Add To Your Faith – Part #2

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II Peter 1:5-10 says, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure:for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:”

We understand that our faith in Christ is central to our belief system. Christ sacrificed everything, and it takes faith in him to reach heaven. But, what do we do once we have the faith in him? We add to it. 

But, what to add to something so awesome as faith in Christ? There are several things that we can, and according to this passage we are to add them in order.

What are these things?

  • Virtue – behavior showing high moral standards
  • Knowledge – facts, information or skills acquired by a person through experience or education
  • Temperance – abstinence or self-restraint
  • Patience – the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or suffering without getting angry or upset
  • Godliness – devoutly religious or pious
  • Brotherly Kindness – friendly, generous and considerate; showing affection or concern
  • Charity – kindness and tolerance in judging others, love of humankind

Virtue is living a morally upright life—one in which rules and regulations are necessary to keeps us right. Knowledge is simply the amassing of information regarding a particular subject, in this case God and His Word. Both of these are to be added to our lives, but what exactly is temperance? The word itself is only used in our Bible three times, once in the verse that we have already read. Let’s look at the other two to see how the word is used. First, in Galatians 5:22-25, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance:against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Here temperance is included as part of the fruit of the Spirit. 

Note that this is a singular word, fruit, not fruits that we are to add separately. Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance are all to be evident in a Spirit-filled believer. Not just a few items from this list or one of them, but all of them at once. 

Temperance is defined as moderation of habits, patience or calmness. A Spirit-led Christian is to be calm and moderate at all times. Do we overindulge ourselves? With food? With TV? With technology? This would prove a lack of temperance in our lives. We all have things that we enjoy immensely. I love cartoons. I could watch cartoons all day, but most days I don’t — that is moderation. You can’t do anything important or influential if you are overindulgent in frivolity and fun. But, on the adverse we need to use temperance in our work. If you are a workaholic, you will neglect other important parts of your life.

Temperance needs to be in effect in all areas of our life, at all times. Temperance is to be added to our faith, and evident in our lives at part of the fruit of the Spirit. This is especially hard in our technology connected world. How often do we check our phones each day? According to a recent study the average American checks there phone one hundred and fifty times per day! Do we check our Bible that often throughout any given day? We need a moderation when it comes to the use of modern tech. Smart phones, tablets, and laptops have allowed to work more efficiently than ever before, but moderating our time with them and our usage protects us from failure: moral or spiritual.

The second reference we see is Acts 24:25, “And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” This is just a short verse that is part of a long dialogue between Paul and Felix, a judge. Felix was representing the Jews, who accused Paul of heresy, to the head judge. Paul defends himself in the preceding dozen or so verses, and does so well enough that Felix asks Paul to explain his faith in Christ, which Paul does. He reasoned with Felix of righteousness, temperance and judgment. Paul explained to him the perfection of Christ and his sacrifice, the patience in waiting for the second coming, and the judgment of God coming afterwards. 

Temperance was so important to Paul that he spoke of it implicitly with Felix when witnessing to him. In order to teach this, Paul must have lived this or Felix would never have “trembled” as the Bible describes.

We are commanded to add temperance to our faith and to our lives. We are to be patient in waiting for Christ’s return, with fellow Christian’s, and with the lost that surround us daily. We are also to moderate our personal habits so as not to be overindulgent in any one area. For fear that it may overtake our love of God, and the all-important work we have to do for Him. 

-Tim J. Bish

HOW TO HANDLE THE CRITICS

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In life, there are some things that, humanly speaking, are simply impossible. It is impossible to survive without air. It is impossible to fly without a plane or a jet pack. It is impossible to add one cubit to your stature. (Trust me, I tried!) It is also impossible to get through life without dealing with criticism!

Anyone who tries to accomplish anything will find themselves dealing with The Critic. It has been so since the Garden of Eden, when the master critic aimed his serpent’s tongue against God himself. It will be so until The Lord makes all thing new.

* Moses spent his entire ministry being criticized.
* Elijah, Jeremiah, Elisha, & Nehemiah were all criticized.
* Even the Lord Jesus Christ was followed by His critics!

