Summary: Discover the three keys to breaking sinful generational patterns and leaving a godly legacy
This morning, we will be studying the life of Cain, probably Adam and Eve’s first child. We will learn to break undesirable and sinful generational patterns. You might have heard the cliché, "He is a chip off the old block," usually referring to how the son is like his father. A less often heard statement is about how a daughter is like her mother, "She is a thread off the old bag."
Our parents have powerful influence on our lives, and we have significant influence over the lives of those in our subsequent generations. These influence are not always good. Even as we read from the Old Testament, we see sinful generational patterns of favoritism and dishonesty running through three generations, Abraham to Isaac to Jacob.
Sometimes I cringe at the irresponsibility of individuals who blame their parents for the way they turned out, but the Bible does teach that parental influence shapes our lives significantly. In everyday life, we see a high percentage of drug users have parents who abuse drugs, and a high percentage of dishonest children have dishonest parents.
Abuse, promiscuity, dishonesty, favoritism and selfishness are examples of sinful patterns that influence several generations, until someone succeeds in breaking the pattern. The ministry of Prison Fellowship, for instance, has a mentoring program for children of prisoners, in hope of breaking the generational pattern of the criminal lifestyle.
From this morning’s passage, we see how Cain is similar to Adam and Eve in not trusting God. Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because they thought God was withholding the best from them. Cain also didn’t trust God. We see in verse 3 that Cain didn’t bring his first and best harvest to God. He kept the best for himself.
Abel, on the other hand, gave God the fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. Abel honored God with his best portions. Abel was an example of how a child can turn out well even without good parenting. We will talk more about how Abel broke the sinful generational patterns later.
Another sinful generational pattern passed from Adam and Eve to Cain is their unwillingness to take personal responsibility for their wrongdoing. When God confronted Adam for his disobedience, Adam blamed Eve. When God confronted Eve, Eve blamed the serpent. When God confronted Cain for slaughtering Abel, Cain denied responsibility.
From verses 17 through 24, we see some of Cain’s sinful generational patten repeat themselves in Lamech. Lamech is Cain’s great, great, great grandson.
Generational patterns are hard to break, but they can be broken with God’s help. In the remaining time, I want to identify three keys for breaking sinful generational patterns.
Isaiah 51:1-2 reads, "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many."
We are reminded from Isaiah that if we want to have righteousness and God in our lives and legacy, we need to look at our parents. We need to take note of how they lived life, and how their patterns shape our lives. We are who we are because of the influences upon our lives as we grew up. We need to be aware of these influences, but we do not have to be mastered by them.
Maybe you’ve noticed you have your Dad’s tempter or your Mom’s manipulative ways. And those of us who have children, maybe we see our disrespectful and irresponsible attitude in our children.
The good news is that we can overcome destructive generational patterns and even leave a godly legacy for our children and grandchildren. There are three keys that will unlock the path to a godly legacy, no matter what your parents were like or what you are currently like.
The first key to a godly legacy is resolve to live for God’s glory. Verses 3-4, 17
Cain did not resolve to live for God’s glory. Cain lived for his own glory and for his family’s glory. He built a city and named the city after his son, Enoch.
All of us are living either for our own glory or for God’s glory. We live for our own glory when we do what we do in order to receive recognition, money or pleasures in return. Now recognition, money and pleasures in life are not bad in themselves, but if they are our primary goals in life, we create harmful generational patterns such as selfishness, pride, anger and workaholism.
Some of you might be familiar with the song, "Cat’s in the Cradle": (A father retracing the growing up of his son)