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Beyond Belief to Convictions

(Paperback - Aug 2002)
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Overview

Josh McDowell's Beyond Belief message is the foundation to launch a spiritual revolution among youth. This is a revolution to equip churches and families to raise up a generation of the cross--young people who have been transformed by Christ and the cross, who are empowered to live crossgrain to the culture and are committed to share Christ across all cultures. Sixteen stand-alone products make up an entire family of resources that churches need to launch a church-wide revolution. These products are directed to every age group from 5 to 105, and help equip church groups and families with the tools to lead their children and youth to become transformed, passionate followers of Christ. Already a best seller, this book lays the foundations for the CrossCulture Revolution. Every product within this family of resources finds its root here. "Beyond Belief to Convictions" offers a revolutionary blueprint to raise up a generation of transformed followers of Christ with deepened convictions who knows why they believe what they believe.

Details

  • SKU: 9780842374095
  • SKU10: 0842374094
  • Title: Beyond Belief to Convictions
  • Series: Beyond Belief Campaign
  • Qty Remaining Online: 8
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Date Published: Aug 2002
  • Pages: 336
  • Illustrated: Yes
  • Weight lbs: 0.87
  • Dimensions: 9.05" L x 6.08" W x 0.95" H
  • Features: Price on Product, Illustrated, Bibliography
  • Themes: Theometrics | Evangelical;
  • Category: APOLOGETICS
  • Subject: Christian Theology - Apologetics

Chapter Excerpt


Chapter One

A Crisis of Beliefs

As the three Christian leaders gathered before dawn in a place they thought to be secret, their prayer time together was interrupted by the sounds of crashing and shouting. The authorities had made repeated efforts to persuade the believers to recant their loyalty to Jesus Christ . and had failed. But this time there were no discussions. In seconds, the Christians were surrounded by a cadre of Roman soldiers, lifted to their feet, shackled, and led away to an unknown destination.

After several anxious hours of imprisonment, the Christians were brought out before a raucous crowd in the arena of the Colosseum. Their eyes scanned the stadium, blinking away disbelief at the thousands of eager thrill seekers awaiting the spectacle of a grisly execution.

Still in chains, the group stood before the proconsul, who ordered them to renounce their faith in Jesus, God's Son.

"Swear that Caesar is Lord," the proconsul demanded. "Renounce your false beliefs, and I will release you." He added a warning. "Fail to swear the oath, and you will face the lions."

One among the followers of Christ stepped forward. "I have committed my life to Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God," he said. "If he wills that I die today, so be it. But I cannot renounce him."

"Nor can I," spoke the second man in a loud voice.

"I will serve only Christ," said the last.

The proconsul hesitated only a moment before lifting his hand with a flourish. "Then you have made your choice," he said. He nodded his head, and the soldiers opened the gates. The crowd erupted in a bloodthirsty frenzy as the lions appeared in the arena and focused their hungry gazes on their prey.

DANGERS IN A TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY COLOSSEUM

The rolls of history are filled with the names and accounts of Christians who, like the men described above, stood strong for their beliefs in Jesus Christ-even in the face of torture and execution. They chose death for what they believed rather than renounce their firm faith in the one true God.

In many ways, our young people today must endure a twenty-first-century Colosseum. They may not face literal lions, but they quite possibly encounter more ethical and moral temptations, greater spiritual battles and more intense emotional and relational struggles than any other generation in history. I know that your prayer-like mine-is that our kids will be strong in spirit and character, able to resist the pressures of a godless culture so that no matter what happens, they can live lives we can be proud of-lives that are pleasing to God and others. We want them to become "mature and full grown in the Lord," as the apostle Paul said, so that they "will no longer be like children, forever changing [their] minds about what [they] believe because someone has told [them] something different or because someone has cleverly lied to [them] and made the lie sound like the truth" (Ephesians 4:13-14).

But we worry that the values we are trying to instill within our children will be countered somehow. What strikes fear in our hearts is the possibility that our young people will fall prey to the wrong crowd, succumb to the cultural pressures, and make wrong choices that will bring pain and suffering to their lives. We're concerned that all the warnings, cautions, and biblical teachings we offer our children won't be enough to ground them and keep them standing strong. And we have ample reason for alarm.

