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1. My Thesis
2. Some Examples
Luke 15:11-24
Hebrews 12:3-11

We have been in the habit of expositing through the gospel of Matthew. Last week we finished chapter 5 in our exposition. Rather than begin chapter 6 this morning, I would like to delay one week. Today is Father's Day and it would be good for us to spend a Sunday morning reflecting upon our role the fathers at Rock Valley Bible Church.

Books on the family abound today. In fact, if you tried to read every book written today on Christian parenting, you could never do it. But we have more than books. We have parenting conferences. We have videos. We have study guides. We have Bible studies. We have tapes to instruct us how to be good fathers and mothers. I believe that much of this has arisen because of our desperate need, as a nation, for this type of material.

Quite frankly, many of the families in our nation have lacked role models for how to be a good father and mother. With the increasing acceptance of divorce, single parent homes are almost the norm nowadays. So the conferences, videos, tapes and study guides have filled in a great lack. I believe that much of this accounts for the Promise Keepers phenomena that we have witnessed in recent years. Men, have acknowledge that they have been deficient in their roles in the family and have pledged to be better husbands and better fathers.

Many of these resources are very useful. I have read many of these types of books and found them quite useful. I have several tape series on parenting and have profited by them. I have suggested to others that they read and listen to them also. I have attended workshops on parenting. I would encourage you to read books and listen to tapes on parenting.

But, let me ask you a question, "In past generations, without this plethora of material, how did fathers know how to be a good father to their children? How did they know without Tedd Tripp? Or without James Dobson? Or without Gary Chapman? Or without the Family Life Today radio show? They knew how to be good parents through the pages of the word of God. And particularly, they knew by the fathering example which God Himself has demonstrated. This word of God is a gold mine of helpful parenting insight, just waiting to be mined.

Please open your Bibles to Matthew 5. I want to start this morning with the very last verse in chapter 5 and use it as a launching pad (of sorts) to address this issue this morning. Just as the space shuttle uses the launching ground of Cape Canaveral to explore our world, so I would like to use this one verse to launch our search and study this morning.

Matthew 5:48, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48)." I have referred to this verse often in our exposition of this chapter, because it sets the standard of the righteousness that we need to enter the kingdom of heaven, which is nothing less than perfection. This verse is simply telling us that we need to have a perfect righteousness. God is a perfect God, with no sin or blemish or stain or impurity. We need to be perfectly like Him. In some sense, this verse is just like 1 Peter 1:16, "You shall be holy, for I am Holy." We know that holiness simply talks about God's purity in all things.

However, one aspect of this verse is quite different than the simply admonition to "be holy, for I am Holy." Notice how Jesus addresses God in this verse. Jesus calls him "your heavenly Father." Jesus tells us that our standard of perfection is God, the Father. Jesus isn't putting God as a model as an infinitely pure being that is untouchable and way out there, unlike us. Rather, Jesus is placing God as our heavenly Father, which relates to us of who God is. He is our Father. He is a personal Being.

That God is our Father is obvious. Look at the number of times Jesus refers to God as your "Father" here in the Sermon on the Mount....

"Let your light shine in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).
"... in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:45).
"Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48).
"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 6:1).
"... that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you" (Matt. 6:4).
"But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you" (Matt. 6:6).
"Therefore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him" (Matt. 6:8).
"Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name'" (Matt. 6:9).
"For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you" (Matt. 6:14).
"But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions" (Matt. 6:15).
"... so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you" (Matt. 6:18).
"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and [yet] your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" (Matt. 6:26).
"For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things" (Matt. 6:32).
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Matt. 7:11)
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21).

Jesus refers to God as our "Father" 17X in the Sermon on the Mount alone! We have much to learn from this simple observation. God doesn't refer to Himself as our "Father" by accident. I counted over 250X in the New Testament when God is referred to as "Father." (I counted both when God was addresses as the Father of believers and when God was addressed as the Father of Jesus). God is our Father. He is a perfect Father. Here is ...

1. My Thesis - Our primary example for fathering must come from God Himself!

In other words, when we learn about God (and the Bible is filled with truth about God), we can apply much of what we learn to being fathers ourselves. Thus, I have entitled my message this morning, "God, Our Fatherly Example."

