You Will Leave A Legacy
What legacy are we leaving to our children and to our children’s children? 2 Kings 17:40-41 gives us a frightening glimpse of what it could be if we are not faithful and vigilant. Take in these sobering words,
2 Kings 17:40-41 – They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices.  Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.
We have the ability to commit idolatry, even while professing the Lord. How shocking is that? Our legacy can be for good or evil, righteousness or wickedness. But make no mistake, we will leave a legacy. What will the nature of your legacy be? How are you influencing your children?
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Our children tend to believe what we believe, behave the way we behave, and have the same attitudes we have. We will either draw them closer to God or drive them farther away by the way we live our lives.
Israel believed what they did and behaved how they did because the world was too much a part of them. They were called to be a set-apart (holy) people. They were to think, speak, act, and worship differently than the surrounding culture.
And yet, 2 Kings 17 is a horrific tale of the worst forms of human depravity. God’s very own people practiced everything from idolatry to child-sacrifice to everything in-between. The depths to which the children of Israel fell and became like their ambient culture is staggering.
Perhaps, however, the last two verses of Chapter 17 are the most somber of all. Even after the Lord called his children to repentance and emphasized that his love was still available to them, we read these words in verse 40,
They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices.
The Consequences of a Legacy
Then, in verse 41, we learn of the consequences that can destroy a family, a church, or a nation.
Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and
grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.
The example of the parents and grandparents had been firmly set in place. Their legacy was playing out. It’s no wonder James reminds us that befriending the world is to become an enemy of God (James 4:4).
To be a holy, set apart people means we have an allegiance first and foremost to God. It means we must declare our loyalty to him even while dwelling in a foreign land. When we do, we pass along a godly heritage – a godly legacy – that can last for many generations yet to come. Yet, when infidelity to our King is our memorial, the consequences can be perilous.
How do we let the world into our hearts and allow its fallen, sinful patterns to influence us? There seems to be no end to the number of books written to answer that very question. Yet, for my part, I want each Christian parent to ask at least this question: What is your goal in raising your children? Success? Happiness? Wealth? Status? Education? The right social connections?
If “godliness” is not your automatic, reflexive answer to that question, then perhaps the world is too much with you. Perhaps it is the world, and not our Lord, who is setting your agenda. So too, and more importantly, it’s not merely what we’re trying to pass on to our children, but who we, as parents and grandparents, essentially are. For if we talk like the world, walk like the world, and look like the world, then it may not be much of a stretch for our children and grandchildren to assume that such worldliness is how “good Christian children” should talk, walk, and look.
Is that the legacy you want to leave to those you care most about in this world? May God turn (and keep) our hearts toward him.
Psalm 22:4-5, 30-31 - In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. …Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn – for he has done it.
It has been said the problem with living is that it’s so daily. The same could be said of parenting. Whether it’s getting your children to eat their vegetables, clean their rooms, do their schoolwork, or have good manners, parenting is daily. Consistency and intentionality are absolutely required. And in no area of parenting is this truer than in the passing on of our faith – our beliefs, worldview, values, character, conduct, etc., to our children.
What we’re talking about is spiritual reproduction.
A primary truism about spiritual reproduction is this: We can’t reproduce what we aren’t ourselves. Cats aren’t going to reproduce dogs, no matter what. We reproduce what we are. Therefore, it’s absolutely imperative that moms and dads are daily, consistently, intentionally, and faithfully practicing the faith they profess, the faith they are seeking to instill in the hearts, minds, and souls of their children.
More Than Your Good Example, Though Not Less
In a real sense, this is more than mere example. Faith really needs to be in the “DNA” of the parents. Having said that, example is vital because children will copy what is being modeled for them at home. It wasn’t dumb luck that my kids all turned out to be Georgia Bulldog fans.
But passing on our faith requires more than example. We are called to actively lead them, instruct them, tell them, pray with them, pray for them, admonish them, counsel them, and nurture them. In a word, love them. The call to pass on our faith to our children in this manner runs throughout Scripture. For example…
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
O my people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
 I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter hidden things, things from of old–
 what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.
 We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
 He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our forefathers
to teach their children,
 so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
 Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.
Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
A Multigenerational Vision
These are just three clear examples of Scripture’s overwhelming multigenerational vision for the extension of God’s kingdom. Many more could be cited. In truth, we’re talking about more than quoting a few texts. This multigenerational vision is a key thread that runs from Genesis to Revelation.
Early in Psalm 22, the psalmist declared that those who came before his generation put their trust in the Lord and were not disappointed. Later in the same Psalm he stated that future generations would also serve the Lord because they would be told about the Lord. If you think about it, how else will Christianity be passed on? If the love, holiness, grace, works, and words of God are going to be known two hundred years from now, then we must pass them on here and now.
But to whom? Many Christians talk about the need to evangelize and disciple the lost but seem to forget about God’s covenant children under their very own roofs. If we think in terms of concentric circles, our next priority (or circle) after our own relationship with God (because, again, we can’t reproduce what we’re not ourselves) should be our own family. Our goal, of course, is for our children to come to know, love and follow God and then pass on that faith to their children and their children’s children for a thousand generations (Deut. 5:10, 7:9).
In a real sense, our children are not our own. They are God’s. We are stewards of God’s children. That means we have been given the vital and joyful responsibility and blessing of raising these children to know, love and follow their heavenly Father. And while such an upbringing is so daily, we need to realize we only get one chance. It’s my prayer that God will honor the prayers, blood, sweat, tears, effort, and love we pour into our children (his children). To see them come to know him and become the godly adults we’ve been striving for will make it all worth it in the end.
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