In over 18 years of ministry, I have come to understand that what I believe about God will be seen most clearly not in my life or the lives of my kids but in my grandkids.
What I believe about faith is passed on to the next generation who then passes it on to the next generation. We can’t pass everything on to our kids and even less to our grandkids but what they remember is what is most precious to us. What we value most they will catch. The failure to do this was seen in the lives of Israel in the book of Judges – The book of Judges is the perpetual cycle of commitment, complacency and then compromise.
Judges 2:10 – There arose another generation that did not remember the name of the Lord. – They forgot God.
10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.
Verses 10-11 describe a rebellion. It had two stages. First, the generation after Joshua’s “knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel” (v 10). The word “knew” probably does not mean that they did not know about the Exodus, the Red Sea, the crossing of the Jordan, and the walls of Jericho falling, but rather that the saving acts of God were no longer precious or central to them. They had not learned to revere and rejoice in what God had done. In other words, they had forgotten the “gospel” that they were saved from slavery in Egypt and brought into the promised land by the gracious, mighty acts of God. Put simply, they forgot.
God knew his people would forget. He even had Israel place physical memorials to help them to remember. He knows that if we do not build into our lives through intentional means, we will forget the gospel. If we don’t systematically and organically repeat the gospel to our kids, it will never become precious to them. That’s what the book of Judges painfully points out to us over and over again.
This painful pattern is illustrated most plainly at the end of Judges
Now there was a young man of Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. 8 And the man departed from the town of Bethlehem in Judah to sojourn where he could find a place. And as he journeyed, he came to the hill-country of Ephraim to the house of Micah. 9 And Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I am a Levite of Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to sojourn where I may find a place.” 10 And Micah said to him, “Stay with me, and be to me fa father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year and a suit of clothes and your living.” And the Levite went in. 11 And the Levite was content to dwell with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. 12 And Micah ordained the Levite, and the young man became his priest and was in the house of Micah. 13 Then Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will prosper me because I have a Levite as priest.”
A priest of Israel leaves Israel and rents himself out to the highest bidder and becomes a priest in the home of a blaspheming idolator. This priest aids others in the worship of other gods. He gives Micah the false assurance that God is with him and will prosper him. This priest whose life was supposed to revolve around the temple helping people worship Yahweh. Instead, he is working for an idolator and helping lead people away from Yahweh. He is aiding in the worship of Baal. Who was this priest that was misrepresenting Yahweh? Who was this priest who was aiding in Israel’s worship of false gods? He is named at the end of chapter 18. Jonathan, son of Gersham. Moses grandson.
This was Moses, the guy who talked with God whose face was glowing because he had met with God. The thought that comes to my mind is that if Moses grandson can forget the gospel. How sure am I that my kids find the gospel precious? How sure are we that our churches youth find the gospel central to them? So the question I have been asking is how do we as parents and as members of a faith community pass on our faith to our kids and our grandkids?
What is interesting is that God knew this was going to happen to Israel, and he knows that we in 21st Century America have the same propensity. So in Deuteronomy 6, Moses farewell sermon, he outlines for us how we hand our faith as parents to our kids and grandkids, how we had our faith as a community of believers to the next generation.
5 Ways to pass our faith to our grandchildren.
1. We must fear the Lord. – What you fear you worship. We can not have a proper understanding of the love of God divorced from the justice of God. On the Cross, the holiness and justice of God demanded payment for our sin. And it was at the cross that Christ in his love provided that payment for us. He gave His one and only son because he loved. If you don’t understand the justice of God and fear God, you will always abuse the love of God.
2 that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.
2. We must Love the Lord. – Our love for God is measured by our passion and our devotion. With all our heart, soul and might are not lip service it is an all-consuming passion. A passion that results in practical evidence of a devoted life. – When we love him will our heart soul and mind we don’t compartmentalize our love for Him. When we fully love God, he is our greatest treasure.
Our love for God must inform every other love that we have. It must be the love that properly orients all our other loves.
5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
Dr. Barrie Greiff is convinced that people’s stories are their most prized possessions.
The idea of creating a personal or spiritual legacy may feel too awkward to some people. But Dr. Greiff… counsels that are bequeathing one’s spiritual legacy to future generations is as essential as leaving material objects.
The stories we tell contain the reality of our loves. They also reveal the source of our passions and joy. What kind of story are we living? What kind of story are we passing on?
3. We must take care not to forget God. – Connect truth to life – When life is going well don’t forget that kids need the gospel more than they need a set of rules or instructions alone. Our grandkids need to know the story of the past of our church and our family; they need to understand Salvation belongs to the Lord. We must convey that Jesus is our Treasure and our great reward. He is our life and joy. – We must view our lives in light of God’s saving grace. We must remember who we were before God redeemed us. When our lives are full of the good things God gives us, and we forget that we are great sinners that were taken from slavery and made sons we walk in humble gratitude for such a great salvation.
12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.
Remembering the radical change that took place when we were redeemed keeps us humble. Humility makes us dependent, and dependence keeps us in touch with God’s power. This ensures that our life will be characterized by security and strength in the face of temptation.
