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Feb 07, 2016

A Solitary Place

Passage: Mark 1:35-39

Speaker: Scott Jeffreys

Series: Mark: An Action Packed Gospel

This past week I went to the doctor to get my physical. While waiting in the office I picked up Web MD. In it was an article about the stress that young people are under today. The premise of the article is that there is far more stress on them than in previous generations. This is for a myriad of reasons.

1. Accelerated academic expectations. Kids are reading in kindergarten and preschool instead playing with blocks and finger painting. In the 9th grade the guidance counselor starts telling you to figure out what you’re going to take for the next four years so you can go to college.

2. High stakes testing. It’s all about the tests..

3. Kids overscheduled. Dance, piano lessons, ball games, clubs, etc.

4. Fewer healthy outlets for stress. No recess in school, PEC, arts cut back, Kids don’t play outdoors anymore.

5. Media saturation and exposure to adult content through it.

6. Bullying and teasing. Social media bullying

7. Too little sleep. Why? Because of all the above

8. Adverse health conditions. Inactivity, processed food, diabetes

9. Family disruption. Trainset society, deployments, divorces

10. Parental stress. All of the above affects the parents and what affects them affects the kids.  

Today three young people, Ingrid, Manny, and Margaret will be confirmed in their Christian faith and one will reaffirm his faith in Jesus Christ, Weylen. I told them this past week that they will face many challenges to the faith they are professing today.

Pressure on the Christian Faith

The pressure of atheism, which is on the rise amongst the millennials. Will they, in the face of suffering and many different ideas about God, slip into unbelief? I challenged them not do it, at least without not reading someone who is far smarter than them who is a Christian and has wrestled such questions while holding on to their faith.

The pressure of secularism, which is obliterating Christendom in America and creating far more options for our youth on the Lord’s Day. It used to be on Sundays that everything was closed; the only place you could go was to church, now you can go anywhere and do anything on Sundays. Will the Lord’s Day fall by the wayside in your life because of all the other enticing options? It’s much easier, dangerously easier, for a pattern to form in your life where the worship of God falls way down the priority list.    

The pressure of moral relativism, which the predominant moral prism by which most people in our neck of the woods understand the world today. Moral relativism will put intense pressure our young ones to abandon the faith in two ways.

First, moral relativism will try to teach them that the sole determiner of morality and truth is you, not God. In moral relativism you get to decide for yourselves what is true and what is not. This sets human beings up as an idol and that usually doesn’t turn out so good. We end up making bad decisions that become detrimental to us.

Second, moral relativism will seek to seek to marginalize at the least, and attack at worst, anyone who holds to traditional Christian views of morality, in particular in the realm of marriage/human sexuality, and the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as sole and singular Lord and Savior of the world.

Today there is a price to be paid if one holds to such traditional Christian teaching. More and more people will face the choice of having to choose between their friends and their faith or their job and their faith, not because the one who holds to traditional views doesn’t want the friends or the job but because the friends and the job don’t want them because their views are perceived to be so offensive.

I know its hard thing to swallow, but our world has changed drastically. If you look at the statistics on the declining religious commitments of younger people, especially to the Christian faith, these are the reasons for it; that is a fact. These young people who are before us today will likely be faced with some painful choices in ways that many of you who were confirmed in earlier times cannot even begin to fathom.

Nothing New Under the Sun

There is good news, though. These challenges are not new. In the OT book of Judges the writer says at the conclusion that “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” Moral relativism is not new.

Christian views on morality have been out of favor before as well. Increasingly, the American context is looking more and more like the Greco-Roman context in which the early church and her mission movements took place in.

Additionally, religious pluralism is not new. In the book of Acts Paul said to the Athenians, “Men of Athens I see that in every way you are very religious, for as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”[i] So Paul faced it and he preached Christ in the midst of all the diversity of different beliefs about God.

I am afraid that where we are dropping the ball is in our not equipping everyone, especially our young people, in the knowledge of how Christians in the past have faced these issues. The challenges they face are not unique to them alone. In fact we can even say that Jesus Christ himself faced a tremendous amount of pressure.

