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Say Yes to the Dress

 

 

Seminar to Christian Youth Group

 

Say Yes to The Dress

                       

 

Joyce Hum

Written for: Acadia University; Acadia Divinity College

Course Work

 

March 25, 2014

 

 

Say Yes to the Dress

Introduction

It’s great being with you today and having this opportunity to bring you this seminar. First, I want to congratulate on your achievement. High school years like most things in life can be fun but also has its stressors, such as putting up with your mother. Now, it’s time for each of you to move on to something new. Something new is always exciting because of all our hopes and plans, and also it can be a little scary because of the great unknown.  

The title of my seminar is: Say Yes to The Dress.  You might recognize this name. It is the name of a popular TV program where a bride-to-be chooses her wedding dress.  Many of you here are probably familiar with the program. In essence, the lady has to make an important decision in choosing her wedding dress. This, as portrayed in each episode, often becomes a very emotional and sometimes an impossible task.  What makes this so emotional and difficult? The upcoming wedding is very important to the bride-to-be. It is the beginning of a whole new life. She wants to look beautiful for the groom and all those with whom she will be sharing the event. Usually, the bride-to-be is accompanied to the bridal shop by several people who express a variety of opinions on different dresses.  In many cases, the bride-to-be, in spite of all the opinions expressed, is able to make a decision and say yes to a dress she truly likes.

Yet, on some occasions, the outcome becomes more difficult: the-bride-to-be tries on several dresses and none seem to work. She is given another, puts it on and much to her surprise she really likes it. The consultant also likes the dress and tells her she looks beautiful. She comes out wearing the dress and much to her disappointment, her mom, dad, bridesmaid, and best friend all have derogatory remarks and tell her how unflattering the dress looks on her.  Confused and disappointed, she tries on another dress. This time everyone likes the dress, but not the bride-to-be.

What should she do? If she buys the dress she loves, her family and friends won’t like it and if she buys the one they like, she certainly will not be happy.  Her decision is based on confusion, although she had the personal power to say yes to the dress.  She instead decides not to say yes to any dress.  The group walks out of the shop with one very unhappy person.  She can’t get the dress she really wanted out of her mind.   The next day they go to another shop and she chooses a dress that her group approves of. We can easily say that the lady should have gotten the dress she really wanted but often we too get confused by the many opinions we hear. After all, the-bride-to-be is the one who wears the dress.  She is the one who should make the final decision and say yes to the dress.    

Importance of Decision Making - The title, Say Yes to The Dress was chosen because I would like you to begin thinking about the complicated and important process of decision making. Decision making shapes your world. I am sure you are all aware that each day a number of decisions have to be made and all decisions have consequences.  Your decisions are important because they shape your life journey in a way that can give you comfort and joy, or leave you with disappointment and sadness. I think it is safe to say that each of you here is filled with hope. Hope that your life journey will be blessed with good adventures, good relationships, and good things.  Today, I can boldly say that there is a God, and Jesus Christ our Savior who wants you to have a life that is all that you want to become.  Jesus is willing and able and wants to undertake this journey with you.

Personal Faith and Youth in Our Society - The world in which we live is a fast and consumer driven society.  We have the availability of media and technology that has made prolific information available at your fingertips.  I personally find this an exciting and good thing.  For example, I have a smart phone which I use to access a Bible app.  I also receive updates on my phone from a variety of ministries.  If I wish, I can use the phone to go on the Web to research what is happening in the world.  However, with so much information out there, both good and evil, we can easily become caught up in so much that it all becomes confusing.

As Christians, we are called by God to a higher path.  It is only after you make an intentional decision to submit your life to Jesus, and trust in Him, that you walk in this higher call.  Your life can actually become a vocation (1.) directed and guided by a Holy God.  

However, the reality we see in our churches is very disturbing.  Many Christian youth after they graduate from high school leave their faith and their church.  God’s people are very concerned about this trend, and I believe the God of Heaven is also greatly disturbed because He loves you and wants the very best for your life.

A study recently commissioned by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, called Hemorrhaging Faith, found that many youth are leaving their church as they move into young adulthood (82% of mainline youth, 52% of evangelical youth). (2.)  The study also showed that the return rate is low once a young person leaves the church.  There were many reasons for leaving but the bottom line is that people are overtaken by the cares and distractions of life, with the result that personal faith is eroded and eventually lost.

This pattern is not only in Canada but also in the United States. The book, Lost and Found, by Ed Stetzer, examines the same phenomena. (3.)  His findings show a trend that young people no longer consider church attendance important.  At the same time, many young people continue to see themselves as spiritual, and they remain open to discussing spiritual questions, which has the potential for people being led further astray as well as returned to the fold.