We would be foolishly naive to think that we can serve God in any capacity without being criticized. Yet when the Critic shows up, and he always does, we are shocked beyond belief! We are stunned that our hard work is torn apart by the razor sharp criticisms of someone who had no part in the task. We grieve as if in mourning that our motives are called into question when we know them to be pure. We are frustrated and angry that our obedience to God is ridiculed and condemned, not only by an ungodly world, but often times by “the brethren” themselves.

The truth is that we ARE going to face criticism sooner or later. There is absolutely no question about that! The only question is, “How are we going to respond to that criticism?”

In reality, we have absolutely no control over The Critic, yet when he rears his ugly head we focus all of our attention and energy upon him. We get angry; we defend ourselves; we enlist others to our side; we criticize the critic. Experience has taught me that this approach almost never hurts or hinders The Critic but it hurts and hinders me EVERY time!

As I study the lives of the great saints in the Bible and learn how they dealt with The Critic, I find a better way to handle them in my own life.

1. BE HONEST

In 2 Samuel 16, David found himself fleeing from Jerusalem with his family and friends. His son Absalom had begun a civil war against him and rather than fight against his own flesh and blood, David chose exile. As he fled with a broken heart he met up with a man named Shimei who cursed him and threw stones and dirt at David and his entourage. David’s loyal followers were outraged and wanted to kill Shimei right then and there. David’s response was astounding. Although he had the power and authority to issue the execution, he ordered his men to stand down. He said, “Let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him.”

(To be honest that is never what I am thinking when I am facing The Critic or any of his kinfolk. I confess that I am a bit more like David’s friend who wanted to draw blood.)

David’s response showed both wisdom and maturity. In spite of the pain and humiliation he felt, he allowed God the opportunity to let the criticism refine him.

Sometimes when we are criticized we get so defensive that we never stop to ask if there is any truth to the criticism. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and actions and reveal to you if you are at fault, even in a small way! Perhaps this is why The Lord allowed The Critic into your life!

2. BE HUMBLE

David’s response to Shimei was not only Honest it was Humble. The truth is, you cannot have the one without the other. When we are dealing with The Critic, we easily get into “self-defense mode”. After all, our name, honor, integrity, truthfulness, and labor are being called into question.

But take a moment to consider that the first word in ‘self-defense’ is ‘self’. The whole matter discipleship is that we deny self and follow Christ. When we are defending self, we are no longer behaving as a disciple. Remember that we are taught to “Humble yourselves in the sight of The Lord and He will lift you up.”

3. BE HOLY

In I Samuel 25, David had another meeting with The Critic. There his name was Nabal. When David heard the outrageous and defaming things Nabal said, he gathered his men and went off with every intent to not only kill Nabal, but his entire household as well! He had not one Scripture that gave him that right but he was in self-defense mode and the Scripture that he loved was forgotten. Were it not for the wise counsel of Abigail, David would have committed murder!

Do not allow The Critic to become your justification to sin in word or in deed. Keep your heart and life right with God! The Lord taught us in Matthew 5: 10-12 and 38-48 to respond to those who hurt us by doing good to them and by praying for them. “Overcome evil with good!”

4. BE HEAVENLY-MINDED

We are taught in I Peter 2:19-25 to follow the example of Christ when we suffer for well-doing. When Christ was on the cross and faced with an entire horde of Critics, He did not return reviling for reviling or threat for threat. He simply turned the whole matter over to His Father, trusting Him to judge righteously.

I wonder if our overwhelming desire to ‘set everyone straight’ is nothing less than a lack of faith in our Heavenly Father to take care of us? This is perhaps the greatest danger of criticism in that it gets our eyes off of The Lord and on to ourselves or our critics!

