Get a Grip on Father Greatness
As we approach Resurrection Sunday, I want us to examine Jesus in how He revealed His Father. It’s very subtle, but I perceive extremely important in our society. We need to get a grip on Father greatness. As Jesus prepares His disciples for the fulcrum of history, the cross, He exhorts them to examine themselves. Let’s get a grip on His words,
34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)
Note that Jesus exhorts them to “take heed,” which means to “watch” or “be careful” about themselves and not get distracted in life by things in the world. It is easy to become distracted by things in this world, even good things like family (Luke 14:26). Then Jesus exhorts them to “watch” in verse 36 and He uses a different word that also means “be on alert” because there is trouble coming.
The late Dave Simmons, author of the book, “Dad the Family Coach,” writes,
When I was five years old, my family lived in on-post housing at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Every afternoon, at quitting time, I stationed myself on the front porch as the lookout for Dad. He came home at irregular times because he passed the NCO club on his walk home. When he did approach, he had to walk down a long slope, cross a footbridge, and march up a long flight of steps to get to our house. My job consisted of observing his passage over the uneven terrain before our house to determine if he was drunk.
If it looked bad, I flew through the house like a midget air raid system to alert everyone. I waited in the kitchen at the head of the basement stairs. Everyone waited in fearful suspense to see what would happen. You never knew. Dad was an unpredictable drunk. Sometimes, he bubbled into the living room with smiles and cheers for everyone. Most of the time, the door opened and slammed back against the wall and Dad walked in glaring at us in screaming silence.
The family scrambled. I liked to bail out down the stairs and hide in the basement. Poor Mom. She always held her ground and faced him head-on to give us a chance to hide out. I can remember trembling in the shadowy dank basement for hours waiting for the storm to blow over. Sometimes, I didn’t escape. There has never been anything in my life that upset me more than the cold-clutching clammy fear I felt grip me when Dad turned his fever on me.
Afterward, Dad could be the nicest man in the world. You could not imagine the regret, sorrow, and shame he felt. He would hold us, sometimes crying, and apologize over and over. I can vividly remember his giant lumberjack hands pressing me against his brass buttons and campaign ribbons and smelling his beer dampened wool uniform. I squeezed my little chest to let escape great gobs of sorrowful whimpers. It confused me so. I didn’t understand.
Naturally, I developed ambivalent feelings toward Dad. I harbored a love/hate, crave/reject, fear/comfort kind of attitude toward him. These feelings toward the dominant male authority figure in my life became locked into me and, later in life, every time I encountered an authority figure, these feelings resurfaced. I grabbed the network of feelings toward Dad, lifted them up, and settled them down on any authority in front of me. I have never done well with coaches, professors, or bosses.
Bad dads make bad kids. A dysfunctional dad causes a dysfunctional family which produces dysfunctional children. Negative father power rolls on and transfers the sins of a father to the children, even the second, third, and fourth generations. A bad dad can poison his seed.
I grew up thinking that we had the only unhappy family. I thought we had some rare family affliction that all other families were vaccinated against. They all seemed so healthy and happy. It never occurred to me the greater the dysfunction, the greater the family tries to hide it. Many other families hid their anguish behind carefully constructed masks just like we did. (pp.14-15)
Dave struggled growing up, because he lacked a father that lived and taught Father greatness. What was it like for you growing up? Do you know others who had a difficult time growing up where their father was not leading to Father greatness, or maybe you didn’t have a father? How do you get a grip on Father greatness?
How do you get a grip on Father greatness?
1) Jesus served His men to show greatness Luke 22:24-27
One of the greatest traps we suffer from today is comparison. We compare ourselves to others in many different ways. Young women, and older women, compare how they look, their figures and how they dress to each other, wanting attention from important men, normally men in their lives, but sometimes any man. Most ungodly women want a little attention, unless they’ve been mistreated or abused. If they’ve been mistreated, they don’t want attention and go the other way to avoid it. If a father doesn’t give his young daughter attention, then when she’s a young woman or a teen, she’ll start looking elsewhere. She subtly wants attention to feel good about herself and if she doesn’t get it from home, she’ll get it outside the home. She’ll make herself look attractive, even alluring, just to get a man’s attention. She’ll draw attention by make-up, unusual dress and even revealing more and more body just to get attention. Why? While she’s comparing herself to others, she wants moments of attention from others. She doesn’t understand Father greatness.
