeyed the law. You disobeyed your mom. Your summer, Ed, is mine. For the next two weeks you will be out front in our flower bed (it was really a weed bed) and you will be pulling nut grass from sunup to sundown. Nut grass, by yourself.” Because I advertised my autonomy for the next two weeks I was on my knees in the hot, boiling South Carolina sun pulling nut grass. I promise you, the weedbed was at least double the size of this stage. It was monstrous.
As spiritual adolescents our Heavenly Father will tell us to do things. He will say to be in by 8:00pm. But we reply that we have got the keys and the girl. I will do what I please, thank you very much. God knows what is best for us and when we break His directives and His rules and His perimeters, we end up spiritually speaking reaping the consequences of disobedience, pulling the nut grass in those giant weedbeds of rebellion. Spiritual adolescence.
We basically ice God out in two ways. We ice God out by putting on the headphones. Do you ever put on headphones? I do. You turn the music up, crank it up. When people are talking to you, it is great. You can’t hear a word they are saying but you can hear the beat. And then, we look at God and He is trying to speak to us but we say to Him that the music is cranked up. When God’s word kind of fits with our agenda and our lifestyle, we will listen to it and do it. We will go through God’s word and obey those nice verses that are good and fine and holy and pure. But when something begins to ease into our vocabulary, or begins to press against the wall as regards honesty, or begins to talk about our lustful thought life or our materialistic nature, we just tune out. Do you have those earphones on drowning out God’s word? God is always telling us to apologize to someone, to stop something, to start something, to continue something, to be something. But adolescents have those earphones on.
Also, adolescents we do another thing. We make a big old giant pot of spiritual gumbo. You know I am pretty much of a health nut, but I love gumbo. It is bad for me, but I love it. Gumbo has a lot of ingredients in it, doesn’t it? We think that as spiritual adolescents we can have it all. We believe we can have the fast track career, the soccer star kids, can run 10Ks, golf in the low 80s, read the latest novels, go to the latest movies and still have a little room for God. I will put the recipe together and see that something is missing. Then I will put some God in. God will help me here a little bit and also in eternity. God can be a part of my recipe. And we stir and stir the gumbo. Little do we realize that God’s going to ruin the recipe. He is not some insignificant ingredient. He is not some seasoning. He wants to wear the chef’s hat. He wants to put the recipe together. He wants to tell us what our priorities are spiritually, relationally, emotionally, biologically, psychologically. But in our autonomy, we say no, I will do what I please, thank you.
There is another characteristic though. Spiritual adolescents not only advertise their autonomy, they also realize their responsibility. They begin to realize their responsibility. In other words, spiritual adolescents look past the plains of puberty to the mountain tops of maturity and they begin to count the cost of really being a Christ follower, or really going on with the Lord and they decide that it is a little strong.
Remember Simon Peter? Last week we talked about his preschool stage. This week let’s talk about his adolescent stage. Simon Peter was one minute jet skiing across the Sea of Galilee, the next moment he is drowning on the seas of doubt. One moment he is advertising his autonomy when they come to arrest Jesus and he tries to chop a guys ear off. The next moment he begins to realize his responsibility when someone questioned his relationship with Jesus and he denied even knowing Him. There is a cost to maturing.
Let me tell you the cost. Let me tell you why most of us remain on the plains of puberty. First, we know the relational cost. There is a relational cost of growing spiritually. The Bible says that we are not to be joined together with non-believers. This is the most popular verse for those of us who are married Christians but it is the most unpopular for those of us who are dating. II Corinthians 6:14 says “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.” That eliminates about 4/5ths of the potential dating candidates. People don’t like to hear that, not junior high students, not high school students, not single adults. In the original language it says do not be yoked together with unbelievers. You know what the word yoked is? Yoked is a farming term. If you were plowing a field you would put two animals under a single wooden collar and have them pull the plow. If you had two animals that were alike, like two oxen or two donkeys, they could plow the field together. They would be yoked together. You have got problems, though, if you put an oxen on one side and a donkey on the other side you would have trouble plowing the field. God says, categorically, unequivocally, irrevocably, that we are to be bound together in our closest relationships with those who know Christ. Our closest friendships must be based on Jesus Christ. Those people we date must know Jesus Christ. Those people we marry must know Jesus Christ. Our closest business relationships must be those based on Christ. God gives us this word for our best interest.
