Some Helps for Earthly Dads from Our Heavenly Father, Pt. 2
Study Guide, June 23, 2019
Pastor Clay Olsen
We didn’t have an oil spill last week, but we did have an information spill. Like with Mother’s Day, we had more information for Father’s Day than we had service time for, so we are having a 2nd study on some helps for earthly Dads from our Heavenly Father. Actually, the principles are for each of us children of our Heavenly Father. So here we go.
You know how when you get a new credit card or a new debit card in the mail, you first have to call into the company that issued it to you in order to activate the card, in order to use the card. You can’t use it until you activate it.
In our salvation God issued us a new nature. The Apostle Peter reveals this to us: 2 Peter 1:4- “Through His glory and integrity He has given us His promises that are of the highest value. Through these promises you will share in the divine nature because you have escaped the corruption that sinful desires cause in the world.” God’s Word Version
This ‘sharing in the divine nature’ is also what is described as being in ‘union with Christ’ or ‘born again’ in our spirit. So, as children of God, we now have a new nature. However, God has not yet eliminated our old nature, or sinful nature from us. And therefore, we have to learn how to contend against it.
In other words, in keeping with our point here, God has issued us a new nature, but it doesn’t automatically take over our thoughts, feelings, and actions. No, God requires that we call upon Him in order to activate it. And this ‘calling upon’ our Heavenly Father in order to ‘activate’ our new nature involves things such things as; prayer, abiding in Christ, consecrating ourselves to His Lordship, and seeking to be pleasing to our God and Savior. Take prayer for an example, since we readily understand prayer as like ‘calling upon our God’ in order to activate our new nature.
In a fascinating insight from the dedication of the temple by King Solomon, he was pronouncing a blessing on the people, but it was really a continuation of his prayer. And he speaks directly to this need, to our need, of calling upon the Lord in order to activate our new nature. Look at what he said:
1 Kings 8:57-58- “May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, which He commanded our fathers.” NASU
And then from God’s Word Version: 1 Kings 8:57-58- “May the Lord our God be with us as He was with our ancestors. May He never leave us or abandon us. May He bend our hearts toward Him. Then we will follow Him and keep His commands, laws, and rules, which He commanded our ancestors to keep.” God’s Word Version
What an amazing appeal to God; an appeal for God to essentially activate their hearts or to incline or bend their desires, turn their disposition and their nature to do His will. It was like an appeal for God to help them overcome their own inclination or their own natural bent to do their own will.
Dads, one thing we need to teach our children about is their nature…about their two natures…about their dual natures. One is the natural self, which in inclined toward…or is bent toward sin…bent toward selfishness, self-pride, self-promotion, self-satisfaction, just basically self-will. We have an inclination toward sin…Or, another helpful way of thinking about it as we have previously mentioned; we have a sin-clination! We are naturally inclined toward sin. And we don’t just mean overt or really bad sin, but just basically our stubborn self-will. We just naturally get on the throne of our life each day and take over our thoughts and deeds, instead of asking God to be on the throne as we pledge our allegiance to serve Him each day. That is the natural bent of all human beings. And the thing is; most people in the world do not understand this about themselves and about all human beings. This is something that is only understood through God’s revelation about the sin nature of human beings. And because most people do not understand this about themselves they also then do not think about themselves as ‘enemy number one’, nor do they guard against themselves, as to their bent toward self-will; their bent toward self-will instead of God’s will. My self nature, my sin nature is the most destructive force in my life. And guess what? It is the most destructive force in your life, too, and in everyone’s life. But again, most people in the whole world do not understand this, and as a result, their lives are being destroyed foremost by themselves. It’s being destroyed from within their own nature, and they do not even realize it.
One of the most important diagnosis that every person needs to see, especially believers, who now also share in the divine nature, and yet, still have to contend with their old sin nature, is the X-ray of the human heart that Jesus revealed to us in Mark 7:20-23. Everybody in the world needs to see this X-ray of their human heart. Note carefully: “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” NASU
Now that would make a horrible picture if we could somehow depict that X-ray of the human heart. But I sometimes think that somehow we should develop one, because even as Christians, we so easily forget just what does lie within us, in our old sin-nature. This is the stuff that Jesus had to die for, had to pay the penalty for, had to go to the altar of the cross for, to die as our substitute in order to remove the penalty of these offenses against God.
And our point here is that this kind of stuff is still in us, in each of us, by nature, and this old nature is still active, and thus is activating these destructive things in and through our lives. Yes, by His mercy He has imparted or implanted a share of His divine nature, His own holy moral nature, within us. But we need to understand that just like we chose to receive Christ and this new nature into our lives to become born again, we also now have choose to act on this new nature in order to ac-ti-vate it! And then we have to choose it again and again, every day, day by day. The Apostle Paul tells us that we are to ‘be being’ filled with God’s Spirit’. That’s like saying we are to daily be ‘re-filled’ with God’s Spirit…or re-committed to God’s Spirit, as to looking to Him to rule our spirit and to activate our new nature. And so in this blessing of Solomon, which was really a teaching on what the people should be praying, was like an appeal to God to incline their heart toward Him…to bend their will toward His will, and to activate all of His resources for them in order for them to follow Him. It was a purposeful surrender to God to rule in their lives.
