There are two things in life that God uses extensively as a model to teach us about himself. The first being marriage. What better platform could God have given us where we practice unconditional love, forgiveness, unity, and selflessness. The second is parenthood. God is the master at describing himself. God is a God that words cannot contain, yet he describes himself in a way that is simple for us to understand. More than anything else, God refers to himself in the guise of a loving Father. That is how He wants us to relate to Him. The first step to understanding God is seeing in the context of a parent. And in raising my boys, in all the little things that go into raising kids, I’m constantly reminded of my Heavenly Father. Let me share some examples from my own life as a dad.
We recently got little bicycles for our two oldest boys, Andy age six, and Lincoln who is four. And they are so eager to ride them. But the rule in our house is that they can only ride their bikes outside when mommy or daddy is with them. furthermore, we always load up their bikes in my truck and drive to the church parking lot to practice riding them. Our boys are not allowed to ride their bikes up and down the street.
A few days ago, Andy came to me and asked if he could go outside and ride his bike up and down the street in front of our house. I quickly reminded him of our rules and that he is not to ride his bike in the street.
“But daddy…” Andy said. “The little boys that live next door to us are riding their bikes up and down the street without their mommy and daddy!”
I told Andy that those little boys were not my children. Lincoln and Andy are my children. I take care of my kids. I have rules for my children not to hinder their fun, but to ensure their safety. If the little boys down the street ride dangerously in the road, that is between them and their parents. But if my boys disobey and ride in the street, you can be sure they will be disciplined for being disobedient.
Genesis 27 give the account of two brothers named Esau and Jacob. God said of the brothers, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” So why did God “Hate” one but love the other. Contrary to the very popular saying, we are NOT all God’s children. Scripture speaks of some who are, as 1 John puts it, “….children of the devil.” To put it simply, Jacob was a child of God, and Esau was not. Esau wanted the things of this world more than the blessings of God, as seen when he gave away his birth right for food.
Read about the lives of Esau and Jacob in Genesis. As it pertains to Esau, God kept every promise he made to Esau through out his life. And later in life, when Jacob was reunited with his brother Esau, Esau was so wealthy and prosperous he needed nothing from Jacob’s hand. So again, how is it that God hated Esau, a man who was blessed by the things of the world, and loved Jacob, a man who faced many trials during his life?
If you read about the life of Esau, you will see that Esau was just allowed to be Esau. And Esau could do anything he wanted to do. And Esau was never disciplined or punished by God, he could just do as he pleased and have a good time through life enjoying his material things. And God disciplined Jacob in some way almost every day of his life.
God let Esau be Esau, but he refused to let Jacob be Jacob.
And the distinguishing mark between the two men is the love of God the father. disciplining and changing one Jacob and in Esau we see no spiritual change or movement towards God whatsoever. Jacob at one point wrestled with God. And God touched his hip and gave Jacob a permanent limp. It wasnt Esau who was limping when the brothers were reunited, it was the one God love, the one God disiplined….it was Jacob.
I think back to the man I was only four short years ago before I truly had a personal relationship with Jesus. In my old life, one of the areas of importance to me was tied to vanity. I was a weight lifting fanatic. Image was everything. When God became real to me one of the first things that happened was my desires changed…..radically. I began to see how repulsive my vanity was in the eyes of God and in turn, in became repulsive to me. I did not touch a weight for three years.
Just recently I have begun to workout again. Not for vain reasons, but for general health. I noticed that it could be so easy to get sucked back into the world of being obsessed with working out due to it being an idol in my past. But I’ve noticed something. Since beginning to workout again, I’ve noticed that I can no longer do some of the major lifts that I once did. My joints just wont allow it. My body is broken in areas that hinder me from sculpting my body the way I used to do. And I firmly believe it was not Satan who placed these hindrances in my path, but God.
Why would he do this? Why would he cause me pain if He loves me? For the same reason I would spank my child for running out into the street. To discipline me and to keep me from running off toward idols that would rob me of my salvation. He knows me. He knows areas that I am tempted to stray. He is my Father!! And because He loves me, God will do whatever is necessary to keep me from danger.
