2007-06-17 Ephesians 6:4 Godly Fathers
This morning we’re going to look at God’s Word as it applies to fathers.
The role of fatherhood has become somewhat less clear in society. Indeed, society doesn’t seem to value the family structure much at all anymore. So, it can be quite confusing for modern men to fill the role of father.
Well, no matter how many books are out there both good and bad, there’s one book that is the source of true wisdom and knowledge. So, without any further ado, let’s turn to God’s Word, learn what it has to say to men about fatherhood, and then attune our lives to its instruction.
I cannot stress enough the importance of taking this book at face value. From a very simple, plain reading of the text, we discover the radical, incredible message of salvation. God sent His own Son, who lived perfectly, who died so that we can know God’s love, so that we can live with Him forever. In this book, we find that exclusive truth, that Jesus Christ is the only way to God the Father. That comes from a simple reading; there is no struggle with context there. And it is Jesus himself who teaches us about God. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Jesus, when talking about the kingdom of heaven, when teaching His disciples about heaven, reveals God as Father.
Now, that’s something we can relate to, isn’t it? Every single person on this planet has a father. Unfortunately, not all fathers are good. And that’s why we have to turn to God’s Word. It tells us all about God; showing us, what a true Father looks like.
Not only does God’s Word reveal salvation to us, it is also a manual for living the way God intended. And like a good Father, God gives good instructions so that we can live up to our greatest potential, and be exceedingly happy. Happiness comes from two things. Knowing the assurance of our salvation, and living according to God’s will.
So, what is God’s will for Fathers?
Well, look at our text: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
Notice that the Apostle Paul here addresses fathers, not mothers, not parents, but fathers. He has a reason for this! He’s going after the men on purpose.
Okay, listen up, men. Listen up, all you fathers, grandfathers, wanna be fathers! This is your responsibility. Pay attention! This is from God! Are you listening?
Here’s your responsibility: “train and instruct your children in the Lord.” To be sure, he’s also saying, “Ask your wives to help you in this.”
But the ultimate responsibility lies on the shoulders of the men.
If you train and instruct your children in the Lord, you will not exacerbate them. What does exacerbate mean? Dictionary.com defines it as, “to increase the severity, bitterness, or violence of; aggravate.” So, if our sinful, natural inclination is to hate God and our neighbour, a father’s failure to train and instruct his children in the Lord will cause them to increase in the severity, bitterness, or violence of their hatred toward God and neighbour.
That’s what’s at stake here. That’s the burden of responsibility that God places on the broad, strong, shoulders of men.
Before we turn to some other passages that speak about the same things, let me tell you that a Swiss study in 1994 bears this out.
In this study, the Swiss compiled a survey that asked how many children followed in the faith of their parents, based on their church attendance. If you would like the entire article, ask me after the service. This is what the study found, as summarised by Robbie Low, a priest in the Church of England:
“If a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.”
So, what’s the first thing we need to do as fathers? We need to tell our children about our, God our Father in heaven. And in order to do that, fathers must have a relationship with our heavenly Father.
God, who so loved the world, who sent His Son to save the world from eternal hell, loves us. The parable of the Prodigal Son is not a nice story about two very different brothers. It’s really a story about the singular, constant, impartial, overflowing, love of our Father in heaven. The love that caused the father to walk to the end of the driveway, day after day, in the hope his errant son would come home. It is the love that propelled the father to run toward his lost son, the love that was always there, night and day, to the surly son, the one who stayed on the farm, but who resented his father’s love. But the love was available to them both. And that’s the love God the Father has for us, His children.
That’s the love we must show, demonstrate, and exhibit, to our children. We must love them, and in loving them, we reflect God’s love for them, so that they will develop a desire to know and love God themselves.
So, then, how do we reflect God’s love into our children’s lives?
The answer is in our verse; we train and instruct them.
Fathers, and, make no mistake, mothers, are constantly teaching and instructing their children. “Don’t do that! Sit down. Sit still. Don’t chew with our mouth open. Don’t talk with food in your mouth. Let’s work on your ABC’s. What’s 2+2?”
All day long, we’re teaching our children things they need to know about life. And we don’t always have to use words to show it. Children watch their parents carefully, and what they see their parents do, has an impact on them. And as that Swiss study showed, regardless of what feminism says, it is what fathers do, that affects their children. In certain things, fathers have a very, very strong influence on their children.
And that’s precisely what God’s Word says. What fathers do, influences their children. So fathers, step up to the role God has given you, trusting in God the Father as your example, and teach and instruct your children.
So, how do we do that? Let’s look at four other passages concerning this very thing.
Let’s first look at Genesis 18:19: “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
God chose Abraham, because he saw integrity and character in Abraham. In the fulfilment of God’s covenant promise, Abraham was a willing participant. Abraham participated in God’s covenant work. God gave Abraham responsibility. Though the fulfilment of God’s promise came only through God in Jesus Christ, nevertheless, God didn’t leave Abraham off the hook.
