Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Father's Day Gospel

Father's Day provides an annual chance to awkwardly think about why you love your dad.  But what if you are the dad?  Do you start shifting in your chair, wondering if you're doing a good job?  What if you fall short?

Maybe you're a dad who worships the living God and reads the Bible.  What would you do if you came across these passages in the Old Testament?
"You shall have no other gods before me. ... You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments." (Deuteronomy 5:7, 9-10) 
"And the LORD said to me, '... Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and keep my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!'" (Deuteronomy 5:29)
The Old Testament is rife with examples of poor fathers raising foolish children who don't fear the Lord, and of how indeed the sin of fathers consumes their whole families.  (Take, for example, the families of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in Numbers 16, or the sons of Eli in 1 Samuel 2!)  God works in and through family relationships throughout the Bible, and for the most part, families rise and fall on the faith of the father who leads the home.

So when we as fathers read these passages about the God who is "the same yesterday and today and forever," how can we have good hope for our children after us?  How can we be sure we will raise a wise family who repent of their sins and embrace Jesus, who fear and trust God and call him Father?  How will we know we will see his blessing upon our households rather than curses?  After all, does not God threaten to return fathers' sins upon their children's heads?

But after reading this chapter from Deuteronomy this morning, I remembered another set of very similar promises from Jeremiah 32 outlining the grace promised in the new covenant in Christ:
"And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.  I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and for the good of their children after them.  I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them.  And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.  I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul." (vv.  38-41)
Did you catch the same wording?  Whereas under the old covenant God yearns for men to have "such a heart ... to fear me and keep my commandments, that it may go well with them and with their descendants forever," now in the new covenant he promises to freely give this to his people.  "I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and for the good of their children."  What God demands from us he freely provides!  God's own faithful love to us causes and guarantees our own faithful love to him.  God says in effect, "I will see to this!  I will secure for you what you need to love me and follow me!"

But these aren't promises secured by general goodwill.  They're secured by the sacrifice of God's only Son, who removed God's curses from us that were due to us for our sin and so that we could receive God's own Spirit to live inside us, change our wills, and redirect our affections (Galatians 3:13-14; Romans 8:1-4).

Go back and read Jeremiah 32 again.  And again.  How awesome are these promises!  If you are a dad, or any parent or guardian of youth in your home, these promises are yours if you belong to Jesus.

With the above in mind, I want to point out a few books I've found to be really helpful ...
1. Gospel-Powered Parenting, William Farley (P&R Publishing, 2009).
2. Shepherding a Child's Heart, Tedd Tripp (Shepherd Press, 1995).

...and a third that looks pretty awesome but I haven't read.
3. Parenting by God's Promises, Joel Beeke (Reformation Trust, 2011).

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