A spacecraft needs to travel at 25,000 MPH to break free from the gravitational pull of the earth. It takes a tremendous amount of thrust and energy to escape the forces that pull it back to the earth. There are times when family exerts gravitational forces to prevent us from breaking free of their orbit.
In the third episode of season three of the BBC television show, Sherlock, it is evident that Sherlock has not escaped from the gravitational pull of home. When Sherlock and his brother, Mycroft, are together, Mycroft still sees his younger brother as a stupid little boy. Both Mycroft and Sherlock hide their smoking when confronted by their mother. Neither has become independent from their mother’s values.
While the gravitational pull of family is difficult to break, the gravitational pull of the old sin nature can feel even stronger.
Several months ago, I was teaching a series on the Patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. I became aware of a pattern of sin that was passed down from one generation to the next. It fits in with a statement in Exodus 20:5 that a father’s sin will impact succeeding generations.
You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
Maybe you can see a similar pattern in your family tree. Your grandfather was an alcoholic. So was your father. Now, you struggle with the bottle as well. Perhaps your family includes five generations of women who were pregnant before they turned 16 years old. Maybe the men in your family have been angry and abusive for several generations.
We knew one family whose favorite meal on Sunday afternoon was “Roast Pastor.” Over their Sunday afternoon meal, they would routinely criticize the sermon, the music, the Sunday School teacher’s tie, the weeds in the parking lot, the coffee, the visitor who sat in their pew, and everything else about church that morning. The parents did it, their adult children did it, and their grandchildren were picking up the habit as well.
“How do we break the cycle of generational sins?” How can we be like Joseph and say, “This sin stops with me!” After pondering that question and researching what others have said, I put together my own list of ideas.
The starting point is to take an honest look at our family in order to Identify our family’s sin pattern(s). Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, sons graphically demonstrate a pattern of lies and deception. David and his son, Solomon, gave in to the temptations of women and sex. The generations of David, Solomon, and Rehoboam reveal pride, power, and pleasing self and others. I had to confess that my father was very passive and I have the same tendency. My mother was a worrier and I catastrophize and imagine the worst possible outcomes as well. Take an honest look at your family background, but remember that generational sins sometimes remain hidden through self-deception.
Once we identify the pattern, we then need to Confess our family’s sins and accept forgiveness for them. Nehemiah 1:6–7 and Daniel 9:5–6 provide an excellent example of men who confessed the sins of their ancestors before seeking God’s forgiveness and blessing. Confession alone is not enough, however. We also need to believe God’s promise that he will forgive us and our family (1 John 1:9).
The next step is to Forgive our father/mother for his/her shortcomings and any wounds he/she has given us. We need to grant our father/mother unconditional forgiveness.
Remember that the power of sin is broken through the cross (Romans 6:6-11). Because Christ has set us free, we can soar to new heights.
We also need to Practice true repentance. We need to change how we live. As Colossians 3:8-10 explains, we must replace our bad habits with holy ones.
Recognize that it takes hard work, patience, and sacrifice to break an addiction or pattern of sin. 2 Corinthians 10:4–6 explains that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. We need to change how we think and tear down strongholds of resistance. Not an easy task, to say the least.
If we attempt these changes by ourselves, we are doomed to failure. We must Involve others in our efforts to change. There is strength in numbers (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). We must find others who can encourage, support, and hold us accountable.
Even though our parents or grandparents may not have done this for us, we can still Proactively sow and seek blessings in our family’s life. Follow the pattern of Jacob (Genesis 49) in offering a blessing to your children and grandchildren.
If we break these sin patterns, God promises to bless our family for generations to come (Exodus 20:6).
The “Ice bucket challenge” has become a trendy fad. Someone challenges you to dump a bucket of ice water on your head as a way of raising awareness for the disease of ALS. You have 24 hours to comply or donate money to ALS research.
I’d like to propose a new challenge. With God’s help, we could be the generation like Joseph to say, “This sin stops with me!” Rather than a trendy fad, I believe “the quitting sin challenge” is timeless. I challenge you to make that commitment today.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on August 31, 2014. It is the final message in a series on the life of Joseph. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.