What do Christian teenagers actually believe about Jesus?

I came across an interview of Mike Nappa, who recently published The Jesus Survey.  This was a survey of Christian teens who not only self-identified as Christians and as active in their youth groups, but since the survey was taken at a short-term mission site, obviously these are also ones willing to put their faith into action to some extent.

Of these precious ones, 70% expressed “persistent, measurable doubts that what the Bible says about Jesus is true.”  Of course I was surprised by this, but when I think about the culture our kids are being raised in, where they leave church on Sunday morning and/or Wednesday night, and the rest of their experience is awash in opposite messages, it’s not that surprising.  In most of our culture, living for Jesus and seeing Him work in our lives isn’t even on the table for discussion.

But here is the gold:

The data show that Christian kids who actually have strong confidence in Scripture actually experience God more noticeably in their daily lives.  For instance, four out of five (82%) of teens who have “unshakable” faith in the Bible also report possessing “strong” proof that the Holy Spirit is active in their lives.  Among kids who are uncertain about Scripture, that number is less than than half (49%).  For Christian teens who disbelieve the Bible’s reliability, only 22% strongly claim real-life experience with Christ’s Holy Spirit.

Do you see it!  Kids who see the Holy Spirit active in their lives actually believe the Bible!  Or, kids who believe the Bible actually see the Holy Spirit active in their lives!  Which comes first?  I’m not sure it matters.  It’s a symbiotic relationship.  People take a little step of faith, find out God is real, and then realize that the Bible is reliable.  Or people read the Bible, feel led to put it into practice, and find out God is there.  It’s both/and.  Experience and belief must work together, because if we don’t believe it, we won’t take a risk and try it.  And the more we try it and find out God is real, the more we believe it.

Nappa asked teens if they agreed to a set of belief statements, for example: the Bible is completely reliable, they were 100% certain Jesus had answered one or more prayers and could prove it, and they were 100% certain that the Holy Spirit was active in their lives.  Those who affirmed all of his core beliefs—he called them “Confident Christian Teens”—are outnumbered 10 to 1 in youth groups today. But they are there!  And God wants to build their numbers.  Not for the sake of us being able to “claim” them as disciples and be proud of our families and youth programs, but so that they may experience the love, hope, and transforming power of Jesus in their lives.

Why can’t I see him?

On my bike home the other day, I was listening to a message that John Paul Jackson gave at a conference on August 1, 2010.  I wasn’t able to verify but I believe it was given at the Mission Viejo Vineyard.  Here is the excerpt that got me:

A pastor comes and says to me, “I have a 4-year-old son who says he’s seeing angels, and he’s talking to them, like, regularly.”  And he said, “Could that be true?” “Or is he talking to, like a spirit guide?”  I said, “Well, depends on your definition of a spirit guide, but it’s probably an angel guiding him,” thus the definition of a spiritual guide. And he said, “Well, I don’t see him. Why can’t I see him?” I said, “Well, next time you find your son talking to the angel, ask him!”  He said, “I can do that?” I said, “Well of course; you’re his dad!”

So a couple of weeks later the dad went up to get the son for supper—he sees his son talking to the angel.  He says, “Son, are you talking to the angel?”  The son says, “Yeah.”  And he says, “Will you ask the angel something for me?” “Will you ask him why I can’t see him?”  So the 4-year-old asks the angel, and the angel says this—the little boys says what the angel said—”Dad, the angel says for me to tell you,” and he says it in his 4-year-old voice, “that the reason why you can’t see him is that your eyes have beheld too much evil.” And so, after the dad recovered, he then looked at his son and said, “Son, will you ask him this: ‘Will I ever be able to see?’” So the little boy asks, and the angel responded. The little boy said, “Dad, the angel says ‘Yes, the day will come, but the calluses run deep and it will take some time to dissolve them.’”

See we allow ourselves to do things thinking it has no bearing—we’ll still get into heaven, everything is fine—but we have no idea it stops us from living at a higher spiritual plane than we would have lived otherwise. We live in a much lowlier estate.  And I don’t mean humble.  I mean less spiritual state than we would have walked had we allowed the Holy Spirit to discipline us and keep us in a better place.  Calluses form, lack of sensitivity, lack of ability to discern, slowly slowly.  We may have salvation, but slowly, slowly our spiritual life erodes, and we wonder why.  We make poor choices, and we think those choices are inconsequential, but five years later they take a toll.  Ten years later they take a toll.  Twenty years later, they’ve taken a toll.  And we think it doesn’t make any difference, making those kind of choices.  We need to feel His presence, and when it lifts, we need to do something different than we’re doing.

God’s grace covers us when we fall.  I know that from my own repeated experience.  But I want more.  I want to see the angels.  I want to know God at a greater level of intimacy and experience than I do now.  I believe it’s possible.

Lord, dissolve the calluses from my eyes, for I too, have beheld too much evil.  Lord, draw me close to you.  Transform my appetites to hunger for your word and your presence.  Show me how to keep pure eyes and ears and mind in this depraved culture we must live in.  In Jesus’ name.

The Caleb Prayer for Hacienda Heights

O High King of heaven,
Have mercy on Hacienda Heights.
Revive your Church;
Send the Holy Spirit for the sake of the children.
May your kingdom come to our nation.
In Jesus’ mighty name.
Amen

From Ffald-y-Brenin, a conference center in Wales, that has seen God’s amazing outpouring, as documented in The Grace Outpouring.  This prayer is being used around the globe to ask the Lord to bring revival.  The words are not magic, but God is faithful to answer the prayer of his beloved ones.  Would you pray this with me for Hacienda Heights?  For your community?

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