Fathers Day Message
Husbands, Priests and Fathers
In honor of Father’s Day I want to take a look at the husband’s role in the family. A family is a symbol of God’s complete design for the church. If the family is dysfunctional, so will the church and the people in the church. The goal of this study is to take a deeper look at how the man fits into God’s perfect design. When each member of this God ordained institution submits to God by taking ownership of their roles and responsibilities, the family becomes a powerful testimony of God grace. When husbands and wives become self-focused and reject God’s design, the family will be weak at best. At worst, the family collapses and there is no limit to how far down people can go once a family begins to spin out of control. The role of a father is vital to the health of the marriage and reproducing godly values in their children. I will break this study into two parts. We’ll examine the man’s role as a husband and a priest then will end by examining the role of fatherhood. I believe that to successfully fill this role, a man must first be a godly reflection of the family’s spiritual leader and this enables him to be a stable husband and equipped father. It must be in that order. A man who neglects his spiritual role has already undermined God’s design. Likewise, a man who fails to fulfill the role of a husband cannot effectively execute the role of fatherhood.
Husbands and Priests
Let’s begin by looking at Ephesians 5:22-33:
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,
26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,
27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.
29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.
30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.
31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."
32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
This passage gets convoluted in today’s ideology. This passage often taken out of context and abused. Some groups look at this as a license to dominate and others look at this as unjust to women. But if you look at the passage without filtering it through modernistic thinking, this critical passage becomes very clear. In this study, I am not going to look at the wives role, but only how it applies to husbands. The command here is, "husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church". It is actually two commands. Men are commanded to love their wives. This is a command, not a cause and response. It does not matter if she meets your expectations or keeps her role as a wife. This is a command from God to the man and obedience is a direct response to God. Like all commands, even tough someone else may be the focus of the command, we obey because we love and obey God. God honors obedience from the heart. What you will find is that by obeying God, He will produce the fruit in your marriage.
When we enter into marriage we think we are very giving, but in reality most couples are selfish. We eagerly give in the beginning because our emotional tanks are overflowing, but as those emotions begin to fade, so do our dreams of grandeur. Unless the transition is made from self-serving to self-giving, we quickly become disillusioned and bitter. This is why it is so important to become a husband founded on the word. God commands that husbands love your wives. God doesn’t fulfill His promises up front. All of God’s commands require a step of faith – self-giving – and the promise will be inherited once we show ourselves faithful. Without a solid focus on God’s word, you will never have the faith to let go of your desires and obey God. We obey because we believe and trust God. If you are not taking on the spiritual role of a husband, you will become emotionally and physically focused. Emotional and physical benefits are a byproduct of a functioning marriage, but they are not the purpose or the focus of marriage. If your focus is on your own desires, instead of looking at your wife as a spiritual union created by God for His glory, you will look at your wife as someone placed with you to meet your needs. That is not the role of a wife. God created two to become one. Unless you become one, you will never be satisfied with your spouse. Becoming one physically takes little effort. For most marriages, the spiritual union goes neglected and true intimacy is never achieved. When there is no intimacy, men drift away from their wives. Their wives begin to lose appeal, the physical desires fade and then the temptation to look outside of the marriage becomes a problem. What people don’t realize is that physical beauty means very little. It is great to attract a spouse, but does nothing to maintain a lasting marriage. Regardless of how physically attractive a woman is the husband will not be satisfied unless he can look beyond the physical and find true intimacy.
The second part of the command for husbands to love their wives is, "love… just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her". Forgetting this phrase opens the door to all kinds of misconceptions of what it means for wives to submit to their husbands and the numerous ways that men have used scripture to fulfill self-centered doctrines. Christ is the head of the church just as the man is the head of the wife and the family. What example did Jesus give for leadership? In Matthew 20, Jesus addressed the issue of what it means to be the head (or leader). He explained how the world (or in that culture, the gentiles) showed they were in charge by dominating and putting people under them. He followed up by saying:
26 "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.
