How Shall the Young Secure their Hearts?


(How did we get here?)


9 How can a young man keep his way pure?

By keeping it according to Your word. (Psalms 119:9 NASB)


I was listening earlier this week to a sermon brought by brother David Banning from his most recent meeting with the Decker Prairie Church of Christ ( The lesson was entitled the story of Steubenville Ohio, and what a story it was. I hadn’t been terribly familiar with the account until listening to David’s sermon. I think I might have heard about in passing, but I had not grasped the severity or cultural implications.

The Story of Steubenville Ohio goes back to 2012. I’ll save you the goriest of details, but if your want to know more here’s a link ( I’m warning you now it is not for the faint of heart. It suffices to say that a young woman of barely 16 attended a party with other students, drank alcohol, and then passed out. While passed out she was raped repeatedly by at least two members of the local high school football team. They and others photographed and videoed the assault and then proceeded to share the pictures with students who were still at the party who then continued to share.

Yes you read that correctly. People with knowledge of the event in real time traded pictures of the assault like trading cards. By the time it was over the police interviewed 60 people with knowledge of the case and confiscated 15 cell phones and those were just the ones that they were able to find. It sounds pretty grim doesn’t it? It only gets worse. You see by the time it was all over there were indictments not just against the two players (there should have been more handed down against others), but also against coaches, parents, and administrators that all colluded with one another to cover up the crime. Those charges ranged from lying about knowledge of alcohol consumption, to tampering with evidence, to failure to report child abuse. These are adults being charged with covering up the crime or at least their knowledge of the crime.

What’s even more disturbing, at least to me, is that as they interviewed the witnesses that knew of the crime, the question was asked why no one said or did anything. Why did no one try to stop this from happening? The answer was pretty consistent no one realized it was a “crime.”

How did we get here?


Let me start by saying can we stop pretending that Alcohol is not a problem? I am not blaming the victim here, but can we also stop pretending like voicing truth about bad decisions that put us in compromising positions somehow equates to “saying she deserved it”. It’s both intellectually dishonest and morally repugnant. If we can’t tell the truth about how this kind of tragedy can be avoided we might as well buckle up because this ride is going to get a whole lot worse. Alcohol in any amount for any reason is bad. I am telling you now the first person that quotes I Timothy 5:23Ephesians 5:18; or John 2 out of context is getting both barrels (and I don’t mean whiskey barrels). We are supposed to be sober and vigilant. Drinking compromises sobriety. From the first drink you are on a slide that moves further away from where God wants you. Stop pretending like that’s okay… just stop it. It’s not blaming this young woman to say that if she had to do it all over again she’d have never drank that night. It is a cautionary tale, but there are people with a vested interest in making sure it never reaches your ears.

We got here by not educating our hearts (as we saw above) and remembering our Creator from the days of our youth.   Youth has become a time for self-expression a time for wildness and wanton abandon. It has become a time when conformity and rules are roundly rejected especially those rules that teach things like restraint of sexual passion and indulgence. What is the reason the Psalmist poses the question of how a young man can secure his heart? It is because if these lessons are not learned in youth they are harder to learn as an adult, and they are even harder to learn still if we have engaged in wanton rebellion against them. I have puzzled over how teachers, parents, coaches, and administrators could all engage in covering up the wrongs that led to this. It sickened me to hear the statement that they (the other party goers) didn’t know it was a crime.   How can it be that no one knew that was a crime? What’s more how can it be that no one found it morally repugnant (regardless of its statutory classification)? How could it happen like this?

1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron…(1 Timothy 4:1-2 NASB)

A seared conscience no longer accuses the heart. Youth should not be a time for wanton rebellion, but where restraint is taught. Even the best of kids are not capable of executing sound judgment most of the time. They need training, not indulgence. What’s worse we have adults who have grown up in the culture of permission. They live with the same abandon and disregard and are now rearing children who believe that right and wrong are only defined by what is legal. A term that they are woefully ignorant of.

We got here through relativism. I wish I had a nickel for every time someone has pointed out to me that Jesus ate with sinners.   We have torn down the Son of God using words from His own message and raised up an image of a man in perpetually white robes with a crimson sash and a mullet. Yes Jesus ate with sinners, but if you think that’s all the Bible says about sin you are woefully mistaken. He ate with sinners, but He did not condone the sin. Go and read Luke 19; or the closing verses of John 9; read John 8:1011; and Luke 5:32; read the first 11 verses of Matthew 18. Jesus taught in Matthew 5 that not even the smallest portion of the Law brought by Moses would pass until it had been fulfilled. Go and read the Law and see what He was teaching in the Matthew 5 context about sin (remind someone of this the next time they tell you there’s no value in the old testament). Show them Leviticus 20 the next time they tell you Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. Relativism at its best is nihilistic, and at its worst it will lead to the destruction of the soul.

We got here through feeling. It all goes back to that image of Jesus that I mentioned earlier. Jesus has become to us this smiling face reaching out to us with nail-scarred hand with the light of glory shining behind Him. He reaches out asking nothing except that we love Him.   John 14:15 shows what it means to abide in the love of Jesus. John 21:15-19teaches the same lesson. I John 2:3-6 is another. Ephesians 4:17 and following, I Corinthians 9, Titus 2, I Thessalonians 5 and the list goes on an on. Following Jesus does not mean that you post inspirational photos about His love, and it does not mean you tell everyone that you are a Christian (just not the judgmental kind) . Following Jesus means you surrender all to Him (Colossians 2:6-14); it means you sanctify Him in your heart (I Peter 3:15); It means you submit to Him as a body to a head or a wife to her husband (Ephesians 4&5). It also means you walk in the perfect imitation of His love by not walking in darkness (Ephesians 5:1 and following)

May God grant us time to correct out footsteps, and may it be that our conscience is not seared past the point of feeling.