I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Did everyone get enough to eat this week? Most of us probably ate like Kings and Queens. Which brings me to the first part of my subject today. Lately I’ve been reading a concise History of Western Civilization from a college text book that I picked up free a few years ago from outside a McKay’s used bookstore. It does a decent job of surveying the great movements of Western History and this week I made it into the fifteenth century.
Part 1: Royalty in history is interesting to me. Nations and people groups have always tended to produce leaders from among themselves who become figureheads that represent the domain over which they rule. History has recorded many truly great national and even international leaders, some of whom have made dramatic changes in our world, but many have done so, only to have their empires torpedoed or toppled by weak or unwise future leaders (and/or by other rising oppositions). One thing is surely true: great leadership, particularly Christian leadership, is a precious thing indeed.
Kings or Monarchs of history provide us with a tremendous volume of information to consider to give us insights into God’s rule as universal monarch. But nothing compares with the biblical kings of Israel as examples and models to learn from. Some were faithful to God and sought His ways and ruled His people well. Most, sadly, did not do so well. Some, in fact, turned away from God to other gods of the nations around them and incurred God’s wrath upon themselves and the people. A general principle reveals itself. As goes the King, so goes the nation. God’s people begin to long for and expect a King who will rule in justice and righteousness. As the years pass and they fall under the rule of foreign rulers, (Babylon, Persia, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome). God sends prophets who give them hope by prophesying a coming King. This King was called the Messiah or anointed one. God also prophesied that this King would be rejected by His own people, but that this would only serve to open the doors of the kingdom to the nations.
The Bible is rich in references to God and Jesus Christ as King, even King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus ascended after telling His disciples of His vast authority over all. The New Testament constantly refers to the ruling authority of Jesus Christ, God’s anointed King. The gospel of Matthew is filled with instruction about the kingdom of heaven. The passage of tonight’s final group study (Matthew 13) features a selection of Jesus’ teaching in parables to describe the kingdom. We are left with a temporal and an eternal view of God’s kingdom in the New Testament. In this world, the kingdom of heaven has both good and bad within it, wheat and tares. But in the ultimate, eternal heavenly kingdom, all is perfected. Jesus taught us to pray to God, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This is a kingdom prayer to God, the King. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 tells us how one day, this temporal, earthly domain of God’s kingdom will be delivered up to God the Father by Jesus, when all temporal rule and authority will end and we will enter eternal glory in the Kingdom of the Father. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 about the coming King who comes in final judgment. The King says this to those who are righteous: “Come you who are blessed by my Father, enter the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the earth!” The Bible is plain, God is the ultimate King over all.
Part 2: Along with reading about historic national leadership, I’ve been exploring another, more personal area of leadership as well, and that is leadership in the home. We have been having a parenting class for the past two months, and in preparation for this class I’ve come across some very important biblical principles. These principles, applied in the home, are keys to building a great family that produces the highest and best for each of its members. As I’ve looked through these biblical principles in their contexts, one thing seems to surface again and again that is the binding agent and directing agent of them all. Like a King over the domain of parenting principles, this one jewel directs and empowers all the rest, and, if missing, leaves them all to fall like a house of cards.
Do you want to know what I’m talking about?
It is in our reading today. Jesus asks, “Who are my mother and brothers? Whoever does the will of my Father is my brother and sister and mother.” So what is this jewel? It is simply this: the Fatherhood of God. To the degree that you see yourself as a child of God, that is, God as your Father, shapes everything else in your life. When you do NOT see yourself in this light, it leaves you vulnerable to terribly dangerous influences and enemies. There is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING that has greater significance than this notion of God as our Father. It is irreplaceable. If all we are is dust in the wind, where is our future? Where is our hope? What is the basis of our faith? What in the world is love? If all we are are highly evolved animals that came from a chance ordering of dead matter into life that somehow continued to evolve upward into who and what we are today… if that’s what you believe about yourself and who you are and where you came from, you will think and act much differently than if you know God as your Father.
Among the biblical images of our relationship with God, the Fatherhood of God is perhaps THE most significant leadership aspect, as great if not greater than the imagery of Husband and wife (with the church as the bride of Christ). Fatherhood is more individual in its relational imagery. (Think of the Prodigal Son story in Luke). This relationship image defines us and is the theological goal of our faith, so that we as God’s children, ultimately share the eternal inheritance of Christ. The notion of God as our Father has direct implications on us as brothers and sisters in Christ. (Think of the older brother in the Prodigal Son story). Our Father in heaven wants us to get along. He wants us to love each other, and, in fact, has given over 500 “one another” commands for us in the New Testament alone. This is what Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, came to die for. That you and I might become children of God, born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:13.
More than avoiding hell or going to heaven, the Fatherhood of God points us to the greatest commandment. Love the Lord your God! And it supports the second commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.
Not surprisingly, scripture shows us that Satan works against the notion of the Fatherhood of God. He has from the very beginning lied about God. Jesus said that Satan is the father of lies. Whenever human beings embrace God as Father, it truly impacts our lives. All of us realize that we have a father. The writer of Hebrews says, “We all have human fathers who disciplined us as they thought best, and we respected them for it. But God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.” Sadly, not all earthly fathers live up to what the Hebrews writer says, but God ALWAYS lives up to His character. He treats us as sons in His discipline and in His gifts to us.
So. We’ve considered God as King and God as Father, how do those harmonize?
Well, to tie it all together, the fatherhood of God includes this: God, our Father, is also King of the universe. That’s your “abba.” As a Christian I can say with this faith, “My Father created and rules the universe!” Let that one sink in a while. Is this true? Can anyone actually believe that their Father rules the universe? The Bible says this is true. God created the universe, and He created us. We, though, have the power of choice. We are allowed to decide to look to God as our Father, to listen to His instruction, to learn of Him and seek His will, to live by His words and love by His standards, or not. The Bible clearly shows us, God rules in righteousness. He rules in wisdom. He rules in holiness. He rules in truth. He rules in graciousness and mercy and abounding love. THIS IS YOUR FATHER! But you and I have been granted the freedom to accept or reject His adoption. We are allowed to choose whether we live under His roof and by His rules. No one is forced into God’s family. We choose. He has provided the way, the truth and the life. It is a new birth, based on decisions and actions of faith that you alone must make. And there are repercussions either way you choose. Jesus tells parables about kings who give banquets and invite guests to come. Matthew 22:1-14 is one.
God is King, God is our Father. Brothers and sisters in Christ, hear me carefully. Anything that threatens this truth in you or in your home needs to be dealt with. When we parent as people who are God’s children, seeking God’s righteousness and living under God’s rule as father and King, we build a generation that is much different from one that believes otherwise. We who choose to serve God as King and are born again into His family. We who take seriously our relationship with God as our King and Father find these benefits:
This is the source of our dignity, confidence and hope.