Sunday Sermon: ‘God and the Generations to Come’

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Today is National Grandparents Day. Grandparents Day has a special meaning to me for a couple of reasons. First of all, I am a grandparent! Tammy and I have been blessed with four wonderful grandchildren! In addition, I was blessed as a child to have some great grandparents. Though my grandparents are no longer living, they still hold a special place in my heart. I will never forget them, nor the impact they made upon my life.

In recognition of this special day, I want to preach a message entitled “God and the Generations to Come.” My question today, not only to our grandparents, but to each of us, is this – ‘What will happen to the generations that will be born after us? What will be their relationship with God? And most importantly, what should you and I be doing today that will help them to know God and to continue to follow Him?’

Psalm 78 says –

We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders…so the next generation might know them— even the children not yet born— and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Ps 78 NLT

God had a plan for how He wants us to pass down our faith to the next generation. Each generation has the responsibility to bear witness before the next generation concerning God and His mighty deeds. We are to do this so that the generation after us will not lose sight of God and His glorious power, but instead find their hope in Him.

I. Each Generation is to Teach the Next Generation About God 

A. Each Generation Has a Tremendous Amount of Influence Upon the Next

Here’s a truth that perhaps a lot of us do not realize. Each generation has a tremendous amount of influence upon the next generation, and even the generations to come. For instance, the Bible says that the sins of the fathers are sometimes visited upon the children to the third and fourth generation. Many interpret that to mean that one generation’s sin can be passed down to the next several generations. But the same can be true in a positive way. I believe that I am a pastor today because of a prayer someone prayed concerning my great-great grandfather. Though it may not seem like it at times, parents and grandparents have a tremendous amount of influence upon their children.

But not only do parents and grandparents have influence upon children, so do adults in general. Teachers, coaches, and church leaders have a tremendous amount of influence upon children. There are things that I still remember to this day that were taught to me by school teachers. Not only things such as reading, writing and arithmetic; but other important things about life. I remember one certain teacher in school that the kids thought was the meanest teacher who ever lived; yet that teacher probably taught me more than any other teacher when it came to issues such as how to speak to an adult or how to conduct myself in public. Coaches have a tremendous amount of influence upon children. A coach’s interaction with a child can either build that child up, or tear them down. And so do Sunday School teachers and Awana workers and others who invest their time in helping a child learn about God. Church leaders have a tremendous amount of influence upon children. I remember a man named Roger and another man named Randy, who, although they probably didn’t realize it at the time, helped me find my way through my years as a teenager. They influenced me partly by what they said, but even more so by how they lived. Their stability helped to provide for me a moral anchor. In addition, God has placed in my life along the way many godly women who have influenced me more than they will ever know. My mom is number one, and then there have been many other ladies as well. Many of them were old enough to be my mother, and through their loving gentle guidance, I have continued to try to serve God.

B. Each Generation Has the Responsibility of Teaching the Next Generation About God

The Bible teaches us that each generation has a tremendous amount of influence upon the next and therefore we, as Christians, must do all we can to use our influence to pass our Christian faith down to our children. The Bible says–

Psalm 145:4 One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.

One day Jesus was ministering among the people when parents began to bring to Him their children. The disciples thought that the children were a nuisance and so they scolded the parents for bothering an important man like Jesus. But then our Lord said – “Permit the little children to come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of the such is the kingdom of God.” (see Luke 18:16) And then the Bible says that He took the children up in His arms and held them and blessed them. One wonders what kind of impact Christ’s interaction with these children had upon their lives. How many of them eventually became one of His followers, simply because He invested a moment of His life in them?

When I think about the power of influence a parent and grandparent has upon a child, I think of the story of Timothy. The Bible seems to indicate that Timothy’s father was a non- believer; yet his mother and his grandmother were faithful Christians who impacted his life greatly. The Bible says –

2 Timothy 1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. ESV

Timothy’s sincere, genuine Christian faith was the result of having been raised by two godly women who had a sincere, genuine faith. Grandmother Lois passed it down to her daughter Eunice, who then passed it down to her son Timothy. It’s kind of like runners in a relay race. The first runner passes the baton to the next who then passes it on to the next. The Bible says-

We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders…so the next generation might know them— even the children not yet born— and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Ps 78 NLT

I especially like that part that says – “So each new generation should place their hope in God…” It’s our duty to help the next generation to see that God is real and that He cares about us.

II. A Failure to Teach Our Children About God, May Result in Their Failure to Know God

A. We Must Not Assume Our Children Will Come to Know God

I think that one of the great mistakes many Christian parents make is assuming that their children will naturally come to know God. Yet we all know that this is not always the case. Sometimes, even in a home where the Bible is loved and taught, children do not come to know God. Why is that? There are at least a couple of reasons:

1. Every Individual is Born With a Sin Nature

Romans 5:12 tells us that our forefather Adam brought sin into the world and thus produced within each of us a sin-nature. As someone has said: “We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.” It is a part of our inherited nature. Proof of this is universal death. Death is the wages of sin.

