Saturday, June 24, 2017

Father's Day Sermon- Father God

Father God
Matt. 18:1-20
Lynchburg, Virginia
June 18, 2017 
         God our Father is Creator, Provider, Teacher, Protector, and Present. There are other characteristics of a Father that we can imagine and that we can find in Scripture. But these five characteristics are repeatedly found in Scripture and characteristics that we should seek to image in the world.
         Of course, a sermon like this one, seeking to understand God, as Father, is sure to get the attention of the fathers gathered here and well it should. But God has revealed Himself to us, fundamentally, as Father. Thus, our response is not simply, How do I seek to be like God as a father but also many other responses.
         How do I respond to Him as a Son or a daughter? How to I respond to the Father as a Spouse (that aspect is corporate in the Church). Or, what role do I have as a mother?
         Or, even for women and children, “How can I be father-like in my roles as a wife, mother, or child?”  What aspects of the fatherhood of God are appropriate for me to image as I fulfill my particular calling? If the fundamental revelation of God is Father, then we must all seek to be father-like.
         As we have mentioned before, many people have many hang-ups with God as Father because of their own earthly fathers. This is one reason why the church has become effeminate.  Earthly fathers have tarnished the reputation of God, the Father, and so we seek a heavenly mother. But all such attempts at dethroning God, as Father, are a descent into idolatry and ought to be utterly rejected. Instead, we need to understand what it means for God to be a Father and then we must do the hard work of teaching men to be fathers like God, the Father.

1. Creator- God said- Gen 1:11 In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth.
The Father eternally begets the Son.
         Without the Father, nothing that is would be.  This is such an obvious fact but the failure to see it leads us in to many errors.  In the most fundamental way, God, the Father, creator of heaven and earth, is behind absolutely everything that we know. 
         This is one reason why the arguments about free will are so absurd and laughable. Perhaps the pagan philosopher quoted by the Apostle Paul said it best, In Him we live and move and have our being. Think about that for a moment. In God we live and move and have our being. This is most profoundly true. All that we do, we do in the direct presence of God. There is nothing that we can do outside of God’s direct presence. If God is all powerful and all wise, then there is nothing that we can do that escapes His notice or is outside of His ability to change.
         This has dramatic ramifications. God is most certainly the sustainer of His creation. He did not merely wind it up and let it run down. His presence sustains the universe at every conceivable nanosecond in every particular locality.  If God ceased to be, all that we know would immediately cease to be. All things are held together by Him and without Him nothing is sustained, no events, not a single breath, not one free will choice.
So, to speak as if we were absolutely free from the will of God is to speak an absolute absurdity. Of course, we are free and make free choices but all of our choices are immediately within the divine Providence of God.
          For some of you, this is a most frightening circumstance.  You cannot understand how a good and kind God could allow such horrific evil in the world. But your inability to understand it does not make it any less true.  This forces us to deal with the character of God in a way that we might not have anticipated. 
God is the creator and as such is responsible to some degree for all the mayhem that escaped Pandora’s Box. But to say that God is responsible for the creation of man and the subsequent fall of man into sin is not the same thing as saying that God is at fault.
God created man free and sinless. Man chose to rebel against the Father and the results were catastrophic. You may think that it would have been better, then, for God not to have created man. But God thinks differently. Even given all of the evils that made their way into the universe through sin, God considers it worth it to have created mankind.
         Rom 9:20-24  But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" 21  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called,
         Think about this aspect of creating for a moment. God created and therefore His creatures answer to Him. They do not have the right to answer back to Him. That is, they do not get to argue.  It is okay to ask questions with an honest heart but God refuses to let us rebel against His authority as creator.  If we cannot see or understand what God has done, our inability to see or our failure to understand in no way nullifies the goodness of God’s creation or His creative acts in Providence. God attempts to give us the answers but if we will not hear them, He does not have to answer to us. 
         This has far reaching ramifications for earthly fathers. They are creators. They can make babies. The children are to honor their father and a big reason for doing so is that you could not honor anybody if that father had not created you. Even the worst of fathers is due an immense of amount of honor for the simple fact that he made you.
Of course, this creative act can be and often is used in the wrong way. Some creators do not mean to create. That is its own problem. Creation should be intentional. But even when it is accidental, the results can either be glorious or tragic.  Set in the  context of marriage, the creative act, even when a pregnancy is unintentional, redounds to the glory of God. It is a godlike power and thus should only be utilized when intentionally seeking to act in the image of God.
Others create and attempt to run away from their creation.  But God does not do that. He owns His creation and redeems, restores and heals that which is lost.  He is an intensely patient Father and will only bring judgment when the hand of grace is continually and repeatedly refused.  This is why I read the passage from Matthew. Many of us recognize that as the Church Discipline passage. But think about it from the perspective of understanding God the Father and fatherhood.
The passage presents a sinner. An ordinary sinner, like all of us, may need many levels of chastisement or discipline in order to respond. But God is gracious enough to give us those opportunities. The passage looks at the one in need of discipline as a child in need of instruction. There is great patience, a willingness to confront, longsuffering to see the process through and all along, a Prodigal God’s desire to see restoration and reconciliation.  That passage dramatically reveals this great characteristic of God.
Only when all love, grace and mercy is refused, does judgment come. This is manifestly NOT being judgmental as some count it.  In the end, all excommunications are the elders simply agreeing with a man that he no longer wants to serve Jesus.  This is not particularly harsh. It is heart-wrenching and full of patient, love and forbearance.  But it also true that a father who fails to discipline his children, hates his children. If God did not make a way for discipline, many ordinarily right-thinking children would go astray. Also, those who mock God and His Church with outlandish behavior would be indistinguishable from God’s real sheep. So, discipline is an act of love upon one’s children. And final discipline is still and act of love towards one’s own children as a distinction is made between a child of God and one who does not love God.

