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)

My child arrived just the other day;

He came to the world in the usual way,

But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay,

He learned to walk while I was away.

And he was talkin’ ’fore I knew it and as he grew,

He said, "I’m gonna be like you, Dad.

You know I’m gonna be like you."

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,

Little Boy Blue and the man in the moon.

"When you comin’ home, Dad?"

"I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then;

You know we’ll have a good time then."

My son turned ten just the other day.

He said, "Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on, let’s play.

Can you teach me to throw?"

I said, "No, not today,

I got a lot to do."

He said, "That’s okay."

And he walked away but his smile never dimmed.

It said, "I’m gonna be like him, yeah,

You know I’m gonna be like him...."

And he came from college just the other day;

So much like a man I just had to say,

"Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?"

"What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys.

See you later, can I have them please?"

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away.

I called him up just the other day,

I said, "I’d like to see you, if you don’t mind."

He said, "I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time.

You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kids have the flu,

But it’s sure nice talkin’ to you, Dad,

It’s been nice talkin’ to you."

And as I hung up the phone

It occurred to me,

He’d grown up just like me,

My boy was just like me.

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,

Little Boy Blue and the man in the moon,

"When you coming home, Son?’

"I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, Dad.

We’re gonna have a good time then."

Workaholism is destructive to the family and to personal health. (I’m preaching at myself.) If we find ourselves constantly working unusually long hours, pause and ask ourselves, "Why?" Am I doing this because I want to get a promotion and make a name for myself? Am I doing this because I want to achieve a certain level of wealth? Am I doing this because I want to satisfy a certain pleasure or to fill an emptiness? Was one of my parents a workaholic?

To live for our own glory is empty and detrimental when we succeed and when we don’t succeed. When we succeed in living for our own glory, we neglect those we love, become prideful, greedy and self-gratifying. When we fail in living for our own glory, we become angry, envious and hopeless. These are not legacies you want to pass onto your own children. And if our parents have passed some of these generational patterns onto us, we can break these patterns by resolving to live our lives for God’s glory.

Abel did not share in the generational patterns of Adam and Eve, because he resolved to live for God’s glory. He trusted God by honoring God with his best. We live for God’s glory when we do what we do in order to testify to God’s trustworthiness.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:28-33, "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Trusting God to provide for our needs breaks generational patterns of worry, insecurity and stinginess, dishonesty, envy, anger and many more negative traits. By resolving to live for God’s glory and not your own, we will pass on a confident, joyful, worry-free, generous and compassionate legacy.

The second key to a godly legacy is resolve to obey and teach God’s ways. Verse 19

It’s evident that Cain never taught Lamech God’s intention for marriage to be monogamous. We don’t know if Adam and Eve ever taught Cain what God said in Genesis 2:24, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." God says marriage is made up of one man with one woman.

Zig Ziglar tells of the time after he gave his speech, a man came up to him and told him the following:

"When I was 10 or 11 years old, I told my parents I had homosexual feelings toward other boys. My parents said that they would support me in whatever I chose in life. Since then, I entered the homosexual lifestyle until age 60, when I received Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. I’m 65 years old now, and the last 5 years have been the best years of my life. But I can’t help thinking about the wife I could have married, the children and grandchildren I could have had." (The man walked away very sad.)

The Bible tells parents in Deuteronomy 6:1-7 to teach God’s ways to our children and to their children. If we want to break patterns such as passivity, promiscuity, confusion, or foolish living, we need to live according to God’s ways and to teach God’s ways to our children and their children.

Susan, my wife, is doing an excellent job teaching Esther God’s ways. Many mornings, Susan will do her quiet time with God by reading her Bible, praying and singing worship songs with Esther. Susan is teaching Esther the importance of spending time with God each morning.

Susan also bought a plastic money bank with three compartments. The first compartment is shaped like a store, the second shaped like a bank and the third shaped like a church. Each time Esther gets money gifts, we set aside 10 percent in the "church" bank, 10 percent in the "store" bank and 80 in the "bank" bank. We’ve been giving 10 percent of her money to missionaries for the first 3 years of her life. Now we are teaching her to give 10 percent of her money to the church.

Now, what if the generational patterns our parents passed onto us were not so positive? We can teach ourselves God’s ways. We are adults. We can read the Bible and teach ourselves. We can listen to Christian radio. We can attend Bible studies and come to church each Sunday.

Romans 12:2 tells us, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."

In other words, we can break the sinful patterns our parents passed onto us by renewing our minds with the truths from God’s Word, the Bible. Whenever I read the Bible, I have a pen and paper with me. I write down all the promises of God, the instructions from God and the examples God wants me to learn from. Then I review these periodically. Doing this replaces the old patterns in my mind with God’s patterns for life. When we obey God’s ways, we are ready to teach God’s ways.

The third key to a godly legacy is resolve to confess our sins. Verses 9-15 & 23-24

Nowhere on record did Adam, Eve, Cain or Lamech confess or agree with God that what they did was wrong. God had to come looking for Adam, Eve and Cain to confront them of their sins. Adam blamed Eve; Eve blamed the serpent; Cain denied responsibility; Lamech ignored the sin.

The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." In other words, none of us live as God intended; none of us are perfect, not your pastor, not Buddha, not Billy Graham and not the Pope. Therefore, all of us need to frequently confess our sins, agree with God that what He says is wrong is wrong.

I grew up in a family where my Dad yelled at my sister and me when we made mistakes and did things wrong. Sometimes I find myself yelling at Esther for mistakes such as spilling her milk. The difference is this, I confess to God that I was wrong, and I confess to Esther that I was wrong. Yelling at Esther does not help; it simply sets a bad pattern.

If I don’t confess to God that I was wrong, I am more likely to repeat the pattern my Dad set for me. If I don’t confess to Esther that I was wrong, Esther is more likely to repeat the pattern I set for her. Confessing that a wrongdoing is wrong impresses on our minds that this attitude or behavior should not be repeated.

More than that, God promised in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." If we want to be forgiven and changed, we need to confess our sins and trust God to restore us to a right relationship with Himself.

If we want to break sinful generational patterns, we need to confess our sins to God and to those we’ve wronged. Denial, rationalization or acceptance of sinful generational patterns will only cause our children and their children to repeat the same patterns.

Paul J. Meyer reminds us, "Everyone leaves a legacy, whether you have children or not." We all influence the people we encounter. If we want to leave a godly legacy, we will need to live for God’s glory, teach God’s ways and confess our sins.