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James Merritt - It All Begins Here

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    James Merritt - It All Begins Here

I wanna see how many of you know exactly who you are and where you belong. And if you don't know, you may not realize which category you're in, I'm gonna put these up on the screen, don't need to raise your hand, but let's just see kinda where everybody in the room is. We're talking about generations. So there's what's called The Silent Generation. They were born from 1925 to 1945. I've known a few of these and they're not real silent, but they're great generation. Then you've got my generation, that's The Baby Boomer Generation, '46 to '64. And then what we got, we have what you know is Gen X. They're born 1965 to 1979. That's where you are.

If you're a millennial, you're born from 1980 to 1994. And then we've got Gen Z, born from 1995 to 2012. And then we've got Gen Alpha, that's what they call the latest generation, born 2013 up through 2025. That's what, this is what we all have in common. We were all born to a certain generation, we're divided by generations, and we are generationally linked.

Now, generally speaking, what I mean by generation is this refers to people that are born and living at about the same time in a collective group. And the average group period is considered to be about 20 to 30 years. So the way it's worked since the beginning of time is generations eventually are born and generations eventually die. Yet there's one thing when you go back through all of history, you find that's really amazing about all these generations and it never ever fails. And that is you can determine the future of any generation by doing one simple thing. Just watch how past and present generations impact the next generation. If you wanna know what the next generation's gonna look like, look at what we've done with them in the past. Look at what we're doing with them in the future.

I'll give you an illustration of this. President Ronald Reagan famously said this and he was right, he said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not passed on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, handed on down to them to do the same or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in the United States where men were free". True. But that's not just true about freedom. That's true about morality. It's true about right and wrong. It's true about what's good and evil. It's true about what's godly and ungodly. Because what was considered ungodly when my dad was growing up not considered ungodly today, what was considered right when I was growing up is not so much considered right today.

That's why history is so important. You've all heard what the famous philosopher, George Santanyana famously said, "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it". You don't learn history, you're doomed to repeat it. He was right. What he was saying was, if we don't learn from our mistakes of yesterday and we repeat those mistakes today, it will doom us tomorrow. If we don't learn from the past mistakes and then we go and repeat them, we will never mature. We will never grow. And that's why we are embarking on an effort as a church on what we're calling generational discipleship. Now, here's the good news. God is for all generations. As a matter of fact, you might call him a generational God. Here's what the Psalm is said of God, listen to this. "Your faithfulness continues through all generations".

How many of you have ever heard of the generation gap? Could you just hold you up, the generation gap, right? It's out there. Trust me. You know what with God, there's no generation gap. He's for every generation. He wants to impact every generation. He wants to influence every generation. He wants every generation to be faithful to him, to know him, to serve him, to love him, to worship him. He wants every generation to always be sharing with the next generation the truth of the God of all generations. So that takes me back to a different generation.

About 100 years ago, one of the great philosophers, one of the great thinkers of that day was a man named G.K. Chesterton, if you like to read, he wrote a book called "Orthodoxy". Every Christian ought read that book by G.K. Chesterton. A hundred years ago, he asked this question, and I think it still is valid today as it was a hundred years ago. Here's what he said. "Can anyone tell me two things more vital to the race than these, what man shall marry what woman, and what shall be the first things taught to their first child"? I believe that statement is more important today than it's ever been in the history of this country. What man is going to marry what woman? That begs a big question today. But then what are they going to teach that first child? What are the first things they're going to want that child to know?

Now, Chesterton actually begged the question because he assumed that parents would be teaching their children. He assumed that one generation would be passing truth on to the next generation because the future of every generation begins here. It begins now, it begins today and I am sending an alarm and I wanna stop right here and do something. If you are a parent or you are a grandparent, I want you to stand up. If you're a parent or a grandparent, I want you to stand up. You better listen to the message today and you better hear it carefully and you better hear it clearly. Because I'm sounding a Paul Revere alarm. The devil is coming and he's doing everything he can to defeat the next generation. He's doing everything he can to turn the hearts of your kids and my grandkids away from the God that gave us this country to begin with. And the future of the next generation is not in my hands alone. It's in your hands.

So I'm asking you not only to show up for the next four weeks, I'm asking you even today, don't blow me off. Don't get on your phone. Don't say, "Okay, I've heard this before". I want you to take seriously what I'm saying because the future of the church, the future of this nation, the future of our homes, the future of our family, depends upon what we're gonna be talking about today. You can be seated. At this moment, I want you to hear this, at this moment in the United States, do you know what the odds are of your kids following Jesus when they graduate from high school? You know what the odds are? It's a flip of a coin, 50/50 chance. These are statistics that are alarming.

