Teenagers will only be satisfied as they step into the presence of Jesus, and the Son of God longs to satisfy their deepest longings to be enjoyed.

The Truth Our Teens Need to Know

by David Sliker
6/11/15 Ministry and Outreach

For youth leaders, the presence of Jesus is the most powerful “tool” in the youth ministry “toolbox.” It connects to one of the deepest desires of the human heart: the longing for nearness to God without shame.

Young believers long for the assurance of something deeper than being “saved” by God; they long for the assurance that God enjoys them as well! “I believe that God loves me,” I’ve heard many students assert, tentatively. Then they add, “But does He like me?”

Unfortunately, there often is a huge disparity between these two seemingly similar ideas.

For many Christian teenagers, love means “unconditional forgiveness” when they sin or make a mistake. Somewhere in their mind they know that “Jesus paid the price” to forgive them of their sins. Usually this is what caused them to respond to the message of the gospel in the first place. But they often believe that God loves them because He has to. Love is who He is and what He does. But His love has nothing to do with them. God loves them because He is love, not because they are lovable.

As they grope for understanding about this heavenly Father who loves them enough to save them from hell, forgive their sins, and help them make life work, the question remains: “Does He like who I am?”

Our teens may know experientially what it’s like to deal with someone who loves them, but can struggle to relate to someone who likes them. They often have to cope with angry, weak, broken, and at times (in their view) irrational parents. They struggle with whether or not their fickle friends like them. They feel they have to project a “false self” because if their friends discovered who they really are and what they are really like, they will hate them. And at times they experience how unenjoyable they are to their parents, friends and even themselves. So they subsequently project these negative dynamics in their personal relationships onto their relationship with God.

Many teenagers often project an air of confidence, but just beneath the surface lurks deep insecurity, fear, and a craving for the true confidence they lack. When teens try to gravitate toward others who project confidence, they find that those people feel as insecure and fearful as they do.

As youth leaders, we need to know that real confidence is found in the presence of Jesus. His presence reveals to us—and to young people—not only the reality that Jesus forgives sins because of the cross, but also why He chose the cross in the first place. This is the secret every teenager (and youth worker!) deeply desires to know: Jesus went to the cross because He loves each of us individually—and everyone He loves, He likes!

Even in their insecurity, fear, weakness, and immaturity, Jesus likes teens. When they step into His presence, they find that He is gentle with them in their failures, and He enjoys them even in their weakness and immaturity. The truth of 1 John 4:19 draws them.

“We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 Jn. 4:19)

As teens enter into and experience Jesus’ presence, not only do they find Him lovable and unconditionally loving, but they also discover that the love He puts inside of them creates a huge dose of confidence to love themselves and those around them.

The fear of rejection and the trauma of shame can create powerful strongholds in the minds and emotions of teens. Some may feel that God has rejected them because they have gone too far to be forgiven. When those around them shame them, they assume that God does too.

Teenagers will only be satisfied as they step into the presence of Jesus, and the Son of God longs to satisfy their deepest longings to be enjoyed. He wants them to know He enjoys them and pursues them. When teens discover this, then they can freely and fully enjoy Him. As they experience the presence of God in their thoughts, emotions, and choices, they are empowered to “go all the way” in loving Jesus.

David Sliker is an author, teacher, and a senior leader at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. He has built and worked with numerous youth ministries and has a passion for seeing teens fascinated with the beauty of Jesus. As our guest blog writer, he is providing a series of teachings for those in youth ministry who desire to see a generation of young people give their hearts to God.

David Sliker

position

  • Director, Forerunner School of Ministry, IHOPU
  • Executive Director, Internships

David Sliker is a senior leader at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, where he lives with his wife, Tracey, and their four children. He is an instructor at International House of Prayer University, where he teaches biblical studies, prayer, and eschatology. David is the author of three books, End Times Simplified, Old Testament Survey, and Biblical Foundations of Eschatology.

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