There are many great verses about Fathers in the Bible but one of my own favorites is found in Luke 15 and the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Go there with me this week as we approach Father’s Day 2019! Read vs 11-32. Most of the focus in the Parable is on the “prodigal son” but this week let us look at the prodigal love of the prodigal father. What a fantastic picture we have here of the ministry of fatherhood: Verse 12 shows us the father’s ministry of “GIVING”. We fathers can do great harm if we’re not particularly careful with what we “GIVE” our kids! It is very easy to give too much or too little: freedom, work, responsibility, accountability, education, wisdom, time, entertainment, encouragement, praise and love and most important of all – a Biblical upbringing focused on the word of God. Examples abound in the Bible that show us where fathers succeeded or failed by their giving in these categories. Verse 13 shows us the Father’s Ministry of “LETTING GO”: The father knows his son is making a major mistake. I am certain it broke the father’s heart to let his son go. However, letting go isn’t always a bad thing and in some cases it’s a blessing. Like giving a son or daughter in marriage, or off to start their life as adults. Verse 30 reveals that this Father learned of his son’s riotous life and of how he’d been reduced to squalor & hunger. I doubt this surprised him, but I imagine it broke his heart even worse. Here we see the Father’s Ministry of “TOUGH LOVE”. We might expect the father to pack up and go “hog-tie” his foolish son and bring him home. But we know that wouldn’t solve the problem. Why not? Because the son has a sinful heart and bringing him home won’t fix it. His heart would still be in the far country! This father knows that. Even when he learned his son was starving, he didn’t send more money! Why not? Because more money would only be wasted on more sin and wickedness. Many parents help their children remain in sin and wickedness by giving them the money to finance it. No…this father knows that more money isn’t the answer. His son must “COME TO HIMSELF” and see the “far country” for what it is and realize the error of his ways. TOUGH LOVE may require a father to let the hard lessons be learned! Sometimes a father must pray and wait for a son / daughter to “wake up”! In verse 20 we see the Father’s Ministry of KEEPING WATCH: When that son was yet a long way off his father saw him, he was waiting, praying and watching and his faith prevailed! A Father’s Ministry includes keeping watch for his children [Praying for them, looking out for them, having intercessory faith for them, keeping hope that God will work in them]! Even when friends and siblings have given up, a Father must KEEP WATCH! In verses 22-24 we see the father’s ministry of “FORGIVING, FORGETTING and RESTORING”! Yes, the son made a mess but that is past. There is repentance and the father sees it. So, he embraces and welcomes a son home. Many fathers need that one!
1st Kings records the hilarious account of Elijah and the false prophets of Ba-al [Chapter 18]. It tells of Elijah’s famous challenge to the false prophets of the false gods of his time (it’s just new names, new false prophets and newer false gods in our time). It records Elijah’s humorous mocking of the false prophets of Ba-al [vs 27-28] and exposes the ridiculous antics of false religions. After the spectators saw how useless foolish ‘religious nonsense’ can be; Elijah called the people to him and repaired the altar of the REAL GOD of the bible. In the course of rebuilding the altar of the Lord we then read the result: verse 33 says “he put the wood in order”.
Years ago I often wondered why the Lord would bother to record such an obvious thing in the scripture. I thought, “of course Elijah put the wood in order, how could anyone think otherwise?” The entire altar was rebuilt and everything was done as it was supposed to be done. The Lord showed me the answer one day as I was studying this. Elijah did this, then Elijah straightened out that, then he put things back together the way God said, and then, after he put things the way God specified we see verse 38 “Then the fire of the Lord fell”… and not one moment sooner. The prophets of Ba-al had wasted their time calling upon a non-existent god. It is equally absurd to think the Fire of the Lord is going to fall on a false pastor or preacher or church or congregation.
The Fire of the Lord is not going to fall on a false bible, false doctrine or unsanctified altar. God doesn’t alter His holiness to accommodate our carnality, He won’t send the fire of the Lord onto an unsanctified, unqualified, unpurified, unbiblical pile of chaos. Yet we see ‘churches’ where the fire hasn’t fallen in a long time, if ever. Those of us who’ve been in old fashioned bible believing country churches were shocked when the fire did not fall. I hate to say it but now-days people are shocked when it does! Worse yet is a church where the folks would prefer the fire didn’t fall because it would stir things up and get people excited about God!
You can ‘mark’er down’ brethren: The Fire of the Lord doesn’t fall on a false pastor! The Fire of the Lord doesn’t fall on false doctrine! The Fire of the Lord doesn’t fall on a false bible! The Fire of the Lord doesn’t fall on a false church! The Fire of the Lord doesn’t fall on false worship, false praise, false music, or unsanctified hearts! No Sir! The Fire of the Lord doesn’t fall until the wood is put in order!
Oh but when we PUT THE WOOD IN ORDER the Fire of the Lord falls! When it does lives are changed! When it does there is a New Creature in Christ! There is spiritual renewal! There is a spiritual awakening of hearts! When the church “puts the wood in order” in the pulpit, the church gets excited and the people find themselves drawn to the altar of God. They become an Elijah in their family and in their homes! Listen sir! Hear me Ma’am; if you will put the wood in order in your heart, your home, your prayer time, your study time the Fire of the Lord will fall on it!
As we continue looking at Jonah I’d like to encourage you to stop here and read chapter 1-3, it will only take a moment. Notice in chapter 3 vs 1 that after Jonah got vomited onto the beach, the word of the Lord came to him a 2nd time [see last week’s article “A God of Second Chances”]. Verse 2 gives us some important doctrine! Notice there that God told Jonah “go…preach…”! I know, as do some of you, that in these last few hours ‘the desperate need in our churches is men, bold men, holy men…we need no more genteel diplomats of the world but rather, godly men cut from the cloth from which the prophets and martyrs were cut! Away with this pharisaical postulating we need no more power point presentations but plain cast iron preaching!
So let’s take notice that God didn’t send Jonah to Nineveh to organize a ‘contemporary Christian music concert’. God didn’t send Jonah to Nineveh to set up a roadside healing tent or a prophecy banquet at the Inn. God sent Jonah to Nineveh to do what many churches are NOT DOING – God sent him TO PREACH! Why is it in these days that we find so many who are against what God is for? Why it is that God chose ‘the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe’? [1st Corinthians 1:21] Why is it that God sent the apostle Paul to say “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” [1st Corinthians 1:18]? I’ll refer you to 1st & 2nd Timothy for the answer.
He said to Jonah, not only do I want you to go and preach, but I want you to preach unto it “…the preaching that I bid thee”. Those of us who still ask that old question “…is there any word from the Lord?” are finding it harder and harder to find those little country churches where a ‘Fire & Brimstone” Jeremiah will lift up his voice like a trumpet [Isaiah 58:1] and shout “…there is”. There is all the world of difference between this man-made theological theorizing and ‘that preaching’ that God bids His servants to preach! Nineveh had collapsed into the same idolatrous sin that America has adopted. It was filled with decadence and moral decay. It was wicked. The only thing that will turn a wicked people from their wicked ways is preaching. As such God sent no Biblically ignorant Christian celebrity. He called on no winking smiling televangelists to deliver a message of a more prosperous personal journey…NO!
A.W. Tozer once said “If I see clearly, the cross of popular religion is not the cross of the New Testament. It is, rather, a new bright ornament upon the bosom of a self-assured and carnal Christianity. The old cross slew men, the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it”. So God sent Jonah with eight simple words. Come worship the Living God with us at Calvary and see what words God might say to you!