Life with Father
Life with Father
Our Father in the Gospel of John
June 17, 2012
Welcome to one of the most conflicted days of the year in America: Father’s Day!
Why is that? Well, there are a whole spectrum of emotions swirling around a day like today.
- Those who had good fathers are feeling very grateful while those who had poor father models of NO father model may feel pretty conflicted—angry, sad, cheated, apathetic, you name it.
- Those of us whose dads have died may feel everything from genuine sadness to genuine relief, again depending on the kind of experience you had with dad.
- And then there are dads themselves. If you’re a dad here today, you may feel proud about your kids…or guilty about your mistakes…or both, all at the same time. Some men may be struggling with not being a dad but wishing they were. And many who are dads may be struggling with just being a dad right now.
It’s kind of your perfect “no-win” day! J
As we were approaching Father’s Day several weeks ago, and we’re in this series in the Gospel of John, I got to thinking, “Hmmm, I wonder what Jesus had to say about his own Father and what that might mean for us.” As I began to study Jesus’ relationship with God the Father, I discovered that actually the Gospel of John holds the record in terms of number of references to God the Father. John as narrator and Jesus as the main character in the book use the term FATHER over 120 times.
- That’s 3 times as often as Matthew (42).
- 6 times as often as Luke (19)
- 60 times as often as Mark (2)
- More than all the letters/epistles of the N.T. put together.
John, being Jesus’ closest earthly confidant, disciple and friend, somehow grasped just how important the Father-Son relationship was for Jesus.
So what I’d like to do for today’s study is to take the time we have to find out all we can about WHO our Heavenly Father IS…and WHAT difference that can make in all our lives.
Like it or not, all of us have a word-association with that term “father.” And, depending on what your experience or non-experience has been with your earthly father, there is going to be some level of “association” with your experience and the term “father.”
To the extent that your dad modeled God the Father’s character and actions to you as a child (and even now as an adult), that association is good. But since we’ve all had imperfect and sinful fathers, to the extent they failed to model the character and actions of God, that’s not so good.
But, as the Apostle Paul says, “When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me,” (I Cor. 13:11). Some of the “childish ways” you and I might still have are to hold an image or understanding of God the Father that is incorrect. And, as Eric so ably reminded us last week, as long as we’re believing a lie about God or life, Satan still has operating room in our lives.
So what I’d like us to do today is drill down into the ground of TRUTH about what our heavenly Father is really like. And, with that discovery, be able to extrapolate out what fathers today are to be like in this whole wild and wonderful journey called “parenting.” So here we go!
Open your Bibles to the Gospel of John, the 4th book of the New Testament. I’ll be cherry-picking a handful of the 120+ references John & Jesus make to God our Father.
1. We have a heavenly Father who loves to be in close relationship with his children. Look at just a couple of examples of that.
- John 2:16—we saw this last week. “To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” That temple in Jerusalem was the place where God had promised he would meet with his people if they would genuinely seek him. God wanted everyone in the world to know where they could find Him. And he wanted everyone, regardless of how rich or poor they were, to be able to come and do serious business with their relationship with him—praise him when they were thankful, seek his forgiveness when they had sinned, cry out for answers when life was hard. As we saw a couple of weeks ago in this chapter 2, God’s plan for being in close relationship proximity to human beings has just gotten better. Now he lives IN people, the new “temple(s)” housing his presence (if you are a follower of Jesus Christ).
- John 4:23 takes that even a step further when it says that our heavenly Father is actively involved in seeking out people who want to worship “in spirit and truth.” John says, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”
You think you want to get to know your heavenly Father? He’s already out searching for you in those places of your life where you are seeking to worship with the deepest part of your being (spirit) and on the ground of “truth,” God’s truth.
- Just to drive home the point that we all have a Father who loves to live with us, Jesus told us what is going to happen when our bodies die and we no longer have human bodies as temples of God’s presence. John 14:2—Speaking to disciples who were worried about losing Jesus, he says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” God is all about living with us. In fact, in his last words to his church in Revelation 21 (again through the pen of John), he tells us that is what eternity is going to be all about—living in close proximity to the Father. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”
(See John 14:20, 23 for the Father’s indwelling believers.)