Hughes Kent R.
4. We must serve God without conditions – Trust Jesus explicitly – Submit our desires and ambitions and read the scriptures with a view to obey them — don’t test God.
16 “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you.
At Massah, Israel said if God loved us. If God were good he would give us water to drink. – To test is to consider a party guilty until he or she proves him or herself innocent. Guilty until proven innocent. It is the exact opposite of trust that says that someone is innocent until proven guilty. To “test the Lord” is to say basically, “I’ll follow you as long as my life is going the way it ought to go. I’ll follow you as long as I’m getting explanations and answers to all my questions. I’ll follow you as long as you prove yourself worthy.”
We test God by needing an explanation or forcing him to prove his love to us. I’ll serve you if… I will follow you if you help me understand why.
Elisabeth Elliot used to visit a couple of friends of hers who had a farm and had sheep on their farm in northern Wales. She was there one time at the season of the year in which the shepherd has to do something kind of awful to the sheep. At one point of the year, the shepherd has to take his sheep and take them to a huge vat of antiseptic and completely submerge the sheep in the vat of antiseptic. If they don’t go through that, they will die, be eaten by parasites and insects. So what they have to do is take the sheep and not only throw them into the vat before they swim but submerge them and hold them under.
She essentially says, “One by one, John seized the animals. They would struggle to climb out the side and Mack the sheepdog would snarl and snap at their faces to force them back under. When they tried to climb up the ramp in a panicky way at the far end, John the farmer would catch them, spin them around, force them under again, holding them ears, eyes, and nose submerged for a few seconds. And as their lord and master was pushing their head under, drowning them at least as far as they could tell, their panicky little eyes would look up over the edge of the vat, and it was easy to see what they were thinking. ‘What is God doing?’ ”
Here’s what Elisabeth Elliot says, “I’ve had some experiences in my life which have made me feel very sympathetic to those poor sheep. There were times I couldn’t figure out any reason for the treatment I was getting from my Great Shepherd, whom I trusted. And like these sheep, I didn’t have a hint of an explanation.”
We’re still finite, limited creatures, but God is infinite. We must serve God without conditions
5. When kids ask why we do what we do give them Jesus. – Show how the laws of God point us to the Grace of God. – If you follow God with fear, love, obedient sacrifice, and humble submission in success and failure the generation below you will wonder. When they wonder, when they wonder give them Jesus.
When kids ask why do you keep God’s commands don’t just pass that opportunity by. Give them the gospel. Tell them of the events but connect those events not to your wisdom or your efforts but the life-transforming power of a redeemer. Don’t steal God’s glory thinking you bought the house you live in, or the car you drive. When you experience blessing, remember the Lord Your God who brought you out of the land of slavery.
20 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23 And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers.
Tell the gospel as you find it in the Bible, but set it in the frame of your experience of its preciousness. Tell your son how you sinned, and how the Lord had mercy upon you; tell him how he met with you, how you were brought to seek his face, how you were born again, how you received a new heart and a right spirit. He will think the more of this great change because it happened to his father, or to his mother, or to some kind friend. – Charles Spurgeon
When the kids in our church wonder why, when your children ask why do we go to church, why do we do what’s right, why do we do what we do don’t tell them because God said so. That’s Moses is saying.
Kids need truth but when kids ask why. Give them the truth but tell them a story. What Moses is saying is give them the gospel. Tell them about a God who broken into history and saw a bunch of helpless slaves who were not lovely, but God loved them because he loved them that he demonstrated his power by preserving them, by delivering them, by caring for them and by preparing a place for them. Our kids need to know the truth they need to know the Bible; they need to pray but how are we going to expect them to do those things if we can’t even do those things. Doing the right thing without the power of the Gospel only changes who or what we are slaves to.
What did Moses what his children to remember? That they were freed because a lamb died instead of them. They placed the blood of a lamb on the door of their homes. What our grandkids need to know is what we need to remember. What we need to rehearse over and over again is that Jesus Christ, who is the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world, died instead of us. It is through his life through his death through his resurrection that we have the power and the desire out of humble gratitude, out of awe and love we keep his commands because he lived for us and died for us.
The beautiful thing about being part of a faith community about being a parent is The Gospel story is the same but details are different. How God brings his story alive in your life is for you to discover through trials and storms. So you can recount how God taught you to fear him, love him serve him. What our church believes about the Gospel will not be seen in our kids but in how our kids tell their kids about the Lamb slain before the foundations of the world.
We must preach the gospel to our kids, but we must teach them to preach the gospel to themselves. We have to preach to our hearts so we can teach them to preach to theirs.
It’s not enough just to say to your heart, “Well, you have to trust him, because he’s God, and you’re just a stupid sheep.” That will work for a while, but in the end you have to say, “The Shepherd became a sheep. The Shepherd became a little lamb who was destroyed. He became vulnerable … the invulnerable, infallible God. He did that for me. That’s why I can trust him.”