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When I was 13, you could say I was obsessed with right and wrong; virtue and vice. That is, I was obsessed with my virtue and other people’s vices.

You see, I was a good kid.

A very good kid.

One of those good kids you might have hated back when you were 13.

Unless you were another one of those good kids. Then perhaps you’d try to compete with me for virtuous superiority.

(Good luck.)

Curiously, even while I prided myself on my virtue (which ought to be obviously ironic) I would watch shows like Miami Vice (which, as the name would imply, paraded all manner of vice before my eyes every episode). Lots of guys dealing drugs (which wasn’t a problem for me) and lots of chicks wearing bikinis (which was).

Indeed, I had a difficult time finding a video for this post that wouldn’t cause someone like me to stumble into sin.

How did a good kid justify watching such a show?

By the end of every episode, Sonny and Rico would put the bad guys away, allowing me to fall asleep that night knowing wrong had been made right and justice prevailed. Even if that justice came at the hands of a reckless, rule-bending narcissist who enjoyed a lot of his own vices; just not illegal ones.

Why do I share all that?

I suspect I’m not the only faithful follower of Christ who has found it difficult to resist reveling in my own virtue as I revel in the vices of others.

Truth be known, I still struggle in the area of self-righteousness and judgmentalism. But in this post I share four lies I believed when I was 13 that formulated the foundation for those vices my vices. And if you tend to focus your attention on your own goodness and other’s badness they are likely your vices as well.

In the previous Date Night Advice (DNA) posts I’ve shared other lies I believed when I was 13, and so these final four will wrap up that series, totaling 13 lies I believed when I was 13. I’m sure I could come up with 13,000, but no one wants to read that many posts featuring 80s television programming.

Finally, like the previous posts, I write the following, not as if I were speaking to you, but to me; as if I could hitch a ride with Marty McFly in Doc’s Delorean, and talk to my 13-year-old self.

Maybe your 13-year-old self will learn something too. Maybe even your present-day self.

Dear 13-year-old MJ,

Lie #10: God is preoccupied with rules.

Let’s face it. There are rules a plenty in scripture. Lots of “Thou shalts” and even more “Thou shalt nots.” It makes it easy to believe this lie. Real easy.

But you know what else you find in scripture? A reason for those rules: namely a relationship. God gave us His law so we could live in a close, meaningful relationship with Him and others.

You see, the God of the Bible isn’t the God of something (like the God of earth or wind or love). He is the God of someone; namely His people. Since you believe in Him, that includes you.

That’s why collectively the phrases “our God,” “your God,” and “my God” appear over 850 times in scripture. As you learned back in grade school, the words “our,” “your,” and “my,” are possessive pronouns which indicate a personal relationship. And like any relationship between people, whether it be a family, a community a country, a performance group, a sports team, or an army, rules are necessary for healthy relating.

Now I realize, at 13, you may think you don’t need that many laws to get along with God and others, but as you grow older you’ll begin to see just how deep your sin nature runs. (I know, because I am you 30+ years older.) In fact, your desire to serve your own interests at all cost is so powerful if God gave you only one rule to disobey you’d break it. And then you’d blame someone else.

Yes, just like Adam and Eve. They weren’t the lone idiots in the garden you see them as. They were living proof of the pride of man. That includes you. Despite that pride…

God wants more than anything for you to be close to Him. Not because He’s lonely without you, but because He knows how lonely you are without Him.

In fact, as you grow in your understanding of how rich and wonderful God’s love is, obeying Him will become much easier. You’ll discover there’s a huge difference between obeying the law and obeying a loving God.

Speaking of obeying…

Lie #11: God loves you more when you obey Him.

For starters, the very nature of love means it can’t be earned. It can only be received. To be sure, love is costly, but this invaluable gift must be given freely, or else it’s not love.

Add on top of that…

God’s love is perfect, infinite and unchanging so there’s no way He could love you anymore than He already does. No matter what you do.

So instead of pridefully trying to earn God’s love (You get that it takes great pride to believe you even have a chance at earning His love, right?), let your obedience be motivated by that humbling reality that you already are loved unfathomably.

Lie #12: You prove you love God more when you obey Him.

Yes. If you love God you will obey him. True story.

But you have other motivations for obeying God which are quite a bit lower order than love. Like the fear of getting caught, receiving punishment or just simply looking bad. Or, on the flip side, how about obeying for the pride of looking good? Or at least looking better than others.

Your obedience doesn’t prove anything, so instead of focusing on obedience, focus on trust.

Set your heart to trust God enough to obey Him more; even when his rules seem restricting or pointless or painful.

Of course, you can’t trust someone you don’t know very well (and you shouldn’t), so to build that trust you’ve got to press in to know Him.

I know you read those devotionals your mom gives you, like If God Loves me Why can’t I get my Locker Open, but don’t stop there. Look up those scriptures referenced and get into the actual love letter that God wrote for you. (I’m talking about the Bible.) It’s so much more than dos and don’ts. It’s the Living Word that bears witness to the Living Word who walked in shoes just like you.

OK, so he didn’t walk in shoes at all. He walked in sandals or went barefoot.

And He never had a locker he couldn’t open either, but then He never owned enough possessions to warrant needing one.

However, He knows the ups and downs of living in skin like yours. Even though, yes His skin was darker.

As you grow to know God more you’ll learn to trust Him more. And then you will obey Him for the right reasons.

Lie #13: God’s keeping score.

Last lie I want you to stop believing, my little 13-year-old self, is that God’s even keeping track of all your obedience and disobedience.

You see, I know you. And you spend a lot of your time doing that. Which means you spend your present:

  • Regretting, justifying or boasting of your past and then subsequently…
  • Fearing or anticipating the future

Meanwhile, God is only concerned with where you are right now.

And you know what’s funny about that? God is the only one who can do anything with your past or future, and yet His focus is on your present.

God is omnipresent not only throughout the universe, but throughout time, so he doesn’t need a Delorean with a flux capacitor to jump into the future. Or back into the past. Or back to the future. He’s already there.

God holds all time in His hands. All of it. It’s why He’s called the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

But you, myself, are finite. You can only live in your middle school world right now. And that’s just as God planned it.

God made time as a gift for you, so you have only this moment to concern yourself with.

So stop keeping track of your good and bad moves in the past. Simply repent of the sin in your past and pray for your future. Then rejoice in the grace of God that empowers you to make any good decisions at all.

Live in the moment, but live for eternity.

And remember, God’s pleasure isn’t found in keeping score for judgment day It’s found in keeping souls for eternity. And I’ve come to realize He’s particularly fond of yours.


Your 40-something-year-old self

I hope you found something to relate to in these posts. I’d also love to hear what lies you’ve believed when you were 13, or nine or any age. Feel free to share in the comment section below.

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