5. BE HAPPY

James 1:2 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” The word ‘temptations’ refers to any type of tribulation and not just an enticement to do evil. As believers we are to see each trial as an opportunity to exercise our faith in the Lord’ person, power, and promises. Although the trial itself is not joyous, the testing of our faith is an opportunity to shine for Christ and to develop a golden faith! (I Peter 1:6-7)

Since the “joy of The Lord is your strength”, to allow any trial, including that of being criticized to steal that joy is to lose your strength! Though the trial is difficult, the truth of God and the promise of His grace to sustain us ought to cause us to “glory in tribulation” as Paul did in I Corinthians 12!

CONCLUSION: God’s way of handling The Critic is so different from man’s way that we often struggle with it. But to be honest, isn’t retaining your joy in The Lord and your testimony for Him so much better than living in anger and carnal behavior?

Once again, I wonder if our desire to set everyone, especiallyThe Critic, straight is nothing more than a lack of faith in God’s person, power, and promises?

We cannot stop The Critic from working, but through Christ we Can stop him from winning!

Written by Thomas E Bish

Add to Your Faith – Part #1

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Christ is central to our belief system. Christ sacrificed everything. It takes faith in Him to reach heaven. It was His gift of grace that saved our souls. But, what do we do once we have faith in Him? What are we supposed to do after we have accepted grace?

Do we just sit, and think about grace? Do we just leave our faith alone? No, we add to it.

But, what are we to add to something as awesome as faith in Christ? What can possibly equal the importance of the grace of Almighty God? Why would we want to tack on “extras” to the faith that keeps us from hell and guarantees us heaven?

2 Peter 1:5-7 says, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.There are several things that we can add, and according to this passage we are to add them in order. God would not have put them in order, if He did not want us to pay close attention to that detail.

What are these things? A simple list is: virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity. We will look more specifically at virtue and what it means to add this to our faith.

Virtue can be defined as behavior showing high moral standards. Virtue itself is only used in the New Testament six times; the first time it is mentioned, Jesus was the main subject.

Mark 5:22 “And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him. And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?

This woman with the issue of blood, an impurity, was healed just by touching Jesus garments. Jesus was so virtuous that He was able to heal a woman just by the touch of His clothing. Jesus noticed that His virtue had gone out of Him in this process; this implies that virtue and purity go hand in hand. His morality, His purity, was so substantial that the impurities in the woman’s blood disappeared after coming in contact with Christ. A Christian that is virtuous is pure in every aspect of our lives—not just physically pure, but also mentally and doctrinally pure.

This is the purest essence of virtue, absolute purity. But, this is not the only meaning of the word virtue.

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, which bases many definitions off of biblical context, has ten different definitions for this word. The first two deal with strength or bravery, which all combine in the third definition: “Moral goodness; the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice, or a conformity of life and conversation to the moral law. In this sense, virtue may be, and in many instances must be, distinguished from religion. The practice of moral duties merely from motives of convenience, or from compulsion, or from regard to reputation, is virtue as distinct from religion. The practice of moral duties from sincere love to God and his laws, is virtue and religion. In this sense it is true.

In the Bible, virtue is given a very high regard and high price. In Proverbs 12:4, “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband, a virtuous woman is well-regarded. Proverbs 31:10 says, “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.we see that her virtue has gained her an extremely high price. “Far above rubies, rubies are in fact the most expensive gems in the world, considerably rarer than any diamond, and can be worth ten times as much! Yet, God places the price of virtue even higher.

In the passage that we started with, we are instructed to add virtue to our faith, but look a few verses before in 2 Peter 1:3, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:. Christ’s divine power gave us all things that pertain unto life, bringing our dead spirits back to life, and godliness, those things which pertain to God. But, it is our knowledge of Him that calls us to glory and virtue. Not only are we instructed to add this to our faith, but we are also called of God to glorify Him and have virtue—the practice of moral duties, and the abstaining from vice.

Salvation, the free gift of God, calls you and I to be a virtuous, morally upright people. We are not given the opportunity to sin freely because of God’s grace. We will sin, we will fail, we will fall; but we are called to live virtuously. When God looks at you and I He sees the blood of His Son, the spotless Lamb of God. This does NOT give you and I the freedom to live as we please or sin whenever we want!

