Grace For The Journey
Each generation faces a most serious dilemma. A disturbing pattern emerges from the chronicles of faith. The conviction that blazes brightly in one generation becomes a torch, then an ember, and then cold ash in following generations.
This generational degeneration happens so repetitively in biblical history you can set your clock by it. It is called “the third and fourth generation problem.” It is written in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:5). It lived out in the dark days of the Judges (Judges 2:10). It led to the violent and immoral history of the Kings (1 Kings 11-12; Nehemiah 8-9). It triggered the failure of every Christian (Hebrews 2:1-4).
Our personal history can also reveal the presence of generational degeneration today.
The sacrificial and passionate faith
Of the first generation
Is accepted as an important
Set of doctrines by the second.
The third generation continues
The traditions of the faith,
But they have little inner conviction
Or practical expression of it.
The fourth generation brings
The charade of faith to an end.
In four generations faith goes
From passionate, to important,
To cold, to dead.
Now, do you see the dilemma? Are you in the same boat? What will happen to our generation? Or the next!?
Many local churches are made up
Of third and fourth generation believers.
Some are spiritually cold and growing restless.
The bold repentance and sacrificial
Faith of their predecessors,
Is being replaced by spiritual convenience
To accommodate a worldly lifestyle.
If history holds true,
The result won’t be pretty.
Yes, “the third and fourth generation problem” is . . .
A pattern, but it need not be a prophecy!
The fire doesn’t have to die,
It can be rekindled.
Every new generation can make a fresh and authentic commitment to worship the Lord their God and serve only Him (Luke 4:8). But how?
Surprising lessons are learned from a generation who failed. Their spiritual failure led to the horrific period of the Judges. Their generation was blessed with more land, power and wealth than any previous generation, and they used them to create a hell on earth. Oh, they didn’t plan to destroy their society and ruin their children’s future. They just failed to see the desperate need of their generation (are we in that same condition!). Let me share three ways this generational problem can be overcome.
First, they have an urgent need to know the Lord personally. The opening words of Judges diagnose the reason for Israel’s collapse.
The Bible says in Judges 2:7,10, “So the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LROD which He had done for Israel. 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.”
Israel had a generational problem.
It took three generations to go from
Courageously faithful to practically forgetful.
How could this happen?
Certainly, the parents shoulder some of the responsibility. After all, Moses warned parents that their children didn’t see what God had done in delivering them from Egypt, they did not hear the thundering voice of God they heard, they did not see the many miracles He did in providing for them in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 11:1-9). So, it was crucial that they model a wholehearted love and service to God (Deuteronomy 11:13-16), and it was necessary that they personally share the story of God with their children (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).
The spiritual silence of one generation
Becomes the spiritual indifference of the next.
However, the children bear some of the blame as well! When Judges 2:10 says, “they did not know the Lord” it does not mean they didn’t know who God was. Eli, the priest, had two sons who illustrate the children of the Judges era. They served in the Tabernacle daily. They “went to church” all the time. But, “the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12; a bookend with Judges 2:10; one starting an era, the next ending it.).
They knew who God was,
But they were driven by their pleasures
Not the principles of God’s Word.
They did not know
The Lord personally or practically.
It means the Lord didn’t matter to them. He had no major influence in their lives. They liked the ways of Canaanites! They loved the idols of the land! They found their security and pleasure from their possessions.
Every generation needs to rediscover
A passion to know the Lord,
Personally and practically
In every area of our lives.
But . . .
Wherever the social eclipses the spiritual
And the superficial is preferred
To the transformational,
You will find a generation
Of spiritual failures.
Secondly, this generation has a pressing need to live differently from the world. Today’s “Third and fourth generation” Christians know the world is a spiritual graveyard, and yet they want to dress and act like a corpse! In the same way, Israel knew the Canaanites were under the judgement of God, yet they joined in their lifestyle and admired their idols. God said in Judges 2:1-2, “Then the Angel of the LORD came u from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: ‘I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you.’ And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their alters. But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this?”
Israel chose “accommodation” and “participation” with their world’s values, rather than separation from its ways! Like the striking of a cymbal this message rings repeatedly in Judges 1. Each family was charged to cleanse their home from influences that would compromise their morals and faith, “but they failed to completely drive out the inhabitants of the land” (Judges 1:19, 21, 27, 28,29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35).
A troubling progression happens in Judges 1. The family of Ephraim compromises and allows the Canaanites to live “among them” (1:29). But then the family of Asher gives in and just “lives among the Canaanites” (1:32). And then finally, the “Canaanites” (Amorites) forced the family of Dan from their land all-together. Israel’s compromise with the Canaanites led to the dispossession of the blessing of God!
God asks our generation the same question! Through Christ’s redemptive work upon the cross and through the empty grave, we are rescued from the terrifying destiny of this world. How then can we derive our pleasures from its values? How can we align ourselves with its activities? Are the delights of the Lord and the work of His kingdom not enough?
The way to spiritual life for this generation
Is not by accommodating
Our faith to our lifestyles,
But by conforming our lifestyles
To the faith (Romans 12:1-2)!
A generation that whines about how their religion is an intrusion to their happiness, is a generation headed for spiritual failure. But, a generation that revels in the beauty of distinction will know the joy of spiritual life.
Doesn’t just need
To know something,
Or refrain from something,
It urgently needs to do something!
Thirdly, it needs to serve the Lord’s purposes, not its own. The writer of Judges identifies this as a defining characteristic of a faithful generation. He is led to writ in Judges 2:7-8, “The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel. Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten.”
“They served the Lord” is declared at the beginning of Judges, and it is answered by an opposite refrain at the end of Judges, “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges. 17:6; 21:25).
Every generation has a choice.
Know and serve the Lord,
Or serve ourselves.
One generation can rejoice in a living faith, enjoy intimate communion with God, revel in the Lordship of Jesus over daily life, even delight to teach their faith to those closest them; yet, the next generation may come along and care nothing for all that.
Not that they will formally repudiate everything.
It’s just that they will know about the Lord
Rather than know the Lord.
They may remain within the church
In their cold, dead, formal way.
But there is no ﬁre in their “faith,”
No warmth in love,
No joy from hope.
What Paul calls ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ (Philippians 3:8) sounds utterly foreign to them. They cannot fathom it. Our children must not merely mimic our faith – they need to be converted.
The pressing need of our generation is to make that choice. At the end of the day are we more concerned with our glory or God’s; our kingdom or His, our work or His mission? One path leads to the tragic return to the days of the Judges. The other path leads to the useful life and hopeful death of Joshua.
With one breath God could have swept the Canaanites out of the land. Why did God allow them to remain? God tells us in Judges 2:22, 3:4, “So that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the LORD, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not” … “And they were left, that He might test Israel by them, to know whether they would obey the commandments of the LORD, which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.”
Each generation must make the choice, “Will I live to know God and live for my God, or for this world?” What choice are you making?
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”