The Fuller Youth Institute estimates that, listen to this, 50% of high school students who are actively involved in their churches, I'm not talking about kids that just show up to church. I'm not talking about kids that are drug to church by their parents. I'm not kids that come to church and may, they might not enjoy church. I'm talking about kids, they're engaged, they're involved. They got skin in the game. We now know that one out of every two of those kids when they graduate from high school, they're gonna look at the church, they're gonna look at Jesus, they're gonna look at Christianity and say, "Nah, no thanks. Not interested. Just doesn't work for me anymore". Talking about 50% of teenagers actively involved. 50% of the most committed teenagers who will choose one day to say, "You know what? I think I'll live my life on my own. I think I'll turn my back on the God that I used to love. I think I'm gonna go my own way".

Now you can't lay all that at the feet of parents. I get that. You can't lay all of that at the feet of the church, but it cannot be denied that the baton of truth is being dropped. And that's why the Psalm we're going to study today is so crucial. So I want you to take God's word and I want you to find the Book of Psalms. It's the easiest book in the Bible. It's the biggest book in the Bible, you can't miss it. Now I want you to turn to Psalm 78, Psalm 78, because what we're going to study today is crucial for the church, is crucial for the gospel, and ultimately is crucial for the world.

Now lemme give you a little backdrop. Psalm 78 is is called a historical Psalm. And and the Psalmist is talking about the history of the people of Israel and the train wreck of their nation that occurred because they didn't do one thing they should have done. One generation didn't pass the baton of truth to the next generation and everybody suffered for it. So in this psalm, he's telling the nation of Israel, you've got to pass on four things to every generation and you can't drop one ball. He said, number one, you've gotta pass on who God is. Number two, you've gotta pass on what God has done. Number three, you've gotta pass on who we are. And number four, you've gotta pass on what we should do.

And what the Psalmist is doing is very simple. He's saying, "Listen to me. Don't make the mistakes our dad made. Don't make the mistakes our granddads made. Don't make the mistake of the generation that got us in trouble to begin with. Learn from the mistakes, don't repeat them in the present". So in the first eight verses, we're going to learn three things that God, that this Psalmist tells the nation of Israel they must do that we must do to make disciples of every generation. So simply put, we must always touch the next generation by teaching and reaching them with biblical truth. That's our job. Because one day when your generation and my generation stands as one generation before the God of all generations, he's going to ask this big question, did you drop the baton? Or did you pass it on to the next generation?

Three things we need to do, you need to do, I need to do with your kids, your grandkids. Number one, we must teach the mind to learn biblical truth. Step one, we gotta teach the mind to learn biblical truth. Now this Psalmist, his name was Asaph, he's reminding this generation, the present generation of the possibility of teaching reaching the next generation. So we pick up in verse one. "My people, hear my teaching. Listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable. I will utter hidden things, things from of old, things we've heard and known, things our ancestors have told us". Now, I find it kind of interesting that Asaph says, you know, you can compare history to a parable.

Now if you know anything about Jesus, you know anything about his teaching, you know that he loved to teach in parables. And we usually think of a parable as a story, kinda like the stories that Jesus told. Well, really a parable is more than a story because according to Asaph, in fact, the word parable is actually a combination of two words. One word means alongside of, and the other word means to throw or to cast. So what a parable is when you take a story and you throw it by something or someone else, so you compare one thing with another thing and learn what to do and what not to do. And what Asaph is saying is if you really think about history, if you don't like to study history, maybe you'll think of it this way. He said history's like a parable. It's like a story of how individuals and groups and nations in the past and how all that they did worked out for them.

And so we can then use what they did or what they should not have done as a tool to show us what we ought to do, what we ought not to do. Because again, the way not to repeat a mistake that somebody made in the past, number one, you gotta know what mistake they made in the past, you've gotta know why they did it. And that's why history is so important. And the Psalmist says we need to teach those things. Our kids need to learn those things. That's why we have a really strong liberal radical element in our schools trying to remake and redo history in a way that's not even recognizable to many of us that went to school 50 and 60 years ago. 'Cause they get it, they know history is important.

So Asaph goes on to say this, verse four, "We will not hide them from their descendants. We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statues for Jacob and established a law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children". Now watch this, "So the next generation would know them". Now watch this, "Even the children yet to be born," Now watch this, "And they in turn would tell their children". It's a relay race. It's a chain. And every generation there's a link in that chain. So he says to that parent, you teach that child, he tells to that grandparent, you teach that grandchild so that one day that child will teach their child and that child will teach their grandchildren. And we pass that baton on over and over and over.

