How does one converse with and shed light in the life of those who accepted Jesus in their childhood and are now young adults who are lukewarm in their faith?

(Elyse) #1

How does one converse with and shed light in the life of those who accepted Jesus in their childhood and are now young adults who are lukewarm in their faith? And are they still saved or is that initial invitation to Jesus in innocent childhood enough.
I’ll give a few examples of certain people in my life:

  • my little brother, 18, spends most of his available time on Netflix watching shows with immoral practices, and video games. He has a porn addiction and also spends time with friends who smoke, vape, swear, drink, sleep around and who knows what else, and the more time he spends in this lifestyle the less he cares about his faith. He’s revealed to me that the reason he spends all his time doing these things, particularly drowning his thoughts on Netflix, is to get his mind off his problems. It also seems a problem he can’t connect his faith to his daily life.
  • A friend of mine who grew up attending church most Sundays, slipped and fell into drinking, drugs, sex, cussing, smoking and everything else that falls into those categories. Her family is very traditional according to their culture, women wear skirts or dresses, kerchiefs after marriage for a submissive head covering, aren’t supposed to cut their hair, no makeup, no jewellery, no piercings, no dyeing ones hair, even nail polish is “bad”, they profess these things are biblically sound. While they believe in Jesus, it’s always seemed to they put more weight on their traditions and rules than on the saving faith of Jesus. I believe this has led to a superficial faith and makes it easier to slip into horrible habits and not be too concerned about it. She professes to be a Christian and has phases where she prays and reads the bible, but she always slips back and her lifestyle just doesn’t change.
  • My cousin, who is also my best friend, married a few years ago and they have a little girl, almost one now. My cousin accepted Jesus at a young age and was baptized before she was married. Her husband can’t read well enough to lead bible reading or devotions and also doesn’t pray, for whatever reason. He also isn’t very passionate or educated about the person of Jesus. He grew up in a broken home with parents being poor examples. But he does profess to be a Christian and was also baptized before they were married. (But both were baptized only because in their culture individuals must first be baptized to be married.) My cousin struggles with being the spiritual leader and confided in me that she doesn’t read the bible or pray and when she does she is tormented because she feels like no one is there, she’s just speaking to the darkness. She deals with deep fear at night, she says she’s always seeing things in the dark and she’s afraid, yet when we have these deep conversations and I give her scripture readings that address her topics of interest, or I provide her with resources that are biblically sound and would help her, she accepts and appreciates it but when we follow up she hasn’t cracked the first page and her problem remains the same. She also deals with a Netflix addiction, and says that it helps get her mind off all the unanswered questions and confusion in her mind, and while she wants to do better and not watch so much and come closer to Jesus, she says she doesn’t have that self control.

It may sound like I’m being critical of their lifestyles- I’m not. I went into depth to explain the circumstances so that maybe hopefully someone out there has some words of wisdom for me to be a better blessing in their lives. I love them all so dearly and want the best for them, but sometimes I wonder if I can say too much and I should back away and let them make their own mistakes, after all we all make mistakes. Or maybe I’m not presenting Jesus to them in the proper light that would make them want to draw closer to Him as well. I’m just not sure😬
I know I packed a lot into this thread, I guess I’m just full of questions myself and I’m not sure how to split this into separate threads. I also grew up in a denominational church that holds fast to its traditions, some of which seem a bit superficial to me. My church is so very tame, there’s no passionate worship, singing is done sitting properly, everyone looking sombrely at their hymnals, the pastors seem unapproachable as they are all dressed up in matching black tuxedos and have an appearance of superiority. And while questions aren’t discouraged, they’re definitely never encouraged either. And they do not address modern topics that engage youth, and therefore I grew up with many unanswered questions. I feel so very blessed to have encountered the ministry of Ravi Zacharias, which has led me to RZIM connect. Finally a place where questions are welcome!! Thankyou to anyone who gives some insight. And please forgive my scattered questions :sweat_smile:

(Nic Shoffner) #2

This was me, kind of. I grew up going to church and, once I became an adult, I thought I was good to go. I knew Jesus died for our sins (or something like that). Wasn’t that good enough? I also spent most of my teenage years doing a lot of things that I shouldn’t have done. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I finally figured out that Jesus was more than a guy in a book and that he is truly relevant to me today.

I can also sympathize with your desire to reach these people you care about. Most of those I grew up with have the same story as me except they never figured out that Jesus is the real deal.