You hear about children who grew up in homes without a good father. Many believe that they will forever has difficulty being good parents, as a result of this. Much modern psychology today is spent in attempting to figure out one's relationship with their father. Many psychologists today think that if you figure out one's relationship to one's father, the rest will make sense. I remember undergoing some pre-marital counseling shortly before I married my wife. We met personally with a pastor of a church. He spent probably an hour seeking to find out what my relationship to my father was and my future wife's relationship with her father. I guess he thought that if he figured these things out, he could counsel us in the areas of potential difficulty we would encounter in our marriage. This type of reasoning is typical. In the modern world, you hear things like ...

- The father was in the home but never had any sort of relationship with his children. This explains why the child has difficulties with close relationships.
- The father was absent from the home. But the son was affectionately cared for his mother. This explains the son's homosexual tendencies.
- The father was domineering in the home (like the drill sergeant). This is explains the low self esteem of the children.
- The father was passive, it was the mother who was the authority in the home. This explains why the sons have no ambition in life.

There is truth in this. As children grow up, they look to their fathers as examples for how they should live as well. So if the father of the home watches television all day, it is likely that the son will follow his example as well.

As a result of this type of thinking, when people have a poor example of parents in the home, they often think that the remedy is to make up for the deficiencies by learning lots of practical things. Thus, we can understand the reason for the propagation of the many practical books, tapes, and radio programs today. The thinking today is that you need to fill the void of a bad example with practical advice, which you never learned with your poor parenting model. My message today is simply one of reminder that God has described Himself as "a Father of the fatherless" (Ps. 68:5). Rather than depending upon the practical advice of men, may we learn our parenting from God, Himself!

For believers in Jesus Christ, our example for how to be a good parent goes beyond how our fathers treated us. Believers have God as their model. Again, listen carefully to my thesis: Our primary example for fathering must come from God Himself!

It is quite obvious to us that a man who grows up in a home where his father is a horrible model, shouldn't follow after his sins. But maybe not so obvious is that a man who grows up in a home where his father was the best of fathers, must admit that his father wasn't perfect. There are things that he ought not to follow. Yet, if you follow the example of God, you will never go wrong. Each generation must come to realize this afresh.

At this point, you might be a little skeptical about my thesis. It is not something that is popularly taught. In fact I looked as some of my practical books on parenting and I didn't see anybody make this point. Perhaps others have. I simply didn't find it in the books I surveyed. However, in practice, many of the good books on parenting naturally learn from God in His parenting and apply it to us. As I reflected upon this, I came to realize that many of the books on the market today are "how-to" books, which focus upon the external do's and don'ts of parenting, rather than upon some key guiding principles.

The seed of this sermon this morning can be traced back to one comment made by one preacher, which I heard about five years ago on a tape. It has always stuck with me. I have enjoyed my opportunity this week to dwell upon it. Let me demonstrate how the Bible focuses upon God for our primary example for fathering from various Scriptures in an effort to prove my thesis this morning.

1. Proverbs 3:11-12.

The first 9 chapters of Proverbs is a parenting manual. Solomon is instructing his son. It is given to us to teach us about raising our children. Right in the midst of this, he writes, "My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD, or loath His reproof. For whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father, the son in whom he delights" (Proverbs 3:11-12).

Notice here that Solomon is connecting the discipline of the LORD with the discipline of a father. When such discipline comes, it shouldn't be rejected. Rather, such discipline should be embraced, because God disciplines those whom He loves.

Notice in verse 12 how the discipline of the LORD is connected to the discipline of fathers "even as a father." Solomon compares God's discipline with the discipline of a father. If this is the case, we ought to be able to look at God's discipline and learn a thing or two about how we ought to discipline our children.

Furthermore, it is interesting to note that in verse 11, Solomon uses two words to describe God's discipline: discipline and reproof. Discipline speaks of physical chastisement. Reproof speaks of verbal chastisement. They have been called many things: correction/counsel, rod/reproof, or discipline/instruction. These are the exact two avenues at the disposal of earthly parents. For instance, "The rod and reproof give wisdom" (Prov. 29:15). "Fathers, ... bring up [your children] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4).

Notice that what God uses the same means to father His children as we are able to use in parenting our children as well. God is our model.

Here is another passage to demonstrate my thesis: our primary example for fathering must come from God Himself!
2. 1 John 3:1-2.

In this passage, John describes our relationship to God. In fact, John repeats himself three times that we might grasp and embrace the reality of this truth. In the first verse John writes, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God." There it is. We are God's children. The implication is that He is our Father. We can learn how to be better fathers by watching how He fathers us.

