Long before the time of ancestry.com, a family member decided to research our family tree.
With a few gaps, she was able to trace my father’s side back to the 1400s, when they lived in England. Although it was impossible to find out information on every generation, she did learn that some of our ancestors were pastors. Several years ago I started looking further into my family tree and while visiting Scotland, I learned that another part of my family had fled in the 1600s to the New World to escape a clan, or a family group, that was persecuting them for being Protestant Christians. The kicker of it all—the clan was my husband’s direct ancestors!
There is something fascinating learning about our roots. It makes us feel a part of something bigger—like a part of who we are is tied to those who came before us. Further research showed the majority of my ancestors were farmers, living in East Tennessee since the 1600 and 1700s. There has been a steady line of Christians throughout my ancestry. I think it’s safe to say I come from a strong Christian heritage. Yet, as a believer in Jesus I also know that God has no grandchildren. Each generation of children must make the decision themselves to follow Jesus. You can be born into a Christian family but that does not make you a Christian. This fact makes Christianity unique from other religions. It is a personal relationship with God, not something we simply pass down.
It’s funny how the wisdom of God works. What once seemed foolish is actually wise. As a believer in Jesus I am thankful for the long line of Christian heritage in my ancestry.
As a young adult I struggled with this fact. Growing up in a Christian home, we were active in our local church, had family devotions, memorized Scripture, and learned basic Christian doctrine—my father is a pastor himself! Yet, I realized at the age of 21 that I had never had a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus. As a new Christian I wondered if my “acting like a Christian” growing up confused me and maybe led me down a road of false salvation, one where I assumed I was a Christian but in reality, I only had my parents’ faith, not my own. In other words, I was trying to be God’s grandchild.
I am now much older and also a mother. My eyes are opened to the importance of these spiritual disciplines I was taught as a child. What I once saw as either rituals or things that brought me closer to God (i.e., going to church, praying before a meal, reading my Bible, memorizing Scripture, etc.), were actually more like kindling being laid for a fire that only God could start when He decided. What I saw as simply ritualistic or a way to get on God’s “good side,” were disciplines put there in faith by my parents, as they trusted and prayed for me to make their faith in Jesus my own.
It’s funny how the wisdom of God works. What once seemed foolish is actually wise. As a believer in Jesus I am thankful for the long line of Christian heritage in my ancestry. But I also know those disciplines could disappear after a generation if they are not taught. Because of the spiritual disciplines I was taught as a child, when I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus at age 21, my eyes were opened and I was able to grow and apply my faith faster than someone without the privilege of my upbringing. As a new believer in my 20s, when I was tempted, the Holy Spirit brought to mind the verses I had memorized many years ago to help me walk away from potential sin. As I read through God’s Word, suddenly the doctrines I had limited understanding of as a child began to make sense in a much deeper way because of the working of the Holy Spirit.
Now, as my toddler marches around the house singing I’m in the Lord’s Army, memorizing Scripture on the way to school, and pausing to thank God before we eat, I am grateful for the Godly heritage I am able to pass on. Lord willing, I am training part of the next generation to be fully surrendered disciples of Jesus. My husband and I are laying down kindling in faith. We are trusting that God will one day open our children’s eyes to the saving knowledge of Jesus. Whether that day comes when they are 4 or 104, is not up to me, but to God.
But the most amazing thing about God’s family is that today anyone, from any background can become a family member. Jesus, the Messiah—the Son of God, came to Earth as a baby, lived a perfect life, and laid His life down to die on the cross with our sin upon Him. He took all of our guilt and shame in exchange for eternal life—not just after we die, but eternal life now. Our responsibility is acknowledging that in our sinful state we cannot come to God without Jesus. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what kind of ancestry you are a part of—even if there are 1,000 believers in your ancestry! God calls people in every generation to follow Him and my hope is that many of us continue that strong Christian heritage we were brought up in and that many more will start one today.
If you want to know more about how to have a personal relationship with Jesus, we’d love to share with you! You can call our office Monday through Friday 8:30-4:30 EST and speak to someone. (800.257.7843)