And by the way, you notice he's not making a request of parents or grandparents, or you know, even the present generation. He's making a declaration. He's saying, "Listen to me. We are not going to hide biblical truth from the next generation. And we're not gonna let someone tell us what truth is when we know what it is, we're going to tell the next generation this is who God is, this is what God has done for us, this is who we are, and this is what we should do".

Robert Dabney was an American Christian theologian, southern Presbyterian pastor. He said something 150 years ago, it still rings true today. I want you to listen to what he said. Matter of fact, this next quote is so important, if you don't hear anything else in this message, I want you to digest this. He said, "The education of children for God is the most important business done on earth. It is the one business for which the earth exists. To it, all politics, all war, all literature, all moneymaking ought to be subordinated. And every parent especially ought to feel every hour of the day that next to making his own calling in election, sure, this is the end for which he has kept alive by God. This is his task on earth".

So those of you in this room and those of you who are watching online and those of you who'll be watching on television, lemme just make this as plain as I can. There is not a greater derelict of duty. There is not a greater derelict of duty. There's not a greater shame than for a parent to adopt an attitude like this. "Well, I'm not gonna force my beliefs on my children. I'll let them make up their own mind". Or, "I'm just too busy," or, "I'll let the church do it". And if that's your heart and that's your spirit and that's your attitude, I just wanna say two things. Number one, God holds you accountable for the spiritual instruction of your children. Number two, God wants a chain reaction. He wants parents to teach their children so their children will teach their grandchildren and their grandchildren will teach their great-grandchildren.

So the gospel baton will be passed from generation to generation. And oh, by the way, even though we're talking primarily right now to parents, every generation is involved. The mandate of making disciples is not just for married people, it's for single people. It's not just for old people, it's for young people. It's not just for couples married with children, it's for couples who have no children. Everybody, nobody gets a pass. Everybody ought to be involved in generational discipleship. And let me tell you why, here's the truth. Somebody is going to mold the mind of your children. Somebody's gonna do it. Somebody's gonna teach their mind to learn their truth. Somebody's gonna teach your children. And listen, by the way, you know, teaching your children, I tell you, I thought about this the other day. It's kinda like driving a car. I don't care how fancy your car is.

Now, you may have one of these real fancy cars that do it, but don't trust it. Normally you take your hands off the wheel, that car's gonna crash. And that's exactly what will happen to your kids. If you take your hands off the teaching steering wheel of your family, they will crash. There was a man that was once arguing with the English poet Samuel College, about the need for parents to instruct their children. And he gave this typical response. He said, "Well, you know, Samuel, I just don't think parents ought to indoctrinate their children with religion. Instead, I just believe give the children the freedom to make their own choices". College didn't say a word. He said, "That's interesting". He said, "I want you to come to my backyard". He said, "I'd like to show you my garden". He said, "I'd love to see it". When they walked out his back door, the visitor said, "That's not a garden, it's just a patch of overgrown weeds".

College said, "Well, it used to be a garden, but I decided just to give it the freedom to be whatever it wanted to be. And there's the result". We must disciple the next generation. And it begins with, first of all, teaching their minds to learn biblical truth. You say, "Okay, I get that we ought to do it. I know that's what you try to do every week as much as you can". Yeah, but head knowledge alone won't get you anywhere. 'Cause there's a second thing we have to do. We must turn their will to live biblical truth. It's not just enough to train the mind to learn the truth. You've gotta turn the will to live the truth. Now remember what I said earlier, God doesn't recognize any generational gap. It's gonna be one unbroken chain of truth from one generation to the next. Not just so they'll know the truth.

You know, Jesus famously said, and he was right. "If you will know the truth, the truth will set you free". But you have to keep reading and keep understanding what he said. The truth won't set you free unless you live it. You're in a jail cell and you want out and the sheriff looks at you and says, "You know, by the way, I just like you. You're a great guy and what you did wasn't that bad. The door's unlocked". Well, if you know the truth, the truth will set you free. No it won't unless you open that door. It's not enough to know the truth. You gotta act on the truth. You've got to live the truth. And so we must be passing God's truth along so that this will happen. Then they would not put their trust, then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds, but would keep his commands.

See, you know something with your mind, but you do something with your will. And God wants a spiritual chain reaction. He wants the truth to get into your head, to come out through your hands, through your feet, and through your mouth. He wants the truth to affect what you say, what you do, where you go. And it begins with teaching the next generation to put their trust in God. Because what you really believe you live, rest is talk. What you really believe, you live. And you see your kids, my kids, your grandkids, my grandkids, they're going to put their greatest and ultimate trust in something. So what do we have today? We have a lot of parents and they're teaching their kids put your trust in prosperity. Son, daughter, your number one goal in life is either make all the money you can or find somebody that will. Put your trust in prosperity. And then there's some who say, no, no, no, no. Put your trust in popularity.