Philippians 4:1-9 states, “Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. Things that are true, honest, pure, just, lovely, and good report are linked to virtue in this verse. We cannot be a virtuous person and sin freely. If we are willingly committing sin or omitting those things which God has commanded, then we are no longer living up to our calling of virtue; and we are most definitely not glorifying God.

Live a virtuous life—abstain from sin and evil, and live up to God’s moral code of purity, chastity, and truth. This is just the first addition to our faith.

~Tim J. Bish

I AM A SECOND GENERATION CHRISTIAN

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We have seen it all. We have heard it all. We have grown up in church. We are second generation Christians. We are the preacher’s kids, deacon’s kids, and full-time Christian worker’s kids. We have been treated poorly and blessed abundantly. We grew up conflicted about the ministry — do we love it or hate it? We grew up in church, but we are the only ones that can decide if we will follow the faith of our forefathers.

The Bible uses the term generations repeatedly to talk about groups of people separated by time. “The generations of Adam and “the generations of Noah were terms used to describe their families, their children, and their grandchildren. Generational Christianity is spoken of over and over throughout the Old and New Testaments. Many believe this may be the ultimate goal in the journey we call the Christian life — to pass your faith, your beliefs, and your convictions to your children and their children.

Second generation Christians have a unique set of struggles to deal with daily, but we also have a unique view on church, family, and faith. We have tried to live up to the expectations of others, and we have tried desperately to maintain an individual personality. We have grown up serving others, and have hated “living” at the church. We have fought back the anger when people mistreated our families or us, and we have thoroughly enjoyed our time with the many friends God has brought into our lives. We are a case study in conflict. It is this view, this second-hand Christianity that makes us specially suited to passing along the faith of our fathers.

Second Generation Christians:

Have seen church from the background. We have been raised in church, and have had the opportunity to see the good and the bad of the ministry. There were people that we did not like or did not get along with, but we were able to see our parents love them anyway. We have all dealt with those that expected us to be “perfect preacher’s kids.” Not allowing us to just be children. We have lived with abnormally high pressures from those watching our every move. We have experienced the dregs of serving others: your parents volunteering you for work, your family time taken over by strangers, and your holidays spent helping others — these sometimes overwhelming the blessings. The blessings of the ministry: seeing lives changed, learning to love unlovable people, and being given opportunities not often afforded to young people — often seemed dimmed at times due to the invasion of your personal life. We have been trained from a young age how to properly run a church and its many ministries. We were required to serve in any and all aspects of the ministry, sometimes against our will. We were not enslaved or abused, but simply a part of a sold-out Christian family. We have been asked to preach, teach, and sing at the drop of a hat to any numbers of different people types: junior church, Sunday School, bus routes or nursing homes to name a few. This combination of background and first hand experience should give us an edge in being the best Christian possible. But oft times it leads to bitterness.

Have seen church from the bad side. People can drive us to hate what our parents have chosen for us. People watch our every little move, and run to our parents the moment we mess up. People have placed a larger than life ideal that we are to be nearly perfect at every moment of every day. People have overestimated what we were to do with our lives from a young age. People have constantly compared our Christianity, as a child or teen, to that of our parents. We did not ask to be raised in church, we did not ask to be surrounded by people, and we definitely did not ask to see our parents hurt time and time again by those they have loved unconditionally. When you dedicate your life to serving and helping others you are bound to see your share of hurt and heartache. But, as second generation Christians we did not sign up for service; we were volunteered by our parents’ choices. Mom and Dad chose to serve God with their lives, and ours. We just happened to be born into their family, and therefore are a part of their calling. Many a church member fails to understand this point; leading them to believe that the pastor’s family as a whole is supposed to live up to the standards they set for the preacher. This has lead many to be bitter towards their parents, the church people, the ministry, or God Himself. The fact that your parents chose Christianity, and a life of service should not lead to bitterness; it should prove to you why people need God. Bitterness towards past events does not change anyone’s future, but our own. We have to decide for ourselves if their calling is our calling. Not just a call to full-time service, but a call to being a Christian.

