Seeing fatherhood everywhere

We need to have our eyes opened—we need to be able to see. We need to see where we are still trying to cast off the restraint. We need to see where in our lives we are trying to remove creaturehood from us, to displace God as God—to do what our first parents did at the beginning—and then we need to exercise faith in the work of Jesus Christ. Do you think we can have saving faith and make claim to the righteousness of Christ while having no manifest obedience demonstrated by us to our place, our domain, our abode as God has placed us—as men, as women, as husbands, as wives, as servants, as masters, as children, as parents?

The 2012 ClearNote Summer Conference was titled I Believe in God the Father Almighty. Here is the closing sermon of the conference, titled Seeing Fatherhood Everywhere, preached July 7, 2012 by David Max Curell.

(This is sermon 4 in a series; see also sermon 1, sermon 2, and sermon 3.)


Outline

Introduction: Our need to see
Graspers and usurpers and abdicators
Fatherhood and authority
The centurion
Peter: “Command me!”
Jesus, commander of the host of heaven
Angels know their place
The road to increasing our faith starts with understanding and accepting our place
The ‘especially’ clause
Deference
“You are here”
Conclusion: To see the Fatherhood of God everywhere…

Introduction: Our need to see

We’ve been looking at the theme of the fatherhood of God through the weekend, and as we’ve seen in the plenary and breakout sessions leading up to this afternoon, one huge casualty of the Fall was fatherhood—killing the Father; denying Him children; not understanding our adoption by Him. From infancy we have marinated in this culture—it’s all around us. If I were to take you into a room and tell you that one of the walls had a spot on it and to ask you to find the spot, you would begin to look around for something that stands out. If I were to say that this is the room with the wall with the spot, you’d start looking around at the walls. If I were to say the spot is gray, some of you would smile. If I were to say the spot is here in this direction, almost all of the rest of you would smile. (And some of you just keep thinking about it.) The fact is that the spot is so pervasive, we’re not even thinking of it as a spot. It’s just so huge, it’s before us. If you want to understand seeing fatherhood everywhere, you have to begin by recognizing that it’s so pervasive and prevalent that even when you’re looking straight at it you don’t see it. God’s Fatherhood is everywhere, but we don’t see it. We’re blinded by sin. We’ve suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. Jesus said,

“For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”

I want us to concentrate this afternoon on our need to see. Once our eyes start to open, we will start to see fatherhood everywhere, but we need to understand the thing about seeing. God is specifically referred to as Father in the Bible somewhere around 250 times. At least 247 of those references are in the New Testament. Every book in the New Testament, in fact, except 3 John (which is very very small, and since John’s gospel has 103 references, we’ll let it pass) has a reference to God as Father to His redeemed people.

When Jesus came, there was the revelation of God as Father—as the Son is revealed, so then the Father is revealed. As adoption takes place, so then the reality of God, Abba, Father, becomes a reality for His people. And the revelation is very specific to the new covenant.

In his essay on God the Father, in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Scottish Presbyterian James Orr writes,

In the Christian religion, God is conceived of as Father: “Our Father in Heaven;” “The God and Father of the Lord Jesus;” the tenderness of relation and wealth of love and grace embraced in this profound designation are peculiar to Christ’s gospel.

In the Old Testament God was revealed as Father to the chosen nation and to the special representative of the nation, the king, while fatherly love is declared to be the image of His pity for those who fear Him. In the gospel of Jesus alone is this fatherhood revealed to be the very essence of the Godhead and to have respect to the individual.

Here, however, there is a need for great discrimination. To reach to the heart of the truth of the divine Fatherhood it is necessary to begin not with man but with the Godhead itself, in whose eternal depths is found the spring of that fatherly love that reveals itself in time. It is first of all in relation to the eternal Son before all time that the meaning of fatherhood in God is made clear. In God the Father we have a name pointing to that relation which the first person in the adorable Trinity sustains to Son and Holy Spirit—also divine. From this eternal fountainhead flow the relations of God as Father to the world by creation; to believers by grace.

Man as created was designed by affinity of nature for sonship to God. The realization of this, his true creature destiny, was frustrated by sin and can now only be restored by redemption, hence the place of sonship in the gospel as an unspeakable privilege obtained by grace through regeneration and adoption. In this relation of nearness and privilege to the Father in the kingdom of His Son, believers are sons of God, in a sense true of no others. It is a relation not of nature but of grace. Fatherhood is now the determinative fact in God’s relation to them.