It's not what you know, it's who you know. Make sure you make the right connections. And then there are others will say, no, no, no, no. Put your trust in position. Climb that corporate ladder, be the boss, be at the top of the organizational chart. And then there are some that say, no, no, no, no, no. Put your trust in politics. We elect that guy, he'll take care of us. We elect that person, she'll take care of us. Or you become that person. We need you to be the next governor. We need you to be the next president. We need you to be the next senator because that's how utopia is going to come to the world and to the nation. And what is so sad is that's what a lot of Christian parents are conveying their kids in so many ways.

I want you to listen to this. According to a recent PEW research study, 89% of Christian parents, these are not ungodly parents, these are churchgoing parents. These are parents say they love God. 89% of Christian parents, of teenagers in the United States feel it is very important that their children work hard. 72% feel it's very important that their children go to college. But only 56% of these same parents feel it's very important that their children are raised to follow Jesus. In the name of God, what good does it do to train your kids to go to college? What good does it do to make sure that your kids work hard? If they go to a grave without Jesus Christ, what good is it? What does it matter?

And I'd just like to ask all of you parents and all of you grandparents and anybody here who has any influence over anybody involved in this generation, I just wanna ask this question. I want you to give an honest answer. What are you really teaching your kids to put their trust in? Because really, what are you really teaching your kids to put their trust in? What of my best buddies is Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary. And Al told me this story, it's a hilarious story, that years ago they had a bomb threat at the chapel, at the seminary. And before anybody entered the building, it was about an hour and a half before, about an hour before the chapel was about to start, they had a bomb threat, somebody's gonna blow up the chapel.

Well, the guest speaker was another good friend of mine named Dr. Richard Land. And so when they got the bomb threat, they called the police and they sent the firetrucks and the police out there and the chief of the police came and he had this big black called a bomb dog. It's a dog that sniffs out bombs. And so he says, "Let me go in with this dog, we'll check it out". So he took that black dog into the chapel and Al said they went up to the balcony, went down to the lower floor, they looked in every bathroom, they looked at every nook, every crook, every corner or you know, every cranny, every closet, couldn't find anything. So the fire chief comes out and he said, "Hey, it's all clear, now everybody can go inside".

Well, Al started to give the go ahead to go inside. And before they did, Dr. Land walked up to that fire chief and he said, "Chief, I got a question for you". He said, "What's that"? He said, "How much do you trust that dog"? Chief thought about it. He said, "Tell you what, maybe y'all ought to meet outside today". What are you teaching your kids to put your trust in? May I just make a suggestion? There's only one person you ought to teach your kids to put their complete trust in and that's Jesus. And there is only one thing you ought to teach your kids to put their trust in. And that's this book. No politician, not even a constitution. The only thing that will change their life for the good is the Son of God and the word of God.

So lemme ask a hard question. This is a hard one. It's hard for me. Is your home really a Christian home? Or is it just a house where some Christians live? Now let that sink in. Is your home really a Christian home or it's just a house where some Christians live? This quote got my attention. "A Christian home is more than two or three Christians living in the same house. A few Christians living under the same roof. doesn't make a place a Christian home any more than two or three bankers living in a house, make it a bank. A Christian home will seek to be centered upon Christ". I read a story about a little boy went to a special worship service in the church and they were having a parent-child dedication and it was very moving and the people were so blessed. Well, they got in the car to go home, the little boy sitting in the back backseat and he starts crying. And his dad said, "Son, what's the matter? What's wrong"?

Well, after wiping away a few tears, he said, "Well, daddy, the the preacher said that we ought to be reared in a good Christian home, but I wanna stay with you". Where does Jesus, where does the Bible, where does God's truth, where does biblical teaching rate in your home? It better be front and center because you've got to turn the will of the next generation not just to know the truth, but to live the truth. And then here's the last thing. We teach the mind to learn the truth. We want to turn the will to live the truth. We've gotta touch the heart to love the truth. We've got to touch the heart to love biblical truth.

Now why is it so important that we teach our kids and our grandkids to learn God's truth and to live God's truth? Because we want this to happen. Listen now what he says in verse eight, "They would not be like their ancestors, stubborn and rebellious generation whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him". I read through the Bible every year and I've kind of been mired for months in Israel and the dissolution and the defeat and the disgrace and the disbandment of the nation when the Babylonians and the Assyrians took them over. I've been mired and it is just, in a way it is discouraging, in a way it's also enlightening 'cause you see so much of going on there that's going on in our world and in our nation. But it hit me not long ago.

