12 March 2008

"Blessed Be"--God the Father (part 1)

Today we’re going to begin looking at God: who He is, His nature, His character. Because if you do not know God for who He really is, nothing else you believe will matter. For example, Mormons believe that a man was born in some distant universe, and that eventually he progressed to the point of being God—the One we know as “God the Father.” They believe that He had a beginning, that He was born to a set of parents just like you and I were, and that after going through a series of “progressions,” He became God the Father. If that was the only place where they were wrong about God, that would be enough to condemn them. (There’s plenty more, but we won’t get into all that today.)

Now, let’s talk for a moment about the Trinity. That word is actually a contraction that means “Tri-Unity.” Much like "cannot" becomes "can't" and "do not" becomes "don't" and "a not" becomes "ain't." (Insert laughter here.) You may hear God referred to as being “triune”—three-in-one. Father. Son. Holy Spirit (Ghost). However, these are NOT three “gods.” That’s Mormonism. They are three PERSONS of one God. Let’s talk about this in human terms, and I tread lightly doing so, because God is not a man. But, much like Jesus used parables to describe the kingdom of God in terms the people could understand, here’s something like a parable about God.

This is by no means a perfect illustration, so don’t stretch it too far or it’s gonna break. Suppose I form a business together with my friends Aaron and Richard. We are all co-owners of the company and all of its assets. We are separate in our persons, but we make up the same company. When one speaks, they speak in the authority of the whole company. However, there is one person in this group that makes the decisions. And since this is my illustration, that person is me (Insert laughter here. Please.). Richard and Aaron are co-equal with me, but they are separate and distinct from me. I send Richard out to make represent our company to people who do not know about us. Once Richard comes back, I send Aaron out to show people why they should believe in our product, and why they are wrong to use anything else. This is KIND OF like how the Father sent Christ as His representative (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:15). And when Jesus returned to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit (John 16:8).

OK, let’s take a look at some of the titles used when the Bible talks about God. For the first 34 years of my life I thought the Bible was written in English. It ain't. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, the New Testament in Greek, and we’re going to look at how we got the Bible in a few weeks. First, in the Old Testament Hebrew, there is the word “God.” The Hebrew word is “Elohim.” Genesis 1:1, In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and earth. Then you have two different words translated “Lord.” One is L-o-r-d, with only the first letter capitalized. The other is L-O-R-D--all caps. Now, the Hebrew word for “Lord” is “Adonai.” “LORD,” however, is spelled using the four Hebrew letters (huhi) that turn into YHVH in English (Reading the Hebrew from right-to-left). This is usually pronounced “Yaw-vay.” It means, “The one who is.” Or, when God uses it to refer to Himself, “I AM.” Jesus uses this word at least 9 times to refer to Himself in what we call the “I AM” statements of Christ—I AM the bread of life”, "I AM the way, the truth, and the life", I AM the Good Shepherd.” And in John 8:58, He tells the Pharisees, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

Now, you may have heard the name “Jehovah.” This is a name that did not come about until a few years before Christ. And it came about for one of two reasons, depending on who you read. Either it was a Jewish superstition that they had lost the true pronunciation of the name "YHVH", or when they were taken into captivity they did not was His name desecrated by the Babylonians. Whatever the case, what they did was, they took the letters YHVH and inserted the vowels from Adonai (There are no vowels in Hebrew, that's why you see the little dots and lines above, under, or inside of certain Hebraic characters), and got “YaHoVaH.” Over time the English language changed, and eventually it became what we know as "Jehovah." However, contrary to what the Jehovah's Witnesses will tell you, this is NOT the name He told Moses to use (Exodus 3:13-14).

Tomorrow we’re going to look at the Father as “Judge.” But today we’re going to look at God the Father as FATHER. Listen to the words of Jesus, and how they bear witness of our Father in Heaven.
  • Our Father provides. Matthew 6:26“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 7:11“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
  • No one has seen our Father except for Christ. John 5:37“And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.” Matthew 6:46“Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.”
  • And it is the Father who judges with the Son. John 5:30“I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” John 8:16“…if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.”
As far as His relationship to us. Off the top of your head, what are some characteristics of a human father? Loving. Giving. They give their child what they need—food, clothes. What about discipline? If a father loves his child, will he not discipline that child? One of the best things you can do to show your child you love them is to discipline them. Because if we don’t give them discipline, the world will. Discipline gives a child assurance. Because if a parent can't stand up to their child, how can they stand up to anyone who comes against that child?

There are three major types of parenting styles. Passive. Authoritarian. And Authoritative. The first one (Passive) is pretty easy to figure out. This is the parent that lets their child run around the house with scissors in their hand. They let them put the cat in the microwave. They just kinda wave it of and say, “Oh, he’s just being a child!

Authoritarian parents are very severe in their punishment. When the child misbehaves, they lose their patience and they lash out in anger. Authoritative parents set strict, distinct limits. They tell the child, “You can do this, but you can't do that. If you do I’m going to have to punish you.” They don’t necessarily want to punish their child, but they do if they have to. They respect their child’s individuality, but they teach that child that there are things they should and should not do—not “Because I said so,” but because they want to protect their child.