Two weeks ago I spoke three nights to all of our young people. I hammered home this principle because it works. Don’t think for one minute that God is saying that we should be involved in spiritual apartheid. Don’t think that God wants us to be some kind of spiritual racist. We are to be involved in the lives of people outside the family of God. If we aren’t, how can they know about God? But, our closest companions must have the common denominator of Christ. A lot of adolescents think that price is too high. They decide they will remain on the plains of puberty.
There is another cost, though. It is the time cost. We talked last week about spiritual infancy. We challenged the infants to do three things: to feed on God’s word, to learn how to talk to God in prayer and to learn how to walk in fellowship. If we get committed to do those things it will take a lot of our discretionary time away. We won’t have the time we used to have to hang out. There is a time cost. There are blocks of time now that are totally taken up because we are developing our communion with a Holy God.
Then there is also another cost. This one is probably the main one that keeps people from climbing the mountain of maturity. It is the financial cost. You see, before we were Christians we thought that our stuff was our stuff. Yet once we are adopted into the family of God and begin to grow in our relationship with Him, we realize that our stuff is not our stuff. Our stuff is God’s stuff. God wants some of His stuff given as a worship sign to Him. God’s word says that we should give at least 10% of our stuff, as a minimum worship requirement, to the local church. On every deal made, every bonus, every little bit of compensation, we are to give to God. Some people ask me if they should tithe on the gross or the net. I ask them whether they want God to bless the gross or the net, it is their choice.
You know, every time I talk about money people get quiet. Relax. Just relax. This is between you and God. But I have got to ask you, spiritual adolescents, are you ready to give 10% to the local house of worship? That is God’s minimum worship requirement. It is part of maturing. It is part of leaving the plains of puberty. As quickly as God gave it to you financially, He can take it away.
Those are the reasons why most of us remain right there on the plains.
Over the past ten years I have talked to a number of pastors and leaders and teachers across the country. In my conversations with them I have been collecting phrases that spiritual adolescents use. Spiritual adolescents do not really count the cost in an honest way. Most of them do not say they may have a relational problem, or a time problem or a financial problem. Most of them will not admit the obvious reason for why they are not growing spiritually. What they will do is, they will take pot shots at the church. These pot shots are statements that they don’t really mean. Here are a few phrases that should tip you off that an spiritual adolescent is speaking.
“This church is just too big.” I get lost. If you read about the emerging church in the New Testament, most of the churches had tens of thousands of members. There were some churches that had over one hundred thousand members mentioned in the Bible. What if I took four tickets to the Cowboy’s home opener out of my pocket and said these 50 yd. line tickets are yours. How many in here would refuse those tickets? How many would say that Texas Stadium is just too big, too many people are there? Or, what if I could give you a $10,000 gift certificate to the Galleria, would you say that the Galleria is too big and has too many stores? If a church is around a lot of people, the church should have a lot of people.
Here is what Jesus said in the Gospel of Luke. “Go out into the country so that My house (the church) will be full.” Jesus commands His church to grow. I know that when such a thing is said, it is not really true. It is just kind of a smoke screen, a straw man.
Here is the next one that I love. “Your church or your ministry just is not deep enough.” We get this now and then. A couple of months ago someone told me that they wished this church had more depth. I answered that while I agreed we could always grow deeper I, myself, was still trying to work on “love thy neighbor as thyself”. You know we can talk all day and night about information and doctrine. We can talk about salvation and justification and sanctification and escatology. But I am going to tell you something, spiritual adolescents, if you will apply about 10% of what you already know, you will be an adult very quickly. There is major league room for knowledge. We need to know God’s word. We need to understand it. We need to have a command on it. And we will talk about the importance of information next weekend. But always remember. The Bible was not written for our information but for our application. It is the “so what principle”. Jesus said, “Do it, apply it.” Seventy percent of His words were words of relevancy, words of life change, words of “so what”. Put it into practice.
Another one people will use which they do not mean is this. “The church is just full of hypocrites.” I am a hypocrite. I’ll admit it right now. You know what a hypocrite is? A hypocrite is a person who says they will do something and they don’t do it. A hypocrite is someone who acts like they are really on fire and some times they fail. I do that all the time. And so do you. Just turn to your neighbor and say, “I am hypocrite.” Let’s give the hypocrites a round of applause.
Jesus said in the gospels that it was not those who have been healed that need a physician but those who are sick – the hypocrites. Our church is a hospital full and packed with sickly sinners.
