(If you would like to receive Pastor Harris’ weekly sermons via e-mail, Click Here)
(If you would like to download the PowerPoint presentation for this sermon, Click Here – 2007 A Dad’s Involvement)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church
June 17, 2007
A Dad’s Involvement
An interesting study was done of the decedents of two different families from the late 1600’s. In 1677 an immoral man married a licentious woman. 1,900 decedents were traced to them. 771 were criminals, 250 were arrested for various offenses, 60 were thieves, and 39 were convicted of murder. These people spent a combined total of 1,300 years behind bars and cost New York State nearly $3 million – back when $3 million was still a lot of money. At today’s rates it would be over $52 million.
At about the same time the Edwards family was started. The third generation included Jonathan Edwards, the great New England theologian, preacher and president of Princeton University. Of their 1,344 descendants, many were college presidents and professors. 186 became ministers of the gospel. 86 were state senators, 3 were congressmen, 30 were judges, and 1 became Vice President of the U.S.
Dad’s your leaving a legacy, what will it be? Leaving a good legacy like that of the Edwards family is not easy and in many ways harder now because our society no longer encourages dad in this role.
Society at one time promoted models like Mr. Clever on “Leave it to Beaver” or Robert Young in “Father’s Knows Best.” My dad fit the then typical definition of a father. He was the man my mom kissed. He would go off to work for the day and return in the evening to do things around the house and spend time with his family. Dad provided for the family. He did not give us what we may have wanted, but in his wisdom, he always provided what was really needed.
Dad encouraged us kids to learn from him as he did projects & fixed things. He was involved in the lives of his three sons. Dad was available to give advice or help with a problem – he still is. He was patient and disciplined us only when we deserved it, but if we deserved it, he did not with-hold it. I learned many lessons through my father’s wise use of a switch. In addition to these things, my dad showed us the importance of God. He took us to church with him where he was a Sunday School teacher and a deacon. He led us in family devotions and could even pronounce all those names in the Old Testament.
Society used to encourage dads to be like that. The family provider, Mom’s husband, a involved teacher, an available instructor, a disciplinarian and the family’s spiritual leader. My dad was all those things. I never doubted his love for me. I respected him and loved him. I still do.
But society has changed and for many it is difficult to even define who dad is. Is dad the fellow that fathered you or the guy mom is with now? The guy who has the children during the week or the guy that has them on weekends? What defines a father – procreation or the relationship between a parent (natural, adoptive or otherwise) and a child? Society presents a different model for fatherhood now.
The average fictional dad on a TV program gives a model that it is OK to scream at the kids, to call them names and to use acidic sarcasm against them, and they treat their wives the same way in front of the kids. They neither present nor correct their children to any positive moral standard. These and most other TV programs are a waste of your time. Even the better models for parenting presented on TV are not very good. The dad is often presented as an inept bungler who is tolerated by the family, but not respected. Even when the dad is presented as being moral, wise, sensitive and competent there never a mention of him leading his family in devotions or taking them to church? Has God become irrelevant?
We could go on about other men that are held up by society as role models – sports figures, entertainment stars, political leaders and such and we would reach the same conclusion. Our society as a whole no longer presents a good model for dads. In addition its so called “experts” compound the problem. Compare the generations raised before the 1950’s with those raised since then and ask yourself if the psychological teachings of Dr. Spock and those who have arisen since him have helped improve society? Obviously not. Neither you or I enjoy the children raised under these humanistic philosophies. We don’t want our children to be self-centered and out-of-control and we don’t want to invite a family over whose children are that way. No longer does society or its so called “experts” encourage men to be good fathers. Even so, we still have the Scriptures and they along with the Holy Spirit are all we need to become godly fathers (2 Pet. 1:3).
Personally, being a dad is a lot of work, but it is something I immensely enjoy. The discipline and correction can be hard, but it is wonderful to be with my sons. Each age has had its own special challenges and joys. Whether it was playing games, rough housing, reading them a book, giving them a bath and putting them to bed and praying over them when they were young, or our current activities – rough housing is too dangerous and I am often in bed before they are – but we still play games, discuss books they have read, current events and theology, show them how to do things and teach them to drive safely – in all this I know that I am their role model. They are becoming a lot like me.
Do you fully realize that? Your child will become a lot like you? Therefore I have to be – you have to be – absolutely committed to being the best role model possible. That means we must reject the garbage and nonsense that this society throws at us and we need to look to the truths of God’s word to find out what we are supposed to be. And in looking at the Scriptures we find this wonderful truth. Regardless of how good or bad your dad was as a role model, we still have a perfect model of a father in God Himself.
God is the creator of all people, but He is also the father of those that will place their trust in Him. Our familial tie with Him does not have to be the formality of “Father,” but it can be the intimate one of “daddy.” (Rom 8:15). This intimate relationship with God comes through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. John 1:12,13 says, “But as many as received Him, (Jesus Christ) to them He gave the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” But even those that do not have that personal relationship with God can examine the Scriptures to see His fatherhood in action and find in it the proper model of what it means to be a father.