Have seen church from the beginning. We have been in church since birth — we do not know anything else. We spent most of our formative years surrounded by God’s people and His Word. We know all the facts, all the verses, and all the Bible stories. One of the beautiful parts of growing up in church is that we know exactly what it means to be a Christian. Many times, we do not understand any other way to live. Luke 12: 48, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required,rings so much truer for second generation Christians. We have been given godly parents, a Christian education, and access to some of the best preaching and teaching available. A pedigree like that means we should be better Christians, witnesses, and servants than those who came before us. We should be able to accomplish much more for the Lord than our parents ever thought possible for themselves. Elisha, a second generation Christian, asked Elijah for a double portion of his spirit. He had learned everything the previous generation knew, and was able to accomplish twice as much for the Lord. Every second generation Christian should strive to be an Elisha — not necessarily in the ministry full-time, but at the very least twice the Christian our parents were. Is our desire to help others, reach the lost, and grow in Christ greater because of our upbringing? Or is it lacking because we think we know it all? We have been given so much by those who have invested in us, that we should be motivated to do so much more with our lives for God. We have been blessed with this spiritual, Christ-centered upbringing.

Have to see church as a blessing. We have not seen sin ruin our family. We have not seen sin destroy our bodies. We have not seen sin wreck our future. We have been protected. We have been blessed beyond measure. God allowed us to be raised by God-fearing men and women who chose to keep us in a protective bubble — a bubble that kept sin out, but allowed God in. At times this bubble seems like more of a fish bowl. A barrier that kept us from fun or friends. We hated this bubble. We struggled with why we were not allowed to go places with certain people or why we had to go other places with people we did not enjoy. We all misconstrued what this bubble was for at some point in our teens. The bubble was meant to protect us from the suffering our parents knew from their pre-salvation days. The bubble was to keep us from knowing what it was like to have a drunken father, a deadbeat mother, a broken home, or drug addicted adolescence. This protection is the one aspect of second generation Christianity that separates us from first generation Christians. Those that came before us had to change everything in their lives: their music, their lifestyle, their language, and their choices in order to serve God. The mistakes they made before salvation have been the motivation to protect us from the world’s vices. An untainted, protected, second generation Christian testimony is quite possibly the most gorgeous picture of a life spared by God’s grace imaginable. We have been blessed that God saved our parents, and allowed us to grow up in the bubble called second generation Christianity.

Second generation Christians have struggles and troubles that sometimes a first generation Christian might not understand completely. A set of pressures and hurts that is hard to explain to those who did not grow up in the ministry. We wrangle with cynicism towards people at church. But, the blessings of a childhood protected from the grips of sin and a testimony unscarred by the world far outweigh the negative aspects. We have been given so much in the forms of a Christian education, first hand experience, and blessings that much is required of us in terms of service. Our Christian upbringing should not hinder our service, but fuel it to greater heights than we could believe possible.

I am a second generation Christian, and I serve God because He blessed me with a Christian family, a Christian foundation, and a Christian faith.

I AM A FIRST GENERATION CHRISTIAN!

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I AM A 1ST GENERATION CHRISTIAN

 “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;   When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” (2 Timothy 1:3-5)

In the Scriptures, the subject of generations is one that is repeated quite often. Over two hundred verses of the Bible contain the word “generation” while scores of other passages, like the one from 2 Timothy 1 contain the teaching. The word “generation” means “an epoch, an age, or a revolution of time”.

In our modern vernacular the word “generation” is commonly used to identify a group of people or an era of history. When speaking of those who fought and defeated the Axis Powers in World War II, we refer to them as “the greatest generation”. “Generation X” is the name given to those born in the post WW II era. Even advertisers cash in on this concept with slogans like “The Pepsi Generation”.

The title given to any particular generation instantly reveals a great deal of information about those who comprise it. The very mention of “the greatest generation” imparts the images of young Americans who lined up by the tens of thousands to defend our country’s honor after the attack at Pearl Harbor. It reminds us of Rosie the Riveter, General Patton, the storming of the beaches at Normandy, or the flag raising on Iwo Jima. Just that simple title reminds us of bravery, sacrifice, determination, ingenuity, and patriotism. What a generation!

