July 2019   
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Scripture--Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 John 3:1-3

Suppose you were asked, “Who is your role model? Who would you like to be compared with?” I’m sure each of us have at least one person we would name right away. Then the question comes, “and who would you not like to be compared with?”
•    Some would use a business associate in either answer. Most workers have had a supervisor they respected, admired, and learned from–and at least one they hoped would be transferred or fired.
•    And teachers. Some cared about our learning and paid attention to our problems while some were waiting impatiently for the closing bell.
•    Next, our parents, and specifically today, our fathers. We all probably have thoughts about our father: what he taught us, his favorite hobby or skill, what kind of example he was. He’s our pop, our “paw” our dad, our father. Every day, not just Father’s Day, we should be thankful for our fathers, and love, honor, appreciate, remember, and even forgive them if needed for past circumstances.

Of course the first Father in history is God the Father.
•    We know from Genesis 1:1 that:    In the beginning, God.
•    Verse 2 says that His Spirit:      hovered over the waters.
•    In verse 26, when God uses the word   us,  we understand we will learn more about God from His Word.
•    Then, Deuteronomy 32:6 asks,
        Is He not your Father your Creator, who made you and formed you?
Writers in the Old Testament, especially Moses, reminded the Israelites of the “God of your fathers” often adding specifically “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Another phrase Moses used was expressed in Numbers 14:18.

God’s fatherhood in a general sense is the theme of Quaker John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem and hymn “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.”
•    All who have lived and are living owe their existence to the Creator.
•    Jesus taught His disciples about His Father in a personal sense, encouraging them to use the personal term Abba.
•    Through faith in Jesus Christ, we become God’s children and can claim the right to call God Father in this intimate sense. In other words, if you are saved, you are a child of God.

God is a perfect Father. His children should have a family resemblance with traits presented in Colossians 3:12.
        compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience
And additional traits from Galatians 5:22.
        love, joy, peace, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control
The Holy Spirit works in the lives of believers to produce a family resemblance to our heavenly Father that anyone can easily see if we are walking in Jesus footsteps.

Genesis 5:28-29 tells of the birth of Noah. Verse 30 says,
        After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.
The next time we hear about Noah in Genesis chapter 6 his sons are grown and married. Although the Bible doesn’t tell us anything specific about Noah as a father, I think it is a good assumption
•    that he taught his sons the skills required to help build the ark.
•    that they were obedient. It appears they didn’t protest about their immense task probably because of the example of their father. Several times during the account of the building of the ark we read,
          And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.
•    that they had the same faith as their father. In chapter 9, God gave His blessing to Noah and his sons.

In the '60s, Tommy Smothers famous whine "Mom always liked you best" usually provoked his sibling Dick. Studies show that mothers often have a favorite among their adult children—so Tommy may have been right. Does God have favorites among His children? Romans 2:11 says,
        God does not show favoritism.
But Genesis 6:8 says that
        Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

The Hebrew word translated "favor" is the Old Testament word for "grace." Is there a difference between grace and favoritism? YES!

Favoritism is selective or subjective, based on some perceived advantage of one over another: appearance, education, social status, even birth order. Favoritism is rooted in selfishness often because of some benefit from the relationship. 

Grace is a blessing bestowed on all without qualification, not on the basis of personal worth or not because of works. Grace is rooted in God’s character and motivated by mercy.

Noah and his family were saved by grace from the worldwide Flood judgment that God sent upon the earth. Hebrews 11:7 adds the reason.
        By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.
Just as the ark saved those inside from God's judgment, your faith in Jesus will save you from eternal judgment, for Jesus is our ark.

Parents give their children a unique set of physical features. Unfortunately, the faith of a father doesn't automatically pass to his children like physical traits. Noah's experience of God's grace did not make him or his sons perfect. God spared this family from destruction in the worldwide Flood, but sin and discord would still characterize human relationships.

Our next father is Abraham, who in Luke 16:24 is referred to as “Father Abraham.” Abraham’s faith was great indeed. Hebrews 11:8-9 describes Abraham's first act of faith. He obeyed God and moved to another land where God promised him an inheritance. Abraham’s character and faith were tested to the ultimate degree when God told Abraham to take Isaac to Mount Mariah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. In Genesis 22:10-17, we read about God’s grace. It is interesting to note that Isaac is referred to twice with the phrase: your son, your only son. Abraham had another son, Ishmael, born to Sarah’s servant and later the father of the Islam religion. God considered Isaac unique and irreplaceable because he was the only son of promise. He alone inherited the covenant promises from Abraham. Calling Isaac Abraham’s only son underscores that, both in  Abraham’s affection and in God’s plan, Isaac was Abraham’s unique son. He was the child of promise.

