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Alongside Ministries

Father's Day - Building a Firm Foundation

South Redlands Christian Community                                                September 2, 2012

 

Father’s Day

Introduction

-         I wonder if you have ever gone through the exercise of writing down the people who have had a significant influence on your life?

-         Someone once said “There’s no such thing as a self made man” – each of us is the product of our own personal history

-         And in our “personal history” we will find that there are people who have had a significant influence on helping us become the people we are today

-         Two people who had a significant influence on my life are the couple who were my next-door neighbours when I was growing up as a child – Mr and Mrs Adrian

-         I grew up in Roma – a long way away from relatives – our neighbours became my substitute grandparents

-         These people treated me as their grandchild and had a big influence on my life – when Mrs Adrian died the bottom fell out of my world – I still remember that day every year, Feb 22 – even though she died in 1966 (photo of tombstone)

Timothy

-         One person in the New Testament who fascinates me is Timothy

-         Timothy’s father was Greek – his mother was a Jewess

-         The Apostle Paul first met Timothy on his first missionary tour at Lystra

-         Timothy became a Christian and went on to be an important leader in the early church

-         In many ways he became Paul’s right hand man

-         We get some idea of the high regard Paul had for Timothy when we read the two letters he wrote to him – both recorded in the NT.

-         Let me read to you part of his second letter:

2 Timothy 3:14-15

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, {15} and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

-         Paul encourages Timothy to continue in what he has learned and become convinced of

-         Now Paul doesn’t tell us who were Timothy’s first teachers – but he gives us some clues

-         First he says “because you know those from whom you learned it”

-         Paul knows that Timothy knows who his first teachers were

-         And then he gives us another clue in verse 15 “and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

-         It would seem then that Timothy had learnt the Scriptures from others when he was quite small – and these scriptures had made him “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”

-         That’s the principle we talk about every time we dedicate a child – we encourage the parents to teach their children the scriptures – so that on the basis of what they learn as a child – they can make an informed decision themselves, about whether or not they will commit their lives to following Jesus

-         In other words we encourage the parents to build a solid Biblical foundation in the lives of their children, so that someone else can build on that foundation

-         And this is exactly what happened in Timothy’s life – someone gave him a solid foundation in the Scriptures – this helped him to become a Christian – and then Paul built on this foundation as he taught him and encouraged him to be an effective disciple of Jesus

-         But just who were these people who gave Timothy this solid foundation?

-         We find the answer in 2 Timothy 1:5

2 Timothy 1:5

I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

-         Timothy’s mother Eunice and his grandmother, Lois were the two people who from infancy taught Timothy the Scriptures which were able to make him “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

-         I wonder how many people here can look back and remember a parent or a grandparent who faithfully taught you the scriptures from your infancy?

-         Parents, and grandparents, can have an incredible influence on a child’s life – either for good or for evil        

James Dobson

-         Most people here will be aware of the Focus on the Family Radio program

-         This has grown from a weekly show aired by 34 stations to a giant ministry with 80 other ministries now heard daily by over 250 million people.

-         The seeds of the ministry were formed when Dr. James Dobson’s great grandfather George McLusky, and his father, James Dobson, Sr., prayed for the young James to be a faithful, fruitful Christian.

-         The grandfather prayed every day from 11am to noon for succeeding generations to be faithful servants of the Lord.

-         At one time, the father of James Dobson prayed around the clock for three days for his brother-in-law who was dying, and for himself…humbly asking God to give them both more time to serve Him.

-          On the dawn of the fourth morning, he felt the Lord respond, “You are going to reach millions of people for me, from coast to coast and around the world. But it will not be through you, it will be through your son.”

-         The next day James Dobson, Sr., suffered a massive heart attack and later died.

-         His son did not hear about the father’s prayer until seven years later, when an aunt who had heard Mr. Dobson’s testimony, shared the story with the younger Dobson.

-         Dobson said, “In one clear moment, I understood why so many doors have miraculously swung open for Focus on the Family.”

-         The ministry of Dr James Dobson didn’t just arise out of a vacuum – it was based on a firm foundation that was laid by his Father, Grandfather, and no doubt his mother as well

Foundations – 1 Corinthians 3

-         In his first letter to the Christians at Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote this:

1 Corinthians 3:10-11

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. {11} For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

-         Paul talks first about the foundation he laid in people’s lives when he told them the gospel and helped them to become Christians

-         Then in verse 11 he says “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ”

-         Paul is saying that there is only one sure foundation which can be laid in our life – and that is the foundation of a personal relationship with Jesus

-         We can build our lives on other foundations – such as our career – or our family – or our wealth – or sport – or some hobby – or travel – or our body – or a host of other things

-         But in the end, they will be shown for what they are – worthless

-         And sometimes it takes a crisis in our life for us to realise this – that’s what happened to me

-         When I was 19 and having a great time in my third year at university, my life centred around alcohol, parties and motorbikes

