FAMILY – The One Where I Deal With My Past

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series on the Family of God.

God desires for us to unlearn unhealthy patterns and behaviors we saw or experienced, so that we do not repeat them.


Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

Discussion Questions

Message Video:

Message Notes:

FAMILY – Week 2 – The One Where I Deal With My Past – 4.14.24

The One Where I Deal With My Past


In Ernest Hemingway’s short story entitled Capital of the World, he told a story about a father and his son named Paco who’d become estranged for some reason. 

As a result, either Paco had run away or maybe his father had thrown him out for something he’d said or done… and now Paco was wandering the streets of Madrid.  

In the story the father searched all over Spain for Paco, but he couldn’t find him anywhere. Finally, in Madrid, in a last desperate attempt to find his son, the father placed an ad in the daily newspaper. The ad read: 



The father prayed that the boy would see the ad and maybe – just maybe – he would come to the hotel. And so on Tuesday at noon the father arrived at the hotel and he couldn’t believe his eyes. The police had been called to control the crowd of eight hundred young men all named “Paco” who had come to the hotel to meet their father. Eight hundred boys named Paco read the ad in the newspaper and hoped the message was for them. Eight hundred “Pacos” came to receive the forgiveness they so desperately needed and be reunited with family.

Why does this short little story resonate with so many of us?

Because to be pursued and loved… to be accepted and to belong in the context of a family… is a desire that lives in all of us.  

The world points to finding someone to complete you. This is an unfortunate thing, because romantic relationships are not the answer to what you are longing for.

Even the best spouse on the planet cannot meet all of our needs.

Only God can meet our deepest needs.

The Church can become an extended family!

Last week we looked at Ephesians 2… where the writer, Paul, says to the followers of Jesus… Jews and Gentiles who’ve been scattered all over Asia Minor in the first century… that regardless of where you came from…  

Ephesians 2:19

You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of God’s family. 

So, what does it mean that the church is a family? …and what does it look like for us to flourish together in all the relationships that collectively make-up this family?  

That’s what we’re talking about in this series… and today we’re going to talk about the impact of the past on our present and our future… about how the families we grew up in shape the ways that we live in the world… and specifically, ways that are inconsistent with the family we’ve been grafted into by Jesus.

Quick question as we jump-in… 

Who was with us on Easter Sunday, as we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus?

What an amazing day we had together… but I believe the Risen Jesus wants you to have a fresh encounter with Him, TODAY… that through His Spirit, He wants to meet you and me, right where we are right now in some areas of our lives that are broken or wounded… areas where we might be stuck… or where maybe we’ve forgotten some things that we need to remember.

So it is important that we retrace our steps.

But that’s not just a great principle for finding my wallet or my AirPods.

It’s such an important practice in our spiritual lives too… because sometimes even more important things go missing.

  • For some of you, Joy has gone missing from your life. 
  • For some of you, Peace has gone missing.
  • For some, it’s Hope. 

So, I’ll say it like this for today…

Family means that sometimes we need to look back in order to move forward.

We need to think about where we’ve been and how the past has impacted us today… and will impact our future as well.

That’s the invitation that God has for us… and yet for some of us, this just seems backwards.

The wisdom of looking back to go forward might seem unnecessary or even illogical to you… but remember what we said in our last series… that Jesus’ Kingdom is an upside-down Kingdom where…

o   The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

o   Strength in weakness.

o   We receive in our giving.

o   We gain life when we lose it.

… and so it makes sense that practicing the Way of Jesus is often paradoxical. 

Or maybe you’re thinking about the words of Paul in…

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

There’s lots of Truth in that scripture.  When Paul says we are New Creations in Christ Jesus, He’s effectively saying that our sins have been forgiven and we have a new pathway forward.  

But this is what I also know to be true… our sins can be forgiven and yet the family that formed us still remains in us. 

Family means that we’ve received positive and negative legacies.

My family of origin has given me positive legacies and at the same time… negative ones too… dishonesty, addiction… legacies that are inconsistent with the family of Jesus.

As a parent, I’ve given our children positive legacies and yet

at the same time… no matter how much work I’ve done on myself and in my own recovery… 

no matter how much I’ve studied the scriptures… I realize that I’ve still handed down negative legacies, to my children, that are inconsistent with the way of Jesus.

