March 2019 – Millennials spearheading revival? How unlikely does that sound right now? More than any generation in memory, Millennials have been ridiculed and dismissed as nothing more than whiny snowflakes. Even Christians in that generation are often scorned as ignorant of and unfaithful to the Scriptures.
I think such assessments are unfair. Yes, there are discouraging trends regarding young people, but I know a good number of Millennials who blow my socks off – many of them right here at AFA. They are talented, hard working, and – most importantly – they love Jesus. Mischaracterizing the Millennial generation is no better than traditionalists during the 1960s dismissing all the young Baby Boomers as pot-smoking, free-sex-loving, hippie freaks.
Shaped by a culture
Is it fair to judge a generation as a group? Is this how God does it? Let’s start with a simple definition: A generation is a group of individuals born at or around the same time. The question is, does God view a generation merely as a collection of people who will stand before Him individually? Or does He view a generation in a corporate sense – as individuals that share characteristics? The answer is both.
The Bible teaches that it is individuals who are saved; people aren’t saved because they belong to a particular group. For example, when John the Baptist was preaching, the religious leaders were apparently excusing themselves from the need for repentance by pointing to their Jewish heritage. The prophet would have none of it.
John answered, “[D]o not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father;’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham” (Matthew 3:9). They had to repent like everyone else.
Nevertheless, individuals can fall under a generational “spell” – the influence of widely-held philosophies, shared practices, common moral beliefs, etc. We can call it a cultural worldview or the “spirit of the age,” but the remarkable power of it is expressed in Romans 12:2 by the word “conformed.” Paul said: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
According to the Louw-Nida Greek Lexicon, the word conformed means to have one’s behavior shaped or molded “in accordance with a particular pattern or set of standards.” Who can doubt the tremendous power of this pressure to shape thinking, speech, and actions?
Jesus called the people of Israel an “evil and adulterous generation” (Matthew 16:4). He had assessed the people alive at that time and declared they shared a similar spiritual condition.
The Christian resists the influence of this worldly power by being transformed by God’s power. Transformed is the Greek word metamorphoō, which means “to change the essential form or nature of something.” It gives us the English word metamorphosis. As used in biology, metamorphosis indicates an internal transformation that causes one thing to become something else, even while there is continuity. A tadpole, for example, eventually becomes a frog. They are not separate creatures that coexist; the juvenile changes into something completely different; it once was one but is now something else.
A disciple who embarks on the Christian journey undergoes a similar transformation. As he does so, Paul says there is a consequence to the process: “so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
One would assume that the opposite is true too: If you are conformed to this world, you will prove what the will of God isn’t – that which is evil and unacceptable and corrupt. How often we see this sad result happening, even in churches and denominations.
The conforming power of cultural wickedness is how an entire generation is captured and rendered spiritually inert and, eventually, completely dead. The individuals are molded and shaped by the spirit of the age into something that is the opposite of God – we might even say, anti-God. Rightly, then, does God characterize them as sharing a similar, sinful spiritual condition?
Some respond, some don’t
It is always the case that some generations – taken in their totality – will reject the good news and live in rebellion against God. After all, this was true of many of those who heard the very Son of God preach in the first century. However, other generations might be more responsive. America itself has had at least two great spiritual awakenings in her history, and each one transformed more than human hearts. These revivals transformed the culture too – that is to say, an entire generation. Of course, Scripture makes clear that a generation cannot respond if no one bothers to preach the gospel to it. Paul first says in Romans 10:13-17 that the invitation to salvation is gloriously broad: “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But then he exhorts the church concerning the Great Commission: People cannot respond to a message they never hear; no message can be preached if no one will preach it; and no one can preach it if no one will go.
For those truly concerned about the fate of Millennials, ask yourself this: Have you preached the gospel to them? Have you presented a prayer-filled witness before this generation? Are you supporting those who minister to them?
Some serve, some won’t
If the poison of worldly conformity is presented by Paul in Romans 12:2, he provides the antidote in verse 1. What attitude in the Christian will lead to the transformation that changes him in a godly way – and perhaps others in his generation?
The apostle says: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).
The only attitude that provides sufficient protection against the power of the world to shape us is absolute surrender to our Lord. It is a surrender that is so complete that the Christian is pictured as being nothing less than an altar sacrifice in the temple of God.
Paul declares this to be our “spiritual service of worship,” as if the follower of Christ is both the priest bringing the sacrifice to the altar and the sacrifice itself. If a Christian desires to serve God within the atmosphere of a corrupt generation, Romans 12:1 indicates the depth of self-mortification required to see spiritual transformation, rather than worldly conformity.
Jesus characterized His own generation as those who, while seeing, didn’t see, and while hearing, didn’t hear. However, the disciples were different: “Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (Matthew 13:10-17).
The disciples were a part of that same blind and deaf generation, but their response to the preaching of the kingdom of heaven, while imperfect in many ways, made all the difference in how Jesus spoke of them.
Millennials, you have the same choice placed before you that Jesus has placed before every generation since He walked the earth. Will it be life or death? Will you follow or reject Him? Will you serve the God of heaven or your own appetites?
There are a lot of former pot-smoking, free-sex-loving, hippie freaks – now transformed – hoping and praying that you will choose Jesus Christ and the abundant life He offers.
Engage is an AFA initiative aimed at teens and young adults. Over 2,000 Millennials receive Engage email, and Engage has 11,000 Facebook followers. Visit engagemagazine.net to request a free copy of Engage magazine for yourself or a young person in your life.