I inherited a number of traits from my parents. Some of those traits were physical – I got my father’s stamina. I also inherited some character traits – like my mother’s work ethic.
My father is a retired letter carrier. He was working for the United States post office when I was born. My father walked dozens of miles every day delivering mail to people across his neighborhood.
Long distance running and walking has always come easy to me. I learned in middle school that I had the ability to run farther than most of my peers. Although I worked hard while running track in school, I had a “leg up” (did you get the pun?) on the competition because of the stamina I inherited from my father.
My mother worked several jobs throughout my childhood. Most of the time she was working 16 to 18-hour days. Therefore, when I joined the army and started working long hours all day long every day, it didn’t seem that foreign to me. I had a much easier transition into the workforce than most because of the work ethic that I saw in my mother.
All of us were born with certain genetic traits. Your hair color, height or heart condition are all factors over which you had no control. You were born into a family that gave you these traits.
This is also true of the sin condition. All human beings inherit their parents’ sin nature. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, infected their children with the disease of sin. Every generation of human beings has inherited this sin condition. I described this in a past article as “Bailing Water in a Sinking Boat“.
In this article, I want to give you a few thoughts on what it will take to break the cycle of sin in your family.
If you grew up in a family that has a history of alcoholism, whether you like it or not, you are susceptible to becoming an alcoholic. If you grew up in a family that had severe mental illness, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, you might inherit the same mental illness. It’s part of living in a world impacted by sin.
Breaking the cycle is hard
Chapter 9 of the book of Nehemiah is a record of the history of Israel. It summarizes much of the Old Testament. If you were looking for CliffsNotes for the Old Testament, this would be a good short summary of Israel’s history. You will also notice easily in Nehemiah 9 that this is an honest and vulnerable prayer for forgiveness.
What really jumps off the page to me in Nehemiah 9 is how good God is to his people and how wicked his people have treated him. The people of God spend roughly 10 verses in this chapter describing how good our God is. They spend the next 16 verses describing how often they’ve wronged God. It takes a lot of courage and humility to admit out loud just how wicked they and their ancestors have been in Nehemiah 9.
This chapter is a vivid picture of the cycle of sin in a family or a nation. At the same time, this chapter also shows how difficult it is to break the cycle of sin. If their parents or grandparents could have broken this cycle easily, they would have done it generations ago.
This generation in Nehemiah 9 is determined to break this cycle of sin for their generation and for their children to come. However, they also realize that this isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to take a much bigger hammer to break the cycle of sin than what the generations before needed to break this cycle.
The first step in any great endeavor is always the hardest. Many people will never make a great change in their life because they never take the first step. If you’re getting serious about breaking the cycle of sin in your life or for the future of your family, here is some motivation: The First Step is the Hardest.
Get deadly serious
The first step in breaking the cycle of sin is simply to admit that there’s a perpetual problem in your family. If you’ve got a bad habit that you’ve been struggling with for years, the only way to get over it is to get serious about breaking this habit. If you inherited a family trait that is disgusting to you, the only way to eliminate it for future generations is to get deadly serious with it.
The second step in breaking the cycle of sin is to recognize how deadly serious this problem is. The people in Nehemiah 9 recognized their ancestors were stiff-necked and rebellious. No matter what God did to warn them about their mistakes, they would not turn from their wicked ways. Here’s a great example of Saints Acting Like Sinners from Acts 5:1-11.
I don’t need to know your family personally to know you also have a cycle of sin in your family. It might be a small, secret sin or it might be a big, public sin. But all people have been impacted by sin. All of us have inherited sins from our parents and their parents before them. That cycle will continue for generations to come until one generation decides to get deadly serious with this sin.
I believe you can be the generation that breaks the cycle of sin in your family. I also believe that you must get deadly serious if you are going to break this cycle. Finally, I believe that once you get really honest about your inherited sin, you will quickly realize that you are not strong enough to break the cycle on your own. You’re going to need a much bigger hammer…You’re going to need supernatural help to make a lasting change for you and your family’s future.
The Holy Spirit’s hammer
It is only when you get to this point that you’re ready to turn to the Holy Spirit of the living God to break this cycle of sin in your life. He becomes the hammer that does something in your soul and for future generations that you can’t do yourself.
It’s a painful but important moment in your faith and your family’s future when you admit that you’re not strong enough to break this cycle of sin yourself and start to become totally dependent on Jesus’s Spirit to do a miracle in your soul.
I believe Nehemiah chapter 9 records the raw, honest prayers of a generation of people who were desperate to break the cycle of sin. I also believe that Nehemiah 9 gives a picture of how you can break the cycle of sin in your life. If you’re really serious about the Holy Spirit doing a supernatural work inside your soul so that you don’t pass on this inherited trait to your children and grandchildren, check out THIS sermon from Nehemiah 9 last week.