Why? …because of sin.

Because sometimes my life still doesn’t look like Jesus… because we’re not going to be perfect and whole until Jesus fully and finally reigns. 

So, just like Paul wrote in…

Romans 7:15-17 

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 

Anyone else relate to that? See, that’s why this conversation is so important for all of us!

In Exodus 34, God is giving His people the Ten Commandments and he instructs Moses to chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones that had been destroyed. 

God tells Moses to be ready in the morning, and to meet Him on Mount Sinai. 

Exodus 34: 4-7

So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. 5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

Family is the most powerful and almost always the most formative group that we will ever belong to.

Have you ever thought… “How can something that happened when I was just a kid still impact me when I’m 30… 40… 50… 60… even 80 years old?”

How is it possible that something that happened in my formative years, still remains deep inside my subconscious?

What we’re reminded of is that the family unit… whatever that looked like… shaped us more than anything else as we were forming into adults.

Which is why you can’t really understand someone until you see them in their family.

(which is some great dating advice… btw)

If you really want to know someone, you have to understand the context that has shaped them… and so when Moses talks about generational sin… he’s getting at some really important Theology that is often overlooked.

In Ex. 34, The LORD says that the sins of the fathers are handed down to the next generation… to the third and fourth generation… but there’s an important Hebrew word that it’s worth understanding here, because it often trips people up. The word is Punishes.

What could this possibly mean? Well, for starters it can’t mean what it sounds like… at least not in our English translation… that God punishes kids for their parent’s sin.

That would be especially strange after God describing Himself as, 

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.    

I believe that although God’s not threatening to throw my children in prison for my drug felonies… what He IS talking about is still really heavy. 

God’s saying that the parent’s sin has consequences for the children’s future.

Family means sin tends to get passed down.

Brokenness often runs in the family.

This can be painful to embrace… but true to our experience. 

The patterns that characterize our parents and our grandparents have a way of being passed down to the next generation… and this is something we observe in our families.

o   patterns of addictive behavior

o   patterns of financial mishandling

o   patterns of divorce

o   patterns of abuse

What we find in our own experience is that the blessings and the sins of our fathers and mothers have an impact… lasting three to four generations.

We see this in the Book of Genesis.

God calls Abraham to Himself and he says, “I want you to be a family that blesses all the nations of the world”… and God’s hand was on Abraham in some incredible ways.

But as the story unfolds, there are patterns and sins that are repeated from one generation to the next. For example, in the story of Abraham’s family, we see a pattern of lying that’s evident in each generation.

o   Abraham lied twice about Sarah, denying that she was his wife.

o   Isaac and Rebecca’s marriage is characterized by lies.

o   Jacob… his name means deceiver.

o   Joseph’s 10 brothers lie about him and then fake his funeral & burial.

We also find a pattern of favoritism in each generation.

o   Abraham favored Ishmael

o   Isaac favored Esau

o   Jacob favored Joseph

o   and later Benjamin’s favoritism leads to all kinds of conflicts

We also find patterns of sibling rivalry.

o   Isaac and Ishmael’s sibling rivalry 

o   Jacob and Esau

o   Joseph and his 10 Brothers

We’re all products of a broken past.  

We’re all products of broken families that have impacted us in some very positive ways and some negative ways.

Most of us have been handed both positive legacies and negative legacies that we often refer to as generational curses… consequences of sin and brokenness that have been felt, 

even to the third and fourth generations.  

And this is the part of the story of our lives where we can fall into despair.

Do you ever get the feeling that maybe God actually knows what He’s talking about?

In Genesis 32 Jacob, the one whose name means heel grabber or supplanter, is about to meet his very powerful brother who he deceived and cheated decades earlier and he’s scared for his life. He has this moment where God in human form wrestles with him.

I know some of you are thinking, “Really is this Old Testament WWE?” 

But it’s a picture of a real problem Jacob had and that we have. God got a hold of him, as he often gets a hold of us, and forces him to confront himself. As if God was saying, “You can’t keep running from your past, you can’t keep lying, you can’t keep decieving. It’s time to change.”

Genesis 32:26-30

Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[g] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

God makes Jacob state his name. Maybe so that Jacob could finally confront the reality and history of his brokenness. And it is out of that moment of physical and emotional exhaustion and desperation and being at the end of himself, that he is finally honest and open.

