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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
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!