2. Every Individual Has to Make an Individual Decision to Receive Christ

We often refer to our relationship with God as a ‘personal’ relationship. What do we mean by that? Each of us have to make a personal decision as to what we will do with Jesus Christ. Parents and grandparents can’t make this decision for their children. Each child has to come to the point of where he or she makes a decision of their own free will to turn from sin and to God.

B. We Must Be Intentional About Helping Our Child Come to Know God

As parents and grandparents, we must not assume that our child will come to know God – simply because we know God. We must be intentional in our efforts to help our child understand who God is and why we must receive Christ as our Savior. This truth is clearly taught throughout scripture. Once again I call our attention to Psalm 78 –

We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders…so the next generation might know them— even the children not yet born— and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands.

In order to help Jewish parents pass down their faith, God established an annual feast known as the Passover.

Many of you know that the Passover Feast was initiated on the night Moses led the children of Israel out of their bondage and slavery in Egypt. On that very special night, every Jewish home was to take a lamb and slay it. With the blood of that lamb they were to mark around the door of their home. Later than night, God would send His death angel throughout the land to strike dead the firstborn in every home. Only the homes that were marked with the blood would be spared. God said – “when I see the blood, I will pass over you…” (Exodus 12:13), thus we have the name – “Passover.”

After the Jews had marked their homes with the lamb’s blood, they were to take the lamb and roast it with fire for a special meal. In addition to the roasted lamb, they were to eat unleavened bread which symbolized their readiness to quickly obey God, and bitter herbs which symbolized the hardship they had experienced in Egypt.

Now here is what is most important about this meal. They were to eat it, not only on this night of deliverance, but on its annual anniversary, for as long as they lived. Every year, on this same night, they were to celebrate the Passover. Why did they need to repeat this meal over and over again? This meal served as a a perpetual reminder to the people of His goodness and grace. The Bible says –

Exodus 13:8 And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt. 9 And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD’S law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt. 10 Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.

Why was it important for the Jews to continue to celebrate this feast every year? It’s because we have the tendency to forget. It is a part of our human nature to begin taking our relationship with God for granted once we begin to enjoy the goodness of His blessings. Consider this warning Moses gave to the children of Israel just before they entered the Promised Land.

Deuteronomy 6:10 And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, 11 And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; 12 Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

Sometimes we have a very short memory, especially when it comes to God’s blessings. We go through hardships and struggles and we pray to God for His deliverance; but often, after He does, we have the tendency to begin taking His goodness for granted and we start growing complacent in our relationship with Him. I’ve experienced that in my own life, and I’m sure many of you have as well.

God knew that once they entered into this land that flowed with milk and honey, it would be very easy for them to become preoccupied with their prosperity and to forget the God who had prospered them.

As I have studied for this message this week, I have discovered a four-step process that often occurs whenever someone falls away from God. Would you like to hear the process?

1. We Fade

Deuteronomy 4:9 Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons;

The New International Version reads – “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart…”

Whenever I think of something fading away, I see it disappearing slowly and inconspicuously. There’s nothing dramatic or noticeable; just a gradual fading away. The book of Proverbs says – “A little sleep! A little slumber! A little folding of my hands to rest! Then poverty will pounce on you like a thief…” (Proverbs 6:10-11 author’s translation)

Satan is a master of deception and distraction. Inconspicuously and without drawing any attention to himself, he often brings others things into our lives that draws our attention away from God; and then, without realizing it, we’ve drifted away from our love relationship with our Savior and put ourselves in a place of spiritual danger.

2. We Forget

Following the fade is the forgetting. Moses warned – “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget …” If the fading continues long enough, eventually will come the forgetting. Over time we’ll forget what it was like to walk closely with God. As scripture puts it – we’ll lose our first love. Our hearts will grow cold and calloused towards the things of God. It will become easier and easier for us to find excuses for why we’re not walking as closely with God as we should. The Bible says that sin makes us spiritually stubborn. (see Hebrews 3:13)

3. We Fail

Next comes the failure. God told the Israelites – “Do not forget what God has done for you, but instead teach them to your sons, and to your son’s sons.” Perhaps the worst things about our fading away from God is the negative impact it has upon others. God knew that if they begin to fade and forget, they would also fail to pass their faith down to their children. It’s hard to pass down what you don’t have.

4. We Forsake

Lastly comes the forsaking. Consider what we read from the book of Judges.