Throughout the Scriptures the Lord makes reference to various generations.

  • (Genesis 7:1)  And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
  • (Exodus 1:6)  And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.
  • (Numbers 32:13)  And the LORD’S anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the LORD, was consumed.
  • (Judges 2:10)  And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
  • (Psalm 78:4)  We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.

In the oft used formula “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” we see again the reference to three separate generations and each name tells us about the events, the characteristics, and the dealings of God with man during that generation.

In 2 Timothy 1:3-5, Paul wrote about three generations of believers: Timothy, his mother, and his grandmother. The faith that first dwelt in Lois was passed on to Eunice, who in turn passed it on to Timothy. What a tremendous legacy was bestowed upon that young man! What a privilege he had to have been raised with such a goodly heritage! He was, if you will, a third generation Christian.

While I thank the Lord for Timothy’s heritage, I cannot completely relate to it because I was not raised in a Christian home. I was fourteen years old before I heard the gospel and trusted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. I am a 1st Generation Christian, just like Timothy’s grandmother, Lois!

You may be asking why this is even important, but in reality it carries great impact! 1st Generation Christians have some characteristics that 2nd and 3rd generation believers do not. At the same time 2nd generation Christians have both blessings and challenges that those of us in the 1st generation do not!

  1. 1st Generation believers were already indoctrinated with a mindset that ran contrary to the Word of God. The Apostle Paul expressed it this way in Ephesians 2:3 when he said, “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others”. Although we may have had a moral upbringing we did not have a Biblical upbringing and there is a vast difference between the two! That wrong mindset with which we were trained provided the backdrop for serious conflict once we trusted Christ.
  2. 1st Generation believers had to rethink everything they had been taught to bring their views and their values in line with Scripture. As an unsaved teenager, I listened to music that was laced with vulgarity, anti-God themes, sexual innuendos, etc. Before salvation it had never occurred to me that anything at all was wrong with that music. But as a believer I was being challenged from the teachings of Scripture to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” I was blessed to have been saved in a church that taught us to examine everything in light of Scripture that we might be able to make righteous judgments about right and wrong. For a while it seemed as if everything in my life was at odds with God’s Word. Because we were not raised with Bible teaching as our foundation, we had to study and learn for ourselves what 2nd and 3rd generation Christians often just take for granted.
  3. 1st Generation believers had to take a stand that often would anger or alienate lifelong friends and family. Before I was saved, all of my friends were as lost as I was. We all told the same dirty jokes, used the same language, watched the same TV programs, sang the same songs, and held the same values. As a Christian, whose life was being transformed by the power of Christ, I found myself faced with a brand new dilemma. The dirty jokes that once seemed so funny had become offensive. My love for church was bizarre in the minds of my friends. On one occasion in High School, my refusal to cheat on a test caused my entire class to turn against me. A 2nd generation believer, who is raised in church and sometimes a Christian School where everyone believes like he does, is often not forced to take a stand like the 1st generation believer did. The very act of taking that stand in light of what it would cost us, made us look closely at the Scriptures to make sure we were right. Our stand had very real consequences that were as impactful as those of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego!
  4. 1st Generation believers had first-hand experience with sin and its tragic consequences. Do not get me wrong when I say this. I understand that everyone is a sinner by nature and that “sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.” But a child who has been blessed to be raised in a godly home, that held to Biblical values, has been spared the horrors and difficulties of being raised in a home where alcohol, drugs, violence, abuse, and other types of wickedness reigned supreme! Many 1st generation believers carry the scars in their bodies, minds, hearts, or resumes that are the residue of a life lived without Christ. We were saved out of those things that once enslaved us. We remember the heartache, the emptiness, and the devastation that sin brought into our lives and our homes. Although Hollywood may paint sin as harmless, cute, or funny, those whose lives were hurt by those sins know the real truth from first-hand experience. While a 2nd generation Christian may be tempted to ask “What’s so bad about that?” the 1st generation Christian knows the answer all too well.
  5. 1st Generation believers still had their first love for the things of Christ. When I was saved in 1972, the message of Christ was the answer to many years of searching. As the truths of God’s Word were taught to me, I reveled in the fact that God loved me, that He had a plan for my life, that He would never leave me, and that He was truly changing my life. “All things are become new…” was a reality for me and I delighted beyond words in that reality. I was enthralled by my new Bible, my new church family, my new relationship with God, and my new understanding of spiritual things. Every church service, every song, every sermon, and every decision were met with childlike awe and appreciation. How different from the life I had before I met Christ!

