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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
June 15, 2014
A Godly Heritage
Happy Father’s Day! This morning I want to talk to you about the importance of a godly heritage. It was something I started thinking about as I traveled down to Mississippi for the Harris family reunion. My dad and my brothers flew out from California for it. My dad, who is 91, is the oldest of the eight siblings that are still alive. It was good to see them all and quite a few of my first cousins and their children. One of the things I enjoy about family reunions is finding out a little bit more about family heritage as they tell stories of when they were young. Most of the time their stories are funny since most of them have a good sense of humor. Sometimes they are sad as they remember past tragedies. Sometimes the stories are amazing as they recount situations that were potentially serious yet the Lord sustained them or protected them. My dad has many such stories of his years serving in the Army Air Corp during World War II.
In the last few years I have asked a lot more specific questions regarding their religious heritage. I knew that my dad’s father’s side were Baptists and his mother’s side were Methodists. What I did not know until recently was that when he was young they were not able to go to church very often because they lived far out in the country and their transportation was walking, and three miles is a long way to go with lots of young children.
It was also not long ago that I found out that my dad did not become a Christian until he was on a troop ship heading to the South Pacific. After the war he became very involved at the local Baptist church serving as the Sunday School Superintendent until he moved from Mississippi to Los Angeles in the early 1950’s. As a child, I remember my dad serving as a Deacon and both of my parents as Sunday School teachers. That is a heritage that has been passed down to me.
In talking with my brother and aunt who have done a lot of genealogical research I found out quite a bit about the heritage that I have received from my ancestors. As with all families, there are those ancestors that you are glad to claim and also ancestors you would rather not mention. On the positive side, I found out that I am a descendant of quite a few people who were significant in the English and Scottish reformation. One of these was Rev. John Foxe (1516-1587). He was an English historian and martyrologist. He was trained at Oxford and became a lecturer in Logic. Though he had already witnessed the martyrdom of Protestants in 1538, he was undeterred and subscribed to their beliefs in 1545 and left Oxford. Under the reign of Mary 1 (Bloody Mary), Foxe lived in Holland, Germany and Switzerland. While in exile he became friends with many of the early Reformers and wrote his first history of martyrs. He returned to England under Elizabeth I and in 1563 wrote what has become known as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, an account of Christian martyrs throughout Western history but emphasizing the sufferings of English Protestants and proto-Protestants from the fourteenth century through the reign of Mary I (Bloody Mary). Foxe stood strongly against cruelty whether its was origin was Catholic or Protestant.
Another significant figure was Rev. John Knox (1505 – 1572) and his descendants. John Foxe knew him and generally supported his reforms. John Knox was born near Edinburgh, Scotland. He had become a Roman Catholic Priest, but was converted in the early 1540’s under the preaching of Regent Arran and was greatly influenced by George Wishart whom he accompanied as a bodyguard until 1546 when he was martyred. Knox was captured by the French in 1547 and spent 19 months as galley slave before being freed. During the reign of Mary I (Bloody Mary), he ministered in Germany and Switzerland (a contemporary of John Calvin). He returned to Scotland in 1559 and began preaching throughout Scotland. His preaching was used by God to transform the whole of Scotland. He was a key figure in the Scottish Reformation over the next decade. John Knox saw how important it was for the church to do what the Bible said and not just what church or government leaders thought was right. He wasn’t afraid to stand up to anyone, even kings and queens, for what he knew was right. He died in 1572. When he was buried, it was said that “Here lies a man who in his life never feared the face of man.”
John Knox’s legacy went throughout Scotland and beyond, but part of that was due to his influence on his own family including his wife, Margaret Stewart, Lady Ochiltree (1540-1612). John died only two years after his daughter, Elizabeth (1570-1625), was born and Margaret raised her. She married Rev. John C. Welsh (1568-1622) who was a leader in the Scottish Presbyterian church. His preaching resulted in his imprisonment by order of King James VI of Scotland. In 1606 he was exiled to France, where he continued his activities. His daughter, Lucy (1613-1650), was born in France during their exile. She married Rev. James Alexander Witherspoon I (1610-1649) who was a parish minister in Scotland. Their son was Rev. James A Witherspoon II (1640-1691). His daughter, Janet Witherspoon (1670-1734) married her cousin, Rev. John Witherspoon (1670-1737). That is five generations of preachers in the Scottish reformation.
