“Sins of the Past,” Exodus 20:1-6, Ezekiel 22:30
The other day I was building a new bed for Hansel. It’s a really cool loft bed with a little space for him under it and like a tent on top of it to give him a hideout feel. Well, the last step in the building process is to put in all of the slats upon which the bed rests. I started out fine, placing the wooden slats then reaching under with one arm and over with the other to put these plastic connectors in to hold the slats in place. Then I reached the end and was struggling to fit my big hands in between the slats and reaching over the rails... I was sweating, dropping them. I was getting really frustrated.
Then I looked up and realized that there was an opening from the latter at that end on the other side that creates an opening. I moved over there and popped the last two in easily! I was stuck in a pattern. I was just locked in like tunnel vision to the way I had been doing it. Remember, I’d only been doing this for several minutes and had already locked into a pattern.
The reputation of the pattern had blinded me to an easier, better, far less painful way to accomplish the same task. What patterns are you locked in from your own life experience? What patterns are you and I locked into from the ghosts in our past? What generational patterns curse us?
This morning I’m going to introduce you some key concepts concerning generational curses. I’m going to give you an assignment for some self-inventory in preparation for the rest of the sermons in the series. This is not an escapist approach. The point here is facing generational dragons and slaying them in the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of Christ alone!
CIT/CIS: Stop wearing broken shackles. The chains are broken. Let them fall. John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (NIV84)
At the outset, I want to be really clear. The biblical generational curse does not mean that we are responsible for our parents or other ancestor’s sin. “In those days people will no longer say, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' Instead, everyone will die for his own sin; whoever eats sour grapes – his own teeth will be set on edge.” (Jeremiah 31:29-30 NIV84) Individuals account for their own sin.
Thomas Manton, this way: “Punishments are either temporal or they are eternal. For eternal, no man is punished with eternal punishment for another’s sins properly and directly; there we stand upon our own personal account: occasionally a child may be punished eternally for his father’s sin, as be deprived of the means of grace by the parent’s revolt from the true religion. As for external means, the parents, who are a kind of trustees, may put away the means of grace from their families… If a family reject the strictness of profession [of faith], and give themselves to cursing, swearing, uncleanness, gaming, and hatred of reformation [spiritual growth] and of a lively ministry, the children born in the family may be justly left to be wicked by these examples, and prejudiced against the ways of God.” (Thomas Manton Complete Works, Volume 18, page 89-90, Solid Ground Books.)
I am the son of generations of male alcoholics. It is for this reason that I abstain from alcohol. As a ministry family, Christina and I abstain from alcohol together so as to protect our reputation and never to be a stumbling block for an unbeliever or new or believers in recovery. “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.” (Romans 14:21) We don’t push that. That’s how the Lord has led us.
Now, I’m not culpable for any of the sins of these men; neither the direct sin of their drunkenness nor the sins their drunkenness influenced them to commit. Each person is responsible for their own sin before God. However, my father’s drunkenness was a contributing factor in him withholding the regular means of grace from me. He had no interest in the things of God. As such, I had limited exposure to the things of God. Our kids learn by example.
Even more sinister, I watched his alcoholism and would have only known it as a normal part of life, had it not been for outside influences. Consequently, I was cursed with a generational pattern of behavior, of sin. That’s what generational sin is; being blinded to unhealthy, destructive, and even sinful patterns because they are our inheritance. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (I Corinthians 15:22)
Romans 7:14-23: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. [Blind to Patterns]
For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. [Innate Motivations]
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. [Dragging around broken shackles. Free but still a slave to sin]
People are complex. I’m not talking here about blaming previous generations for our failings. I’m talking about waking up to the influences that shaped us so that we can approach being reshaped by God more fully aware of how we get shaped. [Forged in Fire – How we’re forged matters.]
Every now and then we need to get back to the begging, put ourselves back into the fire, and trust God to keep shaping us in to the image of Christ.
I want God to use me to help us see the unlocked shackles we’re still wearing. That’s what this sermon series is about and I’m so glad to start it as we celebrate communion today because that is where freedom is found!
Notice the contrast in the text. “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5-6 NIV84)
Our assignment this week is to do some self-examination. Notice the insert in the bulletin. Let’s see if we can’t identify some specific patterns in our lives that we need the power of God to break. Maybe they’re generational. Maybe they’re walls we built. Maybe they’re walls that others torn down.
Then, we’ll talk about breaking patterns, curses, in our lives for the next few weeks. But let’s start as we should always start; at the Cross where all sin was crushed, celebrated in the Sacrament of Communion. Amen.