Father’s Day | June 16, 2019 | Steve Pixler
We are all born to fathers. No one escapes it. And, though mom delivers the baby and holds a unique and lifelong influence, every child is born connected to their father biologically and spiritually, which may be, depending on our circumstances, a positive or negative relationship. But no one escapes it.
Every child is born looking for their father. Every child is born on a father quest. This inescapable fact colors every aspect of human society. Think of some of the most powerful movies ever produced and how much the “father quest” shaped the plot. Movies like Star Wars, East of Eden, and even the light comedy, Father of the Bride, (both the classic and the Steve Martin remake) and countless others—all driven by the complicated, even bittersweet, desire to know our fathers and be known by them for who we really are.
Yet the heart of the Father Quest is not really just a search for our natural father, though that is hugely important. But, in reality, our quest for our natural father points to a much deeper, more existential quest: the quest for Father God, for “Abba, Father.”
Today, I want to go back to the beginning and look at how the quest for Father God began. Let’s start with a verse that frames the challenge we all face in the Father Quest:
Malachi 2:10 (ESV): Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?
This verse shows us two powerful realities held in strong tension:
God is our Father: We have one Father; one God created us.
We have father-issues: relationships are broken—we are “faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers.”
How did we get here?
First, God is our Father. He created us to relate to him as our Father.
Then, God created humans to reflect the eternal relationship (love) that exists within the life of the Godhead—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—by drawing the woman out of man and giving them the creative ability to bring forth humans as children. In this one act, God formed all human relations: husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, cousin, grandfather, grandmother, and all the in-laws.
God chose to mediate and manifest his fathering spirit through natural fathers. He could have chosen to create each one of us individually and make us all directly related to him as our immediate father. God could form each human from dust as he did Adam. But he chose to create humans in his creative image and draw us into the covenant relationship of love. He chose to make fathering a divine-human, covenant partnership. Human fathering was meant to be a reflection and mediation of divine fathering. Adam was formed to be the image of God to his children.
However, that didn’t go so well. Almost immediately, Adam dropped the ball. When man sinned, he violently ripped apart human fellowship with God. He disconnected human fathering from the life of God. And since that time, human fathers have largely distorted the image of God. Even the best of fathers still blur the purity of the Father’s love for us.
Look at this passage showing the contrast between divine and human fathering:
Hebrews 12:5–11 (ESV): And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time AS IT SEEMED BEST TO THEM, but he disciplines us FOR OUR GOOD, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Our earthly fathers disciplined us “as it seemed best to them,” but what “seemed best to them” was shaped by their own brokenness. What seemed best to them was not always best for us.
Let’s make this clear: we all have fathers, and some were great dads and others were not. But all earthly fathers father us in the lineage of Adam, which means we are ALL born disconnected from the life of God, and ALL of us develop distorted concepts of the Heavenly Father due to flawed, even if well-meaning, earthly fathering. We ALL experience “father-wounds.” Our fathers had father-wounds, and they passed them down.
Alfred Davis, writing for Focus on the Family, describes father-wounds like this:
“We all come into the world helpless, dependent and needing acceptance, to be treated as worthy, and to be blessed. The father wound is the absence of this love from your birth father. The wound can be caused by:
* Neglect – I am unimportant
* Absence – Divorce, separation, death
* Abuse – Mental, physical, sexual, spiritual
* Control – Oppressive domination
* Withholding – Love, blessings and/or affirmation, deficiencies that lead to a profound lack of self-acceptance.
“The effect of a father wound is low self-esteem, a deep emotional pain inside and a performance orientation that makes us ‘doers’ rather than ‘beings.’ Instead of going to the pain and receiving the healing we need, we tend to respond to life events by creating a misconception about our ‘Self.’
“When we hold a conception of our birth father as angry, violent, uncaring, indifferent, distant/withdrawn, absent/abandoning, alcoholic, condemning and/or critical, we tend to believe the following words about ourselves:
* I am unworthy
* I am stupid
* I am incompetent
* I am unloved or unlovable
“As long as we accept these words as truth, we will experience depressed, anxious and angry lives.
“Often a person’s image of God the Father is contaminated by the personal experience he or she has with the birth father. When misconceptions about God are present (i.e. that He is angry, judgmental, unhappy with me, fearsome, legalistic, quick to punish and slow to forgive . . .) the words we tend to believe are:
* I am not good enough
* I am guilty/shameful
* I must work harder to justify myself
“As long as we accept these words as truth, we will seek to perform and prove our worth through perfectionism and materialism, or seek addictions to cover up the pain.”
(Alfred C. W. Davis, Understanding and Healing the Father Wound: https://www.focusonthefamily.ca/content/understanding-and-healing-the-father-wound)
But there is incredible hope for us ALL!
Jesus came to reveal the Father. And by revealing the Father, Jesus releases healing to the fathered and to the fathers.