The verse that always gets me on this is John 12:42 & 43, “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

We are called to care more about God’s admiration than that of other people. Like you, I find this to be extremely difficult to do. It never seems to be the right time. But really it’s just my desire to stay inside my comfort zone especially when I feel my message won’t be well received. I truly hope you can find some answers.

(Anthony Costello ) #3

@ES95, wow Elisa, thank you for this very meaningful post. I can see from your writing that you care deeply about those who profess Christ, yet who seem to be failing to walk closely with the Spirit. Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that cannot really be answered intellectually. Perhaps there are a few things we can say theologically and biblically to shed some light on the problem of folks professing Christ, yet not living in accordance with His commands, but when it comes down to concrete interaction with folks, that is such a deeply pastoral question that it seems to me you just have to press into your own faith, and your own relationship with Christ, letting the Holy Spirit show you the right ways to speak to your friends.

A few things though that we might say from the bible. First, we cannot know in any definitive way who is or who is not saved. That kind of knowledge is reserved for God alone (Matt 13:24-30), and all we can do when we see brothers or sisters in Christ not behaving in accordance with the ethics of the New Testament, is come alongside them and be their friend. Also, as hard as this may be to accept, there just will be people in the church, who are “in it” but not “of it” (1 John 1:29, Hebrews 6:4-5). Since the time of the New Testament apostles, and then in the early church, it has been recognized that there will be people who act as if they are part of the church, but in reality are no friends of Jesus (Matt 7:21-23). So, biblically and theologically we do claim that 1) no one human being can ever know with certainty the status of another human beings; salvation, although their may be some indicators, 2) there will be some who seem to be a part of the church, or even who seem to have had an actual conversion experience, yet who are not or never were true followers of Christ, and 3) these ones who do not come back to Christ, or who were only pretending to be a part of the church, will ultimately be judged.

That said, especially in regard to point 1), I would say that anyone who shows signs of struggling with their faith, is probably saved. John Calvin, the great Reformer, once remarked that people who are not saved (i.e. who are not among the elect of God), will show little if any signs of worrying about their faith or their salvation. If people show genuine concern about the state of their soul, and the state of their relationship with God, that right there is usually a good indicator that this person is saved, and just needs some help along the way. We all go through “dark nights” and “deep valleys” and sometimes those nights are long, and those valleys wide.

Now, depending on the specific person, there is the pastoral question of what to do. This might include some kind of rebuke or “harsh love,” but that is where you need to know the person you are speaking to, and know them well.

It seems to me, for example, that your little brother may just need someone to talk to who he can trust, since he might be struggling with some real deep anxiety. Plus, that age is just hard, especially for men, and especially in this culture of ours. High school and college was the worst time of my life, and I also got caught up in many of the same things as your brother (well, with the exception of Netflix, which didn’t exist back then, obviously). It is not uncommon though, as the pull of the world is strong, especially if he is struggling with how to reconcile his sexual drives with his Christian faith, which is probably at least part of what is going on in the life of most 18-year old Christian men.

I won’t say much about the other cases, because again, when talking about people and their sanctification, these are deeply pastoral issues, and some kind of intimacy is needed for there to be any real help on offer. Probably the best thing you could do is just be a safe person for your friends to keep coming to. Be someone that they can rely on when they need to hear a spiritual word, and when they need to see something of Christ in the world.

In that sense, my advice again, is to stay close to Christ yourself, so that they can know that at least someone close to them is planted firmly in the faith. In other words, let your light shine, so as to draw them closer to you, and through your witness let them come back to Jesus. That, however, may not be something that happens quickly, even if you want it to. So waiting and praying patiently, even for years if necessary, is perhaps what it will take before you see these friends and relatives thrive in the Lord. So, as you have already suspected, there may be times to be more pro-active in approaching them, but then there may be times to back away and let the Lord deal with them exclusively. This is a matter of wisdom, as we cannot force Christ upon anyone, how could we, He doesn’t even force Himself upon us!?

That said then, remember that God has allowed everyone to go his or her own way. You can only do your part, and you are not ultimately responsible for the faith of others. But, you and I are responsible for our responses to the faith of others, and if we are in prayer for them, and if we are showing them the love of Christ, then we are walking in the Spirit, and not the flesh.

God bless,

(Elyse) #4

Thanks so much, your responses have been helpful.