Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Parenting with the Father Heart of God

Leslie Basham: Here’s Dr. Bruce Ware.

Dr. Bruce Ware: Some of you out here probably struggle with believing that God loves you. Well, I just want you to hear from me, God wants you to know and to believe and to bank on His unqualified love for you.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, June 15.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If you have placed your faith in Christ and are a child of God, that means that God is your Father. Now that sounds like a simple statement, but the truth behind it is profound. Because when we truly come to understand God as our father, well it transforms the way we look at life. It transforms the way we live.

Dr. Bruce Ware is a theologian, he’s an author, he’s a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He and his wife, Jody, are dear friends who have prayed much for me over the years and for this ministry. So when I saw that he was going to be speaking in our area not too long ago, I wanted to attend that conference. As I sat in the audience listening to him speak on the fatherhood of God, I thought, I want our Revive Our Hearts listeners to hear this.

He made some real practical applications of the fatherhood of God as he reminded parents that they represent God to their children because our view of God is so often shaped by our fathers. Then he challenged all of us, whether parents or not, to consider our walk of faith with God and to consider whether we relate to Him as the heavenly Father that He truly is.

So as we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend and we seek ways to honor our earthly dads, I want to remind us that there is nothing more important for each of us than to embrace God as our true father, and then to live as if God really is our father. So let’s listen as Dr. Bruce Ware describes what it means that God is our father.

Dr. Ware: You know the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven” is an astonishing, remarkable, nearly unbelievable statement that Jesus would command His disciples to address God in prayer with those words, “Our Father.” Of course, many of us don’t find this particularly astonishing or remarkable. We are quite accustomed to thinking of God as father and praying to Him as father. But when Jesus gave this command, it was utterly astonishing, remarkable, and utterly unbelievable. Why? Well, here are two reasons why.

Number one: In the Jewish world of Jesus day, God is never referred to as father. You don’t find God as father in any Jewish literature from 200 BC to 200 AD—not a single instance of God being referred to as father. The Jews felt this was too intimate—it just could not be spoken of God.

But here’s the second reason. Jesus, Himself, regularly refers to God as His father, but of course, He deserves it. He is the Son of God. But us? Wow! Amazingly, Jesus commands His disciples to join Him in praying, “Our Father.” Oh, my friends, we should be astonished at this—that we are brought into the relationship which we can call God our father—we who have no right to be in that position. We are adopted into the family of God and come into the place where He is now our father. So my friends marvel at this.

Now, what does it mean for us to address God as father? What kind of father is He? The biblical concept of God as father has two related concepts—two themes that picture the way God fathers us—both of which are critical and crucial.

God our Father deserves our worship and reverence, our loyalty and our following. And God our Father desires our well-being, our renewal, our loveliness, our fullness. That God on the one hand deserves our worship—He is a God that should be respected. He should be obeyed. That’s one side of it. But the other side of it is God, as father, is incredibly loving, kind, compassionate, merciful, forgiving, generous, lavish in what He pours out upon His people. He wants us to feel the weight both of the respect that is owed to Him and the lavish goodness that comes from His heart that longs to make our lives as full as they can be.

So it’s these two sides of God, both of which need to be reflected in human fathering. The tendency is, I think, for us human fathers and human parents to tilt in one direction or the other. So you have the stern dad, you know the harsh kind of a home, where yes, boy there is respect, there is honor, but boy there is not love, there is not kindness and forgiveness and grace and understanding and laughter and joviality. That side of it is just lacking. But there are other homes where there is a lot of fun going on, but boy, the disobedience, the back-talking, the sarcasm just make a mockery, really, of how God fathers us.

Now, the Lord’s Prayer is interesting to me in so far as it presents really both sides of these aspects of God’s own nature. Think with me for a moment about the Lord’s Prayer. It begins, “Our Father” of course this is now the Father, God as father. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matt. 6:9-10). It's not let’s talk about your will, let’s negotiate this, let’s come to a common agreement. No, siree. He is the authority. He decides, we obey.

But then notice the shift. “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. [Don’t] lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil.” (vv. 11-13) So you see in the Lord’s Prayer both sides, don’t you, of the fatherhood of God towards us. Yes, He is the God who is to be respected. His will is to be obeyed. We are to heed His Word and follow what He says. But He is the God who gives us daily bread, cares for our everyday needs, forgives us when we sin, loves and attends to our every need, who longs for His people to look to Him for what we need day by day. Both of these are true.

