OPENING: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_r7AJ8-coTk (time stamp: 0.0 to 2:42)
In this sermon series we’ve been using the popular TV series “This Is Us” as the foundation of the sermons we’re preaching this month. Beginning its 3rd season, “This Is Us” has been nominated for 7 Emmys and has won a faithful fan base because it is so well written and acted that many of their fans say that they can actually “see themselves” in the shows. The characters come off as so real that many say that it echoes their lives, and that it can literally be said: “This Is Us!”
The clip you just watched shows Jack - the father of a family of 3 children - taking his adopted son Randall to a Dojo to learn martial arts. The scene has Randall being initiated into the Dojo… but the REAL focus here is on the promises that Jack publicly makes as a Father to Randall.
(Quoting the scene)
Sensei: “Are you willing to hold (your son) up no matter what comes his way?”
Sensei: “Show him (by doing pushups with Randall on his back). Good, now keep going. Are you willing to raise this young boy into a strong man?”
Jack: “Yes sir”
Sensei: “Are you willing to push him to be the best man in the world he can be?”
Sensei: “Are you willing to lift him to greater heights, even if it hurts?”
And then the sensei (or leader of the dojo) says “You can stop, alright? I think that’s enough.”
And Jack replies: “No. I won’t stop!”
Jack is the father figure in the series. The writers have portrayed him as being the one who sets the tone for everybody else in the family. In another one of the clips I saw, the other son (Kevin) tells someone: “I ask myself ‘what would dad do?’”
In the Bible, God is portrayed as our “Father Figure”. And you see it a little bit in the Old Testament (God is referred as being a father about 4 or 5 times)
In Proverbs 3:12 for example: “the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a FATHER the son in whom he delights.”
And in Isaiah 63:16 it says “… you, O LORD, are our FATHER, our Redeemer…”
And, of course, here in our text this morning: “As a FATHER shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.” Psalm 103:13
But, it isn’t until we get into the New Testament - it’s not until Jesus teaching us about who God REALLY is - that we begin to see God as our Father.
Throughout the “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus emphasizes God as our Father:
“... let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works glorify your FATHER who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
“when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your FATHER who sees in secret will reward you” Matthew 6:3-4
And of course, when Jesus taught His disciples to pray He said: “Our FATHER who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.’” Matthew 6:9
Over and over and over again throughout the New Testament God is portrayed as our FATHER. Jesus refers to God as the Father over 100 times in the Gospels - and that doesn’t count the numerous times God is called “Father” in the rest of the New Testament.
That got me to thinking… why? Why would Jesus emphasize that God is our Father? Well, because He IS.
When you and I became Christians, God became the one who set the tone for WHO we are and what we should be like as children of God. Once you become a Christian… you are a CHILD of God (which makes God your Father). That’s what we read in Romans 8:15-16 “you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”
That’s what the leader of the dojo was trying to drive home to Jack. He was telling Jack that HE (as Randall’s Father) was going to be the one to decide how his son’s going to turn out.
• Are you willing to HOLD your son up?
• Are you willing to RAISE him to be a strong man?
• Are you willing to PUSH him to be the best he can be?
• Are you willing to LIFT him to greater heights even if it hurts?
And Jack’s answer was yes, yes, yes, and yes. At least, up until the last statement the sensei makes… and then he says NO. No, I’m not going to do that. “No, I won’t stop!" I won’t quit. I won’t give up. This IS MY CHILD!!! I’ll do whatever it takes to hold him up… and I will NOT stop!
That’s what Psalm 103 is all about. It tells us “(GOD) forgives all your iniquity, (and) heals all your diseases, (He) redeems your life from the pit, (and) crowns you with steadfast love and mercy. (He) satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
Translation? God WILL NOT GIVE UP on us. He refuses to! He loves us too much to give up on us without a fight.
ILLUS: In Luke 15 we read of Jesus being confronted by self-righteous Pharisees. They think Jesus has been spending wayyyy too much time with sinners and they’re giving Him a hard time about it. And so Jesus tells them 3 parables that explains how important the lost are to God. And in His last parable Jesus uses the imagery of a father to drive his point home.
He tells about a father (who is obviously GOD) who has 2 sons. The youngest boy is a self-centered brat who tells his dad he doesn’t want to live under his roof anymore…he wants his inheritance NOW!!!! And he’s going to live his life his own way without Dad’s interference.
THEN he takes his inheritance. goes off to a far country, and there he lives high on the hog… until the money runs out, and so do his friends. To make matters worse, a famine hits the land and the boy (who’d been living high on the hog) is reduced to feeding the hogs (which was a major insult to a Jew, since pigs were an unclean animal). He’s having such a hard time surviving and he gets so hungry he begins to consider eating what he’s been feeding the pigs.
Then suddenly he realizes how good he had it back with dad. Jesus said "when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."’ And he arose and came to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:17-24
Now I want you to notice something here. The Father loved the son… just the way he was. The son had insulted his father, probably telling him: “I wish you were dead”. The son had rejected his father: he wanted his inheritance so he could go and live as he wanted to live without his father’s rules and regulations. And the son ignored his father – he went off to a far land where he lived in a way he knew his father would be ashamed of.