27 "And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave --
28 "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
So how did Christ exercise His role of being the head of the church? He served the church and gave his life as a ransom. As the Lord over His disciples, He took the role that traditionally was delegated to the lowest servant and He washed the disciple’s feet. This is exactly what it means to be the head of the wife. To be the leader, your responsibility is to serve, and become the spiritual example of God’s grace and love. If the husband is leading as Christ lead by serving and the wife is submitting, how can the picture God is painting be any clearer? Both the husband and the wife become mutually submissive and self-giving. The world’s way is to be self-serving and to demand our rights. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out which is the most effective family model.
We have to first overcome our own sinful pride and selfish desires. Often time’s men want to bail out of a marriage because the woman isn’t meeting his needs or expectations. The Bible instructs us to love as Christ loved and gave His own life as a ransom. A husband is commanded to do just that. Sometimes our desires and feelings call us away from God’s plan, but to love our wives means that we sacrifice our fleshly desires and lay down our ‘rights’ as a ransom for our wives. Our focus is not on fulfillment, but on being instruments God uses to build our homes. Psalm 127:1 says that unless God builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Most people – including Christians, build their houses by hard labors and work for all the wrong things. Marriages end in spite of the fact that people earn enough to buy bigger houses, cars, boats and other luxuries and neglect the most important principle of all: God must build the house. If our focus is on things or on selfish desires, all the wealth in the world will do little. All the self-help classes and counseling can only produce a vain effort of labor. Only God can rebuild a broken home. Only a home built on God can withstand when hardships blow through.
It doesn’t matter what we desire. Whether we desire wealth, luxuries, sexual fulfillment or any other thing that comes into our world, none of these can give lasting fulfillment. The same struggles are in every marriage, but how we deal with these struggles determines our success, and where our focus rests determines how we deal with our struggles. Proverbs 18:22 says, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD." God provides us with the gift of marriage and gives us the responsibility to nurture that marriage. You are the caretaker of God’s gift. What you put into your marriage is what you will get in return. Like a garden, if you plant good seed, care for it and keep it watered, it will blossom and produce what you have invested. But if you neglect it and don’t deal with the weeds as they spring up, your marriage will soon become choked and overrun. It always takes effort, even when you don’t feel like it. Even when you are too tired to deal with the weeds, they continue to grow. The sooner you get to work the easier the task is. Cleaning out a marriage requires self-examination and also working together to communicate and resolve issues quickly. The Bible warns that if a man fails to nurture, honor and live as an heir together with his wife in the grace of God, his prayers will be hindered. To neglect God’s design for the family is to rebel against God. You can’t separate your relationship with God from your relationship with your wife. God requires obedience first, and then you will be abundantly satisfied. The test of faithfulness is determining which takes priority. Can you trust God to fulfill your needs and therefore be willing to put your wants aside so you can obey? Or will you sacrifice obedience and pursue only your desires and reject anything that stands in the way of your own fulfillment. God always requires obedience and promises to satisfy those who trust in Him. To reject God’s command always has consequences, but we who have God’s Spirit in our hearts have the right to choose what is right over what feels good for the moment.
When a father puts himself under the umbrella of God’s authority, he can then bring his children under the authority God has given him. Look at Deuteronomy 11: 13-19
13 ' And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the LORD your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul,
14 'then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil.
15 'And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled.'
16 "Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them,
17 "lest the LORD's anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the LORD is giving you.
18 " Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
19 "You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
There are 3 principles revealed in this passage that we must apply to point our children to God, God must be the focus, model by example, and verbally instruct.
God must be the focus
The focus of God’s plan of parenting is not that we be perfect parents, but that we God focused. Unfortunately, there is no learning curve with kids. You don’t get a chance to go back and fix mistakes. When you become a parent, you start with no experience. We become good fathers by becoming Christ centered godly men. Wisdom comes from God and only those who seek God will find the wisdom God gives to those who ask. You can’t ask God for wisdom to be a father and reject God’s wisdom concerning your own life. God doesn’t provide situational wisdom but lifestyle wisdom. As you seek God and pursue wisdom, it becomes a part of your life. If you don’t make God the center of your everyday life, you can’t expect God to intervene when problems arise. Look at Proverbs 1:
20 Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares.
