by Andy Johnson
What the next generation needs is Jesus. A generation that finds its satisfaction in anything other than the King is a generation that will experience utter failure in the grand scheme of life and kingdom. The twenty-first century offers plenty of enticing activities in which to devote oneself. Pornography and elicit sexual behavior are on the rise, leading to greater acceptance of self-gratification and teen “sexting.” Opportunities for entertainment and amusement are at an all-time high as young girls dream of marrying chivalrous vampires and teen boys religiously watch anime on Hulu. Social networking has the capacity to engulf a person for hours night after night. Soccer, baseball, basketball and football have become the new Fantastic Four of American polytheism.
Is sex bad? Is entertainment wrong? Is having a Facebook or Twitter account sinful? Are sports anti-Christian? I would have to put a definitive “no” at the end of each of question. All of these things certainly can have a place in a believer’s life, but each of them have an overwhelming knack at drawing one into allegiance. Within days, they can nudge the presence of Jesus out of one’s life or put up walls like Fort Knox to keep Him out. Jesus has superficially stark competition because what He has to offer is far greater than that of the world.
Hopefully, you are reading this because you do not want to see the next generation spin their lives around the axis of what the world has to offer. You want to see the impression of Jesus stamped on their lives. You want to see them growing “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (II Pet. 3:18).” You want to see them living for Christ, honoring Him with their heart, words and actions, and striving hard to bring the Kingdom of Jesus to earth. Hopefully, you want to see their lives saturated with Jesus.
In chemistry, saturated is when a particular substance has been dissolved at the maximum possible amount in a solution. In other words, the solution possesses as much of that substance as is physically possible. Take salt and water for instance. Say you were to begin pouring salt into a cup of water. You pour and pour. At some point, you are going to pour salt that will not be absorbed by the water. If so, the salt will have reached the point of “saturation.” In other words, the salt has absorbed as much of the water as possible into itself. That is what I am getting at here. The goal of a Christ follower is to allow Jesus to saturate every part of usâ€”for as much of him to be a part of as much of us as possible. If He is our King and Lord, then he deserves nothing less than to have unrestricted access to our bodies, minds, hearts and lives. People were designed to be saturated with the living God.
The Old and the New
A Christ saturated church and family life come through a melding of the concepts of both Psalm 78:1-8 and Colossians 1:13-20. Psalm 78 sets the stage for the responsibility of families to nurture and perpetuate the faith. Colossians 1:13-20 sheds light on that by heralding that every aspect of life belongs to Jesus. I think a cursory look of the two reveal a great partnership.
The Generation to Come
Psalm 78 speaks to the importance of passing on a godly legacy or heritage. The first eight verses are direct and profound. Read them for yourselves before moving on. Though this Psalm was written in the context of Hebrew community, it holds great universal principles for us as generational leaders today. The very beginning of the Psalm revels a harkening to listen to instruction. The concepts of “instruction,” “words” and “sayings” lead me to believe that in Christ, we have something to say, teach and give to those coming up after us. Yes, we have our experiences, but more importantly, we have the Word of Christ which we should invite to “dwell richly within us.” This Word that we possess should not be concealed from our children. This means engaging the next generation in age appropriate instruction of Scripture.
I like the three categories that verse four provides us. It says we should proclaim to the next generation the 1) praises of the Lord, 2) His strength and 3) His wondrous works. “Praises” means that we will be bold and unapologetic in thanking the Lord for His provision. In a Christological context, we will use language that speaks of the glory of Christ in the midst of our blessing and make Him known through it. Telling the next generation about His strength means that we openly recognize Christ as the source and power of all things.
Expressing His “wondrous works” is really a call to connect the gospel of Jesus Christ to all things. It is the work of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ that makes possible everything else in the Christian life. When celebration of the gospel as an integral function of our being takes place, the next generation becomes more keenly aware of its power.
So what happens when these three things take place in church and family life? I think that verses five through eight help us to see the answer to that question. First, intentional generational teaching occurs. Second, a legacy is established as the next generation takes on the challenges of the generation before them. Thirdly, confidence in Jesus is bolstered because fourthly, they are remembering God’s faithfulness in previous works and in the gospel. Lastly, future generations are prone to see the failures and sins of their fathers and rise above them.
I think this last one is an absolutely critical concept to understand. During a conversation several years ago, the person I was speaking with held his hand about four feet off of the ground and said: “I have to live my life at this spiritual level because I know that my kids will only reach to about here (holding his hand about three and a half feet off of the ground).” This man believed that his children would never attain to the closeness of Christ that he would experience. He unfortunately had it backward. It is our job to show a growing and passionate Christ-filled life to the generation coming up so that they will rise above us later on and accomplish more for the Kingdom than we would ever dream. That was Jesus’ mindset? John 14:12 reports Jesus thinking this way. He said that those who believe in him would do even greater things on earth than him. He was hopeful, not pessimistic, of the ones coming after him. For us to think otherwise is prideful, foolish, glum and fatalistic.
First Place in Everything
Let us turn our eyes to the next passage that is at the core of this article. Colossians 1:13-20 is one of four major Christological texts, the others being John 1:1-14, Philippians 2:5-11 and Hebrews 1:1-4. There is no way that this article can treat the breadth of this passage adequately. Take a look at it and then come back to the article.
This passage is a clear statement about the supremacy of Christ. Jesus is worthy of supremacy because He rules over a kingdom, He redeems, He forgives, He bears the image of God, He creates, He gives purpose, He is eternal, He sustains, He leads, He brings new life, He is preeminent, He is God, He reconciles and He sacrifices. Notice verse eighteen? The end goal of Christ and His work is for him to have “first place in everything.”
The View of Psalm 78 and Colossians
When you combine these two passages, you get a view of the Christian life that recognizes the supremacy of Christ in all things, especially in teaching the next generation. Do you remember the 1985 Whitney Houston hit called Greatest Love of All? It has a line in it that says: “I believe that children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.” I remember singing that in a fifth grade chorus concert. It was so sweet. The problem is that it is garbage. It is not biblical to believe that children are our future. Chris Overman, in his book Assumptions that Affect Our Lives, said it this way:
The Israelites did not put their confidence in youth, nor did they hail the younger generation as “the hope of the future,” that is, in the sense of looking to youth for innovative answers or fresh new outlooks on life. Such a hope wants to believe the next generation will succeed where the older generation has failed. It is the longing expectancy that youth will somehow rise up and win battles where defeat has previously been the norm.
I believe that you and I are our future. I believe that our children will walk in the path that we set for them. Then, as they walk in that path, we hope it will lead them to spiritual fruitfulness that far surpasses what we encountered. I believe that as we grow in a passionate love for Jesus Christ, making Him first place in everything, that the generation to come will have a better chance of developing into healthy, growing disciples.
Dr. Andy Johnson is a Children’s Pastor in Macon, GA. He loves his wife, two girls, and little Bulgarian boy that is not quite with them yet.