I don’t know about you, but I was especially stirred by the movie we watched last week Sunday evening.
It was a documentary about the family, and the documentary was asking the question, ‘What’s wrong with the family?’
We learnt that God created the institution of the family, and consequently God is for the institution of the family.
But unfortunately in our world today, the family is under attack. I think that it’s clear that the devil is in an all-out war to destroy healthy family relationships.
And one of the main aspects of the family that the devil and the world is working so hard to destroy is the place and person of the father.
There’s a reason that the devil is working so hard to cause friction in the family, and especially between the Father and the rest of the family. That’s because the Bible shows us that God is our Father, and if fatherhood can be discredited in the hearts of people, then it will create an obstacle in the way of people coming to God.
With that in mind, I want us to read our text for tonight. We’re going to be reading again from the end of Luke 2, from verses 41 to 52.
In our passage tonight we see that Jesus calls God His Father. Now that Father-Son relationship that Jesus had with God was in one part completely and utterly unique, but in another part it is something that He offers to be shared with whoever else would like to have God as their perfect Father.
But as we said, the picture of Father has been so distorted by the devil and by the world that not many people think of God as a Father, or if they did they are more ready to cringe than to open up their hearts and their arms to God.
We live in a time and a culture that tries to minimise fathers. Turn on many of the popular sitcoms on the television today and the father is viewed as the comic relief of the show.
Fathers are seen as out-of-touch, weak-willed, running from responsibility, easily controlled and manipulated, desperate for the attention and affection of their wife and children – desperate enough to compromise on discipline or high standards in order to get it. Think of Ray Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond or Phil Dunphy from Modern Family, amongst many, many others.
While these are easily excused as purely for entertainment, they also serve the purpose of showing the world that fathers aren’t really to be taken seriously, and the absolute best father is the kind that you can play around with and manipulate to your own ends.
It might be excused as entertainment, but as we saw in the documentary last week, disregarding fatherhood has a definite and damaging effect on society as a whole, and on the individual.
Let’s look at society. Some of the stats we heard last week were staggering:
71% of high-school dropouts come from fatherless homes;
71% pregnant teenagers also come from fatherless homes;
85% children with behaviour disorders also;
90% homeless and runaway children also;
63% youth suicides also;
85% youth in prison also.
That means that the absence of a father figure – any father figure, never mind a good father figure – has a detrimental effect.
We can’t afford as a society to disregard fatherhood!
What about the effects on the individual.
Social workers and psychologists have written books and books on the effect that not having a good father figure has on an individual.
A good relationship with Father gives security, discipline, direction, sense of worth, sense of dignity – I’m not going to give myself cheaply because I know that I’m invaluable, and that’s not going to change as long as my father’s love remains what it is, and I know that it will remain.
Meanwhile, a bad relationship with father gives the opposite, a sense of insecurity, a lack of discipline, a lack of direction, a low sense of worth and dignity, and therefore the giving away of oneself cheaply.
So fatherhood is desperately needed in our society.
I don’t know what your point of view is when it comes to fatherhood.
You might have come from a family with a weak or non-existent father figure, and in your heart you associate fatherhood with abandonment.
You might have come from a family with an overbearing, even abusive father figure, and you associate fatherhood with pain and guilt.
I come from a family with a very present and loving father. I often tell people that after my Mom I think I’m my Dad’s biggest fan. He’s strong where he needs to be strong, but also gentle. He’s wise and loving and steady.
And after I grew to appreciate his disciplining side, I really started to like him.
But something I’ve grown to understand even in the last year is that my Dad made many mistakes in his life as a father; some choices that he made that weren’t as perfect as I once thought they were.
I realised then that even the best of Dad’s are imperfect, even at times far from perfect.
But the love that comes from our fathers is vital to our upbringing. As we saw in the video last week, the daily, present love of father in my life is vital in keeping a young person or any person from a dangerous and damaging lifestyle of sin.
So if the role of the father is so vital, and the best of all fathers is far from perfect, and the worst of all fathers is completely damaging – if that’s the situation we find ourselves in – then what?
Where do we turn to from there?
THE FATHERHOOD OF GOD
Well in our text for tonight we saw that God is Father. Where our earthly fathers fall short, God is there to meet our heart’s needs.
In fact it goes far beyond God simply being there to pick up the slack of our earthly fathers – God actually created us to be made whole and complete in His love and affirmation, whether or not our earthly fathers would fail.
God had always intended to be a Father to us as His own people.
But let’s take a step back, let’s zoom out a little bit and see the bigger picture of what it means that God is Father.
In one sense, God is the Father of all things. He created everything, and so He is Father over all creation. He created everything in line with His character and everything was perfect. But even after the fall, all things come to being and are sustained by Him and so He is still Father over all. That’s very general.
The Bible also teaches us that God chose out of all the nations of the earth Abraham and his offspring to be God’s own chosen people. In the books of the prophets, God sometimes, but rarely, calls this nation of people His children. He has a paternal relationship over them. But again, this also is quite general.
And then Jesus is born.
Jesus turns this picture of the Fatherness of God into the highlight of the New Testament. There might be a few handfuls of instances in the Old Testament where God is called Father in a general sense, but Jesus refers to God as Father over a hundred and fifty times – that’s just in the gospels.
From that point on, the Fatherness of God becomes a main theme of the New Testament. Almost all of the writers of the New Testament letters refer to God as Father.
In a very real sense, Jesus revolutionised our view of God. No longer is God simply our Creator and Master, but through Jesus He becomes our loving and present Father.
And one of the greatest declarations of the Bible is that God can be our Father.
But wait…how can this be?
