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What Is the Answer to Teen Pregnancies?

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

A new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that teen pregnancies have risen for the first time in about 15 years. Overall our nation’s teen birth numbers rose three percent from 2005 to 2006. Significant increases in teen birth rates were noted in 26 states, with Mississippi topping the list at 68 births for every 1,000 women. The national birth rate was about 42 per 1,000. None of these numbers, of course, take into account the number of pregnancies that were ended by abortion.

One thing that everyone agrees on is that this is not good for our country. A baby is a big responsibility, one that is too big for today’s teenagers to handle, especially unmarried teenage girls who, if they keep their babies, will have to raise the child without the assistance of a father.

Experts disagree, however, over what has caused the spike in teen pregnancies. Some criticize abstinence-only programs that do not teach teenagers how to use contraception, but many conservative organizations argue that the most common form of sex education focuses on contraceptives and that the new numbers serve as evidence that it is failing.

Another report out of Johns Hopkins University lends credence to the claims of critics of abstinence-only programs, announcing that there is not much difference between teens who take a pledge of virginity until marriage and those who don’t: whether or not they took the pledge, the study said, most do not stay sexually pure until marriage.

Much thanks goes to William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal for pointing out that this fatalistic study is flawed. As it turns out, the author of the study, Janet Elise Rosenbaum, reached these results by comparing teens who take a virginity pledge with a very small subset of other teens: those who are just as religious and conservative as the pledge-takers. It appears that this is another in a long line of studies published by trusted sources that takes aim at Christian virtues by reporting the results of less-than-honest research.

The Bible’s position on premarital sex is clear. In 1 Corinthians 6:18, Paul writes, “Flee from sexual immorality.” The word that he uses, also translated “fornication,” is rendered from the Greek porneia, which refers to every form of sexual intercourse outside of marriage. This definition includes homosexuality, adultery, and premarital sex. Using the same word in another passage, Paul listed sexual immorality among sins committed by the unrighteous who will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-11; cf. Gal. 5:19-21).

The Bible teaches that a sexual relationship is something that is good and important in a marriage relationship (Prov. 5:15-20; 1 Cor. 7:5; Heb. 13:4). Sex in itself is not evil, but sex is prohibited outside of the marriage relationship. One of the reasons God has made this prohibition is because a sexual relationship is a big responsibility. Teenagers are not ready for this kind of intimacy, let alone the burdens of childrearing. Children deserve better, and God’s word promotes the best environment for them: a home with a father and a mother.

The truth is that when teenagers are brought up under biblical standards, they are less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, pregnancies are less frequent, and many do wait until marriage before having sex. Sure, many Christian teens make mistakes, but even many of these come back to the Lord and renew their commitment to purity afterwards. God’s word has the answer to problems like teen pregnancy. The world may not be sharing it, and that is disappointing, but the saddest fact is that the church is not sharing it, and that is a shame.

Some Statistics

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Tomorrow morning I am speaking at chapel for Jefferson Christian Academy in Birmingham, Alabama. The manuscript for my speech is below.

I have decided to use my time in chapel this morning to share some important statistics with you. I know that statistics can be very dry and that you didn’t come here to learn about numbers, but I think that you will find this information to be useful.

God must love numbers or else he wouldn’t have named a book of the Bible after them. The Bible records several numerical records for us. There are large numbers: Three thousand were baptized in Acts 2; Jesus fed 5,000, not including women and children; he appeared to over 500 witnesses following his resurrection. But the numbers don’t have to be large to catch God’s attention. We can also find a parable about a shepherd who left ninety-nine to look for one lost sheep.

Getting to my point, here are the statistics I want to share with you this morning. According to Thom Ranier in his book, Closing the Back Door, in America, eighty-two percent of the people who become Christians do so before the age of twenty. Just looking at the raw data, if we don’t reach people with the gospel before they turn twenty, we will miss eighty-two percent of them. Even more striking is his finding that seventy-five percent of Americans who become Christians do so between the ages of nine and fourteen.

What happens after graduation? The Barna Group reports that between sixty-nine and ninety-four percent of Christian youths will abandon their faith after they complete high school. These numbers vary, depending on the religious body.

Putting these figures together, we see that high school is a crucial time in our lives. For most of us, if we do not get grounded in the faith during these years, we will not follow God in adulthood. Perhaps this is what Solomon meant when he said, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).

These numbers establish the importance of youth programs in church and the need for parents to exert a godly influence on their children. They show the need for schools like Jefferson Christian Academy. But what do they say to young people? Here are some observations directed towards those who are directly affected by these statistics.

1. When it comes to salvation, there’s no time like the present. Teenagers have reached the age of accountability. Their guilt is fresh; they are ripe for conversion. In these years sin is easier to correct—young hearts are more malleable than old ones.

Besides this, the Bible teaches that procrastinating your obedience to the gospel is foolish. David advised us to call out to God “at a time when he may be found” (Ps. 32:6). Paul said, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

2. The toughest temptations are ahead. This is the only explanation for why most people become Christians before they are twenty and why most Christians fall away after high school. Conventional wisdom teaches that temptation peaks in high school, and it is true that teenagers are faced with a lot of challenges, but the numbers say the devil’s most powerful strike occurs after graduation.

Knowing this, you ought to be grounding yourself in the faith now, so that you will be ready when things get really tough.

Follow the example of Jesus. He had a sense of when he would face his greatest temptations, and he was ready for them when they came. At twelve he was in the temple, studying with the scribes. At thirty he was baptized by John in the Jordan River, even though he had never sinned. He explained to John that he needed to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness (Mt. 3:15). Soon afterwards he met the devil in the wilderness and faced three trying temptations. Because he was ready, he resisted every one.

3. Envision who you want to be in thirty years. If you want to be a Christian, the time to start down that path is now. Do you want to be a bitter unbeliever who has no hope in the next world? If so, there is nothing more for you to do to prepare to fulfill your dream. But if you hope to be a faithful Christian one day, you should take the first step now, while you are young. According to the statistics, if you don’t obey the gospel now, you probably won’t do it when you are older.

This is the advice given by King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (12:1). The ancient Hebrew term translated remember means “to act decisively on behalf of someone.” Solomon is saying, “Act decisively on behalf of God while you are young.” If you invest in evil now, you will pay heavy dividends in “evil days” later, as you deal with the consequences of your sin, the emotional scars, and the bad habits.

4. If you are already a Christian, you need to know that, being a young person, you will never be among a more responsive peer group. Evangelism is the duty of every Christian, not just the older members of the church (Mt. 28:19-20). The figures we have been talking about say that, as a young person, you have a special connection to the most responsive group of prospects in America. Are you using your position to an advantage?

Plato said, “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” This is true. You should never do anything just because that’s what the majority is doing. I would never want you to become a Christian now, just because this is the time when most people become a Christian. The reason I would want you to become a Christian is because every person who has reached the age of accountability is lost in sin. Jesus died to save the lost, and God has revealed how we can be saved by him in the New Testament. This is why I want people to become Christians. If there is anyone in this audience who has not been washed in the blood of Jesus, it is my prayer that he will obey the gospel now before it is too late.