We must all come to that place. Where we wrestle with God- face to face.

Some of you are here and you realize… man, these are the patterns of my family too.

I imagine some of you came to church today and you’re wondering, will things ever change? 

Some of you promise yourself… “I’ll never become like ______ …and next thing you know, you’re responding to life just like the person you promised you would never respond like.

There’s sin patterns and wounds that have been passed from generation to generation… and maybe you’re wondering, “am I doomed to repeat this cycle… year after year?”

Maybe you’re here and you’re feeling hopeless… you’re feeling despair and you’re wondering if there’s any good news for you here today?

Here’s some good news for you…

In HIS Family the Grace of God grace covers our past and He will give us the power through his Spirit to create a whole new story.

…but you’re like, “yeah Kenny, but you’ve already talked to us about generational patterns of honesty… what if you’re lying to us?”

That’s a fair point, but here’s some more good news… you don’t have to take my word for it.

This is how God Himself wants you to know him… in His own words.

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.  

Family, this is our God! This is who He is… and His grace is stronger than our past… and when we look at the Biblical story what we see, over-and-over again, is a God who works with people who have a messed up past.

This is just one of the many reasons I love the Biblical Story so much… because the Bible is not a collection of sanitized stories about “good & godly people” who never made mistakes… or who came from families that never made mistakes.

  • Paul was a persecutor… 
  • Jonah ran from the will of God… 
  • Jeremiah was the depressed and suicidal…
  • Noah might’ve had a little drinking problem…  
  • Elijah was burned out… 
  • … and at least a couple of the disciples were donkey thieves.

The Bible is a collection of stories of broken human beings who are made righteous by a power outside of themselves… greater than themselves… and Holy different from themselves.

The Biblical story invites all of us to say “YES” to Jesus and His discipleship in our lives.

In God’s power, there are things that can miraculously happen in the moment… and then there’s the slow and steady process of Jesus forming us and reforming us into His image.

Following Jesus means that we are invited to put off the sinful patterns and negative legacies of our families of origin and be birthed into a new family… and this is great news for you and me!

This doesn’t mean that we forsake and ignore our old family… we love and treasure them. 

The difference is, now we take our cues of how we show up in the world from the family of Jesus.  In His family we’ve been given a whole new script… a new set of messages that we can live into. And this is so important because…

  • The evil one would love for you to keep repeating the sins of your family.
  • The evil one would love to see you continue living out those negative scripts.
  • The evil one would love to see you as a slave to your past.

One of the greatest gifts of living in-community here together at Gateway, is that no one ever has to walk alone!

My encouragement and challenge is that you will take an intentional next step TODAY! 

Don’t put this off.

  • Come and experience healing in our Restore community.
  • Sign-up for one of our upcoming Belong gatherings.
  • To any of you who attended our Men’s Gathering yesterday… follow-up with the men you met there yesterday and build those friendships. 
  • Make sure that you engage with the Digging Deeper resources this week, as we’ve included a Genogram worksheet to help guide you in developing a sort of family tree that helps to understand the relationships, the dynamics and the impact of our family of origin. Many of our staff and leaders across our campuses have found this tool to be extremely helpful.

The good news of the resurrection of Jesus is that our past does not have to determine our future. God’s Love covers our past and God’s Mercy gives us grace for the moment and the power of God’s Spirit gives us hope for the future.

Friends, I don’t know why you experienced the pain you did growing up… or why you were born into the family you were born into… I don’t know why many of you have had to endure so much suffering. But despite your past Jesus can build a future out of it.

What I do know is that God never wastes a hurt… and God can work with anything and anyone to make beautiful things out of the darkness and brokenness of our past.

Let’s Pray 

Teaching Note: Lead your campus and those online in a prayer of salvation

For all of you who have decided to follow Jesus today… and for so many of you who made that decision on Easter Sunday… you’re BEST NEXT STEP is to get signed-up for our Baptism Class happening today!

When we baptize someone in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit… and they come out of the water… this is not just a personal thing that’s happening between them and Jesus.

We’re being baptized into a new family where there are new brothers and sisters where God is Father! We celebrate baptism as a family because that’s where we publicly declare…

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We will be celebrating baptism at each of our campuses in 2 weeks… so there’s no better time for you to take this next step!


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