God loves me enough not to let Charlie be Charlie. He has better plans for his children. And he disciplines his own like any father would a child.
My boys Andy and Lincoln are funny at bath time. Lacy will put them in the tub and tell them to scrub themselves clean and wash all over. They are at the age where they want to do it themselves, so she gives them the chance. But each time, she will inspect the boys and tell them to stay in the tub as she washes them until they practically sparkle. Although they grumble at times, Lacy will tell them, “You are going to be clean!” And by golly she means it!
Look at what the Lord says in Ezekiel…….
“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:24-27.
Notice what all God says He will do for His children. The first thing that jumps out takes me back to the bath tub with my boys. Just as Lacy tells them they will be clean, God says in verse 26 “…you will be clean.”
So many people justify living in filthy sin while simultaneously claiming to know Jesus. But that’s contrary to our Heavenly father. Just as an earthly parent takes a child who has been wallowing in the mud and scrubs clean every crevice of their body, God does the same with a sinner.
You see, our problem in modern-day Christianity is that we believe God is powerful enough to resurrect his own son from the dead, but we don’t believe he is powerful enough to totally, completely change a person’s life. We may not say this, but its apparent when we attempt to justify a lifestyle of sin, saying silly things like, “Well you know, we’re all Gods children!”
Jesus is a God of change! No where in scripture do I find the example of someone who had an encounter with Christ and walked away continuing to pursue sin that they know is wrong! The apostle Paul murdered Christians, and after an encounter with Christ, spent the rest of his life leading them! Rich and wealthy Zacchaeus climbed down out of that tree to meet Jesus and afterward gave half of his belongings to the poor and paid back four fold those whom he had robbed. Did the life change continue in Zacchaeus life? If you study history, many biblically historians make the case that it was Zacchaeus who went on to take Judas place as the twelfth disciple, and was renamed Mathias!
Those who had encounters with the risen Christ had radical life transformations from who they once were! So where do we get the idea that we can become followers of Christ without becoming a totally new creation as is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:17?
God disciplines his own. And as the above verse in Ezekiel states, God clenses his own. Notice what else does the verse in Ezekiel says. He says he will cleanse us from our impurities and idols. This is not saying a Christian will never sin. Because we know at times, we all fall short. But it is implying a major life change. And it does imply that anything in our lives that is more important than our relationship with God, or an idol in our lives, will be stripped away. Be it vanity, entertainment or relationships, if they prove to be an idol, God will in some way remove them from the life of a true believer, even if the separation causes us pain.
God also said in Ezekiel he will take us out of the nations. Seperation. Is there a seperateness from the worldly ways in your life? In the last part of the verse, God says he will place in us a new heart. A new heart has new desires. New Godly desires. If you don’t have a new relationship with sin, then you do not have a new relationship with God. So if this is the picture of what a child of God looks like, then why does our nation have so many worldly children of God? Based on what I read in scripture, Id say that Gods children will look more like their father Jesus Christ. I can tell you all day long that my earthly father is an African-American midget. But I am 6’5 in height, and as white as Sunbeam bread. My appearance would tell you that I am either crazy or a liar.If someone looks more like the world than Christ, chances are they look more like their father who is the prince of this world….Satan. Regardless of what they may say, their unrepentant life tells the truth.
Never miss what God may be teaching you about his relationship with you through the life lessons of parenthood. God wants us to see him as a father. As the old hymn goes, he is a God who gives and takes away. Although a child may think a parent is being mean by refusing them certain things or taking disciplinary action, a Father always knows better. And even though the child at times cant see it, a Father always does everything out of the utmost love for his child. Learn to look at trials in your life not as a pity part for yourself, but as God chipping away at you…molding you and tying you closer to him. Although it can be painful at times, God will never allow his children to ride their bikes in the street of life. Although it may look fun, we don’t see the dangers that God sees. And a Heavenly Father always knows best.