So our daily need is to call upon God to activate our new nature; to rule and take His rightful place as Lord over what we do and say. Remember, obedience to God is not automatic. Like activating a new credit card…you have the card, but you have to call in to activate it. We have the new nature, but we have to call in through prayer and submission to God. You have to let God know that you intend to act on your new nature. For if you do not intend to act on your new nature, you will by default, revert to acting on your old nature. But we are also to understand that it is only by God’s grace that we can actually act on our new nature; or it is only by God’s enabling grace that we can follow Him and keep His commands, laws, and rules for doing right; doing righteous works and deeds.
That’s something else that Dads can help their children understand. They can tell them that God, their Heavenly Father, helped them understand that they can’t follow God on their own either. Let your children know that you can’t do what you need to do in obeying God in your own might or in serving God in your own power. Let them know that you also have to ask God and look to God’s Spirit, to God the Holy Spirit, for the ability to do God’s will. Notice this key teaching from Zech 4:6- “Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” NASU
By the way Dads, this is another great name for a boy…Zerubbabel! Somebody needs to get in on that one. But how crucial it is to understand that we are not to act naturally by our own might or on our own power; rather we are to act supernaturally, or ‘beyond our natural way’ of handling things, by asking God to activate His Spirit through us. What you are doing is that you are asking God to work through you. It’s like you are asking God to be the hand and you’ll be His glove.
That was exactly Jesus’ point in His teaching in John 15 about ‘abiding in Him’; abiding in the Vine and acting like His branches. Again, we ‘activate’ our new nature by ‘abiding’ in Christ, by seeking to let God use us like a channel for Him; like a branch for Him to work through us. We are to seek to let God grow His fruit in us so that we can then bear His fruit through us. Remember; it’s not from us, but through us. That’s a good reminder to dwell on for how to live the Christian life: ‘Not from me, but through me.’
Help your children know who they are: They are branches, not vines. And branches bear the fruit, but they don’t grow the fruit. The Vine, Jesus, grows the fruit, and the branches…us, bear the fruit. And not only is this distinction very important for all of us to understand, it is also very liberating to understand; because it frees us all from the burden of trying to be what we are not, and are not supposed to try to be; and that is, the Vine. That is only setting yourself up for one long exercise in frustration and discouragement, because branches don’t grow fruit; they bear fruit. And, if we could animate the analogy: Branches aren’t burdened about bearing fruit or frazzled about working up the fruit, or stressed out about producing the fruit. Branches don’t worry about bearing fruit, because they know that the fruit simply grows through them as they simply abide in the Vine. Abiding is the branch’s part; growing is the Vine’s part.
We would all save ourselves a lot of worries and burdens and angst about what we are producing in our lives or how we are performing in our lives if we would simply keep our focus on who we really are and what branches really are to focus on; abiding in the Vine and cooperating with the Vine in order to let the Vine grow His fruit through us branches.
And so you ask, “Well, what does ‘abiding’ look like?” It’s not complicated, but it is very specific. Notice what the Lord says in Deut 5:29- “Oh, that they would always have such a heart for Me, wanting to obey My commandments. Then all would go well with them in the future, and with their children throughout all generations!” TLB Do you find yourself ‘wanting to obey God’s commandments? Just how do you come to the place where you want to obey God’s commandments over wanting to just do your own thing everyday? Well, notice carefully: It’s like we highlighted earlier; it doesn’t happen automatically. In other words, obedience is an acquired taste. Holiness is an acquired taste. Remember how the Psalmist put it? Ps 34:8- “O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” NASU So you taste of the Word, or you eat of the Bread of Life, and then you do the Word, or as James says, ‘become a do-er of the Word. And the more you ‘do the Word’, the more you develop a desire for the Word, a taste for the Word, and find yourself more and more wanting to obey the Word. And the more you obey the Word the more you discover God’s secret’. And this is a secret that, again, most people in the world do not know or understand, and that is, that the very key to happiness in life is obedience to God. Personal obedience to the Word of God is the key to personal happiness. Remember what God said? “Oh, that they would always have such a heart for Me, wanting to obey My commandments. Then all would go well with them…” In fact, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus spends the very first part of it revealing to us all what the key to happiness really is, that we crave in life anyway. Personal happiness is the direct result of personal obedience to God.
Dads, give your kids and grand-kids and other kids the Beatitudes of Jesus and you will give them the keys to happiness in life. Teach them how to be happy. And teach them that in order to activate these keys to happiness that they will have to act upon them. But in order to act upon them they will have to call upon their Heavenly Father and ask Him to fill them with His spirit. And in order for Him to fill them with His spirit they will need to make room in their heart and life for Him by emptying out the stuff that’s already there, already in their old nature, like what we saw in that X-ray of the human heart. Again, that’s not pretty stuff. But if kids don’t learn what’s inside their sin nature, or if anyone doesn’t come to learn what’s inside their old nature, then they won’t know what they are supposed to be emptying out in the first place. They won’t know what they are supposed to be trying to get rid of day by day. Nor will they ever make room for God to fill them and grow His stuff, His fruit in them.
There’s an ancient motto that most of us have heard; it’s ‘Know Thyself’. But it’s really incomplete, because it should be: ‘Know Thyself, and then empty Thyself out!’ Empty Thyself out and be filled with God’s Spirit Himself! The last thing we need more of in life is more of ourselves and the first thing we need most of in life is more of Jesus and more of Himself activated in our life.
So Dads, Kids need a plan, we all need a plan. We all need God’s plan for how to activate the works and joys of the new nature that God has placed within us, birthed within us. It’s a share of God’s very own holy moral nature. And as we act on this nature, as we put His will in front of our will, as we obey His word, we discover what we always wanted anyway; happiness. And the way to be happy is to trust and obey.