Let’s take a look just at some passages that flesh out for us from Scripture these two sides as it were of God. First of all, God our father deserving our worship, our reverence, our loyalty, our following. And, of course, Matthew 6:9 and 10, I’ve already mentioned to you in the Lord’s Prayer. God is to be honored. His will to be desired and obeyed by us. The imperatives that are there in those early verses indicate this is an obligation we have. This is not something that we can blow off as Christian people and think we are living lives pleasing to God. No, we live under the weight of recognizing it is His will that is to be done.

Malachi 1 is a very interesting—this is the last of the books of the Old Testament; the last of the minor prophets—and we read this in verse 6. This is, by the way, stated to rebuke Israel for their failure to do exactly this. Malachi says in verse 6, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” And of course, the people are failing to do that. But what is indicated here is as God is father, as He is master, we owe to Him the respect and honor that is due to His name.

Another passage, 1 Peter 1:14 and following also indicates the honor that is owed to God as father.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to your former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; for it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth. (vv. 14-17)

So in other words, this concept of the fear of the Lord comes in with this idea of God as father. To fear the Lord is a complex biblical notion, but here it is in a nutshell. To fear the Lord is to live in a manner that is terror stricken at the thought of moving away from God and His will and His ways because you realize the heavy hand of God’s discipline can come upon those who move away from Him. But that’s one side of fear of the Lord. The other side of the fear of the Lord is a joyful, expectant anticipation of blessing that He will bring into the lives of all of those who walk faithfully before Him. And so part of what Peter is calling us to here is to recognize God as father can discipline His children.

Now this becomes clearer even in Hebrews chapter 12, a passage that is familiar to many of us. Hebrews 12:7:

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 of you have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 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, so that we might share His holiness. (vv. 7-10)

So recognition of God as father means He is the one who has rightful authority over us. We owe to Him our obedience, our allegiance. We owe to Him our respect, our honor, worship. And we realize that when we fail to obey Him and fail to walk in His ways, the heavy hand of His discipline can come upon us. That is how God is to us as father.

Now, the other side of it, though, is glorious and beautiful. And that is God as father is also without contradiction. The very same father is also the one whose heart longs to give to His children, who loves them to be happy, to be fulfilled, to be satisfied, whose deepest desire is for them to have fulfilled lives. My goodness, “God who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not with Him freely give us all things.” Incredible isn’t it. That’s Romans 8:32.

Well, indeed, the other side of God as father is this giving, kind, loving, attentive, caring, forgiving side of God as father. I don’t know if you suffer from being raised in homes where your father was not like this—where your father was perhaps on the other side of it—demanding respect and perhaps harsh and that sort of a thing. But all of us, for whatever reason, have to come to the place if we’re going to understand the God of the Bible, we have got to understand that the God of the Bible, the God who is father of His children is a God who deeply loves His children. He deeply desires their wellbeing and will stop at nothing—“He who did not spare His own Son”—to bring to us, His children, everything that is good for us. Marvelous expressions of God as father.

Look with me at just a couple other passages that speak specifically of God as father. Second Corinthians chapter 1, where we see what comes from God our father. This is characteristic of many of the epistles of Paul that open with extolling who God is as father. So we read in 2 Corinthians 1:

Paul, called as an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints and those who are throughout Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, the God of all comfort who comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (vv. 1-5)

Yes, the father is the one who provides for us, who gives to us, who comforts and consoles and strengthens us in our need. This is who God is as father.

Similarly, Ephesians 1:3: 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

Finally, James 1:16-18 refers also to God as father: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,” from whom? “from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” Now the reason that James includes that comment, “there is no variation or shadow of turning,” there’s no change in God, is this. He always gives good gifts. You can count on it.

God never gives anything to His children that is not under the category of “good”—for their good. My friends, we have got to realize this also includes (it’s not the main subject we are talking about here) the trials and the afflictions and the sufferings of life that God in His wisdom designs for us even for our good.