As pastors we listen to the prayers of our people, to hear if they call God “Father.” And it’s quite often that they don’t—that we hear prayers from men and over and over again they’ll not call Him Father. To think about the pervasiveness of the Father in the gospel and to think that we often don’t even hear the term in our prayers, is disturbing. And it’s because there’s been such a blindness, there’ve been calluses on our eyes—we’ve been at work so long suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. Tim referenced the New England Primer lesson, “In Adam’s Fall, we sinned all”: There had to be a second Adam who came to heal the breach, to restore, to re-establish. And Romans 5 says,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

Graspers and usurpers and abdicators

Adam and Eve did the very things they were not to do. Eve grasped for what was not hers and Adam abdicated, caving in his leadership and blaming his wife and God. Adam was our federal head as regards the curse, but they both left their place.

We understand the idea of someone leaving their place. We call them pretenders and usurpers and upstarts and graspers and the like. This is who we are in Adam: graspers and usurpers and abdicators. This was our inheritance. We struggle to cast off our creaturehood.

Psalm 2 says,

Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?

The peoples—we the peoples—devising a vain thing?

The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”

We would be free from our creaturehood, we would be free from our place and our position, we would have more—and it’s because of the wicked sin in our hearts. And it says God watches it and laughs. (It’s not a good thing in the Bible when God is laughing.) And then he introduces his Son, and he says,

“‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.'”

It’s a prophecy about Christ in the Old Testament in the Psalms,

“‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.'”
Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the LORD with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son…”

You know what that actually says? “Kiss the Son.” That’s the literal.

Kiss the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

What wonderful, terrifying juxtaposition—the striving sinner and the omnipotent, eternal Father announcing his remedy: Kiss the Son. God is the Father from whom are all things. The fabric of creation exists by him and for him. We can see the mark of his Fatherhood embroidered into the entirety of it, and he has given all things to his Son, Jesus Christ. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, says Jesus:

“The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.”

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hand…”

“Knowing that He had come forth from God and was going back to God…”

“All things that the Father has are Mine, therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”

Fatherhood and authority

All things go to the Son. As we have suppressed this truth of fatherhood; as we have sought to cast off the restraint, to leave our position—as we have grasped to get free of our creaturehood, we have suppressed authority, because authority and fatherhood are together. The doctrine and the truth of fatherhood becomes a casualty of our violence.

Romans 13,

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

In order to see fatherhood everywhere, we have to be able to see, and we have to begin by seeing authority everywhere. Jesus teaches us what authority is.

The centurion

In Matthew 8 you have the account of Jesus coming into Capernaum and a centurion came to him entreating him and saying Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home suffering great pain.

And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, he marveled and he said to those who were following…

“Truly I say to you, I have not found such great [understanding of authority] in all Israel.”

Do you see that? But that’s not what it says, is it?

“I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. And I say to you that many shall come from east and west and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven…

Including this centurion, is the implication,

…but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness, in the place where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way. Let it be done to you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very hour.

The righteous man shall live by faith—faith in the Son of God, the Son to whom all authority was given in heaven and on earth. The centurion seemed to have a clear grasp of Jesus’ authority. The centurion saw fatherhood everywhere—his eyes were clear.

Peter: “Command me!”

And even the disciples at times had some understanding of faith. They’re out fishing and they see Jesus walking to them, and Peter says, “Lord, if it’s you, command me.” And I think it’s interesting that he said, “Command me.” He was waiting for the command from the One who had authority: “Come out, Peter.” And so he did, and for a time he walked on the water!

Who do we ever ask to command us? Who do we ever look to and say, “Command me!” (It would be a fun exercise to do, wouldn’t it, at work next week, go up to your boss: “Here I am! Got my drill gun. Command me!”)

Jesus, commander of the host of heaven

Look for a moment with me at the role of Jesus as the commander of the host of heaven. Luke 2, seeing the shepherds,

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened…And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Why do you suppose the shepherds were terribly frightened? What was this angel like? Well of course he’s like all the angels we’ve ever seen—first of all, he’s a she. And he’s holding a little Christmas candle, that if you plug it in and it isn’t burned out it lights up, and you put it on top of the tree, or it’s standing up with a lot of gold flecks up in the curio cabinet—

This is us suppressing the truth, you understand?

