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Worshiping the God of Our Fathers
This article is adapted from Chapter 2 of Pastor Dad, a free Re:lit eBook by Mark Driscoll.
The God of Our Fathers
We learn how to be fathers to our own children as we seek to treat our kids the way our perfect Dad has treated us, his sons. Our ultimate goal must be that our children would grow to love and worship our God. This simple refrain is repeated on a multitude of occasions throughout Scripture, where it says that a particular generation worshiped the God of their fathers, because God intends for children to worship the same God as their dads.
The wisdom for Christian fathering is scattered throughout Scripture and concentrated most particularly in Proverbs. In Proverbs 3:11–12 the father says, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Before any father disciplines his children, he is commanded to delight in them. Practically, this means that most of a father’s time is spent enjoying his children, encouraging his children, laughing with his children, being affectionate with his children, and enjoying his children so that there is a deep bond of love and joy between the children and their dad.
Discipline & Provision
Part of that love also includes a father disciplining his children as needed to keep them on a path of wisdom and righteousness. This pattern is to be modeled by the father who has God as his father and gladly receives instruction and correction from God the father and other authorities God has placed over him (e.g., church elders and other leaders). Therefore, a godly father models submission to authority and the welcoming of correction by repenting of his own sin, receiving forgiveness, and walking in restored intimacy with God the father by empowering grace. Practically, this means that a good father lives out the gospel every day in fellowship with God and his child, and that he knows what to do about sin in the life of his child because he’s been dealing with his own sin in his own life first.
Before any father disciplines his children, he is commanded to delight in them.
Proverbs 14:26 says, “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.” Sadly, our world is not a very safe place for children, as the statistics on neglect, abuse, molestation, fornication, and rape indicate. But God says that the safest place for children is with a man who fears the Lord. Men who fear God take God’s wisdom and use their masculine strength to create a fortress of protection and provision around their homes so that their wives and children can live freely and happily under their care. Practically, this means that a godly father does not allow his children to be unsupervised at the homes of people he does not know, is very careful to oversee any dating done by his daughters, and goes to great lengths to ensure that safety is pursued in everything from where the family lives to who they are in close friendship with and who is welcomed into their home.
Repent of Laziness
Proverbs 20:7 says, “The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!” Similarly, Paul tells the Corinthians that when he was a boy he acted like one, but when he became a man he put childish ways behind him (1 Cor. 13:11). It is imperative that Christian fathers repent of their childish ways (i.e., laziness, lust, whining, drunkenness, juvenile antics, neglecting family in the pursuit of hobbies, foolish spending, and so on) because their sins impinge upon the lives of their children and grandchildren.
Wisdom enables a father to see that the way he lives affects the kind of children he raises, which affects the kind of children they raise, and so on.
Lazy fathers are disobedient to God but want to have children who are obedient to them. Such fathers may speak good wisdom, but it is overshadowed by the loudness of the foolish hypocrisy in their lives. Proverbs 26:7 stands as a warning to such men, saying, “Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” Wisdom is not merely what a father says, but also his lifestyle and the degree of congruence between his words and his actions. Foolish fathers say things such as, “Well, don’t do as I do, do as I say.” what they mean is, “I’m a complete hypocrite, but do what I tell you to do anyways.” Proverbs says that these men speak with no authority and so their children ignore them or mock them as funny and foolish hypocrites. Tragically, these children often face the most devastating teen years because they have no wise father to turn to in a culture of folly, and themselves fall prey to many sins and pains.
The Crown of the Aged
While fools are consumed with the present, wisdom looks to the future. Proverbs 17:6 leans us into the future, saying, “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” The point God is teaching here is that young men should be thinking about what kind of grandfather they aspire to be before they even take a wife, because they have a lot of work to do to get there. Godly men aspire to be both good fathers and good grandfathers, like Jonathan Edwards, America’s greatest theologian, who prayed each day for five generations of his offspring in hopes of being a patriarch like Abraham. Wisdom enables a father to see that the way he lives affects the kind of children he raises, which affects the kind of children they raise, and so on. Sons and daughters should look at their father and say proudly, “That’s my dad!” with gratitude for the kind of dad God gave them, even though there will undoubtedly be occasions when they think otherwise, until any distance between them created by sin is removed by the gospel.
When God shares his name with us, it is a sacred matter that we must take very seriously.
A Shared Name
Therefore, if a man is going to be a good father, he needs to start by living in such a way that his children will celebrate his life and respect him as a respectable man. Likewise, his grandchildren will later follow suit, and generations will speak well of him long after he has passed. In this way, a father begins to reflect, even in a fallen or limited degree, God who is his father. For example, one of the highest compliments anyone has ever paid me came from my daughter Ashley, who at the age of four told me, “I’m very lucky to have two daddies. You are my daddy and God is my daddy.” When she said that, I was struck by the incredible privilege of sharing the very honorable title of “father” with God in the mind of my little girl. When God shares his name with us, it is a sacred matter that we must take very seriously.