Notice how John repeats himself. Continuing on in verse 1 we have, "... and such we are!" This is a tremendous statement of affirmation! It's true! That's why John began his verse with "See how great a love!" We are children of God. This is why we can cry "Abba Father" (Rom. 8:15), just like Jesus in the garden. We can use a term of great intimacy in our time of greatest need.

John repeats himself yet again in verse 2, "Beloved, now we are children of God!" If we are God's children. He is our Father. He parents us. We ought to learn from Him how to be fathers to our children! The implication is obvious. In fact, when you think about this, you begin to realize that the Bible is a testimony of how God deals with His children. It is a book given to instruct His children. Furthermore, the Bible is filled with father/son language. The Bible speaks about believers being adopted into God's family (Eph. 1:5), who have obtained an inheritance (Eph. 1:11). As such, believers are called "heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). Reflect upon that for a moment and you will realize the extent to which believers in Christ are actually children of God!

The best books on parenting actually apply this principle quite naturally. The best books look beyond the simply commands given to fathers and mothers to all of the instructions given to all of the children of God. Then, by way of application, apply it to parenting.

One last verse to (hopefully) demonstrate my thesis: Our primary example for fathering must come from God Himself!
3. Psalm 103:13.

Here is a great Psalm speaking of the characteristics of our God which ought to illicit praise from our lips. In the first verses is begins, "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul." David instructs us that God is the one "Who pardons us, ... Who heals us, ... Who redeems us, ..." In verse 13 we read, "Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him."

Here we see the compassion of a father being compared to the compassion of our heavenly Father. When David uses the words, "Just as," he is describing a likeness which we can compare. If God is compassionate towards His children, so we, as fathers ought to be compassionate towards our children.

This whole idea of my thesis isn't such a strange concept. Rather, it saturates the Bible. We are called to be "imitators of God" (Eph. 5:1). This imitation must certainly also apply to being a father as well. Furthermore, we are called to be "imitators of Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1). Later in 1 Corinthians 11, we are told that "the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ" (verse 3). In other words, we are to look at the Trinitarian relationship of the Father and the Son to understand our marriage relationship. In Ephesians 5:25-32, husbands are instructed to look to Jesus' love for the church as their example of how to love and purify their wives. Elsewhere, we are called to love as Christ loved (Eph. 5:2) and to follow the example of Jesus in His sufferings (1 Pet. 2:21).

Many times in Scripture we are called to be like God. And as I mentioned before, we are to be "holy as God is holy" (1 Pet. 1:16). And, we are to be "perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48).

I trust that these verses have been enough to demonstrate my thesis to be true.

I would like now to move from ....
1. My Thesis
2. Some Examples

Church family, if you embrace my thesis, you will begin to see what type of parenting manual each of you hold in your hands. You will find all sorts of applications to your parenting. You can begin to read things about God, and then think about the implications upon on your parenting.

Oh, perhaps these types of applications might not be explicitly explained and practical, like ...

- what type of things to say when you tuck your children in bed at night, or ...
- how to counsel your son when he is cut from the basketball team, or ...
- how to help your child show more interest in school, or ...
- how to help your child prosper in a job.

But I am convinced that looking to God as our example will help you deal with each of these situations.

Certainly by now, you have seen children and adults wearing these little bracelets that say, "WWJD," which stand for What Would Jesus Do? Perhaps it is time for parents to put on a "WWGOFD" bracelet, "What Would God, Our Father, Do?"

This certainly would bring theology into incredible application. My heart is that the fathers of Rock Valley Bible Church would be good theologians (i.e. they would study and know God well). But it doesn't stop there. My heart is that the fathers of Rock Valley Bible Church would then take what they have learned about God and His character and would apply their theology in their parenting of their children. Fathers, we need to say, "This is what I know God to be like. I will follow His example."

In the afternoons, my daughter likes to listen to a radio show on WMBI, called, "Just for Kids." On Fridays, they have a feature called "Friday Favorites," where the host, "Danielle Popsicle" plays songs which have been requested by children (either by phone, or letter, or email). Last Friday, they played a song requested by my daughter. It was entitled, "I Want to be Like My Daddy!" This is what I long for the men at Rock Valley Bible Church. I long that you "want to be like your Daddy." I'm not referring to your earthly daddy, but your heavenly One.

Now, before I get to a few examples, let me first step back a bit and take a brief theology lesson. There are many descriptions of God in the Bible, which we cannot apply to us, because they are connected with the infinitude of God. For instance, ...