Although I didn’t understand it at the time, not everyone in my church and youth group shared my enthusiasm and wonder at the things of God. I don’t mean to sound harsh or judgmental, but there were some to whom the things I found so new and exciting were just boring and the “same old, same old”. They had grown up in that environment and what held such hope and promise and “newness” for me was lackluster in their eyes. Not every 2nd or 3rd generation believer was like that, but unfortunately many were.

This is not a new problem by any stretch of the imagination. The church at Ephesus found themselves in the same situation. That is why the Lord Jesus rebuked them so sharply for having left their first love.

Where the 1st generation believer has to grow in grace and knowledge the 2nd generation believer has to be careful that they don’t become stagnant in that same grace and knowledge. The gospel is not wonderful because it is new. It is wonderful because it is life changing!

6. 1st Generation believers take it seriously when they see the things they had to fight for being minimized, dismissed, mocked, or abandoned by the next generations.  How many soldiers have returned home from war to see a bunch of college kids burning the American flag in one protest or another? While the generation with the matches flippantly abuses and dishonors the flag, the soldier is inflamed with righteous indignation because he knows from personal experience the high cost of freedom.

The book of Joshua details the conquering of the land of Canaan by the Israelites. After 40 plus years in the wilderness, God’s people were finally claiming the land promised to them by God. The generation who conquered the land were keenly aware of the fact that had their parents displayed trusting faith in the promises of God, they would have been spared 40 years of aimless wandering in the wastelands of the wilderness. They had lived through those long difficult years until the unbelieving generation of their parents perished and they themselves could finally enter Canaan. It is therefore no wonder that when the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh built a huge altar on the east side of the Jordan River that the rest of the nation went ballistic. God had clearly dictated the place and the method with which He was to be worshipped, yet no sooner were the people settled in the land and these 2 ½ tribes appeared to straying from God’s commands. Although the motives of the 2 ½ tribes were later found to be pure, it was absolutely right of the other 9 ½ tribes to make much of the issue. It was both right and understandable that they should be alarmed at even the very appearance of falling away. Their strong concern was the insurance policy that kept the people of God careful and right!

In like manner, 1st generation believers, who remember the battles, will often raise the alarm at even the very appearance of compromise. It is both right and understandable that they should do so! They should not be mocked or condemned for their concern. They should be listened to. They have sound reasons why they are concerned. Their alarm may protect the next generation from going into the mire of compromise!

While there have been times that I wished I could have been reared in a Christian home having learned the things of God from infancy, I am thankful for my testimony as a 1st Generation Christian! I am constantly amazed at what God has done in my life and at what He continues to do! To think of where I was when He found me and where He has brought me since that time helps keeps my first love vibrant and full of life!

With that said, I am also glad that my children and grandchildren are privileged to be 2nd and 3rd generation Christians. They have been spared by God’s grace some of the hurts and heartaches that I had to endure. They have been given a better foundation than what I started out with.

Pastor & Mrs. Bish with their 3 children and their spouses and 2 grand daughters.  They are expecting 2 more grandchildren this Spring.

Pastor & Mrs. Bish with their 3 children and their spouses and 2 grand daughters.
They are expecting 2 more grandchildren this Spring.

My hope and prayer is that whether we are 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Generation Christians our faith will be unfeigned, our love will be pure, our spirits will be fervent, and our walk with God will be vibrant!