23 Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,
25 Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my rebuke,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes,
27 When your terror comes like a storm, And your destruction comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you.
28 "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD,
But those who choose wisdom as a lifestyle will inherit wisdom. Look at Proverbs 8:
12 " I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, And find out knowledge and discretion.
13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate.
14 Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding, I have strength.
15 By me kings reign, And rulers decree justice.
16 By me princes rule, and nobles, All the judges of the earth.
17 I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me.
As you can see, it is not those who wait for trouble that find wisdom, but those who seek wisdom and submit to God’s plan. Without the wisdom of God, we can’t point our children back to God. Children are a gift from God. Psalm 127 says that children are our heritage and a reward from the Lord. They are like arrows in our quiver. They will not remain in the quiver, but they are in a man’s hand like arrows in the hand of a warrior. It is a man’s responsibility to make straight arrows and point them at the right target. We will shoot them into the world; the question is "which direction will they go"? The first thing a warrior will do is focus on the target. If you are not focused on the center of God’s will, it is almost impossible for your children to hit the center of God’s will.
Model by example
You must have a have a singular focus before you can model a godly example. The Bible says that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. If you are torn between the world and Christ, you will be a poor example to your children. Children see through hypocrisy. If you are a Christian on Sunday morning and compromise your stated values when they interfere with your desires or plans, you are training your children that faith is not real. Karl Marx began one of the most powerful, godless movements to hit this world. He wrote the Communist Manifesto, began the Russian Revolution that put in place one of the most powerful, godless, and oppressive governments in history. He also coined the phrase that ‘religion is the opium for the masses’. He was raised with a religious father who jumped from religion to religion for business purposes. When he lived in a Jewish community, the family was Jewish. When they moved to a Lutheran community, they became Lutheran. When they were around godless business associates, his father was as godless as they were. He would tell his son it was important for business. He not only showed his son how to compromise for business but he also trained his son to be godless and shaped his future with spiritual disillusionment.
It is critical to be the same man at home as we are in church. Our kids should not be able to detect the difference between everyday life and Sunday’s at the church. When trouble arises, we teach our kids whether God is real and can be trusted by how we handle the problem. Do we cheat to avoid the hassle or lie to get out of trouble? Do we trust God to meet our needs and use problems as a tool to train our kids in godliness and character? It is easy to trust God when the sailing is smooth, but what about the struggles that life brings our way? It isn’t the good times that shape our kids but it is the hard choices. It is the times when we do what is right even if it will cost us. It is standing up for what is right even if injustice is the penalty. When we sacrifice our self-interest to do what is right, we are showing our kids that our faith is real and that God can be trusted even when we can’t see the around the curve. A man of real faith will stand on his faith even if the consequences are disaster. The greatest example of real faith was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego who faced the fiery furnace. When the king of Babylon ask if the God they served could deliver them they answered, "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us, but even if He does not, we will not bow". Now that is real faith. Trusting God for the outcome regardless of if we are delivered. That is a powerful testimony for a child. To see a daddy who has enough faith in God to willing pay the price if necessary will impact a child’s understanding of faith dramatically.
We also show our children our faith by our speech and attitudes. How we treat our wives directly reflects our spiritual lives to our kids. When I was a teenager, I had a close friend that I often stayed with on weekends. The first time I visited, I was amazed at how abusive he was to his mother. He and his younger brother would verbally assault their mother constantly. When she gave us a snack, they would never thank her but would complain about everything. The snack was not what they wanted; the milk was too warm; she used the wrong glass; the glass wasn’t full; etc. They would literally call her stupid and belittle her anytime and anywhere. I didn’t understand how they could get away with this until I met their father. He constantly mocked and belittled her in front of the kids and they modeled his example. Everything you do as a father will be modeled by your kids. If your faith is not real, they have no foundation for a real faith. If you show them a poor marriage, they will not respect marriage nor will they respect their future spouses. You have to invest these things into them. You can’t live by the cop-out, "do as I say, not as I do". They may not be at liberty to imitate you openly, but they will imitate your lifestyle as they become adults.