APP: Did you have an earthly father who made it clear at every turn that he loved being WITH you? If you did, that’s great modeling of our eternal Father in heaven. If you’re dad made it possible for your family to have a home in which family life blossomed and flourished, you’ve been given a great gift.
And if you didn’t have that kind of dad or home, things have changed! Your heavenly Daddy absolutely loves living with you. Your heavenly Father truly loves hanging out with you—eating meals together, talking together, laughing, crying, paying bills, reading books, gardening, resting, you name it. If you didn’t have that kind of human father, then don’t let that keep you from experiencing life with your eternal Father right now. Learn to “worship in spirit and in truth” because we just read that people who do that are the very people God the Father is seeking. He’s looking all over for people who know how to turn any and every part of life into a worship experience.
APP: Dads, do our families know that we just love to be with them? More than our golf game? More than our work? More than our hobbies, our buddies, our yard, our television? Taking up residence with our families…really making home a home…is something the reflects our heavenly Father’s heart.
I always feel sorry for dads…and kids…who don’t enjoy just hanging out or living around their kids. I love it…because I love them. Getting time with family is my favorite way to spend time. (Hope no one outside our family feels slighted. J That’s just the way God has wired dads to be when they are in touch with His purposes for their lives.)
And those of you who still have dads walking this earth, never stop honoring them by actually spending time with them. It’s hard in our mobile society when we’re often living hundreds or thousands of miles away from our dads. But when you take time to call or text or visit, it’s like what happens when we take time to “worship God in spirit and in truth”: dads go looking for that kind of experience because it reflects the heavenly Father’s heart of looking for us.
2. We have a heavenly Father who is a working DAD.
In John 5, John tells us that the Jews were persecuting Jesus because he performed “work” (actually “miracles”) on the Jewish Sabbath. So in response to their criticism, Jesus said this in John 5:17--“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” 18)For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”
Wow, Jesus apparently added insult to injury here. “You think doing miracles on the Sabbath is bad? Well let me tell you something that’s really going to blow your theological head gaskets: God is my Father!” But Jesus main point is about how our heavenly Father “is always at his work.”
Some of you may be thinking, “Yup. Just what I figured. I had a dad like that: ALWAYS @ work! Sorry, Pastor, but I’m not interested in that kind of God, a god who is always away at work.”
Well, that’s not the kind of working dad Jesus is talking about. God the Father doesn’t go away somewhere to do his work. He actually come TO us to do his work. He doesn’t care if it is Saturday or Sunday or Thursday. He’s always doing miracles in people’s lives…and he’s doing it all over the world…all the time! People are his work. We are his day job, his swing-shift job and his night job.
ILL: Working in the garden as a family this week. The weeds were really taking off, so on the one nice weather day we had last week, we all decided (well, most of us decided) to take just one hour and all weed the garden together. I never knew weeding could be so much fun! I’m not kidding. It wasn’t the weeds that were fun. It was the conversation and joking and laughing that went on between us (well, again, most of us). J It made me realize just a little bit how much we’ve lost in an industrialized and commercialized culture that takes us away from our families for the better part of our lives to “go to work.” Living and working on farms as much of the world still does has some decided benefits to family life.
But if you came from a family where dad didn’t or couldn’t work, then you know just how important it is to have a working father, don’t you? What happens to children who don’t have a working dad? (Get answers.)
- The kids often live in poverty.
- Mom has to work outside the home which hurts even more.
- Marriages suffer.
- Kids grow up not seeing men working. They miss out on the power of male modeling of a good work ethic.
- Life is harder than in normally is or needs to be.
- You probably didn’t have extra money to enjoy on special vacations or trips or eating out.
Life is very different…and almost always harder…when you don’t have a “working dad” in the house.
APP: If you have or had a father who you got to see get up morning after morning, trudge off to work (sometimes in the dark early mornings or late night shift), put in 8-12 hours of work, 5-7 days a week, come home and care for the responsibilities of a house and home, then BE THANKFUL to God that you had a dad who mirrored God’s heart to always be working for your health and welfare. Thank God…and thank him.
