“the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua…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.”-Judges 2:7-10
I don’t know who said it first, but it is true, “There are no grandchildren of God.” A parent may bring their children up in the nature and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), teach them the Bible, and set a sterling example of Christian living, but the decision to submit to Jesus and live a life of faith, rests with each individual. I came to faith in Jesus as the Christ, the resurrected Son of God and confessed him as Lord in my baptism. However, that decision neither saves my children nor changes the eternal destiny of my parents (Ezekiel 18:4-29).
Since these things are true, we should redouble our efforts to teach the gospel fresh to each new generation. For those that love Jesus, that should never be a burden. In the old hymn I Love To Tell The Story, we are reminded, “those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.” The first step to teaching the next generation may have more to do with our love for Christ than the willingness of young people to listen. Jesus may be speaking to us when he says, “you have abandoned the love you had at first…repent, and do the works you did at first.”-Revelation 2:4-5. Our faith is only as contagious as the light we shine is bright.
The verses quoted from the book of Judges at the top of this article are often cited when discussing the natural tendency for human beings to fall away from the faith of their fathers. In the history of the Stone-Campbell movement, periods of exceptional vigor and growth, have been followed by complacency and a willingness to depart from the simple pattern of Scripture when it comes to the worship of a local church. The commitment to New Testament Christianity that energizes one generation, becomes “ho-hum” to the next, and “What’s the point?” to the third.
I don’t have to tell most of you, we are in the third or even fourth generation of people who took their stand in the 1950’s and 60’s against church support of secular institutions and the pursuit of what was then called the “social gospel.” Families were torn apart, congregations split, and many a sour word was seen flying between the two camps. That generation knew what they believed and why. For every question, they had a Bible answer.
The groups that met in homes, libraries, and schools, eventually built buildings, hired and trained preachers, created Bible class curriculum, spread the gospel, and were blessed with tremendous growth. By the end of the 1990’s there were 2,000 Non-institutional (NI) churches of Christ in American and the online database goodfight.com currently lists over 2,700 congregations.
In Joshua’s day, the generation of Israelites who entered the promised land were faithful to God. Their sons and daughters followed their lead. But the “old, old stories” about Egypt, the Red Sea, the Jordan River, and the walls of Jericho either were not passed along to the third group or their ears had waxed gross and they failed to learn.
So, what must be done? We must remember what God has done for us and rekindle our love for Jesus and faith in the gospel to change hearts (Romans 16:16-17). Then we must teach our children well the ways of the cross (Deuteronomy 6:7). The elders among us must dedicate themselves to teaching those in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s (II Timothy 2:2). Finally, “we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”-Ephesians 4:15-16. Christians are promised a rest up there, we are to work down here. Love God and people. Preach and live the gospel of grace. Praise God, he will give the increase!