Today is my father’s 89th birthday. He’s been in heaven for ten months. But I can’t shake the thought that I should keep giving him gifts. Perhaps it would be an honor to him to let him speak as his birthday passes by.
Here is what I think he would like to say about two things we stand for at Bethlehem: 1) God’s command that we hallow (sanctify) God, which we talked about in the message on December 30; and 2) God’s command that we be happy in him.
God’s Command That His Name Be Hallowed
In a sermon called “Sanctifying God,” my father wrote,
One morning I was reading for my devotions the eighth chapter of the Prophecy of Isaiah and was struck with amazement at the words of the thirteenth verse. “Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.” . . . Here in Isaiah 8:13 I was face to face with something new. Here I was being commanded to SANCTIFY THE LORD.
. . . How could I, a finite creature, sanctify the infinite Creator? How could the weak sanctify the Mighty? How could I, laden with imperfections, hallow Him who was perfect in all this ways? . . .
Basically, sanctification means “to set apart.” By the lives we live we set apart or fail to set apart the God we know as distinctive above all the idols and gods of the unbelieving world.
. . . [One way God is distinctive above all others is that he is] sufficient, abundantly able to supply my every need and the need of all who would trust Him. But to sanctify Him as such, I realized that day that I must live a contented life, a life fully satisfied with Him alone.
. . . God wanted Ahaz to SANCTIFY Him as the All-Sufficient, Delivering God who is an “ever present help in trouble.” Ahaz failed by his unholy alliance. The Spirit’s message came to him as it does to us today, “Sanctify the Lord of Hosts HIMSELF” and let Him be your fear.” God HIMSELF is more than a match for all your enemies. Christ HIMSELF is more than able to meet the needs of our life. Let the world see Him ALONE, sanctify Him as the all-satisfying God that He is. (A Good Time and How to Have It, [Greenville, SC: Piper Publications, 1964], pp. 16-17, 25)
God’s Command That We Be Joyful in Him
My father was a card-carrying fundamentalist, with a twist. He was irrepressibly happy in the grace of God. I suspect there are a lot of fundamentalists out there like that. For all I know, I may be one. So here is a taste of what I grew up with, which may be why abstaining from dancing, smoking, drinking, movie-going, and card-playing never felt like big sacrifice.
God is not a dictatorial despot who ruthlessly rules His subjects, making endless demands. God is a Father, a heavenly Father who loves, cares for and understands every need. God is not in the stealing business. He does not want to rob you of anything. God is a giver! Christ came to give, not to get (Matt. 20:28). The call of Christ is “come and receive,” not “come and give up.”
Nevertheless, millions insist upon thinking that Christianity is a negative religion. You don’t do this and you can’t do that. You don’t go here and you can’t go there.
To the contrary, the Bible constantly sounds the triumphant and positive note. “Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only” (James 1:22). “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). “Whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do with all your might” (Eccl. 9:10). God wants us to be doers, not don’ters. A Christian who is only a don’ter is a sour saint who spreads gloom wherever he goes. A don’ter is usually a hypocritical Pharisee. Years ago, I heard the late Dr. Bob Jones say. “Do so fast you don’t have time to don’t.” That sums it up.
. . . Everything in the world that is good, beautiful and right comes from God. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
The devil never made a rain drip or a snow flake. He never made a baby smile or a nightingale sing. He never placed a golden sun in a western sky or filled the night with stars. Why? Because these things were not his to give. God is the creator and the possessor of them all and he lovingly shares these things with us. (The Greatest Menace to Modern Youth [Easley, SC: Piper’s Evangelistic Publications, 1980], pp. 38-39)
I suppose it is superfluous to wish my father happy birthday. Shall we wish the ocean to be wet? But I’ll do it anyway: Happy Birthday, Daddy. I love you.