Erik Thoennes

Young Men of Resurrection Power: Letter to My Teenage Sons

After thirty years of ministry, I feel more burdened for the lives of young men than I have ever felt before. Has a more challenging time existed for a young man to figure out who he is supposed to be? I have two teenage sons. They will soon be out in the world, navigating life as believers in an increasingly post-Christian society. I long and pray that they will walk wisely with Jesus in this confusing world and treasure him more than anything. So, I wrote this letter to them and other young men like them, in hopes that God uses it to keep them near himself.

Dear Sam and Isaac,

Your mom and I love you deeply. You’ve both grown into such strong and delightful young men. You are gifted in so many ways and have been flourishing as you’ve developed the gifts God has given you. I’m so proud of you both. I’m also burdened for you, however, because the world you’re growing up in has a level of spiritual warfare and complexity I’ve never seen before.

The very existence of something that could objectively be called “manhood” is questioned, and if it does exist, it is often viewed as toxic and oppressive — it deserves to fade into the patriarchal past. Our image-obsessed and hyper-sexualized culture has certainly done great damage to young ladies, but men have suffered as well. Great numbers of young men live in bondage to sexual sin of all kinds. Paul’s command to his son in the faith, Timothy, to “flee youthful passions” (2 Timothy 2:22), still applies to young Christian men, but you face some unprecedented temptations. So, what is the way to flee foolishness and find God-glorifying wisdom? More than anything else, I think young men need to believe and depend on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

A few years ago, a friend and seasoned counselor told me that he thinks the best way to begin all his counseling sessions, no matter the primary issue, is to ask the person, “Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead?” He is a wise and loving man to point people to Jesus’s empty tomb. The answer will frame the way you deal with whatever life brings your way. Trusting in Jesus as the resurrected Savior changes everything.

Raised to Hope

First, the resurrection means that you can have assurance of victory, even in the darkest days.

Many young people are reporting increased depression, hopelessness, anxiety, and fear about the future. Many young men today also seem to think it’s cool to be cynical and apathetic. God doesn’t think that. In the resurrection of Christ, God “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

Sin, sickness, mental or physical illness, addictions, shame from our past, relational strife, war, pandemics, inflation, corrupt governments, ruthless leaders, financial hardship — these are all tragic symptoms of the fall. But because Jesus rose from the dead, none of these should lead us to despair. By faith and union with Christ, his resurrection is our resurrection. Because Jesus became truly human, he represents us not only in his life and death, but in his resurrection as well.

As C.S. Lewis said, “The Man in Christ rose again: not only the God. That is the whole point” (Mere Christianity, 179). If the Man in Christ rose again, then we were raised with him and can walk in joy, hope, and newness of life, even in the darkest times. We have nothing to fear because Jesus is alive and, by faith, we have been raised with him! We should not fear even death because one day we will be raised to new and eternal life together. The resurrection gives a future hope, but also a present daily hope that can give us confidence and peace in any circumstance.

Raised to Favor

Second, the resurrection means you have nothing to prove.

The Bible teaches that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). This is at the heart of what we believe as Christians. Jesus obeyed, suffered, died, and rose from the dead for us so that we could be saved to the uttermost and find our identity in him. On my best days, when I’m thinking rightly, I understand and rejoice that my whole life depends on God’s grace. But I realized a long time ago that something deep in my heart resists grace. It comes from the influence of the old me — even though he died with Christ when I became a new creature by faith.

Men are taught from an early age to find their identity in athletic accomplishments, the attention of girls, and academic and professional success. These sources of identity are bound to fail us. My pride and the father of lies tell me that I need to earn, prove, demonstrate, deserve, and somehow make myself worthy of God’s love and forgiveness. But when I remember that Jesus provides everything I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), I find the peace and confidence I need. The resurrection frees us from the filthy rags of our so-called self-righteousness and the impossible burden of proving ourselves worthy of God’s kindness.

When Satan mocks you and throws your sin in your face, these words from Martyn Lloyd-Jones may help: “We must never look at any sin in our past life in any way except that which leads us to praise God and to magnify His grace in Christ Jesus” (Spiritual Depression, 75). If you are going to be confident men who can focus on the needs of others, you’ll need to live with nothing to prove. We need to preach the gospel to ourselves often, and, as Robert Murray M’Cheyne said, take ten looks at Christ for every one look at ourselves. Jesus is enough.

Raised to Power

Third, the resurrection means that you are no longer a slave to sin.

You are daily bombarded with messages that tell you that your desires, feelings, experiences, and personality type define you. You are told that, to be your authentic self, you need to fully express all that stirs within you, even if it dishonors God and hurts others. “Follow your heart” has become the cardinal doctrine of our time. Jesus teaches the opposite. He tells us that true life is found only in dying to ourselves and living in him through the power of the resurrection.

The apostle Paul said that his great aim in the Christian life was to “know [Christ] and the power of his resurrection, and . . . share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10). When I baptized both of you at church, you remember I said, “buried with him in baptism, and raised to walk in newness of life.” The same power that raised Jesus from the dead has made you a new creation in Christ and now lives in you. By the resurrection power of Christ, you can overcome sinful temptations and desires that conflict with God’s ways (Romans 6:4–5).

Romans 6 is worth your serious study, meditation, and memorization. Even though you may feel, at times, like sin has a death grip on your heart and life, God promises that the power of sin has been defeated by Jesus and that you are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:17–18). When you obey God, you are living according to your new identity. God promises that when we trusted Christ, he “made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5–6). Live like he has raised you from the dead.

Press On, Young Men

My dear boys, the resurrection is not merely a doctrine to be affirmed intellectually; it is the resounding affirmation that Jesus reigns over all. The power that raised him from the dead is your power for living the Christian life on earth and your assurance of eternal life in heaven. The resurrection changed everything, and you now have the hope, identity, and power to become the men of God that he created you to be — men who will walk in humble confidence, empowered by the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11), to lay down your lives in Christlike service for the good of others and the glory of Christ. Press on, young men of God.

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