2007.06.17 My Father the Ballpark Saint
Sunday Morning Sermon
Title: My Father the Ballpark Saint
Text: Deuteronomy 6:4-15
There is something about going to watch a professional baseball game in person – you know live. Although you miss out on the instant replay from TV – you get much more of the atmosphere by being at game. If you go to the ballpark some people try and get seats right on the third base line field level or maybe right behind home plate, however these seats just seem to be missing something. You’ve got to try the bleachers! The bleachers are the seats that give you the real feeling of being at the ballpark. The fans in the bleachers are the best. You get all kinds of different people in the bleachers, don’t you. Many of these fans prepare for the game by painting their bodies and faces to support the home team, maybe they rip their shirts off and have big letters on their chest right – T-I-G-E-R-S, others bring signs and some of them bring props to act out skits - these fans are great! They are enthusiastic and cheer regardless of the score during the good times and the bad. They give coaching tips from the outfield – I’m pretty sure the coach can hear them. And they model how true fans should be. You’ve got to love the bleacher fan. You know as father’s we could learn a thing or two from the bleacher fan.
You see biblical fatherhood requires preparation, teaching, and modeling. Moses in the book of Deuteronomy highlights the importance for us as fathers to take this responsibility seriously – to strive to bring up our children in the knowledge of the Word of God through our words and actions.
Our text this morning is in Deuteronomy chapter 6. Many of you may be familiar with this portion of Scripture. In fact, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6 when he was questioned by the Pharisees regarding which was the greatest commandment in the law. This passage of Scripture is also one that is at the heart of the Jewish confession and faith – v.4-9 constitute the so called Shema. A devout Jew will recite these verses along with a couple of other Scriptures twice each day. We are going to pick it up starting a verse 4 in Chapter 6 – in the chapter before this Moses has just reviewed the Ten Commandments with the Israelite people. Moses had instructed them to obey these commandments. It was vital for them to heed the Word of God.
So in verse 4 to further instruct them he says, ‘4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! Hear O Israel, Moses is saying to the people listen up – I’ve got something very important to say here. The Lord our God, the Lord is one or another rendering would be The Lord our God, the Lord alone – he is stating to the people that there is only one God – monotheism right. There are no other Gods, except our God. Moses knows that the Israelites will enter the Promised Land and they will encounter other pagan false gods, there but they are to remain true to the Lord! This will come full circle later in our passage.
Verse 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. When Moses says that we ought to love the Lord – he is not talking about the emotional love that we see in the movies of people falling in love but this love speaks of covenant commitment. Like Pastor Kevin spoke on in the marriage series of the husband and wife giving their covenantal vows – they vow to keep their word regardless of how the other person responds – I give my word. Likewise here, we as believers are to Love the Lord – to give our word. Now we know that the Lord will never let us down, like we might expect from human relationships, He will always keep his word – but for us we need to make that covenantal commitment to love the Lord! I give my word to be totally loyal and obedient to Him in every respect. In the good times and in the tough times, I will love you Lord.
The apostle Paul often called those who truly loved the Lord, meaning those who were believers, who had put their trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour – who had repented from their sins and recognized that faith in Christ was the only means to reconciliation (or to be made right) with God – the apostle Paul often called these believers – SAINTS.
So in essence a saint is simply one who truly knows Jesus Christ. Other beliefs have elevated saints into another category, but that is not biblical. Sure it might be good to give glory to God and celebrate lives that have been faithful to God, but this aspect of a saint being the superior believer is not found in Scripture. Paul says that believers are saints, Paul ministered to the saints, he visited the saints, prior to his conversion he put many saints in prison, he addressed many of his letters to the saints….in 1 & 2 Cor, Ephesians, Philippians, & Colossians those who love the Lord are saints! So if you love the Lord you would be considered a saint.
Now what does the word saint really mean (aside from a believer being one)? As Paul uses this word it means to be set apart or to be separated. Not set apart or superior to other believers, but rather this separation or segregation is from the world. As Christians we are to be set apart from the world and its views and in tune with the Word of God. We are to use the Word of God as our guide, not popular worldviews or pop culture.
Martyn Lloyd Jones said that as a saint, “you do not belong to the world any longer, you are in it but you are not of it; there is a separation which has taken place in your mind, in your outlook, in your heart, in your conversation, and in your behaviour. You are essentially a different person; the Christian is not a worldly person, he is not governed by the world and its mind and outlook.” Set apart in thought, in word and in deed or action.
As we tailor make this Scripture for Fathers today on Father’s Day, here are a few instructions.
1. I want to encourage you to Be a Saint!!
Love the Lord your God. If you are not a Christian consider making that decision to follow Christ – to become a saint. If you are a Christian believer then take your relationship with the Lord seriously. Be set apart for Christ.