Another author, sociologist Jeffrey Arnett, presents a theory in his book, Emerging Adulthood, that a new social group or cohort has emerged that consists of people from the late teens through the twenties. (4.)  His book explains the cultural and societal shifts that have occurred that cause young people to take longer to complete their education, find their identity, and become somewhat financially secure.  In Arnett’s view, young people put aside their faith as they become caught up in this extended process of identity formation. There is a chance they may return to their faith but the reality is that most do not re-embrace their former faith.

Let’s recap.  These studies are confirming something significant.  We live in a society where many things are working against you retaining your faith.  The question is not “Is my faith important to me today?”  The question is “Will my faith be important to me tomorrow? And the next day?”  The reality you face is that the cares of life and opinions of others are going to wash over you like a tsunami, and you better know it’s coming so you can climb to higher ground.  Are you going to make an intentional decision to be steadfast in your faith?  Or are you going to drift away without even realizing what happened to you? 

Attributes of God - As Christian youth, knowing that the God who created all things wants to be always with you is a very awesome thing.  So I want you to think about God.  Ask the question, what would God want for me?  In order to answer this question, I would like you to think about the things you have learnt about who God is.  I would like you to write down some attributes of God.  (Short Pause)  I have composed a list and as I read from my list, raise your hand to indicate if you have this attribute on your list:

God is LOVE – He loves us and wants the very best for us because He created us. No matter what we do, God will never stop loving us.  His love was strongly demonstrated to us by sending His divine Son, Jesus Christ to pay for all sin.  (John 3:16)

God is MERCIFUL– He wants none to perish so He made a way for us through His divine Son Jesus Christ.  Through our belief in Jesus, all our sins are forgiven and each day we are being changed for the better.  (2 Peter 3:9)   

God is COMPASSIONATE – Jesus introduces God as our Father. Our Heavenly Father wants us to submit our lives to him.  The Bible tells us of the wonderful promises that God wants to give us if we trust in Him.  He wants to guide and direct our lives, to help us become everything He knows we can be.  (Psalm 37)

God is EVERYWHERE – He always hears our prayers.  He knows our thoughts, no matter where we go, we cannot hide from him.  (Psalm 139)

God is ALLKNOWING –   He knows our weaknesses and our strengths.  He has all the knowledge and understanding that we don’t have.  He wants us to trust Him by acknowledging His willingness and submitting our lives to Him.  The God we serve wants to be with us all the time.  (Psalm 139)

God is POWER – From the time of Moses, God gave laws in the Old Testament that people tried to obey in their strength and mostly failed.  Through our belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior, God gives us the power of the Holy Spirit.  Now the laws are written on our spirits and the Holy Spirit changes us from within.  God is able to create in us His own divine nature:  For He hath made Him to be sin for us; who knew no sin: that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NRSV)

God’s Gift of Free Will and Rational Thinking - Do you know that God never goes against our will?  When God created human beings, including me and you, He gave us free will, the right to make our own choices.  God also created us with a mind so that we can think and reason.  We are equipped to bring these two gifts from God together to make our decisions.  This was first demonstrated in the Garden of Eden.  There were many types of fruit trees, but there was one tree that God told Adam and Eve not to eat from.  The fruit of that tree, if eaten, would give them the knowledge of good and of evil.  It was their choice and they chose to eat of the fruit.  Hence, all people as descendants of Adam and Eve have the knowledge of good and evil. 

The Old Testament is filled with stories where people failed in their choices between good and evil. People became so evil that God sent a great flood to destroy humanity save Noah and his family. Even the descendants of Abraham, God’s Chosen People, the Jewish people, failed God so badly that he allowed foreign nations to take away their land. 

In the New Testament, God’s gift of free will is clearly demonstrated throughout. The most important example is that our salvation is ultimately dependent upon our willingness to believe that we are indeed sinners in need of a Savior. This process, I believe, is led by God’s Holy Spirit who speaks to our spirit within and moves us to examine the evidence.  Even when it comes to developing a more Christ-like character, we receive knowledge and power through the Holy Spirit, but we make the choice in how we respond.

Truly Good Decision Making – Knowing What is Important to You - The key to making good decisions in your life is to know what is important to you, what are your values and beliefs?   Never make a decision without considering the possible consequences.  As Christians, we are in a very privileged position - we have the right to seek out God’s wisdom. (James 1:5)   Psalm 34 speaks of many promises that God wants to give us.  For example: Psalm 34:10 -NRSV   “The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”    

Do you want to have a positive impact on the world and the people in your life? Do you want to have successful relationships, both with family and friends?  Do you want to have a meaningful way to earn a living? All these will unfold as you move through your journey of life. We will stop for ten minutes to give you the opportunity to write down the priorities that are important to you. (pause)

Okay, let’s see how you made out. Is there someone here who would read their important priorities to us?  (Student reads). Thank you, are there other important priorities that anybody would like to add. (Allow others to speak as hands go up).