WHY BELIEFS MATTER

I don't need to alarm you by quoting statistics that indicate what our kids are doing. If you're a parent, pastor, youth worker, educator, or anyone interested in today's young people, you see what's happening; you sense the danger. Our children today face unprecedented pressure. They are exposed to sexual temptation, school violence, alcohol, illegal drugs, and a variety of influences that threaten to undo all that we teach them. And while we need to fear what our kids could be tempted to do, we need to be more concerned with what our kids are led to believe.

You see, the way our kids behave comesfrom something. Their attitudes and actions spring from their value system, and their value system is based on what they believe. In his book Kingdom Education, my friend Dr. Glen Schultz, a Christian educator, says, "At the foundation of a person's life, we find his beliefs. These beliefs shape his values, and his values drive his actions." Glen illustrates this through a pyramid that graphically makes the point that our visible actions are a direct result of our beliefs and values (see diagram).

Research shows, for example, that kids who believe that premarital sex is morally right are far more likely to be sexually active. Their beliefs shape their values, and their values lead them to exhibit specific attitudes and actions.

This is precisely why, for example, many studies (among them our own study of more than 3,700 kids who regularly attend church) reveal that young people who lack a basic biblical belief system are

225 percent more likely to be angry with life

216 percent more likely to be resentful

210 percent more likely to lack purpose in life

200 percent more likely to be disappointed in life

Their beliefs create values that result not only in certain attitudes but also in specific behaviors. That's why research has shown that kids-otherwise good kids from good families-who don't possess a biblical belief system are

36 percent more likely to lie to a friend

48 percent more likely to cheat on an exam

200 percent more likely to steal

200 percent more likely to physically hurt someone

300 percent more likely to use illegal drugs

600 percent more likely to attempt suicide

While this may be disturbing it should not surprise us, because our actions flow out of our values, which arise from our beliefs. But what may surprise you is that the majority of our young people don't even hold to a biblical belief system. Our kids, even those from solid Christian homes and churches, have distorted beliefs about God and the Bible, beliefs that are having a devastating rippling effect into every aspect of their lives.

OUR KIDS' DISTORTED BELIEFS

Now I realize that many parents and gatekeepers will tell me that they have good kids and they're so impressed with the attitudes of their young people. And, in part, research bears this out. Even after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the studies show our kids have maintained an impressive set of personal priorities. Research we commissioned from the Barna Research Group after the 2001 terrorist attacks reveals the following:

65 percent of today's young people want a close relationship with God.

49 percent want to make a difference in the world.

79 percent consider having close personal friends as a high-priority goal for their future.

Based on the research, if I had to summarize in one sentence what I believe kids want, I would say they want a healthy, relationally significant life on earth and a home in heaven. Today's young people appear to be the most occupationally and educationally ambitious generation ever, and they possess a high degree of spiritual interest. The "Third Millennium Teens" study (also performed by the Barna Research Group) reports that "4 out of 5 teens (80 percent) say that their religious beliefs are very important in their life."

But because you and I care about the future of our young people, we must look at what our kids are really believing in three areas-their beliefs about God, truth, and reality. For it is what our kids believe that will eventually define everything they come to be, as well as determine the most important choices they make in life. And what our kids currently believe is alarming.

1. Our Kids Are Adopting Distorted Beliefs about God

Gather a group of teenagers together-good Christian kids-and ask them, "Who do you think God is?" "What do you think God is like?"

What kinds of answers do you suppose you'll get? They probably won't differ much from those reported by Rob Rienow, a youth minister at Wheaton Bible Church, Wheaton, Illinois, in aNewsweek cover story titled "What Teens Believe":

Their answers were as individual as the kids themselves. One thought God was like his grandfather: "He's there, but I never see him." Another took a harder view, describing "an evil being who wants to punish me all the time." Two more opinions followed. Finally, the last teen weighed in: "I think you're all right, because that's what you really believe." In other words, as Rienow relates it, God is whatever works for you. On this, all of the youth agreed.

This generation may be open and vocal about their faith-even to the point of wearing their Christian witness on T-shirts and WWJD bracelets-but many of them are defining God in their own ways. In the Barna "Third Millennium Teens" research we've already quoted, 70 percent of the teenagers surveyed were active in some church youth group, and 82 percent identified themselves as Christians. We are talking about your youth and mine-good Christian kids from good Christian homes and churches. The study revealed these conclusions:

The vast majority of our teens (80 percent) believe that God created the universe.