Angels on our Christmas trees are us casting off our creaturehood and trying to grasp, because we’re denying the truth. These angels were scary. And who was their commander? Jesus Christ is, and was at that day, their commander.

Revelation 19 says,

And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.

Who are they following?

The one on whose robe and thigh was written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. This is the angel came to the shepherds to announce the birth of his commander incarnate for the salvation of the souls of men, to restore them to God.

Angels know their place

Every biblical encounter with angels in their glorious state is characterized by fear on the part of the witnesses. Angels are a mobilized army, an army of creatures of higher ranking order than ourselves. Their weaponry is apparently often visible, and I believe the most terrifying thing about them is their presence and their bearing. See, we are accustomed to creatures like ourselves—revilers, graspers—because when we look in one another’s eyes, we find safety and familiarity in our shared sin and wickedness and rebellion—it’s familiar and comfortable. But when we look into the eyes of an angel, we don’t look into the eyes of a reviler; we look into the eyes of someone who stands before God and knows his place, and it’s terrifying to us. The ranks of the angels are perfectly kept. Their eyes are singular and resolute. They are not ambitious or reviling.

But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

(Jude 1:9)

Michael, the powerful archangel, did not say even to Satan what we would say,

The devil is a sly old fox
And if I catch him I’ll put him in a box
Lock the box and throw away the key
For all the mean tricks he’s played on me.

It’s a product of our wickedness to sing such a thing. He isn’t to be treated that way. (Michael wouldn’t treat him that way, why would we treat him that way?) But we are revilers, we are graspers. We want to cast off our creaturehood, and so we’re blind to authority.

The road to increasing our faith starts with understanding and accepting our place

Our rebellion is so pervasive that we think it’s normal. We were talking in the session this afternoon and I read from 1 Peter 3 where Sarah called Abraham her lord, and I told the women that one time at a family gathering my wife and I had conspired and at some point she called me lord—and it was chaos for a little while! But the Bible just says that was the mark of her godliness—of her wonderful, godly, faithful, hopeful femininity, of her womanhood, of her wifehood, that she called her husband lord. And she didn’t fear, trusting God.

I think that to look to this we have to look to Luke 17:5-10,

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

And so after they ask him, Jesus gives a descriptive statement about faith.

the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.

And then he tells this story that doesn’t seem to make any sense. And for the longest time I did not understand it. But I want you to see it if you’ve not understood it before. Because in response to their request that he increase their faith, Jesus tells them about a slave, and this is what he says:

“But which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me until I have eaten and drunk; and afterward you will eat and drink’? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?
“So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'”

Why would Jesus answer a request for increased faith with this enigmatic story? Why does this answer make no sense to us? Well, really it’s not so much that it doesn’t make sense, it’s just quite offensive, isn’t it?

“What are you trying to say to us, Jesus? Are you trying to say we’re like the slave? Is that what you’re trying to say?”

It doesn’t fit with our grasping posture. We have very little grid to understand authority because we’re so contaminated with our hatred of it.

I heard a story about a disgruntled Wal-Mart employee who was upset for being disciplined by her manager, and what she said was, “She’s not my boss! She can’t tell me what to do!” This is our familiar sin. We know exactly how to rebel against the commands.

But what does this text say? The disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith. He tells them that in order to understand and grow in faith, you must know your place. First he tells them they must know how to have authority and exercise it as the master, and then he tells them that they must know how to submit to authority as the slave. And it should sound perfectly familiar to us, because I just read about the centurion and he just said, “I have people above me and I have people below me, and I know you have authority, and all you have to do is say the word. You don’t even have to come to my house, and my servant will be healed.” And Jesus says, “There has never been such a [great understanding of authority] in all Israel.” No! “I have never seen faith like this in all of Israel.” And the disciples say, “Teach us about faith.” And he says, “Ok, I’ll teach you about faith. This is a story about authority.” Open your eyes and see the authority of God, and see it everywhere, and see that it is evidence of his Fatherhood, and that fatherhood is everywhere. If you want faith and you want to grow, know your place! Know who you are, and then act there with faith.