Leaving a Godly Legacy
I also found out there were quite a few other men who were pastors or missionaries in the reformation period in Scotland, England, France and also during the Colonial and Revolutionary period in America. (Rev. John Duncanson: 1540-1601 and Ruling Elder Edward Garrus Harris: 1620-1673 in Scotland. Rev. Edward Cherry: 1597-1677 in England. Rev. Dominic E Bogardus:1607-1647 in the Netherlands and New York in 1647. Rev John LaPierre: 1681-1763 in France and North Carolina. Rev David Jay: 1765-1839 in North Carolina and Georgia). There would have been many more that were leaders in their churches and those that were just faithful in serving the Lord though they were not church leaders. Their legacy also lived on in their descendants as they were faithful in following the Lord as explained in Psalm 78.
Psalm 78:1–7, 1 Listen, O my people, to my instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, 3 Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. 4 We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. 5 For He established a testimony in Jacob And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers That they should teach them to their children, 6 That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, 7 That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments. . .”
The command that the Psalmist referred to is Deuteronomy 6:4-10 4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.“
There are similar commands in the New Testament based on these same truths such as Ephesians 6:4 (NASB95), “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” These are not easy commands to fulfill, but there is great reward for you, your children and their children in doing so, and you avoid the curses that would come upon them if you do not. How do we know? It is the principle God gave to the children of Israel when He told them of the blessings of obedience and curses for disobedience in Deuteronomy 27-28 and other passages. It would not only be their own generation that would be affected, but also their offspring. It is also part of God’s character that He proclaimed about Himself to Moses when He had hidden him in the cleft of the rock in Exodus 34:6–7 (NASB95), 6 Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
Establishing a godly legacy is not easy to do since it means battling not only your own propensity toward sin, but also that of your children. That is why it takes diligent effort that must occur in all the situations of life. Passing on a godly legacy cannot be an academic exercise. Going to church, Sunday School and other church programs such as AWANA, sending them to a Christian school or even home schooling them is not enough. As made clear in Deuteronomy 6:6 , godliness must be on your own heart before it can be passed to the next generation. Godliness is not a matter of what you know, it is a matter of knowing and humbly applying the truth in your own life. It is a matter of submitting yourself to God and seeking His will over your own. It will be your example more than your words that will make a difference to the next generation. This is true not only to your own children, descendants and relatives, but also other people and their children. A godly relative, friend, co-worker or mentor has been the source for many in learning the gospel and understanding godliness . Are you a godly example to others?
Overcoming an Ungodly Heritage
Let me expand a moment on that thought. As I mentioned, I also have many ancestors I would rather not mention. They were not godly people. Some of them were so because they rejected the teaching of their parents resulting in their children suffering for it. For example, for some reason my great-grandfather on my mom’s side became a non-religious man who raised his daughter without any religious training. I do not know what she was like as a young woman. I do know that in raising her own children she did not attend church though she allowed my mom to attend with her friends. As an elderly woman she became more antagonistic to gospel and church. After my grandfather was no longer able to drive, I used to go and get him and my uncle to bring them to church, but often grandma hindered that so that they were not able to come. I also remember the last time I shared the gospel with her and her rejection of it. That made it hard to conduct her funeral because I had no hope for her. She had entered eternity without Christ and so was bound for Hell.
God’s mercy was shown to my mom through neighbors. She would attend church with other kids in the neighborhood and one of the mom’s became a second mother to her so that she came to know and love Christ. She married my father and they were diligent in raising my brothers and me to know Jesus and the gospel. That made it easy for me to understand my own sinfulness and need of a Savior in order to be right with God. Because I had been taught the Scriptures I knew that Jesus was God’s eternal son who became a man through a virgin birth by Mary, that He lived a sinless life and then willingly died as the substitute payment for my sin on the cross so that I could be forgiven, and that He rose from the dead on the third day ensuring that His promise of adoption into God’s family and eternal life is true. I repented of my sins and became a Christian as a young boy and my parents taught me to walk with Him.
