Thursday, April 06, 2006

What Will the Next Generation Bring?
By Larry Rouse

One of the most persistent and heartbreaking defeats among the people of God has been the failure to instill a Biblical faith in their own children. The book of Judges calmly announces a sad truth when it says: “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). When you examine the Bible, church history and the events unfolding in the Lord’s church today, you will find the same repeated failures when a new generation arises. Why does this happen? Is there a way to be an exception to this oft-repeated “rule?”

The generation that the book of Judges describes as not “knowing the Lord” was very different than the generation that preceded it. But the parents of this new generation were also very different from the generation that preceded them. Open your Bibles and look at the characteristics of these three generations.

The first generation that came out of Israel had great advantages. They were personally led by Moses, whom God commonly described as a “man of God” (Joshua 14:6; Ezra 3:2) and as being more humble “than all men who were on the face of the earth” (Num 12:3). This generation saw the great plagues that were brought upon the nation of Egypt, as well as the parting of the Red Sea for their physical salvation. They witnessed the collapse of those mighty walls of water to the utter destruction of Pharaoh’s army. In addition to that, they had the visible sign of God’s leadership with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to give them assurance of God’s guidance. What did this generation do with its opportunities?

The Hebrew writer tells us about the legacy of that generation. “While it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey” (Hebrews 3:15-18)?

Even though this generation was correctly and accurately taught by God through Moses, they constantly challenged and rejected that teaching. On one occasion, a man named Korah arose and led a group in rebellion against the “traditional” teachings of Moses by proclaiming a greater “fairness” in his new approach to God’s will (Num 16:3). On another occasion because of the physical discomfort of the people, they actually looked back to their slavery in Egypt with favor (Num 11:5). These people in their hearts never trusted in God! Their bodies had left Egypt, but their hearts never did. “This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us, 39whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt” (Acts 7:38-39).

The next generation did not have the attachments to Egypt and learned to walk by faith. They were not tempted by material wealth because they had none. Through the 40 years of wandering this generation saw the emptiness of sin and the great future that a living faith would bring.

This generation was personally led by Joshua, a man like Moses, that fully put his trust in God and, as a result, God was with him (Joshua 1:7-9). This generation had to personally fight for every inch of ground that they received. Yes, it was God’s power that brought the victory, but it also was their faith and obedience to God’s spoken word that allowed that power to act. They learned to determine what God’s will was and then obey it. Because of this they rejected human wisdom and refused to adapt to the tactics of the religions around them. Does one take a city by marching around it and shouting? You do if the power of the word of God is behind it! “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days” (Hebrews 11:30).

This generation knew God, enjoyed the blessings of His presence, and dearly wanted their children to walk by faith. They were well aware of the failures of their parents and even were given specific instructions by God in how to instill such a faith. After they crossed a flooded Jordan River, in a manner similar to their fathers crossing of the Red Sea, God made provisions for a great teaching tool for the next generation. They were to construct a monument of stones. “And Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, 6that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:5-7).

How did this generation do at teaching their children? They were an utter failure (Judges 2:10). What do we need to learn from this?

Instilling a Biblical faith requires first that you have such a faith. Too often we have those who were “raised in the church,” but never saw a living faith in their parents.

We also need to be humble and realize that as parents the task before us is great. If it was easier for Israel to take the Promised Land than to instill faith in their children, then I must realize how much help I need. Pray to God for help. Take the time to closely associate and talk to your children. If you have a living faith, then opportunities will abound for you to show how to trust in a living God.

Let your teaching be more than a catechism, that is, a simple memorization of questions and answers. Let your children build their faith in God and not in a denominational concept of the church of Christ. People and churches fall away from the Lord. Teach your children not to be disillusioned because men and local churches fail and are untrue (Rom 3:4). It is the unchanging God that we serve!

What will your child face in the next generation? Will they have to rebuild from an apostasy like Daniel, or may they enjoy a time of great evangelistic fervor and growth as the early church experienced? My prayer for both your children and mine is that they serve our Lord Jesus Christ all their days. If they will do that, then we all will have unspeakable joy at that great reunion when Jesus returns.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, I think in large part my generation (I was born in 1985) with a traditional church of Christ upbringing is not much interested in the religion now. I attribute this to several things: weak teaching, peer pressure, prosperity, casual parenting, and an increasingly social/casual atmosphere in many churches. Perhaps they will become more receptive in a few years; hopefully they have not destroyed their lives by then. It is a bit of a discouragement to me.

4:12 PM  

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