Okay, now application to us. For human fathers it seems then that we need to think of ourselves as human fathers representing God the Father in both of these ways. We represent God to our children. You know this. Studies have been done that show that children’s views of God as they grow up are shaped more by their relationship with their father than any other single thing. So there is this necessary place for parents to insist that their children respect them. You don’t accomplish that by saying that to them. You accomplish that by having a very clear, firm policy that is guarded carefully, that there is no back-talk to mom or dad, that in fact when mom and dad say something, that you listen and carry it out. Why is that so important?

Number one: Oh my goodness, it just aids so much to a happy home. Here’s the other thing. They learn to obey God as they learn to obey you. Do you hear that? So if they learn in your home that it’s really the fourth time you say something that they need to do it—you know it’s when the pitch of your voice gets this high—that’s when they need to attend to what you are saying. If that’s what they learn, well, guess what they think of God? “He doesn’t really mean it the first time.” Do you want them to think that way regarding the commandments of God? So my friends, think carefully about what it means to model honoring God as they honor parents in their home.

The second thing is obvious as well. Fathers, parents, but fathers in particular, need to create an environment where their children know their dads love them. They care for them. They are tender toward them—even in discipline—so tender toward them.

I remember times holding Bethany or Rachel on my lap cuddling with them before I spanked them—cuddling with them and explained to them why this had to be. “It’s going to hurt, but I want you to know this hurt comes from a hand that loves you dearly.” I would say that to them over and over again even at times of discipline. So they know that the same hand that is harsh is a hand that is giving, kind, generous, wanting their best and their well-being, spending time with them, listening to them. I had two girls. I have a wife. I have three girls in my house. I've learned listening is really important. Actually, I haven’t learned as I should, but just to realize this is so needed.

For all of us, we need to consider ways in which, as parents, can contribute in both of these ways to our home. Then we need to realize this is how we are to respond to God. We are to respond to God as He is our Father, to the One who insists upon our obedience. We live in such a lackadaisical culture where we trivialize law. But don’t do this with God. It is such a huge mistake to do this.

So we live before God where we respect Him and His will and His ways. We should pray that God would give us a heart that longs to obey, but also a heart toward God that will feel the weight of His love, to understand how great is His mercy. Why is it if God insists upon our obedience he doesn’t discipline us more often? I’ve asked that of my own life many, many times. Why is it that it doesn’t seem as if God is bringing His heavy hand against me when He surely could? I think sometimes we interpret the longsuffering of God, the patience of God as the tolerance of God. Don’t do that my friends. He is not tolerant toward our sinfulness, but He is longsuffering. I mean, I wouldn’t be here if He weren’t. If He had treated me as my sins deserved, as it says in Psalm 103, I would have been toast long ago.

God is so patient, so kind, so caring and loving, so lavish in His giving. Some of you out here probably struggle with believing that God loves you. Well I just want you to hear from me, God wants you to know and to believe and to bank on His unqualified love for you.

Can you see how both are so important? Getting both right, it seems to me, is really the template for parenting. How we are to raise our children is to raise them in the way God raises us—the way God is father to us in both these respects.

Nancy: Dr. Bruce Ware has been showing us what it really means to have God as our father. He’s reminded parents that the fatherhood of God has profound implications for them as they raise the next generation. To get a copy of today’s important message, just visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com. Maybe you know a parent that would get a lot out of this message, or someone who has struggled to relate to God as father. I hope you’ll get a copy for them.

On this special weekend, if you are blessed to have a father still living, I hope you’ll make it a very special day for him. You’ll be blessed when you follow the biblical command to honor your father. Even if he was an imperfect dad, as every parent is, I know you can find something to honor. So consider how you can make this Sunday’s celebration a meaningful one as we honor not only our earthly dads, but give thanks to the Lord for the incredible heavenly Father that He is to His children.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. What did you think of today’s program? Did it bring thoughts or questions to mind? I hope you’ll share with our listeners by posting your ideas at the Revive Our Hearts listener blog. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com, click on today’s program, scroll to the end of the transcript. There you can leave your thoughts and questions. Dr. Bruce Ware, the speaker we heard today, will be joining us on the listener blog. He may respond to your comment or answer your question. Again, you can participate at ReviveOurHearts.com.

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Well, are you tempted to hide who you really are? Do you worry if people knew the real you that you’d be judged? Nancy shows you how to be real Monday. I hope you’ll join us again for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version.

 

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