And now… he’s come back home. He’s filthy, he’s broken, he’s empty, and even he knows his Father shouldn’t love him anymore.
You know, there are those in this world who would look at a person like that – a person who’d made bad decisions over and over again and had made a mess of their lives - and say: “He got what he deserved!!!! He doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.”
ILLUS: I’ve read that the Pharisees had their own version of that parable. (see footnote). They told a boy who took his inheritance, left home and lived like a pagan. But life fell apart and he came back home looking for forgiveness. But, as the Pharisees told the story, his dad basically said: “You can work in the fields, and I’ll clothe you and feed you. But you may as well understand – you’re not my son… anymore.”
(PAUSE) And God said … NO!!!! That’s not how it works. “The Lord is … patient toward you, not wanting that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
Did you notice in the story (Prodigal Son) that the Father RUNS to his son, He doesn’t even wait for the boy to get to Him. He runs out to His boy and meets him on the path. It’s like He’s been watching for this boy all day long – day after day, after day - waiting for His son to turn around and come back home!!!
And when the boy gets into his rehearsed speech about how unworthy he is, the Father doesn’t even listen. He puts new clothes on him… and kills a fatted calf, and they have a party!!!
God is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but that all should come home. That all sinners would repent. God knew you and I didn’t deserve to be forgiven. God knew we didn’t deserve to be called His children. Literally, when we think of the story of the Prodigal Son we can see ourselves in the story… because THIS IS US! But God wanted to forgive us anyway. If we’re willing to come to Him like the prodigal Son He wants to shower us with all kinds of good things.
Jesus tells us “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7) In other words, every time a person is baptized into Christ – there’s a party in heaven. God and all the host of heaven rise and applaud… and they have a party. Of course, that doesn’t even begin to equal the party we’re gonna have when we meet Jesus in the air and join Him in Heaven for eternity.
Jesus came to earth to be the fulfillment of the PROMISE made in Psalm 103: “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
Jesus was sent to earth… so we could be forgiven. So God could fix what we’d broken; so God could heal what we’d damaged; and we could become Children of the Father.
But the WORLD looks at those damaged by sin and declares to God: “It’s time to stop caring! I think that’s enough. Let them go to hell! That’s what they deserve!”
And God says “NO! That’s not going to happen. I won’t stop and I won’t quit. They may turn away from me but I’ll never give up on them. All God asks of us to do to become His children is that we come to Him on His terms: Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God; Acknowledge that we’ve sinned and then repent and turn away from that lifestyle; Confess that Jesus will now be our Lord and Master – that He will own who we are and all that we have; Be buried in the waters of baptism and rise to walk in newness of life; and then Live for Him for the rest of our lives.
It’s not hard, and there’s nothing in that list that would make it so we deserved God’s forgiveness. You can’t buy salvation, but you can accept it. And once accepted His grace and become His child… He begins remake you into His image
CLOSE: I want to close with this true story of a preacher and his wife who had been driving all night to get to their destination. They stopped at an all-night diner… and all they wanted to do was get a bite to eat and get back on the road. But they’d just given their order when an old man came to their table, pulled up a chair and sat down. Sigh. And he started asking them questions about their trip and how things were going. Then he asked the man what he did for a living.
“I’m a preacher” the man responded.
“Really”, said the old man… “well I have a story to tell you.”
“When I was born My mother wasn’t married. And when I started to school my classmates had a name for me, and it wasn’t a very nice name. I used to go off by myself both at recess and lunch time so I could get away from their insults and taunts. Saturday afternoons in town I could feel every eye burning a hole through me. They were all wondering who my REAL father was.
“When I was about 12, a new preacher came to our church. I would always go in late and slip out early. But one day the preacher said the benediction so fast I got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. I could feel every eye in church on me.
Just about the time I got to the door, I looked up and the preacher was looking right at me. ‘Who are you, son? Whose boy are you?’ “I felt the old weight come upon me. It was like a big, black cloud. Even the preacher was putting me down, I thought.
“But as the preacher looked down at me, studying my face, he smiled a big smile. ‘Wait a minute,’ he said, ‘I know who you are. I see the family resemblance. You are a son of God!’
“And he slapped me across the back and said, ‘Boy, you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.’
“That,” said the old man said, “was the most important single sentence anyone ever said to me.” And with that, the old man got up and left the diner…
The waitress came over to their table and asked: “Do you know who that was?” “No,” they replied.” "Well that was Ben Hooper. He was twice been elected to be governor of Tennessee.”
But he probably wouldn’t have been governor if that preacher hadn’t seen the family resemblance. It was realizing that he was a child of God and that God was his Father that made all the difference. If you are a Christian today, you need to realize God is YOUR Father. You need to realize what a great gift you’ve been given, and you need to live like a person who knows they are a child of God. You have a great inheritance… you just need to claim it.
But if you’re NOT a Christian today… INVITATION
Footnote: A hint of the Pharisees as the source of the Prodigal story can be found at https://quizlet.com/264779220/religion-chapter-4-tri-2-mr-brown-flash-cards/. I apologize that this is not an authoritative source (it appears to be a lesson plan for home schoolers) but I’m convinced they got their information from some place I can’t presently find.