It is not enough to live your faith, but you must also verbally instruct and explain why you have faith. If you live a godly life and never fill in the blanks that arise in your child’s mind, they will not have a complete picture of a godly example. Make your faith real to them. There are many examples of godly parents that raised ungodly children. Eli was a priest and a man of faith but his sons were so evil that God destroyed them and stripped the priesthood from Eli’s family. How can a faithful priest raise godless sons? Far too many men who live godly fail to pass that faith on to their kids. As a general rule, each generation drifts a little farther from the faith of their parents. In our passage in Deuteronomy 11 we are told to earnestly obey with all our heart and soul and to teach them to our children. Not just to tell them, but tell them when they lie down, get up, when you are going along the way… Children need to be taught and they need repetition. Kids quickly forget unless it becomes an ingrained part of their lifestyle. It takes both actions and verbal lessons working together to paint a godly picture. The people of Israel did not obey this command. They saw the miracles of God first hand and they kept the law. Some with their whole heart and some out of necessity. The next generation saw their parent’s faith and carried a weakened faith. The next generation did not understand the purpose of the law so they turned away. Each successive generation got farther away and more wicked. The failure was the result of neglecting to teach the reasons the people trusted God. When the kids did not experience God, they had someone else’ faith. What they needed was their own faith. A personal experience with God and a faith that was real.
The role of the father is to teach his faith to his children. Teach and train, don’t preach to your kids. Also, start early. The later we wait, the harder it is to get them to catch our vision of God. When we see the consequences of sin, this becomes a good teaching tool. "Remember how I taught you that greed doesn’t benefit you but only hurts? Greed leads to coveting and coveting leads to stealing. Where do you think that person went wrong? When they got caught, when they stole, or when they set their heart on selfish greed?" I am not saying that we should teach our kids to look down on those who fail, but use the everyday opportunities as teaching tools and examples that we can easily fall into if we don’t follow God. If you have not already laid the groundwork by your lifestyle and verbal instruction, teaching opportunities won’t be as effective.
There is no better time to talk about the things of God than bedtime. It is at this time that the whole world is briefly pushed aside and during these quiet moments, kids are like sponges. Kids crave a routine. Our kids get ready for bed, we have prayer time as a family and then they have time with dad and then with mom. As a family, we do fun things together and we do prayers together, but I believe it is important to have that time with one parent to talk and bond. I like to make it fun so they eagerly look forward to this time. They have goals to achieve. When one of my kids memorizes their scripture goal, they get to go out to get an ice cream with dad. Sometimes we role-play to learn principles of the Bible and sometimes we just play for a while. The important thing is that a father must build a relationship with his children and through this relationship the opportunity to shape their character is born. A father can’t effectively train a child from a distance or in a passing moment. There must be an ongoing discipleship through a relationship between fathers and children. It begins with a dad’s relationship with Jesus Christ. I can’t pass on what I don’t have. Faith is grown in the family as God’s love and grace is lived out between a husband and wife and then flows down to the children. When we live our faith inside God’s design, it becomes a straight flow from God down to the child. The family is a symbol of God’s divine plan of the church. If we can’t live God’s purpose out in our family, we will be severely crippled in our church. Ephesians describes the positions of husbands and wives and then tells us that this great mystery is Christ’s plan for the church. If families will submit to this plan then we can be obedient children of the church and can effectively draw the world into that church family. You can’t have one without the other and still be effective. Families are the product of the church and become the foundation of the church. We can’t build a healthy church without healthy families. It begins with the father surrendering to God’s call and being the leader God has commanded him to be. The mother can stand in the gap, but can’t take over that role. Without husbands and wives working together as joint heirs in God’s plan, the church will be crippled and continue downward until the people choose to obey God.