If you ask the right questions or are perceptive enough to realize the underlying issues behind just about any problematic thinking patterns — in yourself or your teen — you’ll likely come to the conclusion that the issues are ultimately rooted in a false view of God. That’s because a person’s view or level of conviction regarding God’s nature provides the over-arching environment in which a worldview is formed.
Beliefs about the origins, nature of evil, morality, humanity, life purpose, and final destiny all stem from a person’s theology. For adults with deeply rooted unbiblical theology coloring their judgment, there certainly is hope through prayerful and diligent Bible study and counseling; however, by addressing such thinking patterns as they’re first emerging, we can help teens eliminate the kinds of pitfalls with which many adults struggle.
As so aptly described by Nancy Leigh DeMoss in her book “Lies Women Believe (And the Truth That Sets Them Free),” we all basically follow the pattern set by Eve in Genesis 3. The basic steps toward sin include these:
- Listening to a lie
- Meditating on the lie
- Believing the lie
- Acting on the lie
Somewhere in there, we often get our emotions involved, feeling convinced that the lie is indeed true, but even such emotions stem from false thinking. While emotions are important to understand, they’re simply symptoms of our beliefs and perceptions; for instance, we tend to feel the emotion of fear when we believe something we perceive to be important to us is being threatened. As a result of our beliefs, perceptions, and emotions, we choose to act, or behave, in a particular way.
If I believed someone to be hiding in my bedroom closet, I might ask someone to accompany me into the room, or I might turn on the light, grab a weapon, or leave the house. Without my perception-fueled fear, those actions would not make sense at all.
Our beliefs about God similarly prompt our behavior. If we are convinced that the sovereign God of the universe truly loves us, we won’t have trouble trusting Him. If we believe Him to be worthy of our trust, we will study His Word and obey it with confidence. On the other hand, if we’re ignorant of or unconvinced of His trustworthiness, obedience will always be a struggle.
While lies come to us easily, providing opportunities for temptation and sinful actions, God’s Truth is something we need to pursue. Our deceptive hearts ally with Satan’s attacks and what we see as “normal” in the world around us, making it much easier to listen to and believe falsehood than to embrace and act on God’s Truth (Jer. 17:9, 1Peter 4:8, Matt. 7:13).
In one sense, we need to learn to “talk to ourselves [with Truth]” instead of “listening to ourselves [and falsehood].” The average adolescent is developmentally capable of metacognition, or evaluating his or her own thought processes; therefore, guiding teens in such disciplines is truly possible, as long as the Holy Spirit is indwelling them (John 16:13, 1 Cor. 2:14).
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