Abraham did not argue with God. Hebrews 11:17-18 states that Abraham believed that God was able to raise his son from the dead. Romans 4:3 and James 2:23 emphasize Abraham’s faith. God had promised Abraham a son in his old age. Abraham was 100 years old, and Sarah was 90 when their son Isaac was born. God worked a miracle. God was willing and able to provide the promised son Isaac, but He acted on the basis of Abraham’s faith. In Galatians 4:28-30, Paul reveals the spiritual lesson in the event of Abraham’s life.
•    The only way to become a child of God is by way of promise, not through human effort.
•    We cannot become God’s children by disobeying His commands or trying to solve problems ourselves.
•    Righteousness only comes to us as a gift through faith.
We might call the record of Abraham and his family “two sons and one promise.” God did say he would care for Ishmael, but He repeated throughout history that His promise of land and descendants was to Abraham through Isaac. Isaac was the child of promise. In Galatians 4:28, Paul confirms the fact by writing about all believers,
        Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.

Those who try to obtain righteousness by keeping the Mosaic Law are slaves to the Law and to sin. The Law cannot free us from sin. Only by God’s grace are we saved. Being a man of faith does not mean Abraham was perfect. The Lord reveals Abraham’s difficulty walking a thin line of faith as did others of his descendants beginning with Isaac’s twin sons Esau and Jacob.

In Isaac’s day, the right of inheritance was reserved for the first son. Genesis chapter 25 tells us Esau was born first.
        his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau's heel; so he was named Jacob which means “deceiver’. Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Esau carelessly sold his birthright to Jacob in exchange for a bowl of stew. When he tried to claim the inheritance anyway from his elderly father, Rebekah conspired with Jacob to help him deceive his father to claim the birthright and his father’s blessing. Jacob lived up to the meaning of his name, the deceitful schemer. Isaac and Rebekah apparently demonstrated favoritism in attitude towards their twin sons. We can see the destructive power of parental favoritism at work here. Amazingly we also see God working in the midst of this dysfunctional family to accomplish His plan.

Jacob the deceiver met his match when he went looking for a wife. Jacob fell in love with Rachel but was tricked into marrying her older sister by their father Laban, who explained that it was customary for the older daughter to marry first. By tricking Jacob, Laban received 14 years of free service from his new son-in-law. Laban used his own daughters to barter with Jacob. God again is working out His purpose in midst of what most of us would call serious family dysfunction. This was part of God’s plan to turn Jacob away from a lifestyle of self-reliance, trickery, and deceit. In time, Jacob would learn that God’s promise comes by faith and not by human effort, schemes, or trickery. Jacob did not learn this lesson easily. His life was one of struggle with his brother, his father, and eventually with God himself.

The record of kingly fathers of Israel begins with King Saul. He had been warned that his family would lose the throne because of his failure to obey God’s command. David’s success in battle made Saul both envious and fearful. But instead of accepting God’s judgment, Saul ordered his son Jonathan to kill David. Jonathan refused, putting his own life in peril. David escaped with the help of Saul’s daughter. Jonathan would later help David escape to the wilderness promising friendship and loyalty. It appeared to Saul that his children had betrayed him and their own future, but these were actually acts of righteous disobedience. Unlike Saul, the children discerned rightly God’s command to bless David. They knew it was better to obey God than to obey the King, their father, and participate in an unjust murder. Refusing to obey those who tell us to disobey God is the right course of action. The allegiance we owe God is greater than any human bond or civil authority.

Then there’s King David. David used the power of his position to seduce Bathsheba and have her husband Uriah killed in battle. The lives of his sons Absalom and Solomon took opposite directions.
•    Chapters 13 through 18 of 2 Samuel record Absalom’s rebellion against his father and his attempt to steal the kingdom. The aging David seems to be out of touch during family and national crises. He planned to lead his troops in battle against Absalom, but his men recognized that this was unrealistic and persuaded him to remain behind. David’s final charge to the commanders was essentially a plea to protect Absalom from harm. Absalom died in the battle, but not from fighting. As he was riding away from his father’s forces, his long hair, always a point of pride, was entangled in an oak tree. David’s cry at the news of his son’s death: If only I had died instead you.
•    Solomon was known for his wisdom. He  built the temple in Jerusalem and wrote several books in the Bible.

Despite David’s human faults, God used him as an example to King Solomon in 1 Kings 3:14 and 1 Kings 9:4-5. God did not abandon David, but in many ways his life and ministry would never be the same. Forgiveness is available for the most terrible of our sins. Our relationship with God can be restored but that does not mean our families will escape the consequences of our sin. We dare not take sin lightly. The first step in recovery is to confess your sin to God. The Psalms of David are filled with many prayers of confession.