God chose Abraham because he could see that Abraham had the character and the integrity necessary to complement God in his promise. God looked at Abraham and saw someone who, even though he wouldn’t become a father until he was very old, would direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.
Abraham taught his children what was right and just, thereby bringing about God’s promises to them.
If we, fathers, parents, yes, but the responsibility is with fathers, make every effort to teach our children about God and teach them what God requires of them, that is teach them what is written in this book, especially the laws and the fulfilment of the laws in Christ, then they will receive the promise of God. If we as fathers teach our children to read and obey what God reveals about himself in the Bible, then we will have fulfilled our vows at their baptism. They too will receive the promise of God. This is part of the process of sanctification, where we participate in the work of the Holy Spirit.
Our second passage is from Deuteronomy 6:6&7. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, [or drive on the highway], when you lie down and when you get up.”
When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, He wrote God’s law upon our hearts! But even so, it is not automatic. We still need to read them, to know what they mean, what it is to fulfill them. What having them written on our hearts means is that we have the power, through the Holy Spirit, to keep God’s laws. And so, our responsibility is to teach them to our children. Impress them upon them. For those of you, who have wives that are crafty, ask them about dry embossing. In dry embossing, you take a piece of paper, put it over a metal plate with an image cut out of it, and using a stylus, impress the paper into the metal plate. Then the image of the plate is impressed upon the paper.
In teaching and instructing our children with the Bible, we impress the contents of the Bible upon them. The image of Christ will be impressed on them! Many of us do this by following the instructions in this passage, reading the Bible at mealtimes, praying with our children at bed time, talking about the church service, asking them what they learned in Sunday School. We interact with our children in matters of faith, even while travelling on the road. All of it reinforces God’s Word, and impresses it upon them.
Our third verse is from Proverbs 13:24 “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” I know my dad loves me. I can still remember getting spankings, and though I didn’t see it as love at the time I can now. I even remember him suddenly grabbing my arm and jerking it back. I didn’t know what was going on, but I know his action spared me from harm.
It sounds completely backward, especially in today’s day and age. But by disciplining our children, we will spare them harm later in life. Fathers, the responsibility are ours. Now, I’m not saying that mothers shouldn’t discipline. I’m not suggesting that mothers save up all the punishments in a day until dad gets home from work so he can discipline them then.
What I am saying is, as fathers, we reflect, we are the most direct example of God the Father to our children. God the Father shows his love for us by disciplining us. Rev. 3:19 says, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” Because we love, not because we’re angry, or abusive, because we want our children to be happy, to love life, we direct their paths so that they will find the greatest joy and contentment, which is in God, and following His commandmens!
And finally, our fourth passage is Proverbs 22:6. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” This verse underscores what we began talking about in the beginning of this message.
Fathers, train your children and instruct them, teach them the way they should go. In other words, teach them everything you know, about God and the Bible, and how to live a Godly life and they will not depart from it.
Now, there are some important things here. Keep in mind the goal: the goal is everlasting life with God! The other option is everlasting hell apart from God. Which would you prefer? Which would you prefer for your children? Obviously, it is eternity with God, isn’t it? That’s what we want for ourselves, isn’t that what we want for our children? With the goal comes excitement. We should be excited about going to heaven! We should be looking forward to it! The apostle Paul tells us it is the only prize worth fighting, running for!
That excitement should be evident in our lives. Attendance in church for the sake of going to church will not translate into church attendance for your children. A passion for God, a joyous, excited passion for living for Jesus will translate into a joyous passion for God in your children! Coming to church should be exciting! It should be—I realise that it often isn’t—but it should offer a glimpse of God’s glory, it should offer a glimpse of heaven. Yes, yes, I can here you now, “Heaven’s just like church? If that’s the case, I’m not sure I want to go there!” In life definitely, but especially in church, we ought to see something of the glory of God, the majesty and holiness of God, who calls us to be holy!
Fathers, if you are faithful in the task God has given to you, He will be more than faithful also. You see, God’s faithfulness is so great, it makes up for any and all weaknesses we might have. But that doesn’t get us off the hook. God’s given us a responsibility, and we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, to empower us to follow through with it. Teach and instruct your children in the Lord. Do that, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.
Recently, I had a conversation with an elderly woman who asked me how many children we had. I said, “four.” “Oh, that’s good,” she said. “Children are a blessing from God. They are the only thing in this life that you can take with you.”
What she meant, was not that there’s a guarantee that your children will be saved automatically. What she meant is this. Do not invest your time in getting possessions, fame, or fortune. When you die, you won’t be able to take them with you. Rather, invest your time in people, especially your children. Fulfil your responsibility; God will do the rest. Instruct. Teach. Tell them about God the Father and His Son Jesus, who takes away the sin of the world! And you will see them in heaven. Amen!