So apparently the road to increasing our faith starts with understanding who we are—our place—where we are in the authority structure. And not to do so is a horrible sin. It’s a horrible sin to rebel against authority.

The ‘especially’ clause

2 Peter 2:4,

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment…

He knows how to take care of things. But then listen to the next verse:

…and especially those…

I call this the ‘especially’ clause—and it’s not a nice one,

who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties…

Can you find a better description for our culture than a culture that indulges the flesh in its corrupt desires and despises authority? We should tremble as we see the truth of how we have tried to suppress God, how we have tried to suppress fatherhood and authority, and how God looks at it as especially wicked, with the reservation of an especial judgment. It’s fearful.

The angels are scandalized when they see men reject authority, and I think it’s because they don’t do it themselves (other than the group that did with Satan, who himself was a grasper and a usurper).

Deference

I think you could describe knowing our place and being satisfied with our place as deference.

The session this morning for the women only on feminine deference—men, everyone here should get the recording and listen to it, because this is essential to what I’m talking about and what the Scripture is saying here: that our faith involves embracing what God has created us as, as his creatures: as men, as women.

We’re so contaminated that we think that Benny Hinn and TBN will teach us about faith. And I know you’re saying, “No, not me! I’m Reformed.” You know, it’s true, you are Reformed, but you are the product of the culture that created Benny Hinn and TBN. You marinate in it and you have all your lives, and so have I. And we need to repent.

We need to have our eyes opened—we need to be able to see. We need to see where we are still trying to cast off the restraint. We need to see where in our lives we are trying to remove creaturehood from us, to displace God as God—to do what our first parents did at the beginning—and then we need to exercise faith in the work of Jesus Christ. Do you think we can have saving faith and make claim to the righteousness of Christ while having no manifest obedience demonstrated by us to our place, our domain, our abode as God has placed us—as men, as women, as husbands, as wives, as servants, as masters, as children, as parents?

“You are here”

Are you in a crisis of faith? We all should be in a crisis of faith all the time. As God works in us and sanctifies us and changes us, there should be constantly happening within us a crisis of faith where we’re realizing that God has placed us here, where we’re embracing what he’s given us to do, where we’re turning our backs on the culture and its rebellion and we’re saying yes to God. It’s in that place that we have all happiness and joy. It’s in that place that we have the approval and benediction of our Father in heaven.

On kiosks in malls you find maps. And wherever you’re standing in the mall, on the kiosk it’s represented with a little arrow that’s red, or a dot, and it says, “You are here.” Ok, we need to get shirts made, or maybe we all need to get a tattoo artist to come and put the big dot on us, and then underneath just write, “I am here.” Where is “here” for you? Are you a man? Are you a woman? Are you a daughter, a son, a husband, a wife, an employee, an employer, a student, a teacher, a government official, a citizen, an elder, a deacon, an older woman, a church member, a pastor—do you embrace where God has put you, by faith? Do you live in faith so that you can see where you are, just like the centurion saw where he was. He knew exactly where he was all the time. He knew exactly what the authority structure was all the time. He knew exactly where the fatherhood of God was to be seen.

Conclusion: To see the Fatherhood of God everywhere…

Do you want to see the Fatherhood of God everywhere? Repent! Turn away from your grasping. Let the scales fall from your eyes, and embrace where God has placed you. He doesn’t make mistakes in making you what he made you or placing you where he placed you. Exercise faith demonstrated by obedience, contentment, trust, deference. Become active when you should be active, men, fathers, husbands. Become deferential when you need to be deferential, men, fathers, husbands, wives, children. Repent of grasping. See your place. Have faith in God and in his provision for your salvation and sanctification in the person of Jesus Christ, to whom has been given all things and all authority. If by the grace of God through Christ you can see your place in the context of authority, you can trace your finger up the ladder to the Father from whom all fatherhood gets its name. You will see fatherhood everywhere, because you will be a son of God. Thanks be to God.

Let’s pray.

Father, we do ask that you will make us alive in Christ, that you will open our eyes to see that everything is yours and you have handed it over to your Son, glory to his name. Praise you, Father. Open our eyes, set us free. Set our wives free, our husbands, our children, Lord, set them free. Deliver us from evil. Give us faith to see you. Bless you, Father, and thank you, we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

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