Boys are no different, but they often do it by their prowess, achievements and abilities of one-up-manship, or competition. Some of it is healthy competition, but most of it is a strong desire to be better than others. It’s pretty sick to hear inadequate men competing with their words or stories about how great they are. Why? They don’t understand Father greatness.
Turn over to Luke 22:24 and let’s start looking at the text.
24 Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. (Luke 22:24)
The word “dispute” literally means “love of strife.” There is something inside most of us that loves to compare and compete and that leads to strife. Some love it. They would not admit that, but it is part of our flesh, or sinful nature. It’s what Paul wrote in Romans 7:15,
15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. (Rom. 7:15)
Then the word “considered” means that “something seems to be so” or the “perspective is” this way. From the human perspective, they were looking at who was the greatest among themselves.
From the human perspective, the older gets to tell the younger what’s what. I laugh at the foolishness of a person who says, “You’re 42? You’re just a young pup,” when he is only 44. Or, some other cute cut that puts down another, “You’ve been married 20 years? That’s all?” and he is married 23 years. People love to compare and compete and it causes great strife. Then Jesus says,
25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called `benefactors.’ (Luke 22:25)
That last word “benefactors” is interesting, because literally it could be translated “good worker” and reveals that the one in authority thinks of himself as a good worker. In other words, “I’m in authority, because I’m a good worker, so you serve me.” Or, “I earned this position, so you deserve to serve me.” From the human perspective, the one in authority gets his way and expects those under authority to serve. Often younger men try even harder to make a name for themselves, because they are competing with older guys. That’s how unbelievers think.
However, that’s not how godly Christians think or act to reveal Father greatness. Jesus says,
26 “But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. (Luk 22:26)
Jesus exhorts the disciples that Christians need to think differently. The greater one needs to be humble like a younger person and willing to learn from the older person. The godly one who governs doesn’t use his position for himself, but he uses his position in order to serve others. Jesus explains in the next verse,
27 “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. (Luk 22:27)
Jesus is our perfect example and model in every circumstance. He is the example of true greatness. He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Matt. 28:18)Where does a person learn that?
We are sliding down the spiral today in our society, because we do not understand Father greatness. We are losing our faith in God. Note this slide information on where we are in our faith:
Where Are We Now?
Profession of Faith by Generation
• Builder generation – 65% professed faith in Christ
• Boomers – 35% professed faith in Christ
• Gen X – 15% professed faith in Christ
• Of the kids today, a projected 4% will profess faith in Christ
Source: Billy Graham Association (provided by Bruce Einspahr)
In fact, for every 10 men in the average church…
• 9 will have kids who leave the church
• 8 will not find their jobs satisfying
• 6 will pay monthly minimum on credit cards
• 5 have a major problem with pornography
• 4 will get divorced affecting 1,000,000 children each year
• Only 1 will have a biblical worldview
• All 10 will struggle to balance family & work. Why?
Because they really want to HAVE FUN! (provided by Bruce Einspahr)
What is missing? Father greatness. We are so focused on the horizontal that we’ve forgotten to train the vertical. We’re so focused on where we can get in the world, we have forgotten what matters is the vertical.
We spend so much time comparing and competing to get ahead, that we’ve forgotten or never learned Father greatness. We’ve forgotten to pass on the Father’s greatness and to quit worrying about individual greatness. How much time did Jesus spend trying to be the best at anything? How much time did Jesus spend trying to become the best competitor at anything? Did He not understand and become absorbed in His Father’s business when He was twelve-years-old? Is He not our model for all things? Then Jesus reveals how greatness is assigned.
2) Jesus declares how greatness is assigned Luke 22:28-30
Note the central text of this passage,
28 “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. 29 “And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30“that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28-30)
Jesus acknowledges the disciples have been with Him through His trials. There is a reason for that. Trials make us stronger, because they teach us to depend on the Lord. Going through trials is always difficult, but once we get through the trial and learn the lessons, we learn what the Father provides, equips and is in the process of blessing.
Note verse 29. Jesus says, “I bestow upon you a kingdom.” This is the first of three things that He “bestows.” The word means “to assign, to ordain, agree to, or make a covenant.” It’s the promise that as we go through trials, we should consider that the Father is in the process of assigning great blessing.
