In Which Chair are You Sitting?
The number of studies and books about young people leaving church when they leave home is astonishing. (This link is provided for information only. The position of Freedom Baptist Church is clearly stated in our doctrinal statement.) How is it even in good, independent Baptist churches young people are leaving at alarming rates? For the answer let us turn to Judges 2:6-10. And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land. And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
There are three generations given to us in this passage. First, there is the “Joshua” generation. At the time this was written, there are only two remaining of the “Joshua” generation, Joshua and Caleb. The second generation mentioned is “The elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel.” They had seen the works of the Lord as they wandered through the wilderness and entered the Promised Land. Daily provision of manna, the water from the rock, shoes that did not wear out, and the walls of Jericho falling down are a few of the great works of the Lord this generation witnessed. This is the same generation that “were gathered unto their fathers” in verse ten. Verse ten gives us the third generation “which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.”
Joshua and Caleb made an unwavering commitment to follow the Lord, a commitment that was demonstrated throughout their lives. When they went through the land as spies, they did not have the pessimistic defeated attitude of the other spies, but rather they already claimed the victory the Lord had promised. Even in their older years, these two men unashamedly served God. An elderly Joshua stood before the people challenging, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve!” Caleb did not let old age stop him from claiming the mountain that had been promised to him. These men had a personal relationship with God. God was real to them. He was not just the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; but they would proclaim, “He is my God.” This type of personal relationship manifests itself in an absolute trust in God, a dedicated obedience, and a steadfast faithfulness. The primary characteristic found in Joshua and Caleb is dedication. Their relationship with God was paramount.
The generation that wandered in the wilderness was different than Joshua and Caleb. This generation knew about God and even witnessed His working on their behalf, but did not have the unwavering commitment of Joshua and Caleb. Their lack of trust in the Lord was demonstrated repeatedly when they would murmur and complain instead of trusting God to provide their needs. When they entered the Promised Land, these individuals were satisfied allowing some of the Canaanites to live which was disobeying the Lord. Further study shows this generation lacked a commitment to teach future generations. God had clearly commanded Israel to teach their children of Him and His great works. When God established the Passover, He instructed them to teach future generations its meaning. As Israel crossed the Jordan River, he had then set up a memorial to teach future generations His works. Deuteronomy six commands to teach their children the Word of God, yet God said in Judges 2:10 that the children of this generation “knew not the LORD.” The chief characteristic of this generation is compromise. They were more concerned with their physical and material comfort than they were with their relationship with God.
Another generation followed. This was the first generation born in the Promised Land, yet God gives the sad truth they did not know Him. This generation worshiped Baal and Ashtaroth completely forsaking the Lord. The ultimate goals of Canaanite worship were material prosperity and physical pleasure. Their worship included sexual orgies, and the resulting unwanted children later being sacrificed to the gods. This depraved generation was embracing this sinful life completely forsaking the Lord and His ways. The dominant characteristic of this generation was rebellion, their motivation in life was self, and material gain and physical pleasure were their prime objectives.
This pattern can also be seen in the lives of David, Solomon, and Rehoboam. David was a dedicated man whom God used to kill the giant Goliath and to rule as king over His people. Solomon received wisdom from God, yet compromised and had his heart turned from God because of his many wives. Rehoboam rebelled against the wise counsel of the elderly and followed the foolishness of his peers.
Understanding the Chairs
Three generations illustrated by three chairs.
The first chair is the chair of dedication, the second the chair of compromise, and the third the chair of rebellion. Illustrating these individuals as chairs allows us to see that this is not a fixed pattern that must be followed generationally, but rather a pattern that will be followed unless corrected.
While all three chairs have existed in every generation, America is experiencing a shift from the chair of dedication to the chair of rebellion at an alarming rate. Past generations of Christians in America had a steadfast commitment to the Lord. They served Him whole-heartedly, and would not compromise with the world. They had a personal relationship with God, and a resolve to live holy, separated lives. A willingness to sacrifice so that future generations could be free burned in the hearts of many. They trusted God through wars, the Great Depression, and many other trials this Nation faced. These were truly sitting in the chair of dedication.
As time progressed, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Christians in America started to be characterized by compromise. Capitulating to the theory of evolution, embracing higher criticism, and rewriting Scripture were accepted. Separation and personal holiness were no longer emphasized as they once were. Christians were satisfied with the freedoms enjoyed in the land and no longer saw the need to continue to sacrifice to maintain them. Training children in the way of the Lord was not as important as teaching them to make a living. Compromise became so prevalent that those who were truly sitting in the seat of dedication were mocked as fanatical by the compromisers.
Following the Second World War and continuing to present, a shift from compromise to rebellion in America has progressed. The sexual revolution and freedom of choice have created unwanted children that are sacrificed at Planned Parenthood, Hollywood is fulfilling the fleshly lusts with R-rated movies, and material gain and physical pleasure have become the prime objectives of our society. Baal worship has taken on new names and has been modernized, but it is still the same rebellion against God. Unfortunately, these rebellious trends are not only found in churches across America, but also are being embraced and welcomed by many churches.
