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Seeking a godly generation

Seeking a godly generation
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Sharon James
Sharon James Author and speaker Sharon James studied history at Cambridge, theology at Toronto Baptist Seminary and has a doctorate from the University of Wales. Sharon works for the Christian Institute.
22 June, 2022 5 min read

To him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever’ (Ephesians 3:21). ‘One generation shall commend your works to another’ (Psalm 145:4). In stark contrast to our individualistic culture, a golden thread running throughout Scripture is God’s good purpose for all generations (Genesis 9:12; 17:7; Exodus 12:14; Luke 1:50).

As believers we should have God-honouring ambition – not only for our own biological children and grandchildren, but for the whole upcoming generation, and those who will follow them. Our Triune God is worthy of all praise: ‘Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth’ (Psalm 100:1); ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord’ (Psalm 150:6).

It is our highest joy to worship and serve him, and we long for all people everywhere to honour him too. We are called to ‘make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19), and we have the privilege of passing on knowledge of his works and ways to those who follow us.

Radical environmentalists claim that the biblical command to ‘subdue the earth’ and ‘have dominion’ is the reason for environmental destruction.

Our lives are fleeting, but we find hope in our faithful God whose magnificent purposes of grace span all the ages (Psalm 90). Those before us have passed on the heritage of God’s truth; we in turn pass this treasure on.

We can humbly ask God to ‘establish the work of our hands’ (Psalm 90:17), trusting him to use our endeavours for eternal good, and for the blessing of those as yet unborn: ‘Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord’ (Psalm 102:18).

‘As generations take their turn, / And saints in each your glory learn / Your name be praised and praised again / And praised for ever more – Amen!’ (Psalm 145; Praise! 145B, Christopher Idle).

We also recognise that God calls each generation to pass on a knowledge of and passion for him (Psalm 78:1-8). Ours is a weighty and privileged responsibility.

The current challenge

To do this effectively, we must ‘understand the times’ (1 Chronicles 12:32). There is cosmic opposition to God’s work in every age (Revelation 12:17), but we should be aware of the particular lies being peddled to children and young people in this age. Through peers, social media, entertainment, and much of the education system, they may be confronted with a worldview that runs directly counter to the biblical truth that God is Creator and King. They hear claims such as: abortion is a human right; smash heteronormativity; binary is bad; masculinity is toxic.

Behind all this lies the idea that Christianity itself is oppressive.

Gender ideology insists that the biblical teaching that God created ‘male and female’ is hate speech. ‘Patriarchy’ (a.k.a. the natural family) is seen as the seedbed of oppression. Sexual purity is derided as dangerous and unnatural.

Radical environmentalists claim that the biblical command to ‘subdue the earth’ and ‘have dominion’ is the reason for environmental destruction.

The creation mandate to develop the earth’s resources is decried as evil capitalism. Far from ‘filling the earth’, youngsters may be informed that humans should radically limit population growth, or even stop having children altogether.

Whereas the Bible teaches that we are all descended from the same first parents, and that all human beings are made equally in the image of God, young people now are taught to focus on racial difference.

God ordains rulers to restrain evil and promote good, but many today are convinced that all authority is inherently oppressive. The Bible teaches us to respect the elderly and obey our parents; sadly, now the frail and elderly are too often pitied and patronised.

Parents, youth leaders, or pastors who don’t go along with such ideas may be derided as being ‘on the wrong side of history’. But how is the current worldview actually working out in terms of the well-being of our young people? Mental illness and suicides are now at record levels, and many youngsters are fearful of global warming, disease, war, and nuclear disaster – messages with which they are relentlessly bombarded.

In The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (2018), Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff described the worrying fragility of a whole generation of fearful, anxious, and pessimistic youth. And that was before the unprecedented challenges children and young people faced during successive lockdowns.

The current opportunity

A worldview that dismisses the idea of a transcendent Creator God teaches young people to be cynical of all ‘big stories’ or universal explanations. That rules out ultimate meaning and leads to isolation and fragmentation. A culture that demands unlimited sexual ‘freedom’ creates a toxic environment where restraint is dissolved, insecurity is rife, and abuse is endemic.

Far from being intimidated by the current hostile worldview, we must be confident that God’s truth shines brightly into the current insecurity, fragmentation, and division. Our righteous Creator has good purposes for the world he has made. His justice and goodness are expressed in his perfect moral law, which are for all people, in all places, at all times.

His mercy is supremely shown in the saving work of his Son. As we worship, serve, and proclaim him, the younger generation should witness that we love him for who he is and what he has done: ‘Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of his wonderful acts’ (Psalm 105:2). ‘Give thanks to him and praise his name, for the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations’ (Psalm 100:4-5).

We are to teach the next generation about God’s character and works (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Psalm 145:4; Joel 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:5). We are to train them how to live wisely (Proverbs 4:10-27; 9:10). We are to tell them of the urgent need to repent and accept the free offer of forgiveness, peace with God, and eternal life through the perfect and complete work of Jesus Christ.

We must equip them to understand and respond to the lies which infuse our culture. We long for a generation of young believers who are confident in the truth and goodness of God’s Word. We pray for them to be bold and loving as they share the light and hope of Christ with their peers.

We are here on this earth to praise God and call others to praise him, until his purposes are fulfilled and the church is complete. We look forward to the return of the Lord – the judgment of all evil and the bringing in of the new heavens and earth. And amid all the current challenges we are sustained by the certain promises of God: ‘His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation’ (Daniel 4:3).

Upcoming conference: Seeking a godly generation

How can we equip the next generation to have confidence in God and his truth? That is the theme of a conference to be held on Tuesday 20 September at All Saints’ Presbyterian Church, Newcastle, to be repeated on Tuesday 11 October at Grove Chapel, London. Pastors, youth workers, parents, and all those concerned for passing on God’s truth to children and young people are welcome.

Paul Yeulett (Grove Chapel London), Matthew Seymour (Emmanuel Church, Leamington Spa), Ian Fry (visiting lecturer London Seminary), John Denning and Sharon James (both of The Christian Institute) will speak on topics including: The need of the hour; The foundational importance of biblical creation; Confronting the lies; Engaging with schools; and The key role of parents and the church in biblical formation.

For more information about the conferences please visit: www.seekingagodlygeneration.org.uk/london or www.seekingagodlygeneration.org.uk/newcastle.

Dr Sharon James has written a number of books, most recently The Lies We Are Told: the Truth We Must Hold (Christian Focus, 2022). Her book, A Student’s Guide to Worldview, will be published by Christian Focus in July.

Sharon James
Author and speaker Sharon James studied history at Cambridge, theology at Toronto Baptist Seminary and has a doctorate from the University of Wales. Sharon works for the Christian Institute.
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