Covenant Godly Living: (6) Exemplary Fathers

October 13, 2002 / No. 3119

Dear radio friends,

If you listened to our radio program last time, you will remember that we began a study of a very important passage in God’s Word, I Thessalonians 2:7-12. In those verses the apostle Paul gives an account of how he labored as a minister of the gospel among the Thessalonian believers. In the account he equates his work among them to the work of a nursing mother and of a faithful father.

Last week we looked at that and saw that the Word of God was teaching us that the fundamental grace required of a covenant, godly father is the love of God, the true love of God in Christ Jesus. A father certainly must be one who brings up his children in the way of the Lord. He must be a strong and courageous man. But a father must also be, at the same time and not contradicting that, a man baptized in the love of God for his household, so that the man, as the apostle Paul says in those verses, is willing to impart his very soul for the well-being of his children.

We come back now to that passage, and I would like to point out to you that the apostle goes on to say that another important aspect of fatherhood is to stand as a godly example. In the passage the apostle brings out that not only is it essential, for fatherhood, for us to have that selfless and intense love of God, but it is also important to be able to stand before our children as examples of everything that we teach them, examples of the Christian faith itself.

Let me read to you verse 10 and 11. “Ye (that is the Thessalonians) are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: as ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children.” What is he saying? He is saying that, like a father, he did not only do the outward deeds that are required of a father, and not only did he show love for them, but he stood before them as a godly example of everything he was saying. “We left a godly example,” says the apostle. “You are witnesses of that, and God also.”

The apostle is saying that, without that godly example, all of the love and all of the instruction that he gave would have had no impact upon the Thessalonians. He says, “We behaved ourselves.” That is, we lived holily, we lived a live of devotion to God, and we sought to keep ourselves separate from sin and devoted to God. “We lived justly,” he says, that is, a life of obedience to the ten commandments with honesty and integrity in our life. “We lived unblameably among you,” he says, that is, consistently. The Thessalonians could bear witness of this, and God also. In other words, Paul says, “You saw the real thing in me.” Paul and his companions in the ministry, when they were among the Thessa-lonian believers, left a godly example. He says, “We were not one thing in front of you and another thing when we were alone relaxing. If so, then what you saw and what God saw would be two different things.” But, he says, “You are witnesses and God also that we were an example to you as our spiritual children.”

Why does Paul bring that up at this point? What is the connection? Why is that so crucial to fatherhood? Because God is teaching us that, without a godly example, all spiritual fathering of the Thessalonians, and all of our fathering, would be neutralized.

Paul understood the biblical law of teaching and learning. What is that biblical law of teaching and learning? It is simply this: You must be what you teach. And children learn from example. The Lord Jesus said, “It is enough for the disciple to be as his master.” The apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” Do as I do. Paul was a father to the Thessalonians in Jesus Christ. There were many young Christians in that church. Paul could say, “I loved you. I poured out my soul for you. And I strove to be an example to you of all that I taught.” He knew that all of his teaching of the gospel would have no grip on their soul, on their conscience, without his own example.

He knew that as a minister. He knew that if he was to have the Word that he taught take hold, by the grace of God, upon their hearts, that he must also live the Word before them. He must, as he writes in II Corinthians 4:2, also renounce the hidden things of dishonesty, not handling the Word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending himself to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. He did not, then, labor with the Thessalonians as a hypocrite. He did not say, “This is what we say, but we don’t do.” No, he sought to be an example.

Now, let every man, every woman, every child, and every father look to themselves. Fathers, what is necessary if you are to be a biblical, covenant father? You must live a genuine life of godliness before your children and before God. You must be able to say to your children, “You are witnesses, and God also.” Let us strive for that. Do not strive for your reputation in the business world. Do not strive for your financial security. Do not let the bottom line be what’s good for your career. But let this be the heart of your life: to say to your child, “Walk as I walk.”

That must make the grip upon the conscience of your child. Your child must be able to say, “My dad was, for all of his faults, real with God. He had his weaknesses. He was irritable. At times he was inconsistent. There were times when I thought that he was unfair and unreasonable. But I have to say that he walked with the Lord. He lived holily, justly, and unblameably before God.” Now, whether your child (and may God forbid!) hates that or whether your child thanks God for that, either way, you must, as a father, live what you talk.

Without this your children will not feel the weight of your instruction. If we do not ourselves live what we tell them, our children will become cynical and sour on the faith that we teach them. Then the child will say, “Dad says we’re supposed to love. But look at how he treats mother.” Then they will say, “Dad says don’t talk evil of other people. But you should hear what he says about other people.” Then your child will say, “Dad says the priorities are the church. That’s your priority. But you should see the way he runs his finances.” We must teach our children biblical priorities. We must teach our children a biblical way of life. Yes! But you must remember, as a father, that your children are going to learn by example, by what you do.

If we do not ourselves live what we tell them, 
our children will become cynical 
and sour on the faith that we teach them.