Judges 2:8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old… 10 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers…

…and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. 11  And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: 12 And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers…

How could the generation that followed men like Joshua and Caleb turn away from God in order to worship idols? Apparently there was a breakdown in the communication between Joshua’s generation and the generation that followed them. Perhaps Joshua’s generation just “assumed” that their children would follow in their footsteps. But it didn’t happen. In one generation the children of Israel made the choice to turn away from the one true God, and to serve idols. The Bible says – “They followed and worshiped various gods of the nations around them.” While Joshua’s generation slept, the influence of the culture captured their children.

Perhaps this will grab our attention. In the state of Tennessee, middle school students are required to study the Five Pillars of Islam and write and recite – “Allah is the only god.”

The Bible says – “while men were sleeping, the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat…” (see Mt 13:25)

III. How Do We Pass Down Our Faith to the Next Generation?

Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

In Jewish culture this is called the ‘Shema’ which means {to hear.} Today we would say – “Sit up and pay attention!”

Deuteronomy 6:6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

Notice God’s plan for passing down our faith.

A. We Pass Down Our Faith – Passionately

When I say ‘passionately’, I don’t necessarily mean get emotionally excited and shout at your family. That probably will be more destructive than constructive. When I say ‘passionately’ I mean that it must come from the heart.

Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

One of the great disconnects we sometimes make as Christians is that we can somehow love God without loving His Word. We think that we can somehow love God while walking in disobedience to Him. Yet Jesus said – “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15)

Long before I ever heard the truth about God or became a Christian, I was drawn to God through the lives of my grandparents? I remember seeing my grandmother sit in a rocking chair each morning and reading her Bible. I knew that she loved God. I also remember my grandfather making the Bible come alive by the way he talked about it. I knew that he loved God and His Word. Why is this important. I was first introduced to the reality of God, and what it means to love God, through the lives of those whom I I loved and admired.

 B. We Pass Down Our Faith – Persistently

Deuteronomy 6:7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children…

Many of you have heard me say before that the particular Hebrew word translated ‘diligently’ was sometimes used to the sharpening of a knife. If you’ve ever tried to sharpen a knife, you know that it can be a long drawn-out process. Sometimes it seems like you’re getting nowhere; however, if you are consistent in your approach, you will eventually begin to feel the knife becoming sharper.

Sometimes parents become discouraged over the fact that it seems that their child ‘just isn’t getting it.’ The parent is trying to teach the child something, yet the child doesn’t seem to obey. One of the things I try to share with parents is that parenting is a process. Rarely does it happen overnight. It can take years and sometimes, that child will grow up and leave home before coming to the truth later in life.

 C. We Pass Down Our Faith – Practically

Deuteronomy 6:7 …, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

1. Talk to Your Children About Their Relationship With God

This is in my mind one of the most important parts of this passage. “Talk” to your children about God and what it means to love and serve Him. Teach your child diligently, but also talk to them practically. Make God a part of their everyday living.

If a child grows up thinking that the Bible is some stiff, strange book; they’ll never explore it and discover the wealth of wisdom that is in it.

2. Encourage Your Children to Ask Questions

There’s something else that I should point out here – it’s good for our kids to ask questions. During the time when Joshua was leading the children of Israel into the Promised Land, one man from each of the twelve tribes was instructed to pick up a stone from the middle of the river, and to carry it across to the dry land. With these stones they built an altar. Why?

Joshua 4:21 …“In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. 24 He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.” NLT

3. Everything in Life is an Opportunity for Us to Teach Our Children What It Means to Walk With God

There’s one last thing I need to point out about the passing down our faith in a practical way.

Deuteronomy 6:8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

If the principles contained within God’s Word doesn’t work for us as adults, why should we expect the generation behind us to believe that they will work for them? The Jews took these verses literally and tied portions of scripture on their hands and on their foreheads. Honestly – that’s useless. It’s only a ritual. Someone once told me that ‘Rules without reason breeds rebellion.’ We must teach our children not only ‘WHAT’ is in the Bible, but ‘WHY’ it is there. There is no better way to do this than by living it out before others.

CONCLUSION

Perhaps some of you are thinking right about now – “OK, I hear you. What should I do?”

1) Evaluate Your Own Personal Relationship With Christ

There was a church in the New Testament that had grown cold in its love for Christ. Jesus said to them:

a. Remember where you were when you walked closely with God

b. Repent of the sin in your life that has caused your love for God to grow cold

c. And return to the things you first did:

– Daily time in the Word of God

– Prayer life that is real and effective

– Church attendance and involvement

2) Initiate a Relationship With Those Whom God Has Placed Under Your Influence

No doubt your already know them, or else you wouldn’t be seeing them as someone you are responsible to influence for God. But how well do you know them? And are you involved in their lives enough to make a difference? Ministry is often a process that take a lot of time and maybe even some sacrifice.

3) Dedicate Yourself to Being Used by God For His Purpose and Glory

a. Pray for those whom you are trying to reach

b. Be ready for the opportunities God sets before you

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