84 percent believe that God is personally involved in people's lives.

Yet, in spite of these orthodox views,

63 percent also believe that Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, and all other people pray to the same god, even though they use different names for their god.

And what did these teens say they believe about Jesus?

87 percent of our kids believe Jesus was a real person who came to earth, and 78 percent believe he was born to a virgin.

Yet nearly half (46 percent) believe he committed sins, and over half (51 percent) say he died but did not rise from the dead!

And in their minds is Christianity the only way to salvation?

48 percent of teenagers today believe that it doesn't matter what religious faith you associate with because they all believe the same principles and truth.

58 percent believe that all religious faiths teach equally valid truth.

Your child or youth group may believe that Jesus really lived and that he was actually born of a virgin. Your son or daughter may even be among the minority who believe that Christ rose from the dead. But the vast majority of our own kids (65 percent) either believes or suspects that there is "no way to tell which religion is true"! Their view of God is so distorted that they're not convinced that the Jesus of the Bible is the way, the truth, and the life for "all the children of the world."

It is not that our kids are rejecting Christianity as they know it-they have simply been influenced to redefine it according to their cultural setting. They are putting together their own religious canon in a smorgasbord style. They are led to believe it is better to pick and choose from various ideas, concepts of God, and religion around them until they construct a tailor-made "faith," one that's just right for them. They are being encouraged to piece their faith together themselves; that way it will be theirs personally, and it will offend no one.

As Newsweek reporter John Leland discovered, "Even more than their baby-boomer parents, teenagers often pick and choose what works for them As they sample from various faiths, students have become more accepting of each other's beliefs, even when those beliefs are stringent. Clayton, a high-school junior, says he is known among his classmates as 'the religious guy,' but this does not make him the odd man out. Clayton, 17, an evangelical Christian, is one of a growing minority of teenagers who are vowing to defer sex until marriage. 'There really is an atmosphere of whatever you think is OK,' he says. 'Just don't tell me what to think. I'll figure it out myself.'"

Clayton, like many of our Christian kids, may be taking a temporary stand for some good things. But how they determine what is true (and what is good) is alarming. Today's culture encourages our young people to "figure it out" themselves, and what most are "figuring out" is a little truth here and a little error there until they end up with erroneous beliefs.

2. Our Kids Are Embracing Distorted Beliefs about Truth

Picture a youth-group Bible study. The adult group leader, who has just finished reading a Scripture passage, turns to a student and asks, "Alicia, what does this verse mean?"

Alicia, a professed Christian from a good Christian home, pauses to reflect on the passage. "Well," she begins, after a few moments of careful consideration, "what this verse means to me is ."

Chances are, most of us wouldn't even detect the subtle shift in meaning reflected in Alicia's use of the words to me. But the importance of those two tiny words must not be underestimated. They are indicative of another dangerous condition that exists among today's Christian young people: Most of them are not looking to the biblical text for truth; they are actually looking within themselves. The majority of today's youth (70 percent) say there is no absolute moral truth.

For the most part, many church and parachurch youth workers have become group facilitators rather than teachers of scriptural truth. And it's not so much because group leaders are not intending to share the meaning of scriptural truth-many are. The problem is that young people simply hear truth through their own "filter," which tells them that all truth is subjectively and personally determined.

For example, listen to Amber, a typical sixteen-year-old Christian from a solid youth group, respond to my questions.

"Is it wrong to engage in premarital sex?" I ask.

"Well, I believe it's wrong for me," she responds.

I probe further. "But do you believe the Bible teaches that premarital sex is wrong for everyone?"

Amber's eyes shift back and forth as she weighs her answer. "Well," she begins slowly, "I know it's wrong for me, and I have chosen not to have sex until I'm married. But I don't think I can judge other people on what they do."

You see, it's not that Amber doesn't believe the Bible provides "a clear and totally accurate description of moral truth." She, like 61 percent of our kids, would say that's exactly what she believes.16 But she's like the majority of our young people, who have been conditioned to believe that truth is not true for them until they choose to believe it.

Continues.

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