- We know that God knows all things (Ps. 139:1-4). We, as fathers, cannot possibly know all things.
- We know that God is omnipresent (Ps. 139:7-10). We will never be able to be everywhere at the same time.
- We know that God can do all things (Dan. 4:35). We, as fathers, cannot possibly do all things.

You cannot expect to take these types of things and apply them to your fathering. However, many descriptions of God we can apply to us, because they are able to be imitated. For instance, ...

- God's compassion (as we saw in Psalm 103:13).
- God's love
- God's faithfulness
- God's care

But even in these, there is a sense where God's compassion, love, faithfulness, and care will far surpass our ability.We need to keep this in mind. These descriptions of God are commonly referred to as "attributes." Most theologians describe God's along these two lines...

- Those that relate to His infinity (that God is a self-existent creator, who transcends space and time).
- Those that relate to His creation (His love, goodness, grace, holiness, and wrath).

They are called various things:

- Natural attributes and moral attributes.
- Absolute attributes and relative attributes.
- Incommunicable attributes and communicable attributes.

But the idea is the same. There are some things about God we can imitate. There are other things we cannot.

We should be like model railroad cars. Replicas, but many times smaller. In our smallness, there are certain things that we will never be able mimic like God. On our model railroad car, we cannot hope to transfer 75 tons of coal from the coal mine to the power plant. We cannot hope to travel at 60 miles an hour. Yet, there are some ways in which a model railroad car is very much like the real railroad car. In this way ought our fathering likeness to God be.

One last thing, before we look at a few examples. This morning, I can't even hope to be exhaustive in our study. To be exhaustive would be impossible. This week, I came up with a list of 50 ways in which our knowledge of God instructs us concerning our fathering. I stopped at 50, because I knew that this would hopefully prove the point that such an exercise would be impossible. (I have attached my list at the bottom of this sermon. Click hereto see the list).

Though we cannot be exhaustive this morning, I desperately want to put this principle in your head. When you think of parenting models, I would like for you to think first of God's example.

Let's look at our first example ...
Example #1: Luke 15:11-24

Perhaps you are familiar with this story. It is a great picture of the compassion and love of God. Jesus tells the story in the context of accusations against him. See, there were some that criticized Jesus as being one who "receives sinners" and even goes so far as to eat with them (verse 2). Jesus tells three stories to demonstrate that He is simply doing what is consistent with the heart of God: to love sinners. We are interested this morning in the third story, which begins in verse 11.

Luke 15:11-24
And [Jesus] said, "A certain man had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' And he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be in need. And he went and attached himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving [anything] to him. But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 'I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men."' And he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion [for him,] and ran and embraced him, and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.' And they began to be merry.

We have a son who has taken half of the inheritance and wasted it all. He comes home, admits his guilt, and wants to be a servant (verses 18-19, 21). Notice that the son doesn't even seek forgiveness or restitution. He is simply admitting his guilt. He is seeking a place of humility.

And we have a father, who sees the son, a long way of (verse 20), feels compassion for the son (verse 20), and demonstrates his compassion by running after him, embracing him and kissing him (verse 20). On top of this, He honors his son by dressing him in the best robe, a ring, and sandals on his feet (verse 22). As if that weren't enough, the father celebrates the return of his son by throwing a party (verse 23). The father can hardly hold in his joy as he speaks clearly with others, "this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found" (verse 24).

In each of the three stories in this chapter, we are meant to reflect upon the rejoicing over the lost!

- the sheep was lost, but now is found (:6).
- the coin was lost, but now is found (:9).
- the son was lost, but now is found (:24).)

The focus of the stories is the joy of the shepherd, the widow, and the father, who found what was lost. We don't find the shepherd cursing the lost sheep, "There you are you dirty, rotten sheep. I've been looking all over for you. I'll teach you to wander from the fold." We don't find the widow exasperated and frustrated at searching so long for the coin she found, as if the search wasn't worth the effort. Moreover we don't find the father saying, "Son, you have wronged me greatly. You have put me to great shame. People have constantly asked me, 'where is your other son?' You have disgraced me. I guess the only way for me to save face is simply to let you come back into our house." Rather, we feel unrestrained joy and affection when the lost was found!