The Pressure that Jesus Was Under

As it concerned religious pluralism he faced it when he put before Peter the most important question in all the Bible, “Who do you say that I am?”[ii] Or when Jesus said in John’s gospel “I am the gate of the sheep and whoever tries to enter by another gate is a thief and a robber”[iii] and when he said in the same gospel, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.”[iv]

Additionally, Jesus held to moral views that were out of accord with Roman morality and even some in the Jewish community.

Even more difficult, he was pressured by Satan in his temptations and he faced the humanly inexplicable pressure of bearing the crushing weight of the sins of the world on his crucified body. The scriptures tell us that as Jesus faced that God forsaken moment that his sweat became like drops of blood as he pleaded with his Heavenly Father three times to remove the cup of death from him. Talk about pressure.

And then on a lighter note, as it concerns our text today from the gospel of Mark, we know that Jesus’ mailbox was always full. No matter how many emails, voicemails, twitters, and Facebooks he answered, there was always one more person he needed to get back with. Endless piles of paperwork were stacked on his desk. Everywhere he went the crowds were waiting to see him, to get in front of him, to be healed by him and to hear him teach the Word of God. No rest for the weary.

This today’s text sounds hauntingly similar to our own world…Overcrowded, overbooked, and overstimulated.

Look at what it says in v. 35-36. Jesus is by himself praying and then here comes Simon Jeffreys the secretary knocking on his office door. “Rabbi Jesus your next appointment has arrived, and after you get done with him there is bunch more people waiting to see you.”

But here is the key to facing all of this pressure. The key is found in v. 35 of the text. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place and he prayed.”

That’s where it is at.

Make Time for Christ in Your Life

This past week I saw a to-do list in my house. It said wake up, do this, do that, call so and so, and have a good day. I have made those kind of lists before. I’ve got something like it right now stuck on a bunch of sticky notes in my office on my practice pulpit. I made it the other day.

Everything on it has to do with my work and since I’m in God’s line of business it’s all stuff that pertains to God, but guess what? My to-do list, even though it has to do with God, is missing the same thing that the list in my house was missing. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where prayed.”

Confirmands, if your faith is going to survive the onslaughts of the culture and the isolating effects of social media it will only happen if you build intentional alone time in your life to be with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Without you making time to be with the Lord you will become a casualty so as your pastor, I exhort you to spend time with the Lord.

Make room for Jesus in your life, just as Jesus made time for his Father. If Jesus Christ, the sinless son of God, had to make time daily to be with the Father (which he did because there are many places in the Scriptures that talk about him going off to be by himself to do this) then how much more do we need to do so?

“Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”[v]

You, me, and all of us need that time in prayer and in the Holy Scriptures in order to survive the pressures that are upon us. Nurture your spiritual life. Mothers and fathers help them. Church help them. Help them pastor. But you as confirmands must put in the effort. Nobody can do it for you. It is your responsibility to pursue God

Additionally, don’t neglect the ordinary means of grace that God has given to you in the church, in the worship of God, the proclamation of God’s Word, and in the celebration of the sacraments. These things are essential to your faith. If your divorce yourself from God’s grace in the church, you will cut yourself off from the bread and wine that gives life.

So I exhort you to fight the good fight, and keep the faith,[vi] and “never let anyone look down you because you are young, but set an example for the believers (and the world) in speech, life, in love, in faith, and in purity.”[vii]

This might sound heavy and in a way it is, but I as your pastor am calling you to follow Jesus Christ now, not later.

I will leave you with these words from the book of Ecclesiastes, which was written by the wisest and perhaps most foolish man who ever lived, King Solomon. Solomon said, “Be happy young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see (very millennial) but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.”[viii]

In the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.                             

                

 

 

[i] Acts 17:22-23

[ii] Mark 8:29

[iii] John 10:1,7

[iv] John 14:6

[v] Deuteronomy 8:3

[vi] II Timothy 4:7

[vii] I Timothy 4:12

[viii] Ecclesiastes 11:9