Mordecai took his cousin Esther as his own daughter when her father and mother died. Esther became queen of the Persian King Xerxes. Mordecai needed Esther to take a message to the king regarding a plot against the Jews by Haman, an evil member of his court (Esther 4:13-16). As the result of their faith and trust in the Father, the king stopped Haman’s plan. The Jews established the Feast of Purim to commemorate this saving act.

Jesus used examples of fathers in His teachings.
•    The title usually given to one parable is “The Prodigal Son,” but I prefer to call it, “The forgiving Father.” Jesus was telling His disciples that the Father is waiting for sinners to repent and be forgiven.
•    In another parable teaching repentance and belief, He told of a father whose two sons had two different responses to his request for them to work in the vineyard.
•    Luke 11:11 shows the Father’s willingness to give the gift of salvation.
•    Luke 8:49-50 records another miracle because of a father’s faith.
•    Even Satan received the name “father” (John 8:44).

These men who were physically responsible for their children’s birth, but other men were spiritual fathers. Spiritual parenting is a skill learned by example--church services, Sunday School  classes, and Bible studies. Formal teaching gives us essential truths which guide our behavior. Spiritual parenting is also informal. It happens through imitation of an example. Sharing the gospel is the first step to spiritual parenting. The parent needs to mirror Biblical truths and live as an example. Watch yourself because someone is watching you. Ultimately we should be watching Christ, the true pattern for faith and obedience. Ask God to grant you the grace to be a wise and godly spiritual Christian to those who are watching.

Examples of spiritual fathers are
•    Jesus in John 13:33, just before His last Passover meal,.
•    Paul wrote to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:15; 2 Corinthians 6:13).
•    1 Timothy 1:1-2 is an example of Paul’s references to Timothy.
Christmas carols refer to the woman God chose to be the mother of His Son, but few refer to the man God chose for His Son’s human father. In “Joseph’s Song” written by Michael Card, this stepfather asks,
        “Father, show me where I fit in this plan of yours. How can a man be father to the Son of God? All my life I’ve been a simple carpenter.   How can I raise a King?”
Words of Jesus’ mother and her relatives Elizabeth and Zachariah appear in Scripture, but no words of Joseph are recorded. Instead, Matthew highlights three characteristics of Joseph: godly, compassionate, and courageous. God chose to portray him further as a man of deeds who heard and obeyed God’s commands.

Esquire magazine published an article “25 skills every man should know.” Some of the skills included were how to kill a moose, shine your shoes, and carve a turkey. Also included was how to buy clothing for a woman. The secret to this skill don’t try! Hebrews chapter 12 adds one more skill to the list: the ability to accept discipline (Hebrews 12:9-10). Discipline is not always easy to accept. Nobody likes to be told they’re wrong but correction is necessary if we are to change. The Father’s motivating factor is divine love. The struggles God allows us to experience are not punishments. They are a form of training. If we bear up under the imperfect discipline of earthly parents, how much more willing should we be to submit to a perfect Father whose aim is to bring His children to perfection in His image as we were created.

The reality of sin combined with the mystery of God’s grace helps explain why good parents can have bad children and why children from bad homes can turn out better than expected. No perfect families exist. All families are dysfunctional in some way. Children are disobedient and make their own choices for which parents are not to blame. God the Father has shared the same experience in the Garden of Eden. If His children Adam and Eve refused to obey, should we be surprised that the same thing happens to us in our families? Perhaps we can learn to see our disappointment as an opportunity to appreciate the perfect love and faithfulness of God the Father.

Think of Ephesians 2:1-10 as your adoption papers. They provide written proof that you belong to the family of God. You might also think of these verses as
•    a snapshot that shows who you really are         and
•    a description of your true identity.
You are the redeemed child of God. Those who belong to Christ are members of two families: their natural family and God’s family, the handiwork of God. The saying “like father like son” has been used since the 1300s, but as we see from Scripture, the concept is much older. Can others say about you, “like God the Father, like son or daughter.”

★    You can't depend on your own goodness to get to Heaven. We've all sinned  (Romans 3:23). Jesus paid the penalty for your sins with His death on the cross and His resurrection (John 3:16).
★    To be forgiven and be guaranteed a place in Heaven, you need to repent of sin, confess that you are a sinner, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart (Acts 2:21).
★    You can use the following prayer or your own words, but you must actually believe in your heart that your prayer is real:
         Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed.
         Please forgive all my wrongdoing and let me live in relationship with You from now on.
         I receive You as my Savior and recognize that the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross was done on my behalf.
         Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You.
                     In Your name I pray, Amen.

    Rev. Dr. Nicholas J. Gray, Pastor   Broadway Baptist Church   Sedalia, Missouri   2016