After we have used all those excuses we really do the teenage thing. Teenagers are always changing: fashions, clichés, fads, music. You saw it in our drama. Recently I was in a store shopping for a swim suit. I saw this 17 year old guy standing near me and I pulled out a pair of trunks and asked his opinion. He said, “Naw, man, six months ago those were phat, but they are not phat anymore.” He chose other swim trunks that he assured me were phat. He explained how you could boggie board with them, surf with them, fish with them. The guy sold me on the trunks.
When I was growing up it was cool or hip or whatever. We are always moving if we are an adolescent. Adolescents instead of facing the music relationally, time-wise and financially will just move. They move from church to church, from fad to fad, from fashion to fashion, from teacher to teacher trying to find the perfect place. There is not a perfect fad or fashion or piece of music, spiritually speaking.
Most of us remain camped on the plains of puberty. Some of us, though, dive right in. Some of us say that we will go and be God’s man or woman, pay the price relationally, time-wise and financially. Those who do begin to climb the mountain of maturity and then realize that their relationships have a depth that the world doesn’t offer. They realize that their time is multiplied because of spending time with the author of time. They realize that while they are giving to God’s church, they are being blessed beyond belief. I pray that is you. I pray that you move on. I pray that adolescence is something that you go through.
Let me now talk about the final characteristic of adolescence. Spiritual adolescents advertise their autonomy, realize their responsibility but also they manifest their maturity. I want to tell you, spiritual adolescents, how to manifest your maturity. First, submit your autonomy to God’s authority. Throughout the Bible God talks about a flow chart, a chain of command. God has people over us, institutions over us and He wants us to submit our autonomy to their authority. We wants us to trust them. Whenever you go to a civic function, are part of a team, are part of a company, are part of a church, are part of a family, you are going to grow if, and only if, you submit your autonomy to the leaders in authority. Now if you can’t trust them, find some people you can trust but make sure you submit your autonomy to their authority. All of us are like diamonds in the rough. A diamond in the rough is ugly. It has mud and crud and grime all over it. Someone who knows it is a diamond in the rough will take it and see the beautiful stone within. They will begin to knock away all the excess and then one day they will have a beautiful diamond. In God’s chain of command He has people and institutions over us to chip away all the excess to make us into beautiful diamonds. So think about it. One day you can look and see that you are a beautiful diamond but that you didn’t understand the process while it was happening. God used that coach, God used that situation, God used that church or school to make me into a beautiful diamond. Our world doesn’t want to hear about submitting to authority. We want the autonomy thing. We want to do what we please. We want to do what makes us look good, what gives us pleasure. You are not going to grow until you submit your autonomy to God’s authority.
Second. Break camp on the plains of puberty and climb the mountain of maturity. Next week I will spend the entire time discussing what it means to be an adult believer. God has spoken to me over the last couple of weeks and He has told me something that I didn’t even realize about spiritual growth until recently. I am going to share that with you so make sure to be here next weekend. It is God’s goal for scores and scores of us to grow and to be spiritual adults. We want to have a balanced church. Remember, we want to have a balance in our preschool, spiritually speaking, balance with our teenagers, spiritually speaking, and balance with our adults, spiritually speaking. What is holding you back? What is keeping you from maturing?
As a teenager I advertised my autonomy. There were times when I realized my responsibility and there were also times when I manifested my maturity. My parents would tell me in a loving way what to stay away from. Often I would wonder where they were coming from. But for the most part, by God’s grace, I obeyed my parents. The first time I ever had sex was on my honeymoon with Lisa. I have never touched alcohol, never did, never will. I have been around drugs, drinking, wild living yet I remained pure. I didn’t understand it all, but I remained pure. I followed my parent’s advice and God’s advice and by His grace I have lived a pure life. I never went through a rebellion period. Now I am 36 years of age. I have gray hair everywhere. As I look back at my childhood and especially my adolescent years, I thank my parents now. I didn’t get it at the time, but I followed their advice and now I understand. Thank you Mom and Dad.
Hey, spiritual adolescents, obey the voice of your heavenly parent. He is going to tell you some things to do relationally that don’t make sense. He is going to tell you some things to do timewise that don’t make sense. He will tell you some financial things that don’t make sense. Obey His voice and you will see that you have changed from boy to man, from girl to woman, and no longer will you be paused on puberty. No longer. No longer.