How is it that our relationship with the eternal God change from one where, for the Jewish people they were as slaves to their Master, either obeying His law perfectly or facing His immeasurable wrath, to one where God becomes our tender loving Father?
How is that at all possible?
I want to say that it is only because of Jesus, and it is only in Jesus that we can have that relationship.
Why? Let me start by saying that Jesus had a completely and utterly unique relationship with His Father God.
We can be adopted into the family by God’s mercy and grace, but Jesus has always existed as God’s Son.
Also, Jesus is the only child of God that has ever lived who kept all of God’s commandments perfectly without fail.
What that means is that Jesus is the only child of God that never invited the wrath of God on Himself.
Another way of looking at this is in Jesus’ role as the High Priest. Old Testament Law required the high priest, on the one day every year that he was to make a sacrifice for sins of the whole nation of Israel, was required first to offer a sacrifice for his own sins to be cleansed. Having had his own sins cleansed, he could then offer that sacrifice for the rest of the nation.
But the book of Hebrews shows us that Jesus, as the true High Priest, never had to offer a sacrifice for His own sins before He could sacrifice for our sins – because he was completely sinless.
Jesus is the only child of God who never incurred the wrath of God on Himself.
All this culminates in one awesome truth: as Christians we are children of God, but our relationship to God as our Father is through Jesus --- or as another metaphor used so frequently in the New Testament shows us, only those who are in Christ have God as their Father.
By accepting Jesus into us, and entering into Jesus, we are given that Father-son relationship with God, we are adopted as sons. Jesus calls us ‘brother’, and we can call God ‘Father’.
This image of being in Christ is vast and profound, and can cover many more sermons. But for tonight I want you to simply understand that only those who are in Christ have God as their Father, and all those who are in Christ have God as their Father.
I want to ask you – is God your Father? Do you have a Father-son or Father-daughter relationship with Him?
As Christians we can know that not only is Jesus my Lord, but God is my Father.
THE MOST IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP
Let’s now go back to our text for tonight.
Jesus calls God His Father. And in these verses He’s contrasting the Fatherness of God with His mother’s assertion that Joseph was His father.
I want to say then that Jesus’ relationship with His Father God transcended his relationship to his earthly parents.
Even from a young age, Jesus knew that His relationship to His heavenly Father transcended His relationship with anyone else, even His earthly parents.
Later on (14:26), Jesus would say ‘If anyone does not hate his father or mother…he is not worthy to be called My disciple.’
Jesus is calling us to know that our relationship to our heavenly Father transcends our relationship with anything or anyone else.
At college I had a lovely, godly lecturer called Dr David. His one vice that I found was a coffee addiction, though I know that anyone working with young people needs a boost sometimes.
Dr David is a wonderful man, and in one of our lectures he taught us briefly about his view of the Fatherhood of God.
He says that every morning he sits down and he reminds himself until it is stuck in his mind that he is primarily a child of God – that God is his father. Before he is a husband, he’s a child of God. Before he’s a father, he’s a child of God. Before he’s a lecturer, he’s a child of God. His primary relationship is with his Father God, and all of his actions should be guided by that truth.
How does this play out in his life? If he was running late for college, he’d see the open road and remind himself that he’s a child of God – it is more important to obey the rules of the road to please God than to get to college on time to please his boss.
If he was having a disagreement with his wife, he’d be tempted to say some biting words and he’d remind himself that before he’s a husband, he’s a child of God – it is more important to please God with his thoughts and words than to please his angry heart.
What relationship is most important to you? What will you sacrifice other things for? If you put your relationship with your husband before your relationship with God, you’re going to turn from God’s ways to satisfy that relationship.
If you put your relationship with your wife before your relationship with God, you’re going to turn from God’s ways to satisfy that relationship.
If you put your relationship with your children or your work or your boss or your banker or your animals or your house before your relationship with God, you’re going to turn from God’s ways to satisfy those relationships.
But Jesus is calling us to know that our relationship to our heavenly Father transcends our relationship with anything or anyone else. If we are not willing to give up on other things for the sake of our heavenly Father, we are not worthy to be called Jesus’ disciples – we can’t call ourselves Christians.
So even as before I asked you: is God your Father? Now I want to ask you: is your relationship with your Father God of foremost importance to you – before all other relationships?
Jesus’ birth and life revolutionised the world’s ideas of God. Whereas before God was seen as a very distant and strict being with whom it was impossible to have a relationship – Jesus showed us the way to the Father.
There is no way to the Father apart from Jesus. But because of Jesus, there’s always a way to getting back to the Father.
I don’t know where you are tonight, how close or far you feel from your Father. But I can tell you on the authority of Scripture that God is not far from you.
One of the stories that Jesus tells us about our heavenly Father is in the story of the prodigal son. A picture of a person who has recklessly and rebelliously gone far from his father.
But when he turned back, he found his Father’s arms open wide, welcoming him back.
One of the most profound statements for me in last week’s movie on the family was this: “No matter what you’ve done, no matter where you’ve been, there’s a place to come home. Absolutely. Always. There’s no place that you can go that you can’t get back.”
That’s the story of the prodigal son, and that’s my story.
I am so grateful that we have an ever-faithful, gracious and loving Father in heaven who lifts us up when we’ve fallen, dusts us off and encourages us to keep walking with Him.
And all this not because of what we’ve done, but because of what Jesus has done for us.
I want to challenge you tonight. If you’ve been far, or felt far from your heavenly Father lately, I want to challenge you to go back to Him, tell Him where you’ve been, be honest with Him, and walk again with Him. It’s important to have a relationship with God; but it’s also important to maintain that relationship with God.
And He’s your Father, He’ll show you how and He’ll walk with you.