Note the rest of verse 29. Jesus says, “just as My Father bestowed one upon Me.”Jesus doesn’t have the kingdom yet. It’s the Millennial Kingdom, but the Father has assigned it already. The assignment is fixed, but Jesus still had trials to go through on earth. And Jesus was telling the disciples that just as He was receiving a kingdom, so also the disciples would be receiving a place in that kingdom with Jesus.
There are two other aspects of that agreement. First, they would “eat and drink” at His table. That references far more than physical eating at the table. It refers to the honor of being with Jesus in the kingdom. It refers to access with Jesus. It refers to the blessing of His presence. Secondly, Jesus promises they will “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Because they were faithful, they would reign with Jesus.
Jesus mentions this in the book of Matthew, “So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matt. 19:28) This is from the Father. It is part of life. They went through trials and they would be assigned greatness in the kingdom!
Who is training young men Father greatness? Who is ensuring that the next generation understands Father greatness? Some might say, “I had my kids, so I did all I need to.” What about your grandchildren. What about children and grandchildren of other people who do not have fathers passing down Father greatness to their children?
Finally, Jesus explains how to receive that blessing. He explains what is necessary to experience Father greatness.
3) Jesus forewarns how greatness must humbly depend… Luke 22:31-34
During that Last Supper, Jesus challenges Peter,
31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32“But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32)
Jesus explains four things to Peter. First, Satan is going to sift him. That is true for every child of God. The enemy has an organization that plans, prepares and proceeds to sift your life. Will you depend on the world or yourself, or will you depend on the Lord. Secondly, Jesus said He would pray for Peter. Thank the Lord that He prays for every believer also (Rom. 8:34). Thirdly, Peter would fall away. That likely began to stir up the comparison/competition emotions inside of Peter. He notes that Peter will both fail and will return. That’s true for us. When we return to trusting the Lord and depending on His power instead of our own, then we are to do the fourth part. Jesus told Peter to “strengthen your brethren.” That is what Father greatness is all about – strengthening other people to press through the trials of life.
The problem is like Peter, we often become too self-confident.
Peter lets his mouth start running before he thinks very long. He doesn’t realize he is reacting to the Lord’s words and he is in comparison and competition mode. Luke records,
33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33)
We find similar accounts in two other gospels. In Matthew, Peter says, “though they all fall away, because of You, I will never fall away.”Do you see how Peter is comparing himself to both the other disciples AND to Jesus? He says about Jesus, “…because of You…” Peter is breaking through thin ice. In Mark it says, “Though they all fall away, I will not.” Luke adds the foolish comment that He will go to both prison and death for Jesus. What a he-man!
We want young men to be confident, but not in themselves. We want young men to find their greatness in the Lord in the Father’s greatness. Too often we want others to think we are great. We don’t realize we are really just trying to be God. Self-confidence is independence from God. We need to have Christ-confidence or Spirit-confidence.
Jesus responds to Peter’s self-confidence,
34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:34)
We will fall when we depend on ourselves. The same thing happens to every man who does not humble himself before God and humbly learn God’s way from Jesus as Jesus humbled Himself before the Father. It is a fearful thing for the one who doesn’t humbly depend on the Lord.
Jesus, however, knows when and where we will fall and yet He wants us on His team. That is the grace of knowing Father greatness.
4) Jesus wants you on His team Luke 24:49
49 “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)
Jesus wanted the disciples on His team. Even thought they blew it. Even though they denied Him. Even through they ran from the trial, Jesus wanted them on His team. Why? Jesus knew the promise of the Father in the coming Holy Spirit. That same promise is now available to every Christian today.
What happens when Father greatness is not passed down to each generation? Note what happens when a father is not in a home:
The Influence of Men- Fatherless Homes Produce
90% of Runaway Children
85% of Children With Behavior Problems
71% of High School Drop Outs
75% of Children Addicted to Drugs
63% of Teenage Suicides
80% of Rapists
85% of Prison Inmates
Source: The National Center for Fathering
Further, the lack of Father greatness certainly affects what woman say:
What the Women Are Saying?
• Women often feel that they are abandoned emotionally – there is a sense that men are not really listening to them.
• Women are desperate for men to provide strong spiritual leadership in the home. One woman said it this way, “we long for a rock”.
• If men are not strong leaders in the home, women have a tendency to take it back.
