How Should We Honor Our Father?
A Sermon Delivered At
West Fulton United Methodist Church
North Blenheim United Methodist Church
17 June 2001
Frank L. Hoffman, Guest Preacher
Genesis 2:7, 19
Leviticus 4:2; 17:11
Isaiah 1:21; 6:8; 11:6-9
Matthew 5:48; 6:9-10; 19:3-9
Today is Father's Day. It is a day to acknowledge and honor our father.
But, how should we honor our father?
Should we do it as we are told in the Ten Commandments, because we will get a reward? (Exodus 20:12)
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you."
To do something just to get a reward or an inheritance is not truly honoring our father.
True honor only comes from a pure and unselfish heart.
We can say a lot of flowery words, or buy a beautiful card, or buy a nice present, but all of these things are only forms of our recognition and not of our truly honoring our father.
So, how should we honor our father?
The best and most effective way is to do the will of our father, but unfortunately, not all earthly fathers have set the proper example or provided effective direction for their children to follow.
Can we still honor our father in such cases?
We sure can! And we can do it by following a higher example; the example of our Father in heaven.
Jesus even said this of Himself as recorded in John 14:12:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father."
If I speak as both a father and a son, I can honestly say that there are examples that we wish our children did follow and others that we wish they didn't.
I learned both good and bad things from my earthly fathers, and I have had two; my birth father and my step-father.
However, the greatest examples came from my heavenly Father, some of which we're going to talk about today.
I used to be be an evolutionist, but no matter how hard I tried to get all the answers, I always ran into a blank wall; a wall that required me to take a leap of scientific faith.
On the other hand, the Bible reminds us to take a spiritual leap of faith.
There came that day, many years ago, while I was all alone in our airplane, climbing up through the rain and clouds, that I was thinking about these things.
Suddenly, I broke out on top of the clouds into the bright sunlight and the clear blue sky, which was amplified by the brilliant white carpet of clouds below.
I looked up into the sky and said, "God, if You're really up there, You have to let me know. I don't have any other answers."
That questioning prayer was meant from the depths of my heart and God heard it and answered it, and my life has never been the same since, as Neil can confirm.
I remember the first day that I preached in a Methodist church. Neil, your pastor, was in the congregation, and later said, "You were shouting at me."
Of course, I wasn't shouting at Neil or anyone else, but Neil was hearing the same Holy Spirit that tries to guide us all, and he, too, has never been the same since.
Being Jewish, I understood the difference between the will and intent of God, and the concessions He allows us to live in, that we would not die in our sins.
Jesus gives us an excellent example of this in Matthew 19:3-9 where He speaks about marriage and divorce, which I hope you will read on your own; but the most significant aspect of this is in verse 8, when Jesus says:
"Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it has not been that way."
This is the best New Testament example of the difference between God's intent and concession that I'm aware of.
Unfortunately most Christian teachers don't understand or teach this concept, instead they have resorted to a type of "concessionairing" where they sell the acceptability of the concessions.
It's the same as a concessionaire or vender selling a product, but in the case the product is our inability to live as God wants us to live and thus is all right to live in the concessions of God, and that God's grace will cover us.
This is "cheap grace".
In other word, they teach that God will forgive us without our changing our ways.
They sell the concession instead of God's intent.
And, it is only by our sincerely striving to live in God's intent that we truly honor our Father, whether earthly or heavenly.
This was one of the first things that God began to impress upon me after He introduced me to His Son, Jesus.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:48,
"Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Is Jesus lying to us?
Is He commanding us to do the impossible?
Of course not!
He is telling us to reach for this perfection and to live in it.
As an example, let's consider Olympic athletes.
How may of them to you think strive to win 20th place? How many do you think strive for 10th place, or even 4th place?
They're most likely all striving for the gold, and for perfection.
And the Lord wants us to seek the perfection of His creation and that of the heavenly restoration right here on this earth in the same way as Olympic athletes strive for perfection.
He wants us to do this for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.
And don't give me the excuse that Jesus is the only perfect One, and that He's taken all the gold.
He took the bronze, or perhaps the silver, but He has left the gold in every ministry event of each of us, for as He says, "greater works shall you do."
And it is here that God's grace comes into play, for He forgives the unintentional sinful acts we all commit in our striving for this perfection.
But the willful sinful acts we commit are a turning away from God's commandments and are not covered by God's grace until we become truly repentant and desire to go forth and sin no more, until we desire to seek His perfection.
This is not just a Frank Hoffman concept, or a New Testament concept, this is also the way of atonement in the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament.
The whole sacrificial system was God's concession to our sinful state of being, but it was only to be used for unintentional acts, as we are told in Leviticus 4:2.
Isaiah says that to sacrifice an animal for any other reason is to commit an act of murder (1:21).
Why would Isaiah say this?
Because the Hebrew Scriptures teach us that both humans and animals are living souls (Hebrew: neh-fesh khah-yaw), and that life is to be respected.
It was the soul life of the innocent animal that made atonement for our soul life (Leviticus 17:11).
This is why Jesus had to come in the form of a man, for without a body Jesus would not have had a soul to make the final atonement for our souls.
Remember, this is what we are taught in Genesis 2:7:
Then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
The living soul forms in the body.
This is also the exact terminology used to describe animals in Genesis 2:19, though most English translations use other words, such as being or creature.
Translation errors do not change the truth of God's creation. If we are living souls, then so are the animals, and conversely, if they are not, than neither are we.
It we apply the Greek concept of soul and spirit to the Hebrew, then we must also take the Hebrew on it word and intent.
Let's return to our living in the perfection of God as our way of honoring Him and our earthly fathers.
Right after Jesus told us to be as perfect as our heavenly Father, He taught us to pray for it in what has become known as The Lord's Prayer.
Think about what we are told.
First we are to acknowledge God for who He is.
We are to send Him a Fathers' Day Card which says,
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
We are acknowledging God as being perfect and holy.
Next we confirm our desire to be as perfect as He is perfect and to help make this earth just as holy and righteous as heaven.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
This is how we honor our Father, but for the most part, we aren't doing it; we're just mouthing the words.
From Revelation 21:4, we learn about part of the state of being in heaven:
"and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."
Isaiah paints this heavenly picture in his famous description on humans and animals returning to their original vegetarian state of being and not hurting or destroying ever again (11:6-9):
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.
How does the earth become full of this knowledge?
From the hearts, souls, and minds of true believers, who are filled with the Holy Spirit.
And Paul tells us how the presence of the Holy Spirit within us should change our personality and our way of living (Galatians 5:22-23):
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
This means that if we are truly filled with the Holy Spirit, we will do no physical or emotional harm to our fellow human beings, or to the animals, or to the environment.
If this is true, then why hasn't the world changed in the past 2,000 years?
It hasn't because we haven't been honoring our Father by doing His will.
We've been fighting against the Holy Spirit.
We haven't been taking God's message of ultimate peace into the world.
We haven't stopped the killing in our own lives or having others kill for us.
We haven't made this world a more loving and compassionate place.
Think about the destruction we are doing to our environment.
Think about our constant state of war and our preparedness for war.
Think about what we eat and wear and the pain and suffering and death it causes.
Think about what we can do to change things to become heavenly.
We need to begin answering the Lord's call to us, as did Isaiah, when he said, "Here am I. Send Me!" (6:8)
Are we willing to do this?
I pray so!
For when we do, we will know how to honor our Father, for we will be already doing it.
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