APP: If you have/had a dad who wasn’t around or didn’t really value or know how to hold a job and put in a full lifetime’s work, don’t forget that you DO have a Father who “is always at work.” When you’re tempted to opt for the easy way out of something and let someone else pay the bills or do the work, remember, that isn’t the model your heavenly Father is setting. He works 7 days a week! He works 24 hours a day! If he didn’t, life would be a whole lot more difficult than it already is. And if you don’t, life will be a lot harder for those around you than it needs to be.
Dad’s APP: Men, when you need a miracle in life, guess who’s on the job, still working? You’re not the miracle-worker; God is! Ask for his help with work.
When you’re tempted to quit that job and go on unemployment or welfare…or stay on it when you are able-bodied enough to do some kind of job, remember what your heavenly Father is modeling. That’s what you’re called to.
And when you think you have to work all the time to make ends meet OR get to some desired standard of living OR prove something to someone about how hard-working you are, remember that your heavenly Father works all the time so you don’t have to. Remember, God works all the time to enter into the life of his family, not to escape the challenges of family.
One more thought on work. Jesus said in John 5:36, “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.”
One of the most important aspects of our work is to understand that our Father gives his children work to do. It will probably involve a profession or occupation of some sort. While doing that occupation well to the glory of God is an important part of your God-assigned work, there is more.
Later on in John (18:9), Jesus will talk about how he has not lost a single one of the men God gave him to shepherd. That was a significant part of the Father’s work he needed to finish. Men, if or when God gives us a family, they are now probably THE most important people you will ever need to shepherd. They now are the work God has called you to…more than your job, more than your church, more than your hobbies. Dads, we need to embrace the work our heavenly Father has given us as the one work we really must “finish” and “do”, just as Jesus did.
3. We have a heavenly Father who is MODELING the kind of life he wants us to live out.
Keep reading in John 5:19.
19 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
APP: Dads, what would our children BE like if they did and said and walked and talked just like us? Because the truth is, chances are, that is pretty much what they will do in life.
It’s the power of modeling. It’s almost as much a law as the law of gravity. Even if our children decide that they hate some of what we do or who we are, chances are they’re going to do and be at some point in their lives just like that, right?
If we’re doing something we don’t want our children to do, what will it take for us to STOP it and change direction?
If we’re not doing something we hope our kids will end up doing or being in life, why not? What are we waiting for?
ILL: Conversation with a pastor-friend of mine here in town whose father-in-law raised his 5 daughters alone after his wife/their mother died while they were still young. He held down a job, kept up the house, did all the cooking and cleaning and laundry, etc. Someone once remarked to him, “You’ve got to stop doing all this for your kids. How are they ever going to learn to do it themselves.” He just smiled and said, “Oh, they will. I’m modeling it for them.” And he was right. Every one of those daughters grew up hard-working, good keepers of their home, raising responsible kids.
It’s the power of modeling.
It doesn’t stop when your kids leave home. It stops when you die! Until then, we’re teaching our children and grandchildren how to finish well, how to live passionately for Christ whether your still working or retired, how to handle declining health, pain, suffering and, yes, dying. We’re teaching them what to do with life in retirement, what to do with a retirement, how to live for God and people while our peers in the world are living for themselves and their comfort.
APP: So what are we to do if we didn’t have good modeling? Or even if we did, how are we to make God the Father our model?
Above all, look to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. Jesus said in John 14:7, “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
We must immerse ourselves in the life and person of Jesus Christ if we are to know the modeling power of our heavenly Father. If/when we see Jesus as he really is, we’re seeing our Father in heaven as he really is. That’s why knowing Jesus is what the entire Christian life is about. He modeled for us everything we will need to handle virtually any kind of experience in life. How Jesus dealt with people is the modeling we need.
Remember the period of the WWJD bracelets? That’s not a bad question at all, provided that you really know WDJD—What DID Jesus Do.
ILL: Do you ever find yourself asking, “What would _________ do in this situation?” If your father had abilities or reactions that you admired, you’ve probably thought from time to time in a situation you didn’t know exactly what to do, “I wonder what Dad would do?” It’s amazing the clarity that can bring, provided your model is a good one.
4. We have a heavenly Father who is TRANSPARENT about what he’s doing: bringing life to what is dead. Listen to what Jesus says in John 5:20.
“20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.”