There are Three basic elements in fatherhood. 1. Provision. 2. Teaching – including instruction, modeling, and discipline. 3. Love. And actually, the first two could be included in the last, so lets start with that aspect of fatherhood.
TRUE FATHERHOOD IS SEEN IN LOVE.
Love is a very vague word in our culture for it is used to describe everything from lust to adoration to kindness. The love of God is the committed love of choice which in Greek is agape. I choose to love this person not on the basis of anything in that person, but because I have chosen to love. This love has an absolute commitment to continue regardless of the actions and attitudes of the individual receiving it. It is a love that is committed to doing what is in the best interest of the other even at its own expense.
It is described in 1 Corinthians 13 as “patient, kind, not jealous, not bragging, not arrogant, not acting unbecomingly/improperly, it does not seek its own (not selfish), not provoked (angered), does not take into account a wrong suffered (does not hold grudges), does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it bears all things, believes all things, hope all things, and endures all things.”
This is God’s love for us. Its perfect demonstration is the gift of His son Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Ephesians 2:4,5 adds, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)….”. God provided Jesus Christ as the means of our salvation and He did it while we were still in rebellion against Him. He did not extended mercy to us because of anything we have done but because of His own love for us. “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit…” Titus 3:5.
God loves us because He has chosen to do so, and it is out of this love that everything else flows. God provides for us because He loves us. Because He loves, He teaches, instructs and disciplines us. God’s love can never be questioned for it was demonstrated for all time and eternity in Jesus Christ.
Similarly, human fathers are to love. Dad is specifically commanded in Ephesians 5:25 to love his wife. The love there is agape. It is to be of the same nature as God’s love. This means that it does matter how dad treats mom. And over and over again the things fathers are told to do are predicated upon the father loving the child.
The question is: Do we as human fathers love our children in the same manner as God loves us? In other words, are we committed to sacrificially seek out their best interest or do what is convenient for us?
TRUE FATHERHOOD IS SEEN IN PROVISION
One of the great truths of Scripture is that God will provide for us. James 1:17 says, “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” There can be no doubt that God provides for our needs.
In a similar way fathers are to provide for their families. In fact, 1 Timothy 5:8 shows that a man that does not provide for his family is worse than an infidel – an unbeliever. But it is important to note that provision is for needs and not wants.
A tragic aspect of our materialistic society is that dad is kept so busy trying to provide financing for all of the desires of the family that the family ends up losing the real need for him which is time with him. God does not give us everything we want. He gives us what we need, and that may include hardship and trials so that we become strong in our faith. A true father provides of himself and not just what he can materially earn. Be very careful of the pressure to work more hours to earn more money so you can give your family more things. Frankly, it is better to live on a lower economic scale and have your family than have all that stuff. No one has ever said at the end of their life that “I wish I had spent more time with my desk.”
TRUE FATHERHOOD IS SEEN IN TEACHING
Teaching involves instruction, example and discipline. God does all three with us.
God has given us instruction. Exodus 24:13 says that the Law was given for the instruction of the Children of Israel. Romans 15:4 adds “whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Proverbs specifically states it was written to know “wisdom and instruction,” and that the “fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom”
What is instruction? It is directions and guidelines for life that God has given us in His Word. If you will, it is the book of rules that tells us how life is to be lived. That is why the basis of wisdom, which is the ability to apply knowledge to life situations, is the fear of the Lord. It is that reverent respect for the Lord that guides us in applying what he has told us to life, and that is wisdom.
And what are we fathers to give to our children? Ephesians 6:4 says we are to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Throughout Proverbs we find a father calling out to his sons to take hold of his instruction and not let go of them.
Dads, it is our job to guide our children with the “do’s and don’ts” of life. That will not win you a popularity contest with them, but your goal as a parent is that they respect you regardless of whether they like you now or not. I will guarantee that if your children respect you, when they are adults, they will also like you. But the opposite is also true. If they do not respect you, then they will definitely not like you.
The tragedy is that so many children today are going without instruction and they are fulfilling Proverbs 5:21-23: “For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He watches all his paths. His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin. He will die for lack of instruction, And in the greatness of his folly he will go astray.” For the lack of instruction, a generation is being captured and held by their own evil and they are dying – both physically and eternally. Dad, God has given you the responsibility of instructing your children in the ways of the LORD. It is up to you to direct them in the path of righteousness and explain the ways of the LORD to them.
God has also set before us the perfect example of how to live life to its fullest in Jesus Christ. God’s call is for us to follow Him. I often point out that central to God’s election of us to salvation is that we are “predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ . . .” (Rom 8:29b). We are to become like Christ in all of our actions and attitudes. Jesus Himself said in Luke 6:40 that “a pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” Dad, God has given you precious children to instruct and to be an example to, and when your job of teaching/parenting is over, they will be like you. You need to be able to say to your children what the Apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
The third aspect of teaching is discipline. It seems that discipline, especially the physical chastisement aspect of discipline, has become a taboo in much of modern American society, yet God Himself uses the model of a loving father chastising his children to explain His own love for us. In Hebrews 12 God explains why He will chastise believers.