The point of all of these stories is to describe the character of God in His love for lost sinners who are found. Jesus was instructing the Pharisees and scribes that He spent time with tax-gatherers and sinners, because the Father rejoices when they are found again. They teach us what God is like. God is one who will embrace sinners who recognize their need for a Savior. God is not one who brings people into His fold reluctantly. Rather, (verse 7), "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Rather, (verse 10), "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

The primary application to this passage is obviously for those who have thought that they have sinned too great for God to ever love them or embrace them. Or for those who think that when God draws someone to Himself, He has a reluctant spirit in doing so. But that's not the case. God genuinely rejoices and has great joy in the repentance of a sinner. Jesus is teaching us how God responds to repentant sinners. According to my thesis, (Our primary example for fathering must come from God Himself) we can also apply this to our parenting.

Let me give you a brief footnote concerning Bible interpretation. We believe that each passage in the Bible has only one interpretations, but many applications. Luke 15 should never be interpreted to be teaching about how to be a better father. In other words, a sermon entitled, "Ten Principles for Fathering" from Luke 15 would be a wrong message, because Luke 15 isn't about how to be a better father. Rather Luke 15 is about the character of God toward repentant sinners (nothing more, nothing less). Any approach to Luke 15 must follow along the lines of interpretation I just laid out.

However, Luke 15 does supply a source to see what sort of Father God depicts himself to be. We may apply Luke 15 in many, many different ways. If it teaches something about God, we might be able to apply to our fathering. But you can also apply God's response to repentant sinners to your sinful neighbors who have wronged you. You can apply it to your sinful father who abused you in the past. You might apply this to your sinful child, who has acted sinfully. There are all sorts of applications which can flow from this interpretation. But we must always remember that each text of Scripture has one interpretation and many applications.

With respect to applying this to fathers (after all, it is Father's Day), realize that few sons act more wickedly than this son did.

1. He wasted half of his father's possessions.
2. He shamed his father as a result.
3. He lived in the lusts of his flesh.
4. He showed no interest in the family.

Yet, the father (a picture of the heavenly Father) brought him back with great rejoicing.

And so I ask you fathers, "When the day comes when ...

1. Your child wastes your hard-earned possessions ...
- by leaving lights in the house on, or
- by a foolish spending binge with your credit card, or
- by receiving poor grades at school, while your money is supporting him.
2. Your child shames you in some way ...
- by misbehaving in church, or
- by misbehaving in school so that you are called in to speak with the principal
- by being arrested for drunken driving.
3. Your child indulges in his/her lusts ...
- when you find some pornographic magazines under your child's bed, or
- when you catch your daughter reading some inappropriate material.
4. Your child deserts your family ...
- never calling, or
- never writing.

"When this day come what will be the attitude of your heart toward your child? Certainly, none of these actions can be excused as acceptable behavior. Certainly, there must be consequences to such behavior. Certainly, there must be loving discipline to correct this behavior. But what will be the attitude of your heart?

You have a choice. You can be sinful, by being vindictive and stewing in your thoughts, "When I get a hold of that boy, I'm gonna let him have it!" Or, you can be like God, by genuinely exhibiting great compassion and forgiveness toward your child. When they return to you repentant, will your blessings are showered upon them so that there is no doubt that you love them and will never hold this against them again? Will you demonstrate physical affection with embraces and kisses? Will you demonstrate verbal affection, by restoring your child completely.

This is a great application to the story of the "Prodigal Son." That word, "prodigal" simply means, "extravagant and wasteful." We normally think of the son who left his father to live in "loose living" (verse 13) as being the "extravagant and wasteful" son. Yet, when the son returned, it was the father who was "extravagant and wasteful" in his demonstration of love. Such is the father's love. Perhaps this story ought to be called, the "Prodigal Father." Oh, that the men of Rock Valley Bible Church would be "Prodigal Fathers"

I believe that you can extend this sort of application to many of the attributes of God. When you read in Exodus 34:6, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth," we can be instructed by all of these characteristics of God. We see God's compassion in Luke 15. We ought to abound in our graciousness to our children. We ought to be slow to anger in dealing with our children. We ought to about in lovingkindness (i.e. faithful mercy) with our children. We ought to always deal with our children in truth. Our goal is to be perfect fathers, as our heavenly father is perfect (Matt. 5:48).

Let's look at our second example ...
Example #2: Hebrews 12:3-11

The writer to the Hebrews is writing to a group of Jewish believers who are in danger of departing from the faith and returning to the Jewish sacrifices. They were even beginning to face some persecution as we can see in verse 3, "For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart." These Hebrew Christians were facing hostility. The writer instructed these believers to focus their hearts upon Jesus, who suffered greatly during his time upon the earth.

