Summary: This sermon addresses how we as earthly fathers should strive to be like God, our heavenly Father.
THE EXAMPLE OF OUR HEAVENLY FATHER
Text: Matthew 5:48
Dispelling the dangerous myth that all are children of God, Louis Everly wrote: “It is only when we are subject to a common father that we are brothers. To become brothers we have only to become sons again”. (Wayne A. Detzler. New Testament Words In Today’s Language. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1986. p. 155).
One of the things that the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) does is to illustrate both willingness as well as resistance to being children of God. Another thing that the parable of the Prodigal Son teaches us is how we can see the role of God in our earthly fathers.
The Bible tells us that those who are Spirit-led (Romans 8:14) are God’s children. The Spirit of sonship liberates us otherwise we would be slaves to fear (Romans 8:15 paraphrased). The Holy Spirit draws us near so that we can we call God our heavenly Father, Abba (Romans 8:15).
THE REPUTATION OF EARTHLY FATHERS
The ideal image …
Almost all fathers would want their children to look at them with respect. The kind of respect that we give to our Heavenly Father has the element of “awe” which is said to be a respect that is tinged with fear. Earthly fathers even like for their children to have “awe” in their respect for good ol’ dad. It is obvious that the “awe” of earthly fathers is limited unlike the “awe” of our Heavenly Father that makes Him truly and “awesome” God!
When a child wants to imitate his or her father, more than likely they want to do so because of the attributes of generosity, strength and authority that they see in their fathers. (Ronald Youngblood. Special – Day Sermons: Outline And Messages. Grand Rapids: Baker Bookhouse, 1989, p. 122).
The cultural reputation …
There are many cultures with ideal fathers such as Jewish, Oriental, Italian and American. “The juvenile crime rate in Italy is among the lowest in the world because the Italian father, however poor or lowly, is respected and obeyed by his children. He also soundly thrashes them when they get into the slightest mischief. A juvenile court judge in New York City some time ago made the statement that in his thirty years on the bench he scarcely had to examine a child of Chinese parentage because every Chinese – American father impresses on his children with the shame involved in dishonoring the family name”. (Youngblood, p. 130).
In most cases, the same can be said about fathers from the Jewish culture. Billy Graham once wrote an article in the newspaper giving advice on how to be the ideal father. He said in the following order: First, Love your children and let them know that you love them. Secondly, Spend time with your children, listening to them, playing with, encouraging and teaching them. Thirdly, be an example to your children by your words and actions.
THE CHARACTER OF EARTHLY FATHERS
All fathers have the duty of providing for the needs of their children. These duties include both the material side as well as the nurturing side. The material side is food, clothing and shelter. The nurturing side is love and discipline. By discipline I mean both instruction as well as correction.
The instruction side of discipline is always fun. Teaching you child to ride a bike for the first time without training wheels. Or, teaching them how to hit or catch a ball. Or, maybe, and I said maybe teaching your child to drive. Stuff like that is always fun. But, as a parent it is the correction side of discipline that hurts. As a parent you love your children. But, when correction is required it is painful for the parent.
As a child my father once said before giving me a whipping, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you?” The last whipping I got as teenager, I thought of that sentence he told me as a child. I dare not say it, but I wanted to say, “As a child you once told me that the whipping was going to hurt you worse than me. Well, can we trade places and then compare notes?”
Josh McDowell in his book More Than A Carpenter, tells the story of a girl whose father was a judge. One day she got a speeding ticket. Her father in the role of the judge found her guilty. But, in the role of the father he stepped down from the judge’s domain and paid the fine.
When I first read that story years ago I was singled. I can tell you that eleven years later now a father of two beautiful young girls my oldest, 10, and my youngest, 7 and a half, that story takes on more and more meaning every time I think about it. It relates how God’s love is to us.