My mom did not receive a godly legacy from their own parents, but she did receive God’s mercy. That has been true for countless other people. There were others that proclaimed the gospel to them and taught them how to walk with Christ. That is what has happened to many of you. You have escaped the curses that would have come upon you if you had followed your own family legacy because someone told you of Christ so that you would repent of your sins. God has also provided for you friends and mentors that have helped you learn to walk with Christ. You in turn then pass down a godly legacy to your own family and to others outside your family.
Yes, there is a curse that God places on the ungodly which is passed down from generation to generation. It is easily seen in family histories as well as societies since the natural tendency of man is to sin. Without a strong Christian influence there will be a moral decline regardless of the form of government in a nation. Democracy cannot make people good, only Christ can do that. It is no surprise that Iraq and Afghanistan are so quickly failing since they do not have a Christian foundation. The western European nations have rejected their Christian heritage, so it no surprise that they have become morally decadent and the United States is running rapidly down the same path. God is just and He will punish sinners who do not repent, but as He proclaimed about Himself to Moses, the Lord God is also “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. . .”
The manner in which you were raised does affect the way you live, but it does not determine the way you live. Those with a godly heritage may reject it to pursue sin, and those with an ungodly heritage can be transformed by the gospel to lead godly lives. Each godly life can be used of God to change the life of another person, and if enough people are so affected, a society is transformed. There is always hope because God is merciful, forgiving and gracious. You can be changed. Your family can be changed. Our society can be changed by revival.
The Nature of True Godliness
Before I go on I think I need to make it clear what I mean by godliness for there are also those that think they are living godly lives and passing down a godly legacy, but all they are really doing is being religious and establishing their children in that religion, and there is a big difference between the two as we have seen in our study of the Sermon on the Mount. The scribes and Pharisees thought they were living godly lives, but in reality they were only living religious lives that were far from God. They were self-righteous, and in many ways that is worse than being unrighteous because it is harder for the self-righteous to recognize their sin and repent. They thought they were being diligent to follow the Mosaic Law, but they had replaced the law of God with their own interpretations and traditions so that they were following the doctrine of man, not God.
We have similar problems in our own time. It has been my experience that most professing Christians in this nation are following a cultural Christianity and not a Biblical one. This is in large part due to the fact that most people are Biblically ignorant. They do not study the Bible for themselves. They believe what their religious teachers tell them and they follow the example of those around them. I saw this growing up and I have seen it over and over in traveling around this nation and in talking with people.
Perhaps I am a bit more sensitive to this than others because I minister in a culture that is not my own. I grew up in Southern California during the 60’s and 70’s to a Christian family. Through my father, my heritage is distinctly Southern, but I live here in New York and the culture here is very different from both California and Southern culture. In addition, I am in my middle ages, and American culture as a whole has made dramatic shifts from what it was when I was growing up. This has forced me to think deeply about what I do or do not do in relationship to God’s commands in the Scriptures and applying that to how I live. You must do the same and you must do it constantly because we are easily fooled by cultural influences into making wrong conclusions about true godliness.
Let me give you an example. Is it right or wrong to go to a theater to see a movie? Professing Christians have widely divergent answers to that question. There are some churches and Bible Schools that prohibit their members from going to a theater, though the same movie that cannot be seen in a theater is often acceptable to be seen at home on television or on DVD. Others determine whether it is right or wrong by the MPAA rating (Motion Picture Association of America) given to the movie though that means trusting the ever changing moral judgment of the movie industry. Then there are those who see whatever strikes their interest claiming they are strong enough to handle it.
None of these standards are actually godly. So then how does a godly person answer this question and what does he do in practice? While there are no Scriptures that give direct commands concerning theaters and movies, there are plenty of Biblical principles which need to be thought through and applied. Godliness must be determined by what God has revealed in the scriptures rather than by culture, personal preferences or experiences.