-         I have shared before how my two housemates were both killed on the same night – and how that had a profound effect on my life

-         Suddenly I realised that I had nothing to sustain me – I had no way of explaining what would now happen to my friends – I had no idea of where I would be if I had been with them that night, as I usually would have been

-         Certainly I had been to Sunday School as a child – I had received RE lessons at school – I even believed that God existed

-         I did have some foundation in the things of God – but not sufficient to help me deal with the crisis I was facing

-         Fortunately, God used this crisis to cause me to think and question

-         I begin to search for answers to questions about life and death and life after death

-         And through that search I found Jesus – or more likely, the Good Shepherd saw that I was a lost sheep and found me

-         And when I became a found sheep, my life changed

-         For the first time I had real purpose and direction – and I had someone I could go to when things were tough

-         In other words my life now had a foundation, and that foundation was the person of Jesus

-         A year later I married Margaret

-         We were and are very different people – but we also have many things in common

-         And the most significant thing we have in common is that we both have Jesus Christ as the foundation of our life

-         This doesn’t mean that we have never had difficult situations to face– we have, and I imagine that will continue on into the future

-         God never promised us a bed of roses – in fact his call to take up our cross is basically the exact opposite

-         But the difference is that we do not have to face these difficult situations alone

-         Jesus Christ is the sure foundation in our lives

-         Jesus is always there, a sure foundation – a rock who protects us and anchors us when the storms of life are raging

-         He is the One we can always go to for wisdom, courage and encouragement

Personal challenge

-         I wonder if you have that same foundation in your life?   

-         As someone once said, the key question is this: “If you were to die tonight, and God said to you “Why should I allow you into my heaven?” – What answer would you give?”

-         The answer which will get us into heaven isn’t “Because I did more good than bad in my life” – it isn’t “because I live in a Christian country” – it isn’t “because I went to church every week” – it isn’t “because I always tried to help others”

-         All of these things are good – but they are not enough to get us into heaven

-         The only answer which will get us into heaven is this: “Because Jesus Christ died on a cross to pay the penalty for my sin – I have accepted what Jesus did for me by giving my life to him – so now my sins are forgiven and I have received eternal life”

-         That’s the only answer which is acceptable to God – because there is only one sure foundation which any person can have in their life – and that is Jesus Christ

-         Jesus made that very plain when he said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life – no one comes to the Father, except by me”

-         I know that most, if not everyone here this morning knows that, and many of you knew that well before I did

-         But if you are not sure about your relationship with God, please talk to me or a Christian friend before the day is over

 

What happens when children don’t receive Jesus as their foundation?

“Ray” from Biloela illustration

-         Many years ago, in fact about 35 years ago, I taught a boy called Ray at Biloela High School

-         During that time Margaret and I led a Scripture Union group in the school and ran camps on weekends and in the holidays

-         Ray came on one of those camps and we had opportunity to share the gospel with him

-         Several years later, when I was working with Scripture Union, I was invited to speak at an outreach youth service back in Biloela (We were living in Rockhampton at the time)

-         Some of Ray’s Christian friends encouraged him to come and hear his old teacher – and Ray came

-         On the night I spoke he didn’t make any response – but he came back again the next Sunday night and he did make a response then

-         I was very encouraged by what happened in Ray’s life, but as I heard his story it became obvious that I was a very minor player in it

-         The key player was Ray’s grandmother who lived across the road from the church

-         She was a Christian and had faithfully prayed for Ray for years – and eventually her prayers were answered

-         She faithfully prayed and the outcome was that Ray heard the gospel and Jesus became the sure foundation in his life – and He still is

-         The story about Ray is an encouraging one isn’t it?

-         So too is the story about Timothy, and James Dobson

-         It’s good to remind ourselves that parents and grandparents and lots of other people, can play a part in helping someone to receive Jesus as their foundation

The Down Side – when children don’t respond

-         But there can be a down side to telling these kinds of stories

-         You see, there are many parents, and many grandparents who have faithfully prayed for their children and grandchildren, but they have not seen the kind of response that occurred in the lives of Timothy and James Dobson and Ray

-         I haven’t heard all of your stories, but I would be very surprised if there are not people here this morning who have children and grandchildren who are not walking with the Lord

-         You have prayed, you have sought to share with them the good news of Jesus, but they have made no obvious response

-         Does that mean that you have failed?   

-         It’s very easy to feel a failure, but in the eyes of God, have you really failed?

-         I’m not asking you if you have ever made mistakes as a parent or a grandparent – there isn’t a parent or a grandparent living on this earth who is perfect

-         What I’m asking is this: As an imperfect parent or grandparent who has made an effort to be a witness to your children and grandchildren, without obvious response, are you a failure in the eyes of God? 

