Today my oldest son turns 17. He’s quite a young man. I have to think of him that way, not as a little boy anymore, especially since he’s taller than me now! I’m proud of the young man he is becoming. God has spared him many of the “snares” other 17 year old boys face, and for that I’m grateful. But I know he is still a human being, though redeemed still forced to deal with the flesh, and there are still dangers out there lurking.
So I’m giving him a copy of J. C. Ryle’s Thoughts for Young Men. I should have given it to him sooner, but I’m still struggling with the idea of him being a young “man” and not my little boy. Anyway, though Ryle’s thoughts include so much more than what I’ll post here, I thought I’d share one warning and one positive counsel from his thoughts. I hope some other young man might read this, be warned/counseled, maybe even be prompted to pick up a copy of the whole thing and read. May God add His blessing, and may He graciously raise up a generation of young men and women who will honor and glorify Him and lead His church in a mighty way.
A Word of Warning
The devil uses special diligence to destroy the souls of young men, and they don't seem to know it. Satan knows very well that you will make up the next generation and therefore he employs every trick to make you his own. I would not have you to be ignorant of his schemes.
You are those on whom he puts his choicest temptations. He spreads his net with the most watchful carefulness, to entangle your hearts. He baits his trap with the sweetest morsels, to get you into his power. He displays his wares before your eyes with his utmost ingenuity, in order to make you buy his sugared poisons, and eat his accursed treats. You are the grand object of his attack. May the Lord rebuke him, and deliver you out of his hands.
Young men, beware of being taken by his snares. . . He will paint, cover with gold, and dress up sin, in order to make you fall in love with it. He will deform, and misrepresent, and fabricate true Christianity, in order to make you take a dislike to it. He will exalt the pleasures of wickedness—but he will hide from you the sting. He will lift up before your eyes the cross and its painfulness– but he will keep out of sight the eternal crown. He will promise you everything, as he did to Christ, if you will only serve him. He will even help you to wear a form of Christianity, if you will only neglect the power. He will tell you at the beginning of your lives, it is too soon to serve God—he will tell you at the end, it is too late. Oh, do not be deceived! You don't know the danger you are in from this enemy; and it is this very ignorance which makes me afraid. You are like blind men, walking among holes and pitfalls; you do not see the perils which are around you on every side.
Your enemy is mighty. He is called "The Prince of this world" (John 14:30). . . Your enemy is restless. He never sleeps. . . And your enemy is cunning. For thousands of years he has been reading one book, and that book is the heart of man. He ought to know it well, and he does know it—all its weakness, all its deceitfulness, all its folly. . . Young men, this enemy is working hard for your destruction, however little you may think it. You are the prize for which he is specially contending for.
Oh that your eyes were opened, like those of Elisha's servant Dothan! Oh that you could see what Satan is scheming against your peace! I must warn you—I must exhort you. Whether you will hear or not, I cannot, dare not, leave you alone.
A Positive Word of Counsel
Determine as long as you live to make the Bible your guide and adviser.
The Bible is God's merciful provision for sinful man's soul, the map by which he must steer his course, if he would attain eternal life. All that we need to know, in order to make us peaceful, holy, or happy, is richly contained there. If a young man wants to know how to begin his life well, let him hear what David says: "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word" (Psalm 119:9).
Young men, I charge you to make a habit of reading the Bible, and not to let the habit be broken. Do not Let the laughter of friends, do not let the bad customs of the family you live in, don't let any of these things prevent your doing it. Determine that you will not only have a Bible, but also make time to read it too. Allow no man to persuade you that it is only a book for Sunday school children and old women. It is the book from which King David got wisdom and understanding. It is the book which young Timothy knew from his childhood. Never be ashamed of reading it. Do not "scorn instruction"
Read it with the prayer that the Holy Spirit's grace will help you understand it. . . Read it reverently, as the Word of God, not of man, believing implicitly that what it approves is right, and what it condemns is wrong. Be very sure that every doctrine which will not stand the test of Scripture is false. Be very sure that every practice in your life which is contrary to Scripture, is sinful and must be given up.
And read it regularly. This is the only way to become "mighty in the Scriptures." A quick glance at the Bible now and then does little good. . . But store up your mind with Scripture, by diligent reading, and you will soon discover its value and power.
Young men, give the Bible the honor due to it every day you live. Whatever you read, read that first. And beware of bad books: there are plenty in this day. Take heed what you read. . . Value all books in proportion as they are agreeable to Scripture. Those that are nearest to it are the best, and those that are farthest from it, and most contrary to it, the worst.
Be wary of the enemy, be much in the Word. Those two things alone will go a long way in aiding you, young men. May God bless you as you continue seeking and serving Him.