What Biblical principles can be applied? A good place to start is Philippians 4:8-9. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
The principles in this passage can be applied not only to movies, but any form of entertainment. Do the things you do for entertainment meet the qualifications of being true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy? This standard is harder to think through than a simple rule of no movies or only movies of certain rating, but it is better because it is striving to walk by God’s standard and not man’s bent to either legalism or licentiousness. It brings about true godliness instead of moralism or religious traditions. Godly people want to reflect the reality of Jesus Christ living through them because their desire is to please and honor God. Their thoughts and actions are God centered so like the writer of Psalm 119, they thrive on the principles and precepts of God’s word. Moralism and religious traditions are man centered for the focus is on the standards that will determine whether the person can or cannot do what they would like to do. They thrive on developing codes of conduct that will then determine their actions. What is the focus of your life? Being humble to honor and please God according to the principles of His word or following a code of conduct that allows you to think highly of yourself while still being able to do what you would like?
Determining Truth from Error
In order to establish and then pass down a godly heritage, it is crucial that you are pursing true godliness and not some man made substitute of religious traditions, morals or ethics. In order to do that, you need to know the Scriptures. That is even more important in being able to protect yourself and those around you from one of the greatest dangers in the pursuit of godliness – false teachers. Jesus and the apostles gave many warnings about them and the importance of being discerning because false teachers can be very deceptive, and we live in a time when false teachers are easily found on “Christian” radio and TV and their writings are in “Christian” bookstores and “Christian” websites. Many of these false teachers are very good at twisting the Scriptures and deceiving people into believing their aberration or outright heresy is truth from God’s word. I pointed some of this out in my sermon six weeks ago on discernment.
In order to leave a godly legacy you will need to be able to determine what is true and what is false, to distinguish what God has reveled and from what has been developed by man, to discern between self-righteousness and true righteousness or you will be subject to being deceived by false teachers. Their doctrine might sound good and may even help you become a nicer person, a religious person and even a pietistic person, but as Proverbs 14:12 warns, many pursue the way they think is right, but its end is the way of death. Only God can define what is actually godly, and the godly person wants to follow Jesus Christ, not man. Other people can and should be helpful to that quest. As Paul said in 1 Cor. 11:1, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” However, you must discern who is actually doing that and who is only claiming it. We are not to be imitators of false teachers and the self-righteous. How do you do that?
Again, it starts with learning the Scriptures. 2 Timothy 3:16–17 states, 16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” It is Bible that shows you the path of righteousness, tells you when you get off that path, directs you how to get back on that path and then trains you to continue on and stay on that path.
The reformation began because men realized that the doctrine of men had replaced the doctrine of God and they returned to the Bible as the source of authority. They then challenged the state run churches to which they were required to go, and many of them suffered because of it, but truth was more important to them than suffering. They took to heart Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:10–12, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Second, to determine truth from error, you pay attention to what is being taught and compare that to the scriptures. 1 Timothy 4:1–5 states, 1 “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3 men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”
In this case there was a legalistic standard that went beyond God’s standards to create false sense of piety. This continues to happen today in many churches where man made standards which are beyond and even contrary to God’s standards are taught resulting in people becoming self-righteous because of their ability to keep their self imposed code of conduct. You must be like the Bereans in Acts 17 who examined the Scriptures to make sure what Paul was teaching was true. Compare what is taught against the Scriptures.
Third, a key area to examine in discerning a true teacher from a false one is what is being taught about Jesus. 1 John 4:1–3 commands, 1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” The doctrine of Christ is critical in identifying cults since they have a different Jesus than the one of the Scriptures. The Mormon Jesus is a glorified resurrected man who is the brother of Lucifer. The Jesus of the Jehovah Witnesses is a lesser god. The Jesus of the various gnostic groups did not rise from the dead physically but is only a spirit being. A false Jesus cannot save you from your sins.