The writer to the Hebrews continues in the next verses to explain that it was simply God's hand of discipline upon them to direct them back to the right path. Continuing in verses 4-6, "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.'"

In verse 5, he quotes from a verse we looked at earlier: Proverbs 3:11-12. Solomon said that with respect to the LORD, realize that He disciplines us as well. When we go astray, the LORD will discipline whom He loves. The picture in mind here is that God is the father of believers, who will keep His children on the straight path. When they begin to deviate, He will discipline them to bring them back. Such is what was happening to these Hebrew Christians. They were straying and experiencing God's hand of discipline. They were facing hostility from men and disciplining from God.

This is what happens to believers who begin to stray from the faith. God, in His kindness, will bring adversity upon them to cause them to realize their rebellion. He is our loving Father, who disciplines us as we might expect from our caring, heavenly Father. So when a man begins to be attracted to another woman at work and begins to walk down the path of adultery, God will make the way difficult and hard and adversity will come. When you begin to make some other poor, sinful choices, you will begin to realize the difficulties of your actions. ... God disciplining you. We ought to rejoice in this.

Likewise this should have been an encouraging thing to these Hebrew Christians. To this end the writer seeks to explain this, "It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom [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." The fact that God was disciplining them was a demonstration that they were indeed loved of God, not hated. Furthermore, God was dealing with these people "as sons." The simply fact that they were being disciplined demonstrated that they were His children, who were being cared for.

In verse 9, the writer continues, "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."

Think about our own fathers and how he (hopefully) disciplined you. Didn't you respect your father for his discipline? (verse 9). You know he disciplined you for your good (verse 10), which bore fruit of righteousness (verse 11). Whenever a believer falls under the disciplining hand of God, it is for his/her good. It is to teach them to go the proper way.

The final application of the writer is simple, "Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that [the limb] which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed."

This passage is all about those who are straying from the faith, who are experiencing the discipline of the Lord. They are instructed not to despise it, because of what they know that it will produce (verse 11). The primary application, then, is for those who are beginning to grow weary and lose heart (verse 3). Don't lose heart, it is God's disciplining hand upon you for your good.

But there is great secondary application here for fathers. We can see how God disciplines His children and can learn from our perfect, heavenly Father. Let me simply pull out a few applications from this text to our own discipline.

1. We must discipline our children

Verse 7 tells us, "God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?" God, in His dealing with us, disciplines us. When we start to go down a path that is not right, God will step in, either through our own reaping of the natural consequences of sin, or through direct intervention to restrain us in our sin. Similarly, we need to discipline our children. When our children begin to walk down a wrong path, we need to be there to stop them, before it is too late.

It is a sad thing in the world today that many of the so called "experts" actually deny that you should physically discipline your children. I read one source this week that asked, "How many times has your two- or three-year-old yelled, 'I hate you,' or thrown herself on the ground when she didn't get what she wanted?" Two steps were given to resolve the issue:

1. Help your child calm down.
2. Take your child back to the situation that started the tantrum and reason with them to respond differently.

This is a wrong answer. I don't know of any two- or three-year-old who is capable of reasoning in this manner. What gets their attention is physical discipline. I remember our youngest throwing such a tantrum twice, until she learned such a behavior would generate a trip to the bathroom with daddy.

If God, as our heavenly Father, disciplines us, we must discipline our children.

2. Our discipline ought to demonstrate our love for our children.

Verse 6 says, "Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines." When God disciplines us, it is a demonstration of His love for us. "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently" (Prov. 13:24).

If we love our children, we will discipline them as well. Even in the midst of our disciplining them, our love ought to be evident. You should affirm your love for your children every time they are disciplined. Your discipline ought to be smothered in love. In God's discipline of us, he demonstrates His love for us. We ought to follow His example.

If your children aren't convinced of your love for them after your discipline, perhaps you are doing something wrong. Perhaps you are not clearly explaining the wrong they did. Perhaps you are disciplining your child in anger. Perhaps you are hypocritical in your expectations of them, which will only build resentment, rather than respect.

3. Our discipline ought to be for the good of our children

"He disciplines us for our good" (verse 10). In our discipline of our children, we must always have their good in mind. We don't discipline our children to vent our anger or to give us esteem and respect as good parents in the sight of others or - to control our children, like a dog.

