Is growing up in a Christian home an advantage to us, or a disadvantage?
We pointed out in our last article that children from Christian homes are beneficiaries of many advantages. The danger is when we let this privileged life make us spoiled rotten. In other words, instead of using our advantages humbly, gratefully, and diligently, we can let them make us lazy, proud and selfish.
This is the danger that always faces the second generation. After inheriting the fruit of our parents’ labors, we grow fat on them; we become indolent coasting on their spiritual capital.
This is a serious sin. The Lord thundered against the Israelites, “As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, And being satisfied, their heart became proud; Therefore they forgot Me.” – Hosea 13:6
We don’t often realize how serious this is, because we can be guilty of these same things and still seem “good kids,” unblemished by the wicked things “other” children do.
When many of us “good kids” think of the sins of Sodom, we think of flagrant debauchery and perversion (no danger of going there, we reassure ourselves). But this is what God actually condemned them for: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” – Ezekiel 16:49
And these are the most common sins of the second generation. This is why we have met Christian parents who thought it better not to teach their children about God or Christianity at all, so that they could “find God for themselves.” (Of course, this is not only an unsound, pragmatic hermeneutic, but contrary to the biblical model of multigenerational family discipleship, and the mandate to “Teach them to your children,” Deuteronomy 6:7).
Instead of throwing our inheritance to the wind, we need to identify our own weaknesses that keep us from going further than our parents. Here are the seven weaknesses that we believe are the most common and and debilitating to our generation.
We don’t fear God
We can sometimes rely on something else be “the voice of God” in our lives – pastors, leaders, Christian friends, even parents. God has established an important place for all of these in our Christian walk, but we cannot put them in the place of God. (And if we do, it’s not their fault: it’s the fault of our own idolatrous hearts.) If we only do right “because Mommy and Daddy said to,” we don’t fear God. It is the fear of God alone that should drive our lives. When that is in place, we will honor our parents, learn from the wisdom of our elders, and keep company with others who fear God.
The fear of God is what puts zeal in us. If we don’t have fiery zeal for righteousness, for spreading the gospel, for reformation, for serving others, for discipleship, for sanctification, and for every other Christian duty, we don’t fear God. If we wait for someone else to make us do right, we don’t fear God. If we complain that our parents’ strong Christian involvement in our lives makes us less eager to seek God and study His word for ourselves, we don’t fear God.
“You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.” (Deut. 13:4)
We don’t study the Scriptures to develop convictions on our own
“Man must think God’s thoughts after Him if he is to know anything. How does one know whether he is thinking God’s thoughts? To the extent that God’s thoughts are revealed to us in Scripture, to this extent can we think His thoughts after Him.” – William Blake (Foundations of Christian Scholarship)
Many of us are blessed with wise, biblically-literate parents and other leaders, but we still need to fervently study the word on our own, remembering that the ultimate goal is to understand the mind of God.
“…No one can get even the slightest taste of right and sound doctrine unless he be a pupil of Scripture.” – John Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book VI Section 2)
Too many of us wait to be spoon-fed our beliefs by people who have already studied and have strong convictions. When it comes to our beliefs, we can’t let others do our work for us – God wants each of us to personally seek Him through His word.
“But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2)
We don’t take our sin seriously
We all know that those who have been forgiven much love much (Luke 7:42,43) and protest that that’s why converted criminals, prostitutes, communists and such often have more zeal than we. They had “dramatic conversions” and know what life on the other side was like. No wonder they love God more than we do. We make the mistake of thinking we weren’t just as depraved and doomed as they. God may have spared us the opportunities to defile ourselves as much as they, but we had the potential within us. We must not think of ourselves as “those who have been forgiven little,” and love little. (Luke 7:47)
When tempted to compare ourselves self-righteously with “bad people,” we should also consider (in the light of the verse about Sodom above) that God might be more angry with our pride than with their perversion.
“Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:7)
Thomas Vincent, age 31, was one of the few Christian leaders who survived both the Great Plague and the Great Fire that struck London in 1665 and 1666. People asked him why good Christians died in those back-to-back judgments along with London’s most profane and rebellious moral criminals.
Vincent said, “If these judgments have fallen upon God’s people, we must know that they have their sins, which have deserved them; possibly some have begun to comply with the wicked in their wicked ways: it may be they were grown more loose in their walking, and formal in the service of God, and their hearts more set on the world. The sins of God’s people have more heinous aggravation than the sins of the wicked, being committed against clearer light, dearer love, sweeter mercies, stronger obligations, and therefore provoke God the more to wrath; thus he threatens his people, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth, and therefore I will punish you for your iniquities.” Amos 3:2 – Thomas Vincent (God’s Terrible Voice in the City, emphases added)
We are “good” rather than righteous
Growing up in Christian homes, we’ve learned some pretty good theology and some wholesome family practices. We’re pretty good kids! Unfortunately, obeying the rules and repeating the vocabulary isn’t the same as being righteous. Even more unfortunately, being around a godly family and other mature Christians will not make us righteous. Righteousness is not contagious and it cannot be absorbed. It only the result of God’s individual sanctifying grace and our own strenuous personal effort from within.
We may appear exemplary young people, reflecting the mature beliefs and practices of the people around us, but it is only an empty reflection if there is no deep conviction inside.
We are comfortable
It’s sometimes hard to remember there’s a battle raging, when we’re safe in our cozy homes, surrounded by like-minded friends. If we insulate ourselves from conflict, risks, hardship, enemies, and the world’s needs, we simply relax in smug satiety and apathy. God called it “fullness of bread,” and judged Sodom for it. Being comfortable is death to the Christian’s effectiveness.
We don’t know how to respond to “the world”
We grow up knowing we are different – we weren’t raised to be “of the world” – but on reaching adulthood we don’t always know what to do with those differences. Too often, we respond one of these two ways:
1. We try to minimize the differences, so we won’t stand out. We want to be normal, “in spite” of having been homeschooled. The older we get, the more we push to be reabsorbed into the world, until we’re virtually indistinguishable from its own children. (Sometimes we say our goal is actually to infiltrate it and sneakily change it “from the inside” – so we learn to play by its rules, on its turf, using its standards, and always as the underdog.)
2. We try to escape from the world, rather than challenge it. Once we recognize our modern world as ugly, dark, cruel, and anti-Christian, we run from it and bury ourselves in fantasies of prettier times. We often retreat into romance novels and obsolete “romantic” pursuits, rather than embrace the battlefield we have been given and study to meet the challenges of our times.
Both of these unbiblical responses are a result of fear of the world, forgetting that our job is to judge it (1 Corinthians 6:2), disciple it (Matthew 28:19), and overcome it (1 John 4:4).
“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
Our vision rarely goes further than “holding the line”
We often think our parents have already done all the pioneer work; all the excitement and adventure and discovery was theirs. The truth is, our families’ Christian warfare has only just begun. Our parents had to fight for the right to raise their children to be soldiers. Now it’s our duty as soldiers to win the war. Everything our parents have done doesn’t give us less to do — it gives us more to do. Luke 12:48 says, “…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”
The duty of all second-generation Christians is to take their advantages and go further to conquer new ground — to make new biblical discoveries, to disciple new nations, to reach greater heights of theological precision, to root out even more worldliness of thinking and living, to have more obedient Christian families, and to extend Christ’s dominion into every nation. It’s not enough to not retreat – it’s not even enough to hold the line. We need to advance.
The motto of the “Great Christian Revolution” in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was Semper Reformanda – always reforming. We should adopt this maxim, picking up where our parents left off, and then where the reformers left off. We are advantaged to have received their legacies as gifts and tools, and God will require more of us than He did them.