Look at what Jesus said about his mission to reveal the Father:
John 14:9 (ESV): 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
John 17:3 (ESV): And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
John 17:25–26 (NLT): 25 “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. 26 I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”
Jesus came to break the lies that sin told about the Heavenly Father. As we read above in Malachi 2, we all have ONE FATHER, but the covenant of our fathers, the Law of Moses, the Old Covenant (Testament), was a broken, refracted, distorted reflection of the True Father, the God who created us. The Law was good, as Paul says, but broken humanity made the Law “weak through the flesh.”
As Jesus said to the Pharisees, when they asked about an early version of “no-fault” divorce, the “hardness of YOUR hearts” distorted the heart of God in the Old Testament Law of Moses. (Matthew 19) The legalism and violence of the Law of Moses revealed more about the hardness of the human heart than it did about the goodness of God’s heart.
Moses asked to see God’s glory, which is revealed in his goodness, but he could only see the “back” of God’s glory—the Law of Moses only revealed hints of God’s goodness. Jesus came to manifest “the glory of God revealed in the face of Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Jesus came to tell the truth about the Father!
(Look at the numerous examples where Jesus said, “ You have heard it was said, but I say to you...” — “the fathers” vs. “The Father”)
Jesus called God the Father, “Abba, Father!” (Mark 14:36). “Abba” is an affectionate name for a father, something like “papa” or “daddy.” Jesus came to show us that God the Father is not the vengeful, hateful God that so many have portrayed him to be. He is a good God!
And when we are saved, the Father sends the Spirit of the Son into our hearts revealing the Father, breaking every lie we have believed about God. He teaches us to call God, “Abba, Father!”
Galatians 4:6 (ESV): And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Romans 8:15–16 (ESV): 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
How comfortable are you calling God “Papa God”?! Does that seem disrespectful? Maybe religion has distorted our view of God!
And in revealing Abba, Father, Jesus came to do two things:
1. Jesus came to heal you from all your father-wounds. How does he do this:
A. By the new birth.
When you are born again, you are adopted into the lineage of “the last Adam,” Jesus Christ. Your relationship to your “one Father,” Abba, Father, is restored. Jesus begins revealing the Father for who he really is to you. This releases you to be healed. Your perception of your earthly father can now be viewed in light of your heavenly Father’s love for you and for your earthly father, no matter how broken.
B. By releasing the power of forgiveness.
As you begin to see the Heavenly Father for who he really is, he begins releasing grace for you to forgive your earthly father. This is why the Father Quest MUST begin with a pursuit of the Heavenly Father, not your earthly father. Only when we are being healed by the love of our one true Father can we orient our hearts properly toward our earthly father.
Those who are forgiven receive grace to forgive. And when we forgive, more forgiveness is released. When we refuse to forgive, we create a “forgiveness barrier” that stops us dead in our tracks. We cannot move forward until we are ready to forgive and be forgiven.
We receive grace to forgive our earthly fathers because we now see them through the love of the Heavenly Father. We can forgive because we see how they were never meant to be our One Father, our Abba, Father. We receive grace to forgive because we now see their brokenness, their father wounds that they passed down to us. We can give mercy because we have received mercy.
Jesus said, “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9) He doesn’t mean, of course, that you can use the word “father” for your earthly father. But he does mean, in a very real sense, no man CAN be your father—only God can truly be your father!
An earthly father can only be at best a signpost pointing toward the Heavenly Father. The goal of every earthly father is to get their children TO the Father.
As John said,
3 John 4 (ESV): 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
If our earthly fathers could fulfill every need, we would never look to our Creator. It is much easier to rely on someone you can see and touch. We would never learn to trust in God! Our relationship with God would be displaced and usurped by father-gods. And the one true Father-God is relentless in his eradication and destruction of all idols who displace him. Including earthly fathers.
All the gaps that our earthly fathers leave are there by divine design: those are the places that only our Heavenly Father can fill. Jesus He is described in Isaiah 9:6 as “the father of eternity,” as the only father who can truly fulfill the eternal longings of the human heart.
We must forgive our earthly fathers. We have held them to expectations that they cannot attain. Release them, forgive them, understand that our fathers are broken men, just trying their best to be good men.
Honor your father, but worship God.
Again: And in revealing Abba, Father, Jesus came to do two things:
The second thing is..
2. Jesus came to deliver fathers from the heavy burden of fathering. Jesus says to all fathers, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus comes today through the Holy Spirit to release ALL fathers from the overwhelming responsibility of fathering.
Fathers, we have one job today: to get our children TO the Father!
Malachi 4:5–6 (ESV): Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
Want to know what I want for Father’s Day? I want two things:
I want to be free from the fear of fathering. I want to hand my kids off to the only One who can truly Father them eternally. I want to rest in the fathering grace that comes from being fathered by my Heavenly Father.
I want my children to know the Father. Nothing would give me greater joy.
And when fathers hearts are turned to their children, and children’s hearts are turned to their father—and, ultimately, to THE Father!—the land will be delivered from the decree of utter destruction overturned at the Cross.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Father’s Day done right will be the catalyst for worldwide social and cultural revival.