-         If the success of ministry is measured by response to that ministry, then even Jesus Himself was a failure

-         Jesus proclaimed the gospel perfectly

-         He demonstrated the Kingdom of God perfectly

-         He loved people perfectly

-         But there were still people he ministered to who chose not to respond

-         The same is true of the Apostle Paul, and James Dobson and even Billy Graham

-         They loved people, they proclaimed the gospel to people, they demonstrated the Kingdom of God to people  - but not everyone they ministered to came to know Christ

-         If successful ministry depends on results, then even the greatest men and women of God have failed on many occasions

The division of roles in Christian conversion

-         You see whenever any person becomes a Christian, there are a lot of things that take place, usually over a period of time

-         I have put these in a list – and you will see that I have grouped them into three groups

Proclaim the gospel

Pray

Love

Demonstrate the Kingdom

Convict of sin

Grant faith

Forgive

Give eternal life

Believe the gospel

Repent

Willingly receive the gift of salvation.

-         Now let’s think about who is involved in each of these activities – let me put a name at the top of each group

-          

Parents, Grandparents

All Christians who witness

God

The person hearing the gospel

Proclaim the gospel

Pray

Love

Demonstrate the Kingdom

Convict of sin

Grant faith

Forgive

Give eternal life

Believe the gospel

Repent

Willingly receive the gift of salvation.

-         I wonder where you fit into that table?

-         If you are a Christian parent, or grandparent or anyone who is seeking to be a witness for the gospel, you obviously fit into column one

-         Let me ask you a question?

-         Can you do any of what is listed in column 2?        

-         Can you convict someone of sin?  Or grant them faith?  Or forgive someone for all their sins, past, present and future?  Can you grant someone eternal life?

-         The answer is obvious isn’t it – Only God Himself can do these things

-         What about column 3?

-         Can you believe the gospel on someone else’s behalf?

-         Can you repent for them?

-         Can you receive the gift of salvation on their behalf?

-         Again the answer is obvious

-         Only the individual person can do that – God has given them free will and they are free to respond to the gospel, or ignore it, or reject it

Two ways to look at the table

-         It seems to me that there are two responses we can have to this diagram

-         The first response is to feel helpless and inadequate when we realise our limitations in helping another human being to come to know Christ

-         And we do have limitations don’t we – there’s not much more we can do than what is listed in column 1

-         But there is another response, and that is the one I am suggesting is the one to take

-         We can look at that table and say “Thank you Lord for the privilege of being able to proclaim the gospel, and pray, and love and demonstrate the Kingdom as well as I am able

-         Thank you for allowing me, a sinful human being to be involved in such sacred work as this

-         And thank you Lord that you do your job perfectly – thank you that you love my children and my grandchildren and every person we seek to witness to – you  love them even more than I do

-         Thank you that your Spirit is powerful and able to open people’s eyes and minds to the truth of the gospel

-         Thank you Lord that you never fail

-         And thank you Lord that because of you, there is always hope

-         The Apostle Peter reminds us of that very clearly:

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

-         It is the Lord’s will that none should perish, but everyone should come to repentance

-         That’s why there is always hope for those who have not yet responded and for those prodigals who have wandered away from their faith

-         Knowing that the Good Shepherd loves them and is diligently seeking them gives us the hope to keep praying, keep sharing the good news whenever there is opportunity and so on

Conclusion and Challenge

-         As I close this morning can I say that as God’s family at South Redlands Christian Community, we praise God for parents and grandparents

-         And this morning, on Father’s Day, our special focus is on fathers and grandfathers

-         We want to honour you for who you are and for the role you have played and continue to play in the lives of so many

-         We rejoice with you that many of your children and grandchildren have received Jesus Christ as their firm foundation and they continue to walk with Him day by day

-         And for those who have children and grandchildren who do not yet know Christ, we want to stand with you in your desire to see them come to know Jesus as Saviour and Lord – we do that in the sure knowledge that with God, all things are possible – with Him there is always hope

 

PRAY

Father as we come to you this morning we recognize that Father’s Day is a day of great rejoicing for some, and a day of sadness for others.

Thank you Father for those you chose to be our father and our grandfather

And Father this morning we especially thank you for the parents and grandparents you have given to this church

Thank you that so many of them love you and serve you and honour you.

Thank you for their love, their life, their witness and their prayers

Thank you, that because of them, there are many who have received Jesus as Lord and Saviour and made Him the sure foundation of their lives

But this morning Father we recognise that there are some whose heart is heavy as they think about children and grandchildren who have not yet responded to your love and your truth

Encourage them Father we pray

Remind them each day that the Good Shepherd continues to seek and to save the Lost

And Father we want to bring these lost ones to you this morning, asking that their eyes will be opened to hear and accept the truth of the gospel

And so in silence we bring them before you in faith:

(Time of silent prayer)

Thank you Father that you hear our prayers – Thank you that you are powerful to achieve things far beyond what we can ask or imagine

Continue to teach us, challenge us and encourage us we pray, for we ask it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ AMEN

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