Fathers, if God spares your children and spares you, will they be thankful to God for the memories that they have of you? Or will they have to put up with a self-centered, indulgent old man who had all of his religion in his mouth? Can you teach your son personal sexual purity by example? Listen to the question. Can you teach your son (your teenage son, your twelve-year old son – maybe even younger – your seventeen-year old son) personal sexual purity by example? Or, do they see your eyes taking a second look when the TV is on – the football game and the cheerleaders – and your eyes roaming over women? Or, do you turn it off? Can you say with Job in chapter 31:1, “I have made a covenant with mine eyes,” not to lust after a maid? If we cannot say that, then all of our talk with our sons about decency and purity and being careful, all of those words apart from God will have no binding influence upon your son whatsoever. Then we will raise up an age of children who will know that, well, there are parts of the Christian life where everybody in the church knows that this is what we say, but it is not what we do.

Father, how do you treat your wife? You must be an example to your son. How do you care for your wife? Do you honor her in her femininity? Are you sensitive to your wife? What about stewardship? Do your children know that you cheat with the boss? What about your devotional life – is there consistency there? What about your life in the church? Are you unconcerned and insensitive towards others in the church? Fathers, we need to pray for grace to say with the apostle Paul to our children, “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you.”

Young men, I want to talk to you for a few moments. You want, someday, to be married and to have children. That is good. But you must remember this: fathering is not an act of the moment, of a single moment. Fathering is the discipline of a lifetime. You must remember this: biology does not make a father. God has to make a father. Being a father is a lifetime commitment, and you begin right now, before you are married, by cultivating a godly, consistent life before God. You will then want to be what you confess. You will want to live a consistent life now. And remember, young man, that the sins that you are tolerating in your life right now are going to cripple you as a father. It will affect the kind of father you will be if you tolerate sin now.

Remember, young man, 
that the sins that you are tolerating in your life 
right now are going to cripple you as a father.

Young women, I want to talk to you. What are you looking for in a husband? Looks? Are you only concerned about the feelings that he gives you? Or are you looking for practical godliness? May God give you eyes to see it.

As we come, then, to this passage, let me close with two thoughts. The first is this. Do you see your need of grace? We have to see our need of grace whenever we come before our calling in the home (father, mother, wife, child). We have to see our need of the grace of God. Essential to being a biblical father, then, is the gentle, selfless love of God. But we do not have that. We do not have anything of that. Our human nature is opposed to that. Necessary to being a father is a godly example. But we must admit before God that we do not have that, we fall short of that, we are sinners. We cannot do this of ourselves. If you think you can, then go ahead and try. The only thing you are going to succeed in doing is passing on your depravity to your children and an outward righteousness. No, God must give us grace. And we must be diligent to seek that grace from God.

Therefore the essential ingredient of a biblical man, of a biblical father, is: prayer. Pour out your heart to God. Be men of prayer. Boys and young men and fathers, elders, old men – all of us! We must be men of prayer. Is that true of us? Is it true of our generation, as in a former day, that we can be classified as men of prayer with God? Listen. Generations have gone before us. And they have done without all that we spend so much time to get. We spend so much time on things, pleasures, television, sports, homes. Generations have come and gone before us and they have lived and passed on without all of those things. But no generation of the church has had believing, biblical fathers without prayer. Are we men of prayer? And do we give ourselves much time to prayer?

The essential ingredient of a biblical man, 
of a biblical father, is: prayer.

The second thing I want to close with is this: we must look to our heavenly Father. The study of every husband must be Christ. The study of every woman and wife must be the church. A husband must love his wife as Christ loved the church. And the wife must submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ. Then the study of every father must be the heavenly Father, our Father who art in heaven. Be ye therefore perfect as your Father who is in heaven.

What does that mean? That means that you take yourself to the Word and you learn the blessed truths of God’s Fatherhood. It means that you must be a member of a solid, Reformed, biblical church. You must be faithful in your attendance. And you must listen carefully to the instruction and to the preaching of the Word of God. Through the preaching and through the Word of God you are given strength to follow the pattern of your heavenly Father.

Covenant, believing fathers. What a blessing. Men of God who devote themselves in the love of God for their family. Men of God, firm in the Word, and yet gentle, filled with a selfless love, laboring day and night for the well-being of their household.

Children and wives, you need to pray for these fathers. And children, you need to thank God for a believing father and you need to pray for your father.

Fathers, what do our wives and what do our children testify concerning us? Do they say, as a wife, “Father in heaven, thanks. For all of his faults he is a man of selfless, self-giving love of Christ for me and the children.” Do your children say, “Father, thanks for the father that I have. He has shown me something of the love of my heavenly Father.”

God give us hearts filled with the love of God. And God make us covenant, godly fathers.

Let us pray.

Father, we thank Thee again for Thy Word. We pray that the Holy Spirit may apply that Word to our hearts. Make us to be men of prayer, men of the Word. Make us to be biblical fathers, in Jesus’ name, Amen.