2. Provider- But the Heavenly Father does not simply create and then leave His creation to fend for itself.  He also makes provision.
Matt 10:29-31 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
A. God Makes Provision Gen 22:7-8 7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? 8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
B. Blessing is Conditional- Deut 11:13-14 13 And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.
C. Conditional blessing still true in the New Covenant.
1 Tim 5:7-8 7 And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. 8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

3. Teacher- God instructs Adam and Eve in the garden.
Gen 2:15-17 15 And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Later He teaches Moses and Aaron what to say. He delivers the Ten Commandments and then goes to great lengths to teach them about the Tabernacle. 
Ex 4:10-12 10 And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.11 And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.
         Deut. 6:6-7 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
         Matt 5:1-2 5 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
         Jesus was a great teacher. He took the misconceptions of the people and taught them what the Father was really like. He taught in the synagogue. He taught His disciples. He taught the multitudes. Teach, teach, teach. Coach, coach, coach.
         Teach the same things to new people. Teach the same things to the same people. Teach new things to new people. Teach new things to the same people. Disciples are learners. Be a disciple. Be a learner.
         One of the central aspects of good parenting is teaching. You are always teaching; when you wake up, when you go to work, when you lie down, when you play, when you worship, when you speak, when you do not speak. Your life is textbook for your wife and children. How does it read?

4. Protector- God repeatedly reveals Himself as the one who is behind the strength of Israel. Whenever they turn to foreign kings for support, God considers it tantamount to turning to idols. God desires that we look to Him as the one who protects us and keeps us from enemies.
Part of the role of the Father is to make His children safe and secure. This is not to keep them from all danger. God did provide and gave victory in battle but at times, He sent His people into battle to fight and even die.  God as protector does not keep us from all danger but it does insure a victory.
Jer 42:11 11 Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the Lord: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand.
Psa. 24:7   Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.  8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.  9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.  10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

5. Present- God is not absent. He does not just create and then leave. He does not just send in the child support. He is there. This does not just mean quality time. God, the Father, does give us quality time. But more importantly, He gives us quantity time.  He is ever present in time of need. He is there for His children. He is there for His spouse.
God was present in the garden before and after Adam and Eve had sinned. God is always present. It is we who drift away from Him through sin, neglect or simply distraction. But God is present.
Matt 10:18-20 18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. 20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.

         God also has purpose in a dry season. There are times when God’s special presence seems to have departed. We pray but still feel distant. We may even think that the Lord has abandoned us. The reverse is more likely true. We may have drifted from Him. This causes us to seek His face and draw near to Him once again.
         Another reason there are dry seasons is to prepare us for trouble that lies ahead. This may be good trouble, ministry work. Or, it may be the sort of trouble that comes naturally in a fallen world, suffering, pain, loss, death. A dry season pushes toward our Saviour. If we are His, then we long for His presences, His acceptance, His assurance. In such a time of seeking Him, we are taught how to do so in the times of trial.

Father’s Expectations:
1.   Expects His children to do hard things- Does not coddle.
Matt 26:39 39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
Matt 20:23 23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
2.   Keeps his Word: Day of Reward and Reckoning: Does not chicken out.
Matt 25:32-33 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
3.   Wants his children to do His will freely: Does not make excuses.
Matt. 21:28  But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. 29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. 30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. 31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
         In the end, if you must be compelled to do the Lord’s will, then you are resistant to His will.  He is patient but desires children that love Him and serve Him based upon that love.

         As we think about the character of God, we should think about Him as a Father. How does God Father? This should be our paradigm of fatherhood. First, God is our Father, my Father. He has created us. He provides for us. He Teaches us. He protects us and He is present.
         That is the kind of God we serve and we must know this even if, at times, the knowledge is not directly with us. That is, at times it is hard for us to see that God is providing, or that God is teaching, or that He is protecting or even that He is present. But He has revealed Himself as that kind of Father. So, we can take it to the bank.
         This journey still requires faith. We must believe that God is both a Father and more than that, a good and perfect Father. If we believe this, then we will be truly secure. If we do not believe this, then we will continue to be unsettled and shaky in our faith.
We believe that which we know to be true.  1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  2For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Where is the gospel in this? How does God as Father reveal the need for Jesus Christ and make provision for us through Jesus?
God, the Father is our example. He is the perfect Father. But this perfect Father has imperfect children. They fail, like the prodigal son, like Esau, like Jacob and Abraham. Like the apostles, even, who were close to Jesus. There is failure all around us and enough to condemn us and our children. What do we do?
We always do the same thing. We acknowledge God’s goodness and our failure. For the saint, this is not too difficult. We come to God on the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ.

In order to love our Heavenly Father, we must be forgiven our sins. In order to love our own children as we should, we must be forgiven our failures in leading them in the Lord. When we do this, the Lord grants us forgiveness and enables to relate to Him properly in submitting to Him as Father and to fulfill our callings as Fathers.

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