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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

The Cross and the Steak Knife

By David Wilkerson
Mar. 30, 2014

David Wilkerson (1931-2011) founded Teen Challenge, a Christian outreach program for troubled young people and recovering drug addicts, and Times Square Church in New York City. With John and Elizabeth Sherrill, he authored the best-seller The Cross and the Switchblade, about his early ministry to gang members. In this article, from the January 1968 C.A. Herald, he speaks to “good” kids.

Just because my name is associated with a book called The Cross and the Switchblade doesn’t mean that I am less interested in teens whose confrontation with the Cross comes to them in a world of butter knives and steak knives. The fact is, preachers’ kids need to repent and cling to the Cross just as much as drunkards’ kids.

Good kids need Christ just as much as the junkie who sits in a shooting gallery taking off on dope. The straight-A student needs to admit his need of the Savior just as much as the dropout. The Bible says, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

Attention all goodniks: All your goodness is as filthy rags in the eyes of God. If all you have is goodness, you are not ready to face God and eternity. God will have mercy on one million addicts and delinquents who admit they are sinners and who call on His name, but not on the other 24 million who think they are too good to repent and call for help. God doesn’t judge a teenager on his prison record. He judges him on the basis of what goes on in his heart and mind.

This is my idea of the story behind the story (paraphrased) in Luke’s Gospel.

“Two teenagers went up into the church to pray, the one a good kid, and the other a delinquent. The good one stood and prayed like this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other kids are — cheaters, phonies, sex-minded, or even as this delinquent. I study all week; I give my allowance to the church; I give all I have to being good.’

“And the delinquent, standing far off, would not even lift his eyes to heaven, but struck himself across the chest and said, ‘God, have mercy on me; I’m a big sinner.’

“I tell you this delinquent went back to his house justified, rather than the good one. Everyone who exalts himself and thinks he is something will be knocked down; but everyone who humbles himself will be lifted up.”

Shocking enough, teenage harlots, prostitutes, and delinquents seem to accept the claims of the kingdom of God easier than self-righteous goodniks who feel they have no need of repentance. Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.”

A wealthy boy from a private school stopped me after a rally and asked for a conference. I knew he was seeking something, but he was too sharp to expose his heart. He made comments about the kids who were weeping and confessing their sins: “Boy! Pretty scary, isn’t it, all these kids with problems? They really needed it, didn’t they?”

I looked him in the eye and said, “You mean you don’t need it? Have you ever surrendered your heart to the Lord?”

“Oh, I come from a very wealthy home. My dad is pretty big in this town, you know. I’ve got my own car, and I’ve had it pretty good. You’re not talking to a delinquent, you know.”

But after some time of discussion he melted and began to weep, “I’m all sick inside. I’ve been drinking. I’m about to get kicked out of school. My dad doesn’t know what I’m doing. I do need God. Pray for me right now.”

No, he was not a delinquent. But delinquents I know are much better off and closer to finding God because they admit they are needy. All your good works are in vain; they will fade like a leaf and be carried away with the wind unless your heart belongs to Jesus Christ. There will be lots of “good kids” in hell.

God is not a respecter of persons. All come to Him through the same door. The God of the gutter is the God of the palace. Some teenagers think they belong to a special clique and are privileged characters with God. They rationalize away insignificant trifles and feel God won’t send them to hell just for these. But in God’s sight the wicked, the vile, the hardened criminal — and the goodniks, too — need Christ.

There is really only one sin, and everything else is a result of that sin: rejection of Jesus Christ. God has no categories for sinners such as big ones, middle-sized ones, and little ones. The Bible says, “All have sinned.”

God would rather you be a red-hot delinquent than a make-believe saint. Revelation 3:15,16 says, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.”

There are thousands of young people today who are not living for the devil, nor for God. They live for themselves. If delinquency were determined by what goes on in the heart and not by police records, I wonder what the statistics would be. How many good kids have a heart bursting with hate, rebellion, violence, and sensuality? The Bible says, “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

How many of those 24 million “good” teen-agers have wicked hearts, dirty minds, and do things in secret that make them just as guilty before God? How about you? You may not be listed on the files of Mr. Hoover and the FBI, but how are you listed in God’s book? You may be one of those fine, upstanding citizens often referred to, but in the eyes of God you may be facing expulsion and rejection because you are a mushy, lukewarm, halfhearted, tinsel saint.

We can’t talk about good kids and bad kids — goodniks and delinquents. We can talk only about hearts — either full of self or full of God. The X-ray eyes of God probe deep into your heart. There is not a thing there He does not see and know. Only one thing will impress God: your honest repentance and your sincere desire to admit you need Him.

This simple prayer, from a sincere heart, can be the beginning of new life:

“Dear Christ Jesus, I admit I have lived a selfish life. I am sorry. I repent of my rebellion against You and of all my personal sins. I do need You now. I open my heart and receive You as my Savior. Since I am too weak to resist temptation alone, be near and help me at all times. I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and is now my Lord! Amen.”

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