Jesus hadn’t raised anyone from the dead yet at this time in his ministry. He’ll do so with Lazarus in John 11. Luke 7 records Jesus raising the widow of Nain’s son from the dead as he was being carried to the graveyard. Luke 8 records the resurrection of a 12 year old girl, Jairus daughter, from the dead. If the Jews thought healing a man at the pool on the Sabbath was a big deal, Jesus is warning them that his Father is up to much more than that. He’s in the resurrection business. And his son can’t help but be in the same business.
In the world of Jesus’ day, it was pretty much taken for granted that whatever your father did for a living, you would do too. Jesus’ dad was a carpenter, so Jesus became a carpenter. James and John were fisherman because their dad was a fisherman (Mt. 4:21-22). How many even today in our culture follow in the footsteps of their father, particularly when you’re talking about a family business.
If you have a family business that you want to pass along to your children, one of the things you will have to do is teach them everything you know about that business. You’ll have to open up the books at some point, show them the debts and assets. You’ll have to be honest and transparent about the challenges as well as the joys. That’s what a father who wants to see his children enjoy what he has been enjoying will do.
Now we know from 2 Kings 4 that God used Elisha to raise the Shunemite woman’s son from the dead. And I have a sneaking suspicion that this was not the only resurrection God ever did prior to Jesus’ coming. Wasn’t it his Father who had given Ezekiel the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37 where a whole valley of dry, bleached bones came to life? Our Father is in the business of resurrection life—taking people and things that have died and bringing them to life.
As Jesus said to the Sadducees when given the hypothetical story of the women who outlived 7 husbands and the question they hoped would show that the resurrection was impossible, “Whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” (22:28) Jesus responded to them that his Father is “not the God of the dead but of the living.”
Our heavenly Father wants everyone to know that death is not the end but only an opportunity for Him to show his power and let his kids in on the truth that He loves to give life to people (and things) that have died.
APP: Our heavenly Father is a dad who loves to give life to what is dead. Our Savior Jesus Christ is the Father’s Only Begotten Son who loves to give life to people who have died. So why are we children of God who doubt that God can bring life out of the situations that look hopelessly “dead”? Why de we doubt that God can or still does heal people who are good as dead as far as the medical community is concerned? We, as children being raised up spiritually in our heavenly Father’s house, ought to be people who believe in the life-giving nature and work of our God.
Why? Because our Father showed the Son “all he does” and that included the seemingly most impossible thing—raising the dead. And then Jesus showed us the same thing, over and over again. Why? So that we would despair in the face of impossibility and death? NO. So we would be children of the Father who bring life to people and situations wherever we go too.
APP: There is another point I want to leave with Dad especially here. The fact that God the Father showed God the Son “all” he does says something to me about the level of transparency fathers ought to be modeling to their children at some time in their lives. So many dads never really open up about their lives with their children. They never show their kids how to handle seemingly impossible situations, the small and big “deaths” that come into a person’s life.
Dads, our kids need to see the resurrection power of God at work in our own lives. They need to see that the death of a dream or the death of a loved one is not the end of life for us. They need to see and hear what we’re thinking and experiencing, even when we don’t do life perfectly.
That may mean a change of communication around your home. That may mean you need to start talking about more than daily events and sports statistics. Transparency that our kids need shows them how to invite the power of God into the experiences of life that need a resurrection…and how to wait on God when that resurrection may not come the way we want it in the time we want it.
Well, I could go on and talk about how God the Father showed his approval of his Son, Jesus (Jn. 6:27). We could talk about how God the Father cares for us, loves us, teaches us, nourishes us, commands us, gives us his best, knows us deeply, hears, really listens to us and answers us. All these things are presented as “life with Father” in the book of John. And all of them are things every child needs from their earthly father if they are to experience their heavenly Father to the measure He wants to be experience.
Let me conclude with an invitation. Regardless of whether or not you grew up in a home where your dad demonstrated these fatherly traits towards you or not, everyone has a standing invitation from the best Father in the universe to enjoy the only truly complete and perfect Father, God himself. That kind of fathering we all need for all of life and eternity only comes through personal acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior. What you do with Jesus IS the demonstration of what you are doing with your heavenly Father. To reject Jesus is to reject your heavenly Father. To love Jesus Christ and make him Lord of your life is to love the Father and make Him Lord of your eternity.
AMEN'd this Sermon: