|Volume 22 Number 1 January 2020||
Several weeks ago, I had one of the most disconcerting experiences with one of my eyes. I had looked in the mirror, and when I looked back a few minutes later, one eye was full of blood! I became very alarmed and was just waiting to see when the blood would start to flow down my cheek. It did not; it stayed in my eye and began to spread. I called my son and two or three other members of the congregation. It was 5:30 a.m., and reaching someone was not forthcoming at that point. Finally, one good sister, who is a retired nurse, said it sounded like a ruptured blood vessel, and I should call my ophthalmologist.
His service told me to call after 8:00 a.m. for a same day appointment; my doctor confirmed that it was a ruptured blood vessel. He also showed me pictures of those who had experienced the same thing; some looked worse, some better. His bottom line was it would take 10-14 days for the blood to clear without any treatment. After he had allayed my fears he said, “Next year will be the year of the ophthalmologist.” I didn’t understand his meaning. With this broad smile, he exclaimed, “20/20!”
What does it mean to have 20/20 vision? According to the American Optometric Association:
20/20 vision is a term used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should be normally seen at that distance…Having 20/20 vision does not necessarily mean you have perfect vision. 20/20 vision only indicates the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance. Other important vision skills, including peripheral awareness or side vision, eye coordination, depth perception, focusing ability and color vision, contribute to your overall visual ability.
Just as there are several aspects to complete 20/20 vision skills, so there are in having complete 20/20 spiritual perception. The Bible does not allow for a “private” interpretation of Scripture, meaning we can all read it differently and whatever we want to believe from our own personal understanding and slant will be fine with God. This is nothing but another lie out of Satan’s playbook! Please listen to God in 2 Peter 1:20-21, which reads, “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
What is the teaching? When the Bible is read and understood as God has revealed it, the message is the same for everybody. There are several things that we must do for the Bible to be the priceless source that it is for how to get to Heaven. Some questions that are essential in having the right answers are: (1) Who is doing the talking? Is it God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, Satan, or some other Bible character? (2) To whom is one speaking? Christians, unbelievers, people in general or some specific person? (3) When was it spoken? Was it during the Patriarchal Age, Mosaic Age or Christian Age? (4) Why was it spoken? Was God revealing Himself to a particular person or a group? Was Christ addressing the crowd around Him or was what He said for all people everywhere? To whom did the Holy Spirit speak and why? Of equal importance is the fact that all Scripture must be read in context.
From the spiritual perspective, what does our 20/20 vision “look” like? When the Bible is read with spiritual 20/20 vision, we are reading (1) prayerfully, (2) carefully, (3) slowly, (4) expectantly and (5) reverently. What does having 20/20 spiritual vision mean? Psalm 119 is God’s answer because it brings a laser sharp image of self into perfect focus. The Psalm addresses repeatedly how imperative it is to look at ourselves in the most penetrating way in our relationship to God! In this Psalm, God brings us eyeball to eyeball with “me, myself and I.” It is written in first person—a biblical fact that had eluded me until I read it again with new spiritual eyes; this reading was different. This Psalm commands a soul-searching look at self. As I read it yet again, and I have read it for years and even taught on it, I was convicted over and over from the directness that is stated with God’s rightful expectation of my repentance, obedience and faithfulness.
There are 176 verses in Psalm 119, making it the longest chapter in the Bible. That speaks volumes. Using the NKJV, I wrote down every instance of the pronouns “I,” “me,” “my,” “mine” and “myself.” These personal pronouns were used over 300 times. In his commentary on The Songs and Devotions of David, Volume 6, “Psalms 109-119,” Tom Wacaster wrote about Psalm 119. “Not only must we seek God with the heart, but we must do so with the fullest intensity of our will and determination.” Is that the litmus test on seeing with 20/20 spiritual clarity and focus with the vastness of eternity in view?
Mark 8:22-26 records Jesus healing a blind man in Bethsaida. Some of the people brought this blind man to Jesus and begged Him to touch him. Verses 23-25 read, “And He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid His hands on him, He asked him, ‘Do you see anything?’ And he looked up and said, ‘I see men, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid His hands on his eyes again, and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly” (ESV). The Bible is as silent as the tomb as to why this man needed a second healing touch from the Master. Verse 24 indicates he was not born blind. Perhaps he had become blind by disease, injury or some other known or unknown cause. Whatever it was, Jesus restored his sight completely.
Can we admit to ourselves that we all have 20/20 spiritual vision deficiencies through ignorance, prejudice, pride, unforgiveness, greed, hypocrisy and a host of other sin damage? In humility, we must desire to gain and live by the correct message of God’s righteous Word. We must pray as Paul did when he wrote to the church at Colossae that they might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding (Colossians 1:9-14). Gaining and maintaining true 20/20 spiritual vision will be an until this life has ended vigilant endeavor.
Several weeks ago, as the Sunday morning Bible class I was teaching was about to begin, the door opened to admit a visitor. Realizing the age range of my class, the adult bringing the child to class left to bring the young girl’s brother. The young visitors were escorted to class by their grandmother, who was no stranger to me. Over a decade ago, this grandmother (with her husband and two children) was a member of my congregation before her family moved to another state. For several years, while members of the same congregation, I taught this woman’s daughter in Bible class. Now, I was going to teach her daughter’s children.
After class, I was able to greet the children’s mother and discover the reason for the visit. The great-grandparents of the children live in town and are fellow members of the congregation. The visitors were traveling through the area and decided to spend the night in town the previous evening to surprise the oldest generation at services on Sunday morning. The travelers would continue the journey home later in the afternoon. The family settled several rows in front of me for the morning worship service. As the announcements were read, I observed four generations of one family gathered to worship God. Since I frequently read on social media about happenings in the lives of the three younger generations, I am aware that this is a family of faithful Christians three generations strong, with a fourth generation in training. This fact brought several things to mind from the Bible.
Generations Doing It Right
In Genesis 18:19, God spoke concerning Abraham, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” Abraham was faithful to God (Hebrews 11:8-10; James 2:23) and taught his household to be faithful as well (see Genesis 24 for an example of faith in the servant of Abraham). Abraham’s son Isaac and grandson Jacob obeyed God and received the same promise He made to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 26:1-7; 28:12-15).
In Deuteronomy 6:1-3, Moses wrote that the people were to teach and to keep God’s commandments, “you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life” (v. 2). A few verses later, Moses continued:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
God wanted the lives of His people to revolve around teaching and obeying His commandments.
Paul wrote to Timothy, commending his faith, “which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Here is a New Testament example of faithfulness to God passed down through multiple generations by the teaching of God’s Word.
Notice that in each example cited above, faithfulness from generation to generation resulted from the direct teaching of God’s commandments. The wisdom of Proverbs 22:6 reminds us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” According to Strong’s Greek/Hebrew Definitions, the word for “child” in this passage refers to someone “from the age of infancy to adolescence” (Biblesoft’s). God expects parents to actively teach His commands to children from birth through the teenage years. However, teaching is not enough. Parents must live faithfully, thus teaching by example as well. Note how many times in Matthew 23 that Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy in not living the things they taught. Hypocritical parents will earn the same condemnation (Colossians 3:21, 25; Ephesians 6:4).
Generations Doing It Wrong
Lot was a man who tried to do God’s will (2 Peter 2:7-8), but he lost his children to the world. Genesis 19 describes the tragic end to his children who chose to stay behind in Sodom. The latter part of the same chapter details the sinful choices made by Lot’s two daughters who escaped the destruction of their former home. The Bible does not explain why Lot’s children failed to follow his righteousness. Perhaps the wickedness of the people around them became more influential in their lives than their father. Whatever the reason, Lot was not the first of many faithful generations in his family tree.
Whole generations of the children of Israel repeatedly turned from the Lord. After the death of Joshua and his generation, the people left the Lord (Judges 2:7-11). This began a long cycle of oppression, repentance, deliverance, faithfulness and disobedience. Each period of disobedience followed the death of a judge (Judges 2:12-19). Whole generations failed to learn from the previous generation. Later, the prophet Hosea recorded the words of God, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (4:6). Generations failed to instruct future generations.
Eli, a priest of the Lord, had two sons. His sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were also priests (1 Samuel 1:3), but “the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:12; see also 2:13-17, 22-25). God revealed to a young Samuel that Eli would be harshly judged. “For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them” (1 Samuel 3:13). Again, the Bible does not explain why Hophni and Phinehas turned to evil. The Scriptures do tell us that Eli was at least partly responsible because he failed as a parent to “restrain” or discipline his children. Eli became the last old man of his family, and future faithful generations did not come from his family tree (1 Samuel 2:31-33).
Each generation has choices to make. First, individuals must choose to learn and to obey God’s commands. Today, those commands are found in the New Testament. One must study God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15), keep His commandments (John 14:15) and live faithfully (Revelation 2:10). “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20); every individual must choose to follow God. No one can obey God in another’s place.
Second, each individual must choose to instruct future generations. Jesus gave the great commission as recorded in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-16. Here, all Christians are instructed to spread the Gospel. Additionally, Paul instructed Timothy to teach others, who could also teach others, thus perpetuating the spread of the Gospel through the world, including to future generations (2 Timothy 2:2).
Generations Worshipping Together
Looking around any group of Christians assembled for worship, one may find a mix of generations. Some families may have several generations together for worship. Others may have faithful generations worshipping in congregations somewhere else in the world. Still other families may have faithful generations missing from the family tree. Individuals who became Christians later in life, after children left home, may be the explanation of some missing generations. In other cases, Christian parents who were unfaithful to the Lord while the children were young may have lost their adult children to the world. Many of these parents have returned to the Lord and are now trying to influence and instruct grandchildren in spiritual matters. Another group of parents remained faithful to the Lord while the children were young and did their best to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). However, some of those children exercised their free will and chose not to obey God. These parents are praying that someday those children, like the prodigal son of Luke 15:11-24, will return in penitent obedience.
No matter the reason for missing generations today, the past cannot be changed. Only the present matters. It is the responsibility of every Christian today to teach the current and future generations about the will of the Lord. Are you part of the generation doing it right?
Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators 1994.