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The Problem with Second Generation Believers

The Problem with Second Generation Believers
I am a second-generation believer. I thank God that I grew up in a Christian home. I have not known a time that I was not a part of a church family. Not only was I active in the church but I also attended a Christian school and Christian college. I am thankful that these experiences have kept me from major regrets in my life. While the advantages out weigh the negative, I have noticed in my life, along with others, a major challenge in our walk with God.
I had enough knowledge about my sin to accept Christ as my personal Savior at a young age. Although I was far from perfect as a young person, my environment and upbringing kept me from what I thought were the "major sins." I was never involved in drugs or alcohol and never had a desire to smoke a cigarette. I was living a life that was just good enough not to focus on my sinful heart and what was lurking below the surface. 
I believe myself, along with many other second-generation believers, have learned to live lives based upon horizontal comparisons rather than a vertical comparison. A horizontal view compares my life against others. I was learning to keep the outside looking clean.  
The problem is that this is not a biblical view. My experience in Christianity always had me focusing on what I can do for God. I was satisfied when I felt I was doing well in comparison to others. This attitude even slipped into my Bible reading. I never really gained a lot from scripture because I was looking for something I could do for God to make me look better.
Although I looked good on the outside, my heart was not changing and I actually developed very dangerous attitudes. I had a lack of unity and love towards other believers who I compared myself against. When comparing myself to unbelievers, I was out of touch. The delusional thought that my sin was better than their sin affected my influence on a world without Christ. Even though Jesus said He did not come to the world to condemn it, I took it as my personal responsibility to condemn anyone who did not live up to my standards. 
Nobody shared with me that I needed a vertical view of God. Actually quite the opposite happened as this prideful view was even cultivated and encouraged. The vertical view helps us grow in our knowledge of God and ourselves. No comparison to others is needed. It seems that first generation believers can get this almost immediately. They fully understand that their heart is desperately wicked and they fall in love with a God that loves them in spite of who they are. 
Growing up in a Christian home I had no doubt that my sin separated me from God but I was always glad that I did not have a testimony that included addictions and a multitude of horrible sinful behaviors. This attitude came from my lack of knowledge of a holy God and man's sinful heart. I could not have been further from the truth! My sin is a violation of Gods holiness. I have the same testimony of desperation and I did not realize it.
I am thankful that God is changing my heart. I have learned that Spiritual growth happens when you gain a deeper understanding of the holiness of God and His great love for you. In return you realize the depravity of your own heart. This vertical comparison will result in the Holy Spirit changing us from the inside out. Our goal should be to know Him and grow in our understanding of Him.
Phil 3:8-10
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
My heart is that we can help second generation believers not make these same mistakes. I pray that my own family and church will not fall into this hurtful trap. It will begin by having proper view of reading God's Word. Try to find the Gospel in every passage you read. Keep a journal about what you have learned about God. Keep the focus off of what you can do or should not do. Before long you will be amazed by an incredible God who is Holy and at the same time is gracious and loving. God will begin to reveal the sinfulness of your own heart. In response, God will begin to transform you from the inside out.
James 1:23-25
23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass : 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
We have to be fair in our assessment of Christianity today. The vast majority of our leaders and pastors are second-generation believers. Our churches are filled with second-generation believers that have moved from church to church looking for the perfect place. The number of new converts is shamefully low. Christian colleges compare themselves to other Christian colleges in an effort to elevate themselves. Groups have risen within our movement that compare themselves one to another.
Let's ask God to help us with a vertical view of God and ourselves. Only then can we move from being judgmental to having unity within the body of Christ. Our view of the lost will change from condemning to reaching. And our view of God will drive us to our knees in humbleness.

Grow in the Word

Psalm 40:7
Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me
The Challenge
Our theme this year at Mts. Runn is Grow in the Word. I challenge each of us to study God's Word daily. The Bible is the source of everything we need for life and eternity. All of our strength, hope, and purpose were recorded by God himself in order for us to find Him.
The Problem
Many times we have problems reading the Bible because we don't know how to study. The Bible was written so that we might have eternal life. Eternal life always leads to life of continual transformation.
For most Christians, salvation is the easy part. We understand that we are sinners. We recognize without Christ we are destined to an eternity of death and hell being separated from God. Salvation begins the moment we realize that we are not capable of having a relationship with God based upon our own goodness and we turn to Jesus Christ and His righteousness. This is what we refer to as the Gospel (Good News). It is Jesus Christ doing what I could not do and my total dependence on Him.
The hard part for most Christian's happens after Salvation when we often try to impress God with our own self righteousness. Naturally we look into scripture and write down a list of do's and don'ts in order to please God. This will frustrate your Bible reading because in your flesh this is impossible. 
Rom 8:8-10
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God .
9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

The Solution
The basis of our study of Scripture is to search for the Gospel of Christ. As believers, we should not only be dependent upon the Gospel of Christ for our salvation but also for our daily walk. I believe the Gospel can be found in every passage of our Bible. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, God's Word points us to the Glorious Gospel!
John 5:39
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

Luke 24:27
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

Searching for the Gospel will have a profound effect on our study and our spiritual growth. We find what Christ has done for us far out weighs anything we could ever do for Him. We cannot help but come face to face with our own sin that is in stark contrast to His holiness. Instead of seeing a Bible character or story as either an example of what to do or what not to do, we see each of them as beautifully painted picture that point us to the righteousness of Christ who is Holy and full of Grace. Every thought in God's Word should strengthen our dependency in Him and drive us to humility.
1 Peter 1:10-11
10 Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.

What a privilege it is to see ourselves in Christ. Not because of who we are but because of who He is. True transformation takes place when we grow in the understanding of our wickedness and the truth of His holiness. This leads to us glorifying Him rather than trying to please Him in our flesh. Disciplining your behavior can change your actions with limited success. True change happens when we tap into the Holy Spirit who points us to the one who loves us and gave His life for us!
Take the challenge. Grow in the Word. Find the Gospel in every Scripture. Before you know it, God will be changing your life in ways you have never known. You will have a clear understanding that you do not deserve any credit for what God is doing in your life. You will be yourself praising and glorifying the God you serve!
John 17:19
And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
John 17:22-23
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
John 17:26
 I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.
Romans 13:14
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
Ephesians 1:4
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Philippians 3:21
Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
1 John 3:2
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.


Grow in Grace

Most Christians do not have a problem understanding the grace brought to us in salvation. The problem that I find with myself and many other Christians is that we fail to realize that the same grace that saves us, also teaches us to grow.

Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

Once saved, we can fall into the trap of religious performance. Performance is rooted in comparing ourselves to others. We can have a tendency to say things like...I am thankful my family is not like that...I would never stay home from church and watch the Super Bowl like that person. This attitude produces pride in our life. It is dangerous to compare ourselves to others.

Luke 18:10-14 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. 

God can see our performance and looks straight into our heart. Growth that is produced by grace is born out of our love for Christ. Our standard of righteousness is an almighty God not one another. The holiness of God should drive us to our knees in humbleness. In return, we strive to live a more sober, righteous, and godly life. I am so thankful for the grace of God that seals me until the day of redemption. That is why it says in Titus 2:13-14, Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. 

The same grace that saves us is what sustains us and enables us to grow. It teaches us how to live here and now – without performing!

Lord, help us to remember that grace enables us to grow but religion expects us to perform. I am reminded of the words of the song by Casting Crowns entitled "Who am I?"

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt.
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart.

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again.
Who am I, that the Voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You're

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours


Thank God for His AMAZING GRACE!