Friday, January 8, 2010

Multigenerational Faithfulness

Psalm 100
A psalm. For giving thanks.
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and and not we ourselves;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations

When I hear the phrase "multigenerational faithfulness" lately, one question pops through my mind and won't go away. The question is:

Whose faithfulness?

Whose faithfulness?

The Lord is the only one capable of multigenerational faithfulness! His faithfulness continues through all generations.

People are not capable of multigenerational faithfulness for reasons which should be obvious to any thinking Christian. We are incapable of being faithful to the Lord on an hourly, daily basis as it is. And we have no true power over any other person other than ourselves anyway. We can influence people in our lives during our lifetime. But we cannot make choices for them. God has not given us that privilege.

We do not have to go farther than Numbers 5:6 to find proof of our daily unfaithfulness to God. Here God declares that any sin we commit against anyone in our lives is considered being unfaithful to the Lord.

Numbers 5: 6 "Say to the Israelites: 'When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, that person is guilty."

Is there any one of us who can claim to be truly faithful to the Lord at all times? Any time we sin against another human being we are convicted of being unfaithful to the Lord? If this is true, no one can claim to be a truly faithful person.

Wow. No wonder Jesus said that what we have done or left undone for the "least of these brothers of mine, you have (not) done for me". (Matthew 25:31-46)

As much as I want to be faithful to the Lord each and every day, I know that I have failed him more times than I can count. If every time I have sinned against another person I am convicted of being unfaithful to the Lord, then I would be a liar to call myself a faithful person. I can only come off as a faithful person if I ignore the definition of faithfulness that Numbers 5:6 lays down for me and invent my own definition of faithfulness to God.

If I can define faithfulness for myself, then I can feel pretty good about myself. If I define faithfulness as attending church regularly, home schooling my children, having daily devotions, praying before meals, reading the Bible out loud to my family every day, avoiding bad movies and bad TV shows, and not going to bars, I can come off pretty well. Actually I can just keep adding to that list things that are easy for me to keep, and come off with a higher and higher opinion of my own faithfulness every day.

And isn't it human nature to do just that? We really are a sad mess. Our capacity for self-deception knows no bounds.

But let's say that God is okay with our homespun definitions of faithfulness (even though we know He's not going to buy it), how can a person possible perpetuate multigenerational faithfulness when the Bible makes clear that we are only responsible for our own souls? The entire 18th chapter of Ezekiel explains this concept at length, while verse four puts it in a nutshell:

Ezekiel 18:4 For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.

There is absolutely no way any human person can commit to multigenerational faithfulness. We are only single individual human people ultimately responsible only for our own personal individual choices during our one lifetime on earth. It is grandiose narcissism to pretend we can accomplish "multigenerational faithfulness". How embarrassing for the human race that people lay claim to having such power.

Do I want my children to know and love the Lord? Oh yes, more than almost anything. I want them to see how gracious and good the Lord truly is and to be enamored of the beauty of His holiness. I want that with all my heart.

So how can this home school mom make that happen? Not by holding up my "works of righteousness" and waving them around in their faces all day as evidence of my faithfulness. Nope, those filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) are not going to draw one person to the Lord.

Humility and the fear of the Lord in my own life is a good start. But even then, the focus would be on me and I am nobody's Saviour. Better by far is to lift up the Lord in praise because He is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

I can not make my children's choices for them, but I can influence them in a positive way when they see true gratitude for God's mercy spilling out of my mouth. I can influence them in a positive way when they see real joy animating my personality because of the great mercy God daily shows to me, unfaithful sinner that I am. When my daily life reflects Psalms 40:16 then I can know that I am doing all I can to influence not just my children, but everyone in my life for God's glory.

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, "The LORD be exalted!"

Amen. The Lord be exalted. He is good. His mercy endures forever. His faithfulness endures through all generations. Amen.

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