“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons; … Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.” Deuteronomy 4:9,10
Very few Christian denominations kept their faith and zeal for more than three generations. This does not have to happen. The modern Apostolic movement has been alive for over one hundred years –a miracle in itself. We now have the challenge to protect, preserve and pass on this apostolic heritage. If we are not vigilant we will go the way of all other movements –and become just another denomination.
Apostolic succession does not happen by chance. There must be a ‘keeper of the flame’ –a leader who will lead and then pass on the torch. There must then, be a conscience and active teaching and mentoring from one generation to the next.
Preserving the Apostolic Legacy
I remember a classic sermon first preached by Bruce Wilkinson entitled, “The Tale of the Three Chairs”. It was based upon Judges 2:7, 10-13
“The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel. …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. … And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: And they forsook the Lord of their fathers …”
In this sermon, three chairs were placed on the platform –each representing one of three generations found in this scripture.
The first chair represented Joshua and Caleb who knew God personally, had seen and experienced the miracles and movement of God before and after being delivered from Egypt. The words that could describe this first chair are: ‘commitment’ and ‘personal relationship’ with God.
Joshua fought in the battles. He was at Moses’ side when he went to the ‘tent of meeting’. He saw and experienced the great works of God toward Israel. He was one of ten spies who was sent to scout out the ‘Promise Land’. He stood with Caleb and declared “We are well able to take the land’. Moses saw his potential and mentored him for leadership. After Moses died he was chosen to lead Israel in the conquering of the promised land.
It should be noted that Moses trained and mentored Joshua for leadership which led to the conquering of the Promise land. There is no record, however, of Joshua ever mentoring a young man to take his place –which led to the sad story of the ‘generational drift’ in the second and the third generations after Joshua.
It was Joshua who stood and said to the people:
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. And the people [Elders] answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods;” Joshua 24:16.
The second chair stood for these ‘Elders’, who had seen and knew about the miraculous workings of God. The elders knew about the miracles but never had a personal relationship with their God. This ‘elder’ generation served God half-heartedly, and they never took the initiative to teach their children nor to pass on the stories of what they had seen and experienced. To them their lifestyle was a responsibility and their faith was a ‘religion’. They followed much of the same lifestyle and believed much of the same principles as the first generation but they were not totally committed.
The third chair stood for the third generation “which knew not the Lord, nor the works which he had done”. These third-generational children never had a personal experience with God and were confused as to ‘truth’ and their spiritual state.
Notice also, the erosion in three generations of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob [before his personal experience with the angel]. Notice also, the generational downward slide in the three generations between David, Solomon and Rehoboam.
Bruce Wilkinson used the chairs as an illustration of what he had seen and experienced in many churches today. These chairs represented three levels of generational commitment. He saw a ‘generational drift’.
The first generation that came to God where totally committed and loved and served God with all their hearts. The first generation had a relationship with their God. The second generation, however, believed the ‘faith of their fathers’ as being correct. They outwardly followed most of the lifestyle of their parents but had little personal conviction. This caused compromise and conflict within their lives.
The third generation knew not God and were never taught the ways of God so they embraced the ways of the people of their land and served the gods of the land. This brought in the sad story of the book of Judges.
The lesson from this sermon is that if a person does not personally have a relationship with God – is not totally committed to God and is not actively teaching and living their faith before their children – their faith may die out in as little as three generations. The same holds true to any church or religious movement.
Passing on Our Apostolic Heritage
Then how do we preserve, protect and pass on our apostolic faith? The answer is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9:
1. Believe the Truth:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
2. Love the Truth:
“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
3. Teach the Truth
“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes, And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”
In the Summer Olympics one of the most exciting events are the relay races. Four of the best athletes are chosen from running events. Each must run one quarter of the distance and then pass a baton to the next runner who continues to run until the forth runner carries the baton across the finish line.
The runners are chosen because of their running ability – but many have lost the race when they dropped the baton or failed in the passing the baton to the next runner.
“For years the USA teams traditionally had been dominant in the 4×100 relays. In the 2008 games, however both the men and the women suffered embarrassing defeats in both 4×100 events – when they both dropped their batons.” [Foxsports.com]
The runners were some of the best in the world, but they failed “to pass it on.” One generation can be the strongest believing ‘apostolic’ – but if they fail to pass on their faith to the next generation they are a failure.
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… That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children…That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God. Psalm 78:2-7
To keep this faith, as a movement, we must: believe it, love it, and we must teach it. “WE MUST KNOW THE WAY, GO THE WAY, AND SHOW THE WAY.”