—Jeremiah 44:2-3 (NASB)
This is like a real-world application of the old adage, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. God is explaining that He has just demonstrated what happens when His people no longer serve and worship the One True God alone and should therefore have no difficulty applying the right lesson to their own worship and service. We not only have the biblical examples which are supposed to serve as a reminder and testimony for us, but the whole of history to reinforce the same principles over and over again. And yet many generations have not learned the essential lesson and have oft repeated the same mistake. Although things began right, although a spiritual birth provided a people or movement established on the right path, it has often ended with subsequent generations serving something else “they had not known, neither they, you, nor your fathers“.
—Romans 15:4 (NASB)
There are entire websites, books, and organizations dedicated to documenting the myriad of false teachings and false spiritual influences pervading the church today. So much so that it doesn’t take much reading to quickly move from being alarmed to overwhelmed and eventually depressed over the state of things. But the fact is that none of these things are “brand new”. Pick any particular one like the Faith-Prosperity nonsense or people consumed by Experiential Theology or those embracing Replacementism and one can earn a doctrinal degree writing on just the one. The history of each of these goes back a long way not just to the very beginning of the church, but even back into the Old Testament itself. What is “new” is when a particular generation not schooled in these things leaves the foundation their spiritual fathers provided to embrace such things instead. It becomes “new” to them even though it’s been an oft-repeated pattern historically.
Most of us don’t have to go back any further than our grandparents’ generation to see that they consistently and soundly rejected the very things which our generation have embraced. Sure, there’s always an ever-present, small group of deceived who hold to wrong teaching and false doctrine in every age of the church, but up until about 30 years ago the previous generation soundly rejected not only the things mentioned above but nearly every other item on the exhaustive list of today’s prevalent false teachings. Most of the denominations and movements which our parents and grandparents embraced would not be recognizable to them today because those following them have chosen to serve something else.
It’s not a question of preserving an institution or over-emphasizing traditions, but the degree to which any generation reveres and adheres to God’s Word, determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past. This lesson hits close to home especially during this time of year when what has become the current practices where Christmas is concerned come into ever-increasing conflict with the greater biblical and spiritual meaning in their original, purest intentions. There’s probably no better example of how this present generation’s definition of “Christianity” contrasts to the previous. It’s not a battle to preserve a particular tradition, but to faithfulness to the Word. †††