• Men are in need of more accountability—many men have not built the necessary trust level with their spouse, so she can encourage him to share with other men. (provided by Bruce Einspahr)
How did we get into the problem today? It’s not one issue. There are many issues involved. Note this quote,
Whereas in 1820 Protestants had thought about children’s religious experiences primarily in terms of family and church, by 1880 it was impossible to conceive of them without reference to the Sunday school. During the nineteenth century, this new institution became the primary locale – outside of the family – for religious indoctrination of Protestant youth. In the annals of church history the saga of Sunday school was unique, involving…the creation of a new institution to fulfill functions previous entrusted to parents and pastors… – Ann Boylan (provided by Jeremy Thomas)
IN the 1800s, Sunday School was a great opportunity to reach out and help families raise children in the Lord. It became a strong influencer by the 1880s. Yet, the fathers and families became more dependent upon it, and not assume their own responsibility to pass on Father greatness. If fathers do not resume their responsibility for raising children to Father greatness, the children will be lost to the world. This is further stated regarding contemporary youth ministry,
It is obvious that youth ministry in America has not produced a generation of young people who are passionate about the church…the number of full time youth pastors has grown dramatically and a plethora of magazines, music, and ideas aimed at youth have been birthed along the way. Meanwhile…the numbers of young people won to Christ dropped at about as fast a rate. – Alvin Reid (provided by Jeremy Thomas)
The point is NOT that youth ministry has failed. The point is that families and specifically fathers have not passed on Father greatness. What should happen?
Solomon gives very focused words regarding the issue,
Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, And give attention to know understanding; 2For I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law. 3 When I was my father’s son, Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, 4He also taught me, and said to me: “Let your heart retain my words; Keep my commands, and live. 5 Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. (Pro. 4:1-5)
It certainly takes two people – a father and a son (or daughter). When children do not listen or seek to understand, sometimes parents give up or become content with just being able to talk to the children. Okay, we don’t disciple our children, but they at least come home for dinner. Really? Is that what God’s standard is? Does God only want parents to raise children physically and let the children decide what they want to believe? Really?
The Father put Adam in the Garden of Eden and made it clear what he was supposed to do, “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” (Gen 2:15) The Father gave Adam a mission for life. Human fathers ought to pass down to their children what their mission is in life – go make disciples!
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20“teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matt. 28:19-20)
Let me give you an example of God’s way of being a human father. Abraham is God’s example,
17 And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, 18“since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” (Gen. 18:17-19)
God saw that Abraham was a good father passing down Father greatness. Abraham ensured his family kept the way of the Lord. Abraham was humble and depended on the Lord to do righteousness and justice. Abraham trusted God and followed through with his responsibility. How does this happen?
Moses made it clear how fathers were to pass down Father greatness. We see it in Moses’ last sermon to Israel before they went across the Jordan River into the Promised Land,
“Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess,
2”that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.
3“Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you–`a land flowing with milk and honey.’
4“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
5“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
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.
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. (Deut. 6:1-15)
Beloved, do not take lightly the Lord. Here’s the summary of this message:
The Lord is calling on men to rise up to Father greatness!
Dave Simmons gives us words of encouragement to close this message,
How I wish that my dad and I had learned [how to love]. For instance, I would have really appreciated [if Dad would have]:
· Occasionally congratulated me on a job well done.
· Put his arm around me or let me sit on his lap
· Read stories to me or told me stories.
· Let me borrow the car more than once a semester.
· Invited me to go fishing on the officers’ PT boat with him while we lived in Alaska.
I now know that Dad loved me, but I missed all the signals when I was growing up. Dad and I didn’t learn to love each other and communicate it until the last three years of his life when we finally began to [love each other]. How sad we waited so long.
Don’t you wait. Get going now. (Dad the Family Coach, p. 27)
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) When you were growing up, what were the fathers of your friends like?
2) Who was Adam’s Father (Gen. 2:7-17)? _______________________ What kinds of things did Adam receive from his Father? What were his responsibilities? Who else was there to receive responsibility?
3) Read Gen. 35:1-12. When God called Jacob to go up to Bethel, what did Jacob command his family? _________________________ What things do we learn from God’s appearances to Jacob in this passage?
4) What kind of sacrifice is discussed in Exodus 12:21-28? _________________________ What does the passage describe regarding the roles and responsibilities in the family related to this event? How did the people respond? What does that look like today?
Making application from the message to life:
5) How should children learn about the Father’s greatness? What practical things should they see and learn?
6) Why is a father’s role of assigning responsibility to his children so important? How should a father discern what and when to assign responsibilities?
7) How should a father help a son learn humility to imitate the Father’s greatness?