Fourth, determine true and false teachers by examining their lives and obedience to Christ. Jesus instructed us in Matthew 7:15–23 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
Regardless of their claims, false teachers are revealed by the bad fruit of the lives. They do not live in obedience to Christ. This brings up the fifth evidence that divides true and false teachers. Examine their lifestyle in relationship to how they treat their followers. False teachers will exploit them. 2 Peter 2:1–3 warns, 1 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
Do you want to leave a godly legacy and know the blessing of Proverbs 23:22, “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who sires a wise son will be glad in him.” ? It starts by walking in godliness defined by the Scriptures, not culture, tradition, or the doctrines of men. Learn the Scriptures. This will enable you to walk by the power of the Holy Spirit with Jesus in righteousness. It will also protect you and those around you from being led astray by the false teachers that abound in our day.
I thank God for the godly heritage I have received, but I am more concerned about the godly heritage I pass down to my children and beyond. May God also give to each of you the grace and wisdom to be a blessing to our own generation, the next generation and beyond
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up. 2) Count how many times “godly” is said. Talk with your parents about what it means to live a godly life.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What religious heritage have you received from your parents? How has that affected you? What other people were important in shaping your religious beliefs? What curse does God place on the ungodly? What hope does He give to the righteous? To the unrighteous? Why is it difficult to establish a godly legacy? How can an ungodly heritage be overcome? How can you be used to help someone else do that? What determines the way in which you will live? What is the true nature of godliness? How does that differ from moralism and religious traditions? How do you determine whether you should go to a theater to see a movie or not? Is the basis of your determination Biblical? Explain. How can you apply Philippians 4:8-9 to your decisions about entertainment? What is the focus of your life – God or yourself? What danger do false teachers pose to living in godliness? How are they are threat to you leaving a godly legacy? How doe the Scriptures help you determine truth from error? What is the importance of comparing what a person teaches to the Scriptures? What is the importance of determining what a teacher teaches of Jesus? What fruit should you look for in a teacher to determine if they are true or false? How does the way in which a teacher treats his followers determine whether he is true or false? What are you doing to ensure you leave a godly legacy with your family? With others?
Sermon Notes: A Godly Heritage
June 15, 2014 – Selected Scriptures
Rev. John Foxe (1516-1587)________________________________________________________________
Rev. John Knox (1505 – 1572 ______________________________________________________________
Leaving a Godly Legacy
Psalm 78:1–7 ___________________________________________________________________________
Deuteronomy 6:4-10 _____________________________________________________________________
Exodus 34:6–7 __________________________________________________________________________
You must battle your own propensity toward ____________ and that of your children
Godliness is not academic, it is a matter of knowing and humbly ______________the truth in your own life
It will be your _______________more than your words that will make a difference to the next generation.
Overcoming an Ungodly Heritage
Some will ______________ the teaching of godly parents resulting in their children suffering for it
Many are those who did not receive a godly legacy from their parents, but did receive God’s ______& grace
The curse on the ungodly can continue for _________________in a family – and in a society
God is also compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and truth, _____________
The manner in which you were raised will affect you, but it does not _______________the way you will live
The Nature of True Godliness
There is a big _________from being religious and being godly as demonstrated in the Sermon on the Mount
Biblical ignorance results in ______________Christianity instead of Biblical Christianity and godliness
You must think deeply about what you do or do not do in relationship to God’s __________in the Scriptures
How do you determine if it is right or wrong go to a theater and see a movie?_________________________
Philippians 4:8-9 ________________________________________________________________________
These principles apply to all forms of _____________________and result in godliness instead of moralism
_________people desire to be like Jesus, honor and please God and thrive on Biblical principles & precepts
Moralism & religious traditions are _______________centered and thrive on developing codes of conduct
Determining Truth from Error
You must be able to _________truth from error, what is from God and what is from man, true righteousness
1) _________the Scriptures: 2 Timothy 3:16–17 _______________________________________________
2) __________what is taught to the Scriptures: 1 Timothy 4:1–5 ___________________________________
3) ___________what is being taught about Jesus: 1 John 4:1–3 ____________________________________
4) Examine the ________of the teachers for obedience to Christ : Matthew 7:15–23 ___________________
5) Examine how the teacher _________his followers: 2 Peter 2:1–3 ________________________________
To leave a godly ______________, walk in godliness determined by the Scriptures
Knowing the ______________will help you in your pursuit of godliness and protect you from false teachers
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