5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. In OT physiology the heart (לֵב, לֵבָב; levav, lev) was considered the seat of the mind or intellect, so that one could think with one’s heart. Like it was mentioned earlier, love was not just an emotional concept of the heart as many of us would think today when we mention ‘the heart’ but a rational one as well.
Also to love the Lord with all our soul – so we are love the Lord with our whole being and to the very core of ourselves we are to be committed to the Lord.
And with all of our strength. To the best of our ability we are to love the Lord – we are to put our best effort forth and use the power we have to obey the Lord. We can remember or know those who used their strength to fight physical battles, but we are here to fight and use our strength for truth and for our relationship with God – to protect this love for the Lord. God doesn’t want us to obey simply because we have to, he desires to have a relationship with us so that we obey out of a genuine love for Him. Fathers, don’t kid yourselves – children can tell the difference between a father who loves the Lord because he feels he has to (whether that’s for his children’s sake or another reason) and a father who genuinely loves the Lord and longs to grow in that relationship. A father who takes his children to church, be he only attends once and a while compared to the father who reads the Scriptures in the home every day. There is a difference. They can tell a difference. Use your strength to love the Lord and build your relationship with Him.
As fathers we need to be prepared for each day to continue to love the Lord. We need to be prepared to be set apart from the world. This means that we need to be reading the Bible daily, we need to be praying daily and striving to grow in our love for the Lord. Personally we need to be strong in the Lord so that we can in our homes. Biblically, the key to the spiritual growth of a family hinges on the personal growth of the husband/father. You are to be the spiritual leader of the home. Your daily bible reading & prayer are essential to set you apart and to impact your family. The world will give you a different message than the Word of God – so if you are not being fed by the Word of God, then by default you will be fed by the world.
The Apostle Paul gives this instruction to Timothy - train yourself to be godly. 8For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. Fathers, we do not want to merely appear to others as being godly men/fathers, but rather we want to truly be living for the Lord not just when others are watching. John Wooden a famous basketball coach has a saying that I have up in my office that says, “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” We can fool others, we can put on a façade but this process of living for the Lord, building our character requires training – it is not the default setting. Just like a sedentary lifestyle does not make you physically fit. We are not naturally godly, we have to work at it. Being godly, is really being obedient conforming your life to the Word of God (the Bible).
If we truly love the Lord we will long and strive and train to be obedient. Love requires obedience. Jesus said, “21Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." If you truly love the Lord you will desire to obey and honour the Lord. Saying that you love the Lord, then totally violated Scripture at every turn is merely lip service – there is no true love for the Lord there. Let your love for the Lord be evident by your decisions and actions. The beautiful thing about obeying the Lord is that he says that he will continue to reveal himself to us – so we will know him better and more intimately as we obey.
So fathers, consider being set apart, consider your personal walk with the Lord and how that affects others, consider if your obedience is merely lip service or if it actually can be evidenced by your decisions – Be a Saint!
Fathers, there is good reason to be a saint – not only do saints inherit eternal life (b/c of faith in Jesus Christ) but you will have to opportunity to impact others – specifically your children – you will have the opportunity and privilege to…
2. Mold a Potential Saint.
Our children are going to grow up and they will be taught. Fathers are you going to be a vital part of this process? Are you going to abdicate this responsibility to someone else – I hope not! The world will teach them that which is contrary to sound doctrine and they will hear that message – from TV, school, from neighbourhood children/friends, but if we have done our job – they will be able to filter that message through a biblical lens.
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
So Fathers we need to teach our children the Scriptures. To ‘teach them diligently’ as verse 7 says, comes from the Hebrew word שָׁנַן (shanan) This word is also translated to make sharp, or sharpen. To impress, to engrave – there is this aspect of repetition – to inculcate which means to implant by repeated statement or admonition; teach persistently and earnestly.
The Scripture says that we are to teach our children the Scriptures, we are to use our words to instruct them in the truth of God. This teaching is to occur all the time, in the morning and the evening while at home and abroad. We as fathers (& mothers) are to be constantly instructing our children through our words about the Scriptures to sharpen them in the Word. What a great privilege, but also a huge responsibility.
Fathers it is not enough to just bring your children and your family to church – you have a responsibility to teach them – to impress on them the Word. Don’t rely on Sunday School, on the preaching, on Christian School, to be the main influence – these can be great influences but these supplement the teaching that goes on at home. Don Whitney says, “it is unlikely that exposure to the church once or twice a week will impress your children enough with the greatness and glory of God that they will want to pursue Him once they leave home.” You have a set period of time to teach your children, while they are under your care. There is this daily aspect of family worship that needs to be initiated by you – fathers.
Samuel Davies who succeeded Jonathan Edwards as President of Princeton an Ivy League School said of family worship – “If you love your children, if you would bring down the blessing of heaven upon your families: if you would have your children make their houses the receptacles of religion when they set up in life for themselves…I beseech, I entreat, I charge you to begin and continue the worship of God in your families from this day to the close of your lives….Consider family religion not merely as a duty imposed by authority, but as your greatest privilege granted by divine grace.” Do we see the opportunity to teach our children as a privilege?
