PEER PRESSURE (LESSON 1)
This month's lesson is on peer pressure. What is peer pressure? Peer pressure is when we feel compelled to act a certain way because we want to fit in and be accepted by certain people. Nobody wants to be the person who gets talked about or laughed at. But, unfortunately, sometimes we lose focus of who we really are because it becomes more important to us to just fit in, especially at the age you guys are at now.
Sometimes the pressure that we feel involves superficial things, like dressing a certain way to be considered cool. We have to have the name-brand clothes or shoes. Or maybe the pressure involves doing things that we think everyone else is doing. How many people here started drinking or getting high because everyone else was doing it and they didn't want to feel left out? Or maybe the pressure involves doing something illegal. Maybe your friends were in on something and you went along and joined in because you didn't want them to think that you didn't have heart or that you were scared. Is there anyone who is here at this institution because you got caught doing something while you were just trying to fit in and go along with someone else? Or maybe you were the one who convinced one of your friends into doing something wrong. So, first off, we sometimes feel pressure from our friends.
But then on top of that, we also get caught up in what the world says is important. The world stresses to us that we have to look a certain way to be cool (elaborate). Or the world says you are not successful unless you have a certain job or drive a certain kind of car. The world's value system revolves around money and status.
Well, hopefully, by the end of this month's lessons, you will realize that it is not the world's standards that you should try to live up to and it is not the people who you consider your friends who you should worry about, but rather God's standards should shape who you are.
So why is it so important for us to fit in and be accepted? I think it is because we all want to belong to something. We want to feel chosen. Have you ever been at gym class and the teacher would pick two guys as team captains, and the team captains would choose people from the group to be on their team? And there was always someone who would be the last person to be picked because maybe they weren't as fast or they couldn't play as well or whatever. Well, no one ever wants to have that feeling of not being as good as everyone else and being that last guy chosen.
But if you are smart, you will eventually realize that there is no way to please the world, so why are you even trying? No matter what you do, there is going to be someone who wants to put you down. If you are really smart, they will say you think you know it all. If you are good looking, someone is going to say that you are stuck up or conceited. If you are really thin or really heavy, someone will call you an unflattering nickname. And if you talk too much about God, they will say, "Oh, so now you're holier than thou."
But you know what? If you call yourself a follower of Christ, you are not supposed to even care what is going on with everybody else, let alone try to go along with it. 1 John 2:15-17 tells us, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever." (Explain verse)
Now, I have a question for you. If you knew that you were going to a foreign country for a short vacation, would you disconnect your phone number at home? Would you change your hairstyle or buy a bunch of clothes similar to the style of the country you were going to, even though you knew you would only be there a short time? Of course not, because you are just a traveler passing through.
Well, did you know that if you are a Christian and you have asked Christ to be your Lord and Savior, that you are a foreigner living in a strange place (earth) and that you are just on a journey to your true home (heaven)? The neighborhood that you live in isn't your home, and the house where your mother and father live, that isn't your home either. When you turned from your sins and became a follower of Christ, you became a son or daughter of God. Heaven is now your true home. 1 Peter 2:11, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." We are just pilgrims passing through!
God's word tells us that the last thing we should be trying to do is fit in with this world. Ephesians 4:17-18 reads, "This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart."
Before you accepted Christ into your life, you were just like everybody else. You were a Gentile. But now that you've been adopted into God's family, God says you should no longer live with those old values. As believers, we are not to be just like everybody else.
If you are someone who blends in too easily with the crowd and you are comfortable being in the company of unsaved, rebellious people and if being around you doesn't make ungodly people a little bit uncomfortable, your Christian walk is obviously not where it should be. Your light is somehow hidden. Psalm 1:1-2 reads, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night." This verse is showing us that if we are comfortable being around sin, then eventually we'll be taking a part of that sin. But instead of finding enjoyment in relationships with wicked people, your delight, the thing that gives you pleasure, should be found in the things of God.
And if you are thinking, "But Jesus spent time with sinners." True, He did. But He was not influenced by them! They were not His peers. So we, too, can and should share our faith in Christ with all people, but those people's sinful ways should not corrupt us. Our delight should be in the ways of God.
At this point in the lesson, we wanted to show you a man in the Bible. This man killed someone he respected and liked because he gave in to peer pressure. Does anyone know the Bible account of John the Baptist? John the Baptist was a man who wasn't afraid to stand up for what he believed in. He wasn't worried about fitting in with the crowd to try to please people. Let's read his story. (Click here to read Mark 6:17-28)
So why was John the Baptist's head cut off? Because Herodias didn't like John saying that her relationship with King Herod was adulterous, and because King Herod wasn't man enough to stand up for something, even though it forced him to kill an innocent man. King Herod liked John the Baptist. He enjoyed talking to him. He even respected John because John wasn't afraid to tell the truth. But in the end, King Herod gave in to peer pressure and had John the Baptist killed.
Is there a time when you should have stood up for someone, but instead you went along with the crowd? Have you ever denied Christ by your words or actions because it was more important for you to be comfortable around your friends? If God were to show you all of the times when you went along with the crowd and did things to be popular or liked -- even though you knew what you were doing wasn't right -- and God asked you, "Why didn't you love me more than them?" What would you tell Him? I bet the explanation you'd give to God would sound pretty lame, even to you.
There are going to be times when you have to make a choice. Are you going to choose your peers or what God would have you do? Are you going to choose what the world says is important or what God's Word tells you is important?
And guess what? In the end when you die and face God alone, will any of your peers matter then? No matter what clothes you wear or how much money you have or how much respect you get in your neighborhood, none of that is going to be able to help on Judgment Day. God is not going to look at you and say, "Oh, you have on name-brand clothes. Come on in." "Oh, you had much respect in your neighborhood. I'm impressed." No, the Bible says that on Judgment Day when the books are opened, only one thing will matter. Are you guilty or innocent? Are you righteous or unrighteous? There is only one way to stand righteous before God, and that is through Jesus Christ. When you die, will you end up in hell with Satan and those other people who never cared about God, or will Jesus step up and say, "He's on my team." He chose me, and I died for Him." Don't you realize that no matter what you look like, whether you have nice clothes or not, no matter what the file that Challenger has on you says, Christ is willing to say, "I'll take him." What do your so-called friends have to offer that compares with that?
* And, in conclusion, if you recognize just what Christ did for you by dying on the cross and taking the punishment that you deserved, why don't you show it by following Him. Live your life in such a way that shows that Jesus is the only one you care about fitting in with and impressing.