IN THE LAST INSTALLMENT OF THIS PODCAST I THRUST YOU DEEP INTO THE RECESSES OF MY MIND… I HOPE IT WASN’T TOO SCARY.
My goal was to take you on the journey that I took as I was trying to unpack the notion of radical faith, because when it comes to faith in Jesus, I don’t want to be normal… at least not the kind of normal that is normal in the world today.
That makes sense… right?
If it doesn’t make sense to you, it will probably help if you stop this episode and go listen to the first one. It’s the context for what I’m going to go into today, so you really should take the time. You can hear part one by clicking on this link.
Last time we discovered that radical faith has actually been around since the beginning of time and that the original human couple was expected to pass it down to their children.
It’s time to look at the “for generations” piece.
This part came to me like a bolt of lightning one day as I read through Psalm chapter 78. It was shocking (no pun intended) to see a deep, undefined longing of my heart expressed so clearly in 6 simple verses. Here’s how it reads in the ESV
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark saying from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments, and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.
There are 4 unavoidable things in this passage that grabbed my attention:
- The desire expressed is the same desire I have: children who set their hope in God, remember His works, and keep his commandments.
- The writer has a vision that goes beyond his own children: there are at least 5 generations mentioned in this passage. 5 generations. Wow. That’s taking the long view.
- Intentionality is at the heart of the passage. Notice the action words: “I will open my mouth… I will utter… we will not hide them… but tell to the coming generation…”
- The glory and awesomeness of God is central.
Back in 2010 is when it hit me for the first time as I read this passage. Generational faith is not a pipe dream. It’s what God has intended all along.
It didn’t take much for me to see what it could look like.
My oldest son had just gotten married. I could imagine his children, and their children, and their children, all drawing from the spring of deep fellowship with the LORD Jesus to live radically faithful lives.
I could imagine what it would take to do that… a clear view of the awesomeness and glory of God, intentional effort to build Christ-soaked relationships with my children, and a long-view for my family to keep me motivated and on track.
And though I was convinced that it was what God wanted, I had to know more. I wanted to gather more proof before I went out shouting my message to the world.
So I went on a scripture-quest.
I started looking for biblical evidence that generational faithfulness through the family is one of God’s preferred methods of passing on genuine faith. Piece by piece it came together, each passage revealing God’s purpose and heart for the family.
Here’s the first part of what I found:
- Genesis 1-2: When God created humanity, He placed them into a family.
- Genesis 3:15: In the shadow of the first sin God announces the coming gospel for the first time, and that it will come through the woman’s “offspring.”
- Genesis 4-5: A family tree (a genealogy) takes a predominant place in the biblical story for the first time.
- Genesis 6-10: God appointed a family (Noah’s family) to be the instruments of His mercy and salvation.
- Genesis 12: God promises to give a child-less man (Abram) a family, and that through his family all the nations/families of the earth will be blessed.
- Genesis 21: The child promised to Abram (Abraham) is born just as God said.
- Genesis 22: God foreshadows what He will do in sending His own son by having Abraham sacrifice his only son as an act of obedience. (God spares the son, Isaac… but that’s another story.)
- Genesis 25: Isaac’s son Jacob is born. Later, God changes his name to Israel (Genesis 32). Israel has 12 sons who become the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel.
That sequence of events is incredibly significant. From just reading the first 25 chapters of the Bible it becomes clear that God’s plan for the entire Old Testament centers around one family line.
One family line.
That’s amazing… and curious.
So I continued…
- Deuteronomy 6:4-9: God instructs the descendants of Israel how to go about ensuring that their families, for generations, know and follow Him.
- Malachi 4:6: In the very last paragraph of the Old Testament, as an intricate part of a prophecy about the coming of Jesus, God promises that He will “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.”
- Matthew 1 & Luke 3: A Family Tree (genealogy) is again used, only this time to connect Jesus to the family of Israel and the first couple, Adam and Eve.
- All 4 gospels: When Jesus was born, he was placed into a family.
- All 4 gospels: One of the images Jesus repeatedly used to communicate what the “kingdom of God” is like, was the family.
- Matthew 19:6, Mark 10:9: Jesus affirmed the central relationship of the family, marriage.
- Ephesians 5:22-33: Paul instructs husbands and wives how to structure a godly marriage.
- … and here’s one of the most powerful things I found in the New Testament:
- Ephesians 6:1-4: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Did you get that? I’ve been quoting a lot of scriptures… so I want to make sure you got the point of that one!
Fathers… leaders in a family, in a home – are commanded to make sure their children are raised in a way that they will love and obey the living God.
God Himself has commanded it.
Why is that?
It goes back to Psalm 78.
The family is ideal soil for spiritual growth.
- It’s a place of deep love.
- A place of learning and encouragement.
- A place where child human beings are being intentionally raised into adult human beings.
- Doesn’t it make sense that the main job of parents is to ensure that every child the LORD gives them is taught to love and obey God?
- If that’s done diligently, with deep dependence on the LORD for wisdom and help, generations of people can be impacted.
Once I got that, I began to see my life in a broader way.
I’m not only here to provide for my immediate family, to carry out some personal ministry, or achieve individual life-goals.
Psalm 78 shows me that the life I’m living right now will have a deeply profound impact on generations of my own descendents.
Stop and consider that. I mean, really consider it.
Your spiritual health or lack of it will affect the destiny of your children, their children, and on and on throughout the line of your family.
You don’t have to do anything at all in order for that to be true.
It would kill me to see any of my children turn away from radical faith in Christ.
He is their only hope of true life (John 10:10) and I want that for them more than anything.
But how does it happen?
Children are difficult to raise under normal circumstances and the world throws everything at them on top of that.
And when it comes to the family, it begins with parents. You have absolutely no hope of seeing radical faith for generations begin in your family if you, the ones leading the family, are not growing into radical followers of Jesus yourselves.
That’s because the old maxim is true, more is caught than taught.
When it comes to developing their own spiritual zeal, your children have got to see, smell, hear, taste, touch, and in every other way sense that you are 110% passionate about loving and serving Jesus.
The can spot a fraud. They can smell a hypocrite. And they’ll come to resent you if you try to get them on a spiritual track that you’re unwilling to pursue yourself.
So parents, radical faith for generations starts here.
- You’ve got to repent of doing things your own way and begin seeking vibrant relationship with Jesus.
- You’ve got to make daily pursuit of Jesus the highest of all priorities.
- You’ve got to get your hands on resources that enable you to move forward in your faith journey. (Here’s two places to find free and very helpful stuff – 1 – 2)
- You’ve got to get to the place where you joyfully submit to Jesus and desire to follow Him every step.
What does it look like?
It looks exactly like this… (Matthew 13:44-46)
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Spend some time with this passage. Put yourself in the shoes of the characters Jesus portrays.
- What did they feel when they found the item?
- Why did they feel that way?
- What was the item worth to them?
- What did they do as a result?
- What are these “items” supposed to represent?
The only treasure in this life worth giving everything for, is Jesus.
Not your career.
Not that cool business you own.
Not your possessions.
Not even your family.
Jesus is it.