Friday, November 2, 2012

Touching Base! Part 187

Jeremiah was a bullfrog? - Part 5
What are you catching downstream?

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

When we lived in Jakarta, Indonesia, it always amazed us (when observing some of the locals) how someone could be upstream in a river relieving themselves, then a little further downstream, someone would be washing dishes, then a little further downstream the locals would be scooping up drinking water and swimming. We concluded that it must not be self-evident that what goes on upstream affects those downstream. How many would want to stand in the river downstream? What happens upstream can affect us downstream, can’t it?

In political arenas, this principle is being discussed heatedly. Here’s how the discussion goes: “If we who are upstream (the older generation) do not curb our spending habits and bring greater accountability to our budgets, we are going to place a crippling debt in the laps of our children (downstream).” We have even seen how the younger generation is growing increasingly angry at inheriting such a heavy debt.

If you are discussing this TB in a small group, take a few minutes to think of examples in life of this “upstream, downstream” principle.

Big Idea: What happens upstream affects us downstream.

Now before we jump into Jeremiah, check out Proverbs 20:7 as well as 2 Tim 1:5 and see how this principle can be a great blessing. How many of us would be able to identify some great blessings in our lives? Would you be able to connect that to your family line?

Let’s check out this principle at work in our book of study, Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 2:1-9
Identify the upstream (previous generation) verses.
Identify the downstream (current generation) verses.
What words indicate that the current generation are guilty of the very same sins of the previous generation?
Note what God says about “your children’s children.” V9b. God recognizes the strength of the current that will flow to future generations not even born yet.
Have you ever had to draw a boundary and say, ”as for this generation, this behaviour (attitude, sin) stops here and now!”
Do you think “kicking” a habit is harder when it is embedded in our generational DNA? If so why?

Jeremiah 7:21-29
Identify the upstream (previous generation) verses.
Identify the downstream (current generation) verses.
Note v.26 - they did more evil than their forefathers - in other words, it can get worse. Like a snowball, it starts off small, gets bigger the further it rolls down the generations. One writer says “We have observed a tendency toward escalation from generation to generation.” For instance, parents might be very nominal in their faith, cool even, and then the next generation is frozen solid.
Ever seen this? Ever seen the opposite? What accounted for that?

In light of this principle/big idea, how important is it, therefore, as a parent to deal with sin or just destructive habits?
To make it clear - if I use the river as a place to relieve myself and then downstream my kids are using the same water source as drinking water, how healthy is that?

My actions as a parent become even more important or significant when I understand this principle and take it to heart. I think this principle keeps us all humble and needing God’s grace.

Some points to note:
  • This is a principle that can be applied to leadership as well. We are all leaders in some capacity, and those we lead “downstream” can and will catch the good, the bad and the ugly of our lives. This is why healthy leadership in organizations and churches is so important. What is flowing downstream from the leadership circles of your organization?

  • This principle also helps us understand why breaking free from some patterns, habits, or sins can be more difficult than others. If we have been immersed in something all our growing-up years, we may need to walk through some strong discipleship to find freedom. 

  • Nowhere in Jeremiah or elsewhere will you find a “the-devil-made-me-do-it” mentality. “I’m not responsible; I’m just a victim, because of my environment, my past.” No: each generation is responsible and accountable. On this note, let’s look at the next text.

Lamentations 5:7 – Jeremiah is believed to have written this as a lament over the fallen state of Jerusalem.
Notice the upstream-downstream principle

Does this mean that I am guilty for my parent’s sin?
Scripture is very clear- each one of us is responsible for his own sin (Ezekiel 18:20 - a contemporary of Jeremiah, I think they may have chatted once via email…)

What does this mean? This current generation is exiled to Babylon, their city lies in ruins, and their national identity is shattered like a dropped plate. The present generation was not claiming to be suffering unjustly for their forebears’ sins (Lam. 5:16), but saw their punishment as a logical conclusion to their ancestors’ folly - their forefathers’ willing submission to godless nations was now bearing bitter fruit.

You can bear the load, but not the guilt, of a previous generation. Just ask the exiles in Babylon that question.

Can you identify the “Babylon” that some people wrestle with because of what went on in a previous generation?
For example, some struggle with a severe sense of rejection - that is their Babylon. It’s not their sin, but a burden they carry because of a previous generation, i.e. a father or mother that did not love them.

What I find interesting is that many, not all, but many of the issues we struggle with have an upstream connection, an upstream story line. But here is what we need to note, as we look way upstream we discover the genesis of this stream, Romans 5:12. Why did death come? Because all sinned. All are guilty. Sin has never skipped a generation - just read your history books. Just check out the current percentage chance of dying (100%!), which according to Scripture is the evidence of sin (missing the mark). This upstream-downstream reality has a profound impact on all of us: death - both physical and spiritual.

But here is the good news - THE RIVER OF GOD - the righteous branch (Jer. 23:5) that Jeremiah spoke of - and Isaiah wrote about (Is. 53:4-6) - has come to forgive and heal. As we stand in His River, He heals us and forgives us. As we come before Christ, acknowledging our sin, He breaks the power of generational sin that flows from Adam. He makes it possible for us to walk in accordance with truth, and break free from generational patterns and postures that have come down to us from previous generations that are unhealthy. It can be a new day, and it can start with your generation.

Do you stand in the river of God? Have you asked Christ to break the power of generational sin flowing like a river right into your DNA right from the time of Adam? What, as a Christ follower do you need to confess? Just because we are Christ followers does not mean the river is clean (1 John 1:9)

As a parent, the importance of a godly walk cannot be overstated: is there anything you need to deal with? Do you need to go to a son or daughter and say “sorry!” You can impact the purity of the river’s current!

Also as a friend/leader, our undealt-with sin can negatively impact those around us. Anything you need to deal with?
What in your generational family river/tree are you thankful for? What in that river/tree do you need to draw a boundary around and get help on?


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