Greetings to all my brothers and sisters in the faith! I give all honor and glory to my God who has sustained me to this day! I know that if it were up to just me, I would have nothing to say…but the Lord is so good and I asked Him to be the one who will speak through me in any way He wants. Because even if I were to say the most beautiful words a human can hear and speak with eloquence, and grace, but if the Lord isn’t the one speaking, it’s all in vain, and it would be nothing more than meaningless noise. (I Corinthians 13:1)
I don’t want these to be my words, but His.
A couple months ago, I was with some friends, thinking of different youth we knew who had strayed from God. Our hearts were heavy as we prayed for each one we could think of, one by one, the list getting longer & longer. I was saddened to think of so many people that have left the church, left the faith that they were brought up with…some, being youth that were, as they say, “brought up in the pews”. I had the sudden realization that it could’ve easily been me on that list too. I don’t deserve to still be standing. There’s NOTHING that I’ve done on my own to merit God’s grace and mercy. If I’m still here, it’s only because of Him.
This all got me thinking…how on earth were so many young people (and even older adults) leaving behind such a precious faith? Surely most of them had experienced that First Love. Surely some of them had even promised the Lord, like Peter, that they would always love Him, always follow Him, even unto death. (Luke 22:33) What was it that eventually made all these people careless in their walks, even to the point of not going to church…or to leaving their First Love?
It all boils down to one thing: self-control, or the lack thereof. In the original Greek, the word for self-control is: sṓphrōn . This word translates to “sound mind”: discipline, knowing how to deny your fleshly desires, thinking straight, etc.
Let me explain…
Spiritual death usually doesn’t happen all at once & overnight, but gradually, and subtily! One compromise at a time. It happens when one gets carried away with the things of this world.
We compromise things that don’t seem like a big deal. Instead of having all areas of our lives governed by the Holy Spirit, we lose sṓphrōn, self control.
“Small” sins start to creep in, and after a while, it’s all normal. But the scary thing is…it’s not always the big sins that separate us from God, most of the time it’s small things. Common things turned into idols. And by idols, I don’t mean little gold statues; I mean idols of the heart. Anything that takes God’s place in your life, consumes your thoughts, and you devote all your attention and energy to, can become an idol. "Little"sins.
It can be pride. It can be music that isn’t exactly “bad”, but deep inside you know it doesn’t glorify God. Or it can be that “harmless” show, that has an occasional bad word or crude joke, or inappropriate scene. The social media you spend most of your day on. It can be gossip. Or those friendships that you know are not building you up spiritually. (1 Corinthians 15:33)
It can even be “good things”. Maybe you spend so much time at work that you’re too tired for church. Or providing becomes such a priority, that money is all you can think about. Perhaps school and your future career are your MAIN focus right now, that God just gets the leftovers of your mind. Or you’re so busy serving, that you’ve forgotten Who it is you’re serving.
Maybe it’s a sports team you love. Suddenly, you can’t think of anything else. Sports take over your mind and over every conversation.
Often times, what starts out as a small lack of self-control turns into a bigger problem later on. It doesn’t matter if we think we’ve got it under control, or if we justify ourselves by saying “just one last time”. Our enemy is constantly throwing things to separate us from the Lord. He can use unforgiveness, bitterness or resentment, and gossip so you can’t experience true fellowship with your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Or he sends you thoughts that you carelessly stop filtering with God’s Word. Or he tempts you with pornography, things you know you shouldn’t be looking at. I’ve heard a saying that says something along the lines of… “even a crack is an opportunity for the enemy to come in”.
Guard your heart! (Proverbs 4:23) If you see any sign of satan trying to sneak into your heart, thoughts, or actions, God has given you the power you need to put a stop to it. (There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:13) If you have been playing with fire, young man, young woman, please flee while you still can!!! The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is stronger than any stronghold, chain, or bad habit! There can be freedom! You can once again experience intimacy with Him.
Come before His presence with genuine repentance, and confess it. It also helps to talk to an older godly person about it and ask for prayers. Then you must let the Lord renew your mind, let Him put His mind in you. (Romans 12:2) And strive to honor the Lord with all your future choices, asking Him for help to not repeat the sin. (John 8:11) And do anything you can to get rid of it. (Matthew 5:29) Keep a sound mind.
[Something that helps keep a sound mind that’s focused on God, is a resolution I made to myself. It’s not always easy, but every morning I make the effort to reach for my Bible before my phone. It helps to hear what God is speaking to me more clearly. Otherwise, I’d have a distracted mind, trying to think of my to-do list, emails/messages I need to reply to, responsibilities, etc.}
With any choice you make, any entertainment choice, social media, thoughts, and even words- you can ask yourself…’would the Lord approve? Does this glorify Him?’
If you hesitate to answer, you know your answer.
With God’s help, you can replace any bad habits with good ones:
If you’re tempted to:
-See something ungodly- Stop what you’re doing and pray for strength to overcome.
-Listen to worldly music- Put on some worship music.
-Gossip- Pray for that person instead.
-Waste time on social media- Listen to a preaching or Christian podcast.
-Think worldly things- Meditate on a Scripture.
-Complain- Write things you’re grateful for. (Psalm 103: 2)
And the list goes on and on!
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
Young people, adults, everyone! The Lord’s coming is so near, it’s not time to be messing around and only going to church when we “feel like it”.
Let’s be diligent, and be there with all our hearts, to encourage & be encouraged!
I love you all with the Love of Christ,
Sis. Jasmine Luna
1 Timothy 4:12-13