So what happened to the nation of Israel? How did such a mighty nation go from the heights of David and Solomon to be in brick laying slaves in Egypt, in Babylon? How did that happen? Real simple, they fell out. They fell out of love with God. They fell out of love with his word. They fell out of out of love with his truth. And what is so sad that in just these few short verses, Asaph is revealing the history of the nation of Israel and this terrible chain reaction. 'Cause here's where they went from. They went from forgetfulness to faithlessness to foolishness, to failure. "So, pastor, what stage do you think we're in"? I'm not an expert, I'll give you my humble opinion. I think we're in the stage of foolishness.

When we think it's okay for a man to be a woman, just 'cause he feels like a woman, I'm not trying to be unkind, I'm not trying to be mean. That's just foolish to think we can redefine marriage after 2000 years and we can just say what God said in Genesis makes no difference. God created male and female, not male and male, not female and female, male and female. And they can be one flesh, a man and a man can't be, neither can a woman and a woman. But we say, "Oh, no, no, it's all the same". That's just foolish, foolish. And this is where we are. And so the next step is failure. They crashed and burned because their hearts no longer love the truth of God or the God, the truth.

By the way, it is not coincidental that Jesus let every generation know the first, the greatest, the most fundamental, the most important of all the commandments. You know what it is? Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, and all of your strength. And I want you to listen to me carefully. This is kind of the climax what I wanna say. We're talking about generational discipleship, not generational manners. Not just generational conduct. We're talking about generational discipleship. So what do you mean? You ready? This is gonna shake some of you up. A child that is well-behaved is not the same thing as a child that's discipled. You know, I've got a good boy. I got a good girl. Wonderful. But is he a godly boy? Is he a godly girl?

You know, my boy, he knows how to say yes sir, and no sir, I got a daughter that she knows how to say yes ma'am and no ma'am, that's wonderful. But do they know how to say "Yes Lord, I'm yours. I belong to you. My body is your temple. I want my mind filled with the truth of God. I want my heart filled with the love of God"? A well-behaved child is not the same as a child that's discipled. Because sometimes we get the idea, and you may get the idea, we're not trying to engage in behavior modification with our children. So I'm gonna say something else that will shake you to your core. You see parents, if you're not careful, you're not gonna raise a godly boy or godly girl. You know what you're gonna raise? You're gonna raise a pharisee. That's what you're gonna raise.

Well, I went to church. I have a baptismal certificate. I've never murdered anybody. I know what the Bible says. I even tried it for a while. In fact, I even followed God a lot of the time. But their heart was never with it. And their heart is not with it. So at the end of the day, when it comes to generational discipleship, the heart of the matter will always be the matter of the heart. Because when the head learns the truth and the heart loves the truth, then the hands will live the truth. And it is and always will be the number one job of every generation. And if we do not direct the next generation to learn, live, and love God's truth, they will drift from doing all of those things and it will be on us. I say all that to say this, you can do one of two things with a Paul Revere call.

Wave your hand at it, turn out the lights, and go back to sleep. Or you can hear the alarm, believe the alarm and decide to do something about it. So I'm saying to our church today, it all begins here. Now, this place your home today with this book, this God, with you people, you parents, you grandparents, you leaders, and you influencers because 18 out of 20 people who come to Jesus will do so before the age of 25. After the age of 25 is one in 10,000 after 35, it's one in 50,000. After that, it's one in 200,000. After 55, 1 in 300,000. So we better start early and we better stick with it. So I got an email a few years ago from a lady who wrote the following words. It's heartbreaking.

"I grew up under Dr. Merritt's teaching until I moved to Indiana where I now reside. At seven years old, I gave my life to Christ, but just recently began to truly understand what it means to be in a relationship with God. For many years we were not going to church. When my kids were eight and five, we found a church the kids enjoyed going to, but it didn't last long. Now my kids are 13 and 10 and my daughter now believes she's a boy and wants to date girls. My son, who is 10, changes the subject anytime I try to talk about God, I know I haven't always been diligent in teaching my kids about God, but is it too late? Can God still reach my kids? Will you pray for my family"?

That may be you. But I got great news. Same thing I shared with her. With God, it's never too late. With God, the game's never over. With God, the impossible can become possible and God can still reach anybody in our generation. But I'm telling you, mom, I'm telling you, dad, I'm telling you, pop, I'm telling you Nana, we must do our part. Franklin Roosevelt said, "We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future". And not only can we do it, we must do it because there's nothing more important than any generation will do than to do that. It begins here. It begins now, it begins with us. Let's get started. Would you pray with me?
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