Which one of these types best describes God the Father? Would it shock you to learn that He is a little bit of all three? We don’t think of Him as being “Passive.” But sometimes, He is. There is a world of wickedness outside those doors. Lightning bolts. Yet God doesn’t destroy them. Habakkuk 1:13“Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?” Because. He is allowing the evil to heap up wrath for themselves. Romans 1 talks about how so many people do not want to retain God in their knowledge. When people are like that He says, “Fine. If that’s how you want to live—go ahead.” Notice something in those verses. A phrase that gets repeated three times in that passage. "He gave them up...He gave them up...He gave them over."

He can also be quite “Authoritarian.” Not that He punishes people for no good reason. He always has a reason. In Numbers 16, a man named Korah brings a group of men to challenge Aaron for the priesthood. Moses tells them, “Tomorrow, you bring your fire, Aaron will bring his.” God was far from passive. He opened up the earth and those who brought the wrath of God upon themselves were swallowed up. Before that, in Genesis 19, Sodom and Gomorrah had the chance to repent from their wickedness, was God very passive with them? And even before that, when there was great wickedness through all the earth—so much so that God said He wished He had never created man! What did He do (Genesis 7)? And in the last days, things will be so bad it will make all those will tame in comparison.

But to those of us who know Him as our Father in Heaven, He is “Authoritative.” He leads us and guides us. He gives us what we need. And sometimes what we need is discipline. Because let’s face it, there will be times when we do what we should not do. There are times when we won’t do what we should. And if we continue in our defiance of Him, He will chastise us.
Hebrews 12:6-9For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten…we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?

What is the difference between ‘discipline’ and ‘punishment’? Discipline means “Correction; chastisement; punishment intended to correct errors.” Punishment is a form of discipline, if it’s done to correct a wrong behavior. If a parent spanks their two-year-old for spilling their milk, that’s not discipline. But if you yank your child out of the road, and lay a smack on their bottom so they don’t do that again, that is discipline. That’s what our Father in Heaven does when we go astray. Hebrews 6:10-11For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. When He disciplines us, chastens us, it is so that we can share in His holiness, and we can know the peace that comes from righteousness.

He provides for us. He leads us and guides us. He disciplines us when we need it. But this discipline is always for our own good. And it is because we have rebelled against Him. And it is because the chastening He gives us is far less painful than what would happen if He didn’t. If you yank your child up out of the middle of the road and give him a swat, isn't that better than letting him get hit by a car? Jeremiah 9:23-24Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD. Lovingkindness. Judgment. Righteousness. These are three things that every good father should possess.

First, lovingkindness. The most important thing he can do is love his children. If that father does not love his child, that child will be ignored, that child will be neglected, unloved, misguided. Because if he doesn’t, then the child will probably be ruined before he even has a chance. What kind of an adult will that child grow up to be? Believe me, I’ve seen studies that show that a father has more influence on a child than their mother. Go into any prison, talk about an inmate’s mother. Then count how many broken ribs you walk out of there with. then ask them about their fathers. How much love they got from them. How much time their fathers spent with them. You'll get a whole different reaction.

One year Hallmark cards decided to have a program in a local prison to let the inmates send Mother's Day cards to their moms. So many inmates responded that they had to go out and get more cards. So, Hallmark decided to do the same thing for Father's Day. Guess how many inmates responded. ZERO.

This is the love our Father in Heaven has for us:
Jeremiah 31:3I have loved thee with an everlasting love.
1st John 3:1Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called sons of God!
Romans 5:8But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Lovingkindness.

Judgment. How to act in certain situations. When to punish a child, when to show them mercy. When to allow them to do something, when to say, “No.” And when a father exercises his judgment, he needs to be ready to give a reason because what is that child going to ask? “Why?” God is the only Father who can get away with saying, “Because I said so.” When God says, “No,” He has a reason. We don’t always see it right away. But we have to trust Him, that He knows what’s best. It can also be translated “justice.” A father should deal with their children fairly, so that the child grows up knowing right from wrong.

Deuteronomy 32:4He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.
2nd Chronicles 19:7Now therefore, let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.
2nd Peter 2:9the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the Day of Judgment.

Righteousness. The righteousness of God. We’re going to look more at this next week, along with His holiness. Watch this: in Jeremiah 9:24, God says, “I AM the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, righteousness, and judgment.” When we know Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are sealed—betrothed—to God by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). Listen to Hosea 2:19“…I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy…” We are sealed to God forever by the Holy Spirit in righteousness, lovingkindness, and mercy. Righteousness means having an absolutely perfect sense of right and wrong, and always acting according to that standard, never failing to do so ever—not even once. Knowing that, how many of us in here can say we are righteous?
Psalm 19:9The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
Psalm 98:8-9…let the hills be joyful together before the LORD, for He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, and the peoples with equity.
Psalm 111:3His work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness endures forever.


Part 2 tomorrow

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