This explains the statistics shown by the studies and books showing the mass exodus of young people from churches. Instead of seeing individuals in the chair of dedication, they see church members, church leadership and parents who are satisfied in the chair of compromise. This compromise is not drawing them to God, but rather is driving them away from God to Baal worship.
Concerned churches and church leaders have tried to stop the drift of destruction by various methods to reach young people. When rebellion entered the public-school system; good, Bible-believing churches started Christian schools that were to raise an army of Christians. Unfortunately, this did not happen and the tide did not turn. Youth groups across America were going to train young people and see them go on to serve the Lord. Again, this has not been the norm. Continuing to see the current still drifting away from God, many church leaders wonder, “How can this pattern be stopped?” Many are tempted to try compromise and bring the world’s music and the world’s methods into the church. As this leads to only further rebellion and departure from the Lord, many church leaders are left feeling frustrated.
Despite the great departure from the Lord, there are many churches that are full of Christians sitting in the chair of dedication. There are Christian schools and youth groups that have seen young people grow in the Lord and continue to serve Him long after they left; so, what really makes the difference?
Sitting in the chair of dedication is not the complete answer, but it is the starting point. Christian, you must honestly evaluate your life and say with the Psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Ask God to show you any compromise in your life. If the Holy Spirit convicts you of any compromise confess it as sin to the Lord and forsake it. If you have been in the chair of compromise you need to move to the chair of dedication. Completely surrender yourself to the Lord. Dedicate yourself to a holy, separated life. Be “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”
Friend, if you are in the seat of rebellion, realize you are on a path of destruction. You may have been hurt by compromise and hypocrisy you have seen in church, but man’s failure does not change the truth of the Bible. Jesus Christ is truly the only way of salvation. I urge you to repent, turn from your sin unto Jesus. Believe on Him and you will receive the gift of salvation. He will forgive your sin and give you eternal life. For more information on what it means to be saved click here.
Although Joshua and Caleb, David, and many others sat in the seat of dedication, they still had a posterity that compromised and later rebelled against the Lord. So, what else is necessary to prevent future generations from turning from the Lord?
The Christian sitting in the chair of dedication must be consistent. Inconsistency in parents is one reason children rebel. When a certain behavior is accepted in a child one day and corrected the next day, confusion is created. A pattern of inconsistency will lead to the child rebelling against the authority. Mothers and fathers must have a consistent unity in front of the children. When parents are not unified, children lose respect for authority. Part of being a dedicated Christian is being a consistent Christian.
Realizing the danger of compromise is another key to preventing future generations from sitting in the chair of compromise. There is great truth to the saying, “What you allow in moderation, your children will practice in excess.” When the chair of dedication makes a “few, small compromises” the results can be catastrophic. Solomon reminds us it is “the little foxes that spoil the vines”. Beyond living without compromise, teach young people the dangers of compromise. Help them to reason how this seemingly insignificant change can lead to further and more devastating change.
Rehearse the works of the Lord to the next generation. When God established the Passover, He instructed Israel to tell future generations of His great works when they celebrated the feast. Again, when Israel crossed the Jordan River, God instructed them to set a memorial that would be used to teach future generations of the works of the Lord. Too often, children are taught the works of the Lord recorded in the Bible as “long ago and far away” fairy tales instead of actual historical events. Many times, practical application is missing.
It is not only important children are taught the historical truth of God working in others’ lives, but also that God is still working today. Parents have a responsibility to show God is “real and working today”. When teaching children to pray, use specific prayer requests and not generalities. Children who observe God answering specific prayer requests understand He is a personal God.
Giving answers to the challenging questions young people face is another responsibility of parents and churches. Especially in the teen years, young people are bombarded with situations that raise difficult questions. Too often, young people with these questions are labeled “rebels” and never given answers. Parents and church leaders need to realize many teens are trying to understand the things they see and hear. They are not being rebellious, but rather they are trying to form their own convictions on matters.
Reaching chairs can be summed up with the word time. Parents must invest time with young people to help them have an intimate relationship with God, to help them understand their purpose and responsibilities in life, and to encourage them to fulfill what God has for them to do. No program of the church (youth group, Christian school, Christian camp) can replace the one-on one time needed to develop and train young people. The programs mentioned can be used as tools to help young people, but they do not negate the parents’ responsibility to invest personally in their children.
Christian, we must say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Make a determination to remain in the chair of dedication and keep all compromise out of your life. Invest in future generations. Too often, it can be said of Christians as it was of David that “he served his own generation.” While it is important that we serve our generation, may it be added of us that “he served future generations.” Let us not adopt the attitude of Hezekiah after being told of the impending captivity and fate of his posterity. “Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken. And he said, Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?” Let us determine to see future generations decide to sit in the chair of dedication and not the chair of compromise or rebellion.