Starting in verse 4: “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the LORD, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the LORD loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.’ It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there who his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
Dads, understand that this is our model. If God needs to chastise believers and use such discipline to train us to stay away from sinful practices so that we might enjoy the peaceful fruit of righteousness, then how much more do we need to do that with our own children. Many today fear discipline being afraid it will stifle the child’s creativity. Others equate spanking with child-abuse. The result of this kind of thinking is a generation of self-centered kids who have not learned self-control.
Discipline is central to teaching children that there are consequences to behavior. While most discipline should be positive in nature, the reality is that our children are born with our sin nature and so there must also be negative consequences too. As Proverbs 22:15 says, “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” Our children are innately sinful and we must teach them early that negative consequences follow bad behavior. Such consequences range from rebuke & reproof, to the with-holding of privileges, to physical chastisement. Negative consequences are necessary to teach the self-control needed to avoid sinful practices and walk in righteousness. Some may try to equate physical chastisement with child abuse, and that can occur if you chastise outside of Scriptural bounds and do it in anger, but the real abuse is to let a child continue in his own foolish path for then he/she will grow up to be a foolish teenager, later on become a foolish young adult, then a foolish middle-age adult, then an old fool, and finally a fool for all of eternity separated from God. Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” If you really love your children, you will discipline them.
Let me summarize all of this for you. Our society has lost its way and it no longer presents a good model of fatherhood. God Himself is our heavenly Father and He is the model for us earthly fathers. 1. God loves us with an everlasting love. We are to love our families in the same way with a committed love that chooses to do what is best for the family at our own sacrifice. 2. God provides for us, and we have a responsibility to be the channel of of God’s provision to our families. We are to give them what they really need and that means us personally too. Don’t fall into the trap of valuing material goods above your relationships with your family. 3. God teaches us through instruction, example and discipline. Let us be good teachers of our children by raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord through instruction, our own example and discipline.
Let me close with an adaptation of 1 Cor. 13 for fathers that someone gave me.
If I speak with the eloquence of Llyod Olgive or preach with the zeal of Billy Graham, but cannot talk to my own son, I am only blaring brass or a crashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy but cannot predict where my son might be after the football game; if I have all knowledge and theological truth, but have no idea what’s important to my son; if I have faith so as to move mountains, but no confidence in his abilities — I am a failure. If I give my money to the missionaries, my time to the gospel team, my talent to the church building committee, and my enthusiasm to the choir — and am too tired to talk to the boy who carries my name, I do not deserve to be called a father. I do not love. I am achieving nothing. This love is patient with strange slang and dress, with CD’s, computers and long telephone calls. It finds a way of being helpful. It avoids using contemptuous language to refer to his child’s friends and generation. It resists the urge to talk at length about the hardships of its own youth. This love realizes that a teenager does not remember its parents hardships… and may have a hard time understanding that suffering builds character. This love is not possessive. It does not try to make its children in its own image. It allows a son to grow, change, make mistakes and someday leave home. It rejoices when that son marries happily. It does not seek to pull strings and hide the harsh realities of life, but allows the boy to become a man before God. Love gives courtesy and respect even to a teenager. It does not compare one child’s performance with another child’s. It does not keep a running total of offenses and failures. It remembers God’s grace and patterns life after that grace. Love endures dirty sneakers, messy rooms, broken vases, loud voices, insatiable appetites, arguments, unfounded boasting and dirt on the just cleaned floor. It can outlast anything. As for prophecy conferences, they will end. As for missionary speakers, they will go back to the field. As for Christian education programs, they will be forgotten. But love will remain. So church work, education and love abide. but the greatest of these is love.
I hope that is the way you strive to love your children.
Sermon Study Sheets
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch.
Older Children – Do one of more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times “dad” is mentioned in the sermon. Talk with your parents about the qualities God wants a dad to have. Talk with your parents about how well you are doing at following their instruction, example and discipline.
THINK ABOUT IT!
– Questions to consider / discuss with others
What legacies have you received from your fathers? What did society promote as role models when you were growing up? How do they compare with what is promoted now? What do you like about being a parent? What are the challenges? How does society define love? How does that compare to God’s love? Describe the love that the Bible says that husband is to have for his wife? Parents for their children? Christians for one another? Include practical ways in which this love is demonstrated. What does is mean that a father is to provide for his family? What is he to provide? What are the three aspects of teaching? What is the relationship between instruction and wisdom? What kind of example are you setting for your children? Do you want them to grow up to be like you are currently? What needs to change? What is discipline? What is its positive side? Give examples? What is its negative side? Give examples? What is chastisement? What does the Bible say about chastisement? What eventually happens to a fool that is never corrected? How are you doing at raising your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? How can it improve?
Sermon Notes – June 17, 2007
A Father’s Involvement – Selected Scriptures
True Fatherhood is Seen in Love
True Fatherhood is Seen in Provision
True Fatherhood is Seen in Teaching
(If you would like to receive Pastor Harris’ weekly sermons via e-mail, Click Here)
For comments, please e-mail Church office