Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. (I St. John 3:1)
The middle-aged man took his teenage son out to the farm one afternoon. The father was settled in life, looking to work a few more years and then to retire. The son was looking to college, then to the open field of life.
Gazing into the sunset in their field that evening, the dad said to his boy, “Son, you know this land will all be yours. No matter what you might encounter in life, you’ll always have this land.”
Their acreage had been in their family for generations, and in a booming region of the country, it was more precious than gold.
Two men, miles apart in life, smiled at each other with brimming pride.
The family farm – and the honor that was nestled in it – would live on.
You and I would consider this dad a noble man. He had provided for his son, and he would provide for his son by leaving him an honorable inheritance. Part of being a faithful father is providing materially for one’s wife and children, and the hallmark of a respected dad, it seems, is for him to leave a solid inheritance to his children.
But how do YOU define “solid inheritance?”
The present-day family problems in our nation and in our church ultimately have nothing to do with land or with money. Having enough “stuff” is important, yes – but it’s not everything.
We need dads – and moms – who leave a REAL inheritance to our children: parents who model their nurturing of children after the example of our Father in heaven.
To understand more about the Father’s care for you and me, first we’re going to see how God’s fatherhood is rooted in love. Second, we’re going to see how God in fatherly love causes you to grow in Him.
And when you reflect your Father’s image to others, they will see Jesus – and the truly prized inheritance only he can give.
First, Scripture shows that God’s fatherhood of you and me is rooted in His love.
Of course you love your children. You should. Even in the most godless homes, we see some parents loving their children – because it’s natural for a mom and dad to love their offspring. What’s more, being in a father-child relationship has so many blessings: fatherly guidance, provision and, hopefully, an inheritance.
You and I deserve that kind of love from our earthly dads. Our children deserve that kind of love from us.
But you and I and our children DON’T deserve that kind of love from God.
You and I are the rebellious children. We’re the ones who hear God’s voice and run from Him. From birth we are not His children, and apart from His work in Christ in our hearts, you and I never would be a part of His family. Yes, He is your Maker. But because of your own sin, He is far from being your Father.
That’s why Scripture speaks of the great love God has bestowed on you and me that we should be called the children of God, entitled to His care and guidance and, finally, an eternal inheritance. It’s rooted in His love – in His grace.
Today many of us are thanking the Lord for our natural-born dads. There are some folks, though, who are thanking the Lord that they have been adopted into a family into which they were not born. They REALLY know the value of a loving father.
St. Paul says that when you look to the Lord Jesus Christ, the true and only-begotten Son of God, as your Savior, then you are adopted into the family of God. It’s a blessing, not a birthright, to be a child of the living God.
Next time you are bold to call your Maker your Father, remember that it’s a blessing, not a birthright, to be loved by such a caring Father.
Second, Scripture teaches that God’s fatherly concern for you is that you grow in Him.
Any faithful dad wants to train up his children to be honest, hard-working, well-adjusted children. It takes work and love, but a father is supposed to care for his sons and daughters by helping shape them into fine adults.
That’s the sort of fatherly role St. Paul is calling you fathers into assuming in our lesson from Ephesians 6. Sadly, many of our dads have neglected their role as spiritual leader of the household, and they’ve forgotten that the most-important lessons and the greatest inheritance they can give their children center on Jesus.
Paul’s commands to fathers in Ephesians 6:4 are grounded in God’s fatherly love for you and me. You are to “bring up” your child: in Greek and in English, Paul’s image is that of caring for a plant or for a flower. You tend it. You pay attention to it. You prune it and feed it, and then you watch it flourish.
Dads, you need to value your children’s souls more than you value the body of a plant. Do you feed your children every night with bread? Wonderful! Have you planned for their inheritance? Commendable!
Now give them the nourishment and the inheritance they truly need: salvation in Christ.
Paul says you are to admonish your children. He means by this term that you’re to teach them the Word of God, just as God the Father loves you and instructs you by His Word.
The father speaking through much of the book of Proverbs wanted his son to listen to Godly wisdom. God your Father wants you to be wise, not ignorant – so He has spoken perfectly and finally to you in His holy Word. Want to know about eternity? About making wise choices in your relationships? About forgiveness and peace and hope?
Listen to your Father’s instruction in His Word … and pass on that instruction to your children. God’s truth is a precious gift, and the giving of His Word reveals just how much He has loved you and me. May we love our youth enough to feed them on the Bread of Life.
Paul also says you and I are to nourish our children through discipline. Now I know what you automatically think when I say “discipline”: whippings and firm words. But the word “discipline” has the word “disciple,” which involves much more training and coaching than punishment, at its root.
Like God’s fatherly discipline of Israel, His nurture of you sometimes involves punishment. The Scriptures say that God will not be mocked, and so an ungodly, rebellious choice on your part could sow painful consequences. Lying can cost you friendships. Angry outbursts could cost you your job.
But even in those dark valleys, your Father is teaching you. He’s training you. All because He loves you.
In Isaiah 63, you and I read of God’s punishment of His unfaithful children – yet we also read that some of them cried out to Him for mercy, and so He brought them back from exile. He trained His children. And He trains you and me, letting us learn, guiding us by His Word and Spirit, chiding us for a season and blessing us for eternity.
A good dad doesn’t simply punish his son for behaving boorishly; he instructs his son in proper behavior and sets a pure example. May you and I set a Godly example for our children and direct their steps today so they may reap the blessings of disciplined obedience to Christ tomorrow.
Paul only spends one verse in Ephesians 6 talking about something as important as being a father. But in that one verse, you see it all.
You see God the Father, loving you, adopting you in Christ, guiding you, correcting you, leading you to your eternal inheritance of heaven.
And you see the type Father you are supposed to be: longsuffering, teaching, guiding.
This verse primarily applies to fathers, but it really applies to all of you, because you are the only Christian that some folks will ever see. So the next time you want to give up on your children, remember that your Father never will give up on you. Next time you want to skip worship, remember how precious it is to know Christ as your Redeemer. Next time you want to let someone else raise your child, remember how your Father has led you on a path to an eternal inheritance that never can rust or decay.
You children of God, give your children the noblest inheritance of all: show them the Son of God.