If you know God, and his greatness, and his wrath, holiness, justice, wrath, grace, you will tremble in his presence. This is not something you grow out of. This is something the immature grow into — including our kids.
So, the word to parents, especially fathers — and I’m aware that there are single moms who have to pick up and do double duty here. Understand that I’m aware of that, and that’s good, and we want to help you do that. Mainly, I’m talking to dads, and the moms who have to play Dad the best you can: get other men around you, who can help you do it.
“Dads, help your children tremble with joy in the presence of God.”
Dads, help your children tremble with joy in the presence of God. Help your children tremble with joy in the presence of God. I have one means to suggest for how to do it. Fathers, be the kind of father that your children delight to fear. Be the kind of fathers whom your children delight to fear. That is, take your proper place as God’s representative in your family, and display the way he really is. That’s the burden I have felt for 34 years.
I am God to my children until they know better. If they only fear you and there’s no delight in it, it’s wrong and dysfunctional. If they only delight in you and there’s no fear in it, it’s wrong and dysfunctional. In both cases, you have made it very difficult for them to embrace the true God. I have had in my mind since Karsten was born, I must so father these boys — and now Talitha — that when they come to know God, they will want to believe in him, because they have believed in me.
That’s a high calling, which means, there must be wrath and there must be compassion. The children must learn it. On the one hand, you have Proverbs 13:24:
Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Why? Because that’s the way God is. Hebrews 12:6:
The Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.
That’s why little babies have fat bottoms. You also read in the Bible Ephesians 6:4:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Do you hear that phrase? “Bring them up in the discipline of the Lord.” The discipline of the Lord. This is not yours, this is God’s. You are playing God here. “You are representing me there,” God says. “So, bring them up in my discipline, in such a way that they don’t get angry, but delight in your discipline.”
Dads, be the kind of fathers your children delight to fear. You are God to them until the know better.”
Do you think that’s impossible? It is without God. Because you’re trying to display God. The world doesn’t have a clue what this is about — what fathers are for. Fathers are to represent God so that children will come to believe in hell and heaven and Christ through Dad. Mom, if this were a sermon on parenting, I would talk about why there are two parents in the ideal family, and one of them is a woman. That’s big, but this is not a sermon on that, so I won’t. But, you can use your imagination pretty easily to imagine why that might be.
We must be godlike in our compassion. Listen to Psalm 103:13–14:
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
So, I think we want our children to delight to fear us. In a store — where of course if you spank them, you’ll get arrested — our eyes should be able to do it. Your eyes are like lightning ready to strike. And they won’t go that way. They’ll be quiet because you just said, “Be quiet. Daddy said so.”
There’s been enough discipline at home that they’ll behave in the store. This is kind of vulnerable for a guy to preach like this, right? I have four sons, and two of them are at this church. So, you can go to them and say, “What was that like?” The boys are too old to say it now, but Talitha should say this. I want them to say, “Daddy, disobeying you is a fearful thing, and I am thankful that it is. But oh, what a sanctuary you are to me. How I love to live in the light of your strength and joy.”
I could tell so many stories about disciplining my boys, followed by the kind of hugging that would not be possible if I played games with their disobedience. It just would not be possible if I did this modern thing about, “Take a time-out in the corner and stare at the wall.” But this is not a sermon on discipline.
Dads, pray that God would give you the grace to so love your kids, and so discipline your kids, that they delight to fear you, so that they have little problem believing in the God of the Bible when they learn what he’s like.
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