Now for the big questions:  Do you want God the Father and Jesus to be with you? (This could change depending upon the discussion on priorities.)  Do you want Him to direct your educational and career choices so that you will become all that you can be?  Do you want Jesus to direct you to good friends and maybe even that someone special to share your life with?  Do you want God to help you make a difference in this broken world?  I truly believe that Jesus Christ wants you to say yes to these questions.  He is there, He is willing, your part is to hold firmly onto your faith and trust in Jesus daily and He will be there to guide and direct you all along the way.

It’s Your Right, Consider Your Response - You have the God given right to make choices.  What choices do you want to make?  Is your faith important to you?  As we see from our own observations and from the studies mentioned earlier, it is extremely easy to drift and just accept opinions of others or even just get busy with all your new responsibilities.  You will face many challenges.  People have become very cynical.  There is a culture of distrust out there, and especially so about churches as an institution.  Both your faith and church attendance will be questioned and even mocked.  Will the cares of the world crowd out your desire to follow Jesus?  Will the deceitfulness of riches pull you into wanting material things more than Jesus? (Matthew 13:18)  We are also told to take every thought captive, meaning that we are to examine what comes into our thoughts. (2 Corinthians 5:10)  We are told that God has an enemy called Satan who continually tries to trick us into doing and thinking things that pull us away from trusting in God.  (Revelation 12:17)  All or any of these can influence our decision making.  They can easily cause confusion, cause us to doubt, cause us to make decisions that will lead to much hardship and difficulties in life. 

Your right to make choices means you have a personal responsibility for staying strong spiritually.  Stop and ask yourself the following question:  What is the value of being part of a local church?  To truly answer this, you have to look beyond the church calendar.  Programs and activities do not make a church.  Activities are meaningful if they further the Great Commission.  What really has eternal value is the salvation and sanctification of your soul – to become more like Jesus in your character.  How does the local church help you become eternally more like Jesus?  It brings believers together to break bread and sup the cup – do this in remembrance of Jesus’ love for you.   Eternally speaking, a local church can encourage you to pray and study the Word of God.  A local church can give you the satisfaction of sharing your mountaintops and valleys with other believers.  A local church can present you with opportunities to serve and grow in a Biblical manner and like Timothy, a young man under Paul's supervision, become an apostle to people in need of Jesus.  Also, like Timothy, there are times when you will benefit from the example and wisdom of experienced believers in the local church.  We must ask ourselves how much poorer we would be spiritually living away from the church?  Yes, the church is not perfect but most situations can be seen as a negative or a positive – ask yourself what you can do to help the local church.  Help others and you become someone who is greater in character and more like Jesus.

Some of you will be moving away from home.  You can find Bible believing churches in most communities.  God knows our need for each other.  His will is that we learn, grow and be encouraged by one another.  Use technology to stay in touch as you venture out into the world.  You can follow sermons on the Web, whether from your local church or speakers like Charles Price and Charles Stanley who help believers to grow in their understanding of the Word.    

Remember that the world is full of doubters.  Strange as it may seem there are many who find it easier to believe lies rather than truth.  I am certain that you have encountered much of this already.  For example, consider the theory of evolution.  Most would rather believe that the earth and all its creation formed slowly over time without a creator.  I personally think it takes a special kind of unreasonable faith to believe that the universe, the earth and all creation is not an intelligent design.  Life itself cannot be explained without a life giver.  The Bible tells us in Proverbs that only a fool would believe that there is no God.  From this false analysis of creation, you will find many false beliefs and all sorts of distorted ideas as people try to explain their world view from their distorted perspective.  There will always be people out there willing to give you false reasoning.

Therefore, it is extremely important that you stay on the path of truth and know what you believe.  You will need each other and you will need a strong local church to help you stand your ground in an extremely challenging environment.  Let your decisions stand for who you want to be.

Conclusion - As Christians we have our culture, one that is based on the Word of God.  We have our identity in Jesus Christ.  Remember that Jesus is always with you through the power of His Holy Spirit.  You can talk to Him at any time and ask for wisdom.  He wants the very best for you.  Remember the decision of the bride-to-be.  She is the one who has the right to Say Yes to The Dress.  After all, she is the one who wears the dress.  In the Bible, we who make up the church are called the Bride of Christ.  Christ is our Head, our Bridegroom.  When we stand before Christ, we all want to look our best.  Let us join together in unity to wear the best dress possible as we meet our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

 

FOOTNOTES:

  1. James Fowler, Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian, (San Francisco, California: Jossy-Bass Publishers, 2000).
  2. James Penner and others, Hemorrhaging Faith, Why & When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying & Returning to the Church, (Commissioned by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Youth and Young Adult Ministry Roundtable, 2011.)  (see Chart 2.1 page 22).
  3. Ed Stetzer, Richie Stanley, Jason Hayes, Lost and Found, (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, Life Way Research, 2009).
  4. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road From the Late Teens Through the Twenties, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2004).