Does God discipline us to vent a little bit of His anger? No! He disciplines for our benefit. We ought to discipline our children for their own good. Look at verse 11, "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.

Let me show you a few benefits of using the rod.

1. It removes foolishness.
Prov. 22:15, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him" (Prov. 22:15). As we train our children, it is our goal to create wise men and women. As such, our children need to understand when their behavior is foolish and when it is wise. The rod is something that God uses to drive the foolishness from your child.

But the rod does more than simply remove foolishness.
2. It gives wisdom.
"The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way bring shame to his mother" (Prov. 29:15). As you discipline your child, you will help to impart wisdom into your child.

Let's close by a reminder ourselves where we began. We began in Matt. 5:48, "You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." You might say, "Steve, I never had a good example for a Father." I say, "be a good Bible student, and learn from your heavenly Father how to be a good father."

 

This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on June 16, 2002 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.

 

The following is a short list of direct applications for us in our fathering, which I simply jotted down in my sermon preparation.

1 Psalm 103:13 Fathers should have compassion on their children.
2 Isaiah 1:2 Fathers should realize that their children may rebel against them.
3 Isaiah 63:9 Fathers should empathize with the difficulties of their children.
4 Malachi 1:6 Fathers should expect honor and respect from their children.
5 Matt. 5:45 Fathers should demonstrate one's love for enemies before their children.
6 Matt. 6:1 Fathers should reward their children when appropriate.
7 Matt. 6:8,32 Fathers should know of the needs of their children.
8 Matt. 6:14-15 Fathers should be forgiving toward their children.
9 Matt. 6:26 Fathers should provide for the needs of their children.
10 Matt. 7:11 Fathers should give great gifts to their children.
11 Matt. 11:27 Fathers should give responsibility to their children.
12 Matt. 11:27 Fathers should have a close relationship with their children.
13 Matt. 18:10 Fathers should not despise little, insignificant children.
14 Matt. 18:19 Fathers should listen to the requests of their children.
15 Matt. 18:35 Fathers should punish their children who refuse to forgive others.
16 Matt. 20:23 Fathers should prepare places of honor for their children.
17 Matt. 25:21,23 (see 34) Fathers should complement children on work well done.
18 Matt. 26:39,42 Fathers should allow difficulties in the lives of their children for their good and the good of others.
19 Matt. 26:53 Fathers should be ready and willing to protect their children in a time of request.
20 Luke 6:36 Fathers should be merciful to their children.
21 Luke 15:20 Fathers should be affectionate toward their children.
22 Luke 15:24 Fathers should rejoice when a wayward child repents.
23 John 3:35; 16:27 Fathers should love their children.
24 John 5:17 Fathers should be actively working.
25 John 5:19-20 Fathers should instruct their children by example (All revelation)
26 John 5:21 Fathers should give their children great authority.
27 John 5:36 Fathers should give their children work to do.
28 John 5:37 Fathers should send their children as representatives.
29 John 6:45 Fathers should teach their children.
30 John 8:29 Fathers should support their children when sent.
31 Acts 1:4; 2:33 Fathers should keep their promises.
32 Romans 8:16 Fathers should be approachable by their children.
33 Hebrews 12:3-11 Fathers should discipline their children.
34 Romans 16:27 Fathers should be wise in dealing with their sons
35 1 Corinthians 10:13 Fathers should be faithful to their children.
36 Exodus 34:6 Fathers should be compassionate toward their children.
37 Exodus 34:6 Fathers should be gracious toward their children.
38 Exodus 34:6 Fathers should be slow to anger with their children.
39 Exodus 34:6 Fathers should be abounding in lovingkindness toward their children.
40 Exodus 34:6 Fathers should be truthful to their children.
41 Psalm 100:5 Fathers should be good to their children.
42 Psalm 86:15 Fathers should be merciful to their children.
43 2 Peter 3:15 Fathers should be patient with their children.
44 Hebrews 13:20 Fathers should exhibit peace with their children.
45 1 Peter 1:16 Fathers should be holy in their dealings with their children.
46 Matthew 3:17 Fathers should affirm their children.
47 Daniel 4:37 Fathers should be just (i.e. fair) with their children.
48 Romans 1:18 Fathers should demonstrate a righteous wrath and hatred for sin.
49 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 Fathers should comfort their children in distress.
50 Philippians 2:5-8 Fathers should demonstrate humility before their children.