The reason we teach our children is not so that they will have more knowledge, rather the Scriptures are able to make them wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Our children need to know that they are ultimately accountable and responsible to God. When they are faced with decisions, they need to have a foundation in the Scriptures to guide them and they need to know that one day they will stand before God and give an account of their actions. May we teach our children that they are sinners in need of a Saviour. It is our responsibility (and privilege) to mold our children toward Christ.
It is a challenge in our busy society to diligently teach our children. It may mean giving up some other things in order to do this. We are quick to put our children into many activities such as clubs, church activities or sports (which can be very good for them) but we need to make family worship a priority. This past week I saw an old interview with Bill Gaither and he told a story of when he was starting to become well known as a musical performer. He decided to limit the number of shows he would do each year to sixty shows – most of these were on Fri/Sat nights. He received a call and a request to perform for the President of the United States – Gerald Ford. What an honour, to play before the president – does it get any better? It was even on a Monday night – he had no shows booked for that night. He respectfully declined the offer and told them that he was booked already – he had plans to be at home with his family. Spending time with family and teaching our family sometimes (most often) requires that we give up something else or decline a new opportunity – what a great sacrifice to make.
Fathers, you can now see the importance of first being a saint yourself – so that you can then teach your children. Not only do we mold our children through our words (teaching/instructing) but also through our actions.
3. Model What a Saint Should Look Like
Moses has instructed fathers to teach their children and now he wants to caution them regarding their behaviour.
10 “So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, 11 houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full— 12 then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 13 You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you 15 (for the LORD your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the LORD your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth.
Moses is saying to them – Beware of too Much! In Exodus 16 it says that the Israelites ate manna (which was the daily bread from heaven supplied to them from God) for forty years – the time they were in the wilderness. So they have been supplied daily for many years only a days worth of food and now you are going to a land – the promised land – where there will be lots of food. Can you see their mouth watering as they think of the promised land? Grapes & Olives it will be wonderful. In fact, you won’t have to build cities you will just inherit them, houses come furnished, water is already piped in – however there is a caution – when you see all this and when you eat and are satisfied the Lord says, Do not forget me!!!
We live in a materialistic society where I think we face the same challenges. We need to be aware of too much, we need to be aware of striving to be successful here in this world – it is an empty trap the accumulation of things, possessions, money – it all means nothing if we have lost our first love – the Lord in the process. Jesus says, that you cannot serve both God and Money.
Our culture would tell us that we need a big house in a safe neighbourhood for your children – to provide the best things for your children. We know that our children don’t need all the material things that the culture would suggest, that the advertisers would tell us they need – so that we can be ‘good’ parents – no – our children need fathers and mothers who love them, who spend time with them, who teach them, and who model to them a life lived wholehearted for Christ.
The true test for us fathers is to model dependence on God in an age of affluence. This is what Moses is cautioning the Israelites. Don’t forget me, remain dependent on me. Do we seek after all kinds of material things or do we put God first and trust Him to provide. Do we find our status in our profession or by the amount of money we make, if we do we are modeling to our children that something outside of Christ is where we find our worth. I’m not so concerned that my children are going to chase after a false religion, but I’m more concerned because of the society in which we live - that they will chase after the materialistic mindset – to serve mammon or money over God. It is imperative that our actions direct them to Christ.
What do you do when you receive more change back at the grocery store than you should or at a restaurant the waiter forgot to charge you for your appetizer – do you speak up and say I owe more. You are always modeling something to your children. When you mess up in front of your children, you need to confess your sin and set the record straight for them as to what should have been done.
Fathers…..16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Tim 4:16) Take heed of what you believe and how you live that out – so that you can have a positive effect on yourself and on your children – b/c they are listening and watching.
Many of us fathers are surrounding by wives and families that support us in this endeavour – we are not alone. But we need to be the ones who take the initiative to lead our families. So like, the bleacher fan who is at home before the game who makes sure that their favourite Tigers jersey is clean so they can wear it to the game and they put on face paint to look like a Tiger and bring their noise makers – they are preparing for the game – likewise fathers, prepare yourself each day to serve the Lord, maybe getting up early to read the Word and praying before you leave the house, so that you are preparing for the game of life each day grounded in Christ. Like the bleacher fan who is teaching with their words - the other fans how to cheer and encourage the players – may we as fathers cheer on our children, may we encourage them in a relationship with the Lord and teach them the Word. Lastly, like the bleacher fan who stands up and motivates that others fans to get involved - who starts the wave (did you ever wonder where that starts – it has to start somewhere) – modeling to the other fans how to do it – we as fathers need to model to our children what a lived that is devoted to Christ should look like day in and day out. What a responsibility and what an amazing privilege we have!!!