This sermon was preached on Sunday, February 13, 2011.
Wasn’t last week awesome? I had so many people sharing—I knew Sam [Dr. Samuel Huddleston, Assistant Superintendent of the Northern California and Nevada District Assemblies of God was the guest speaker last Sunday; he has an amazing testimony which you can read in his autobiography, Five Years to Life, Perkins Publishing, 2013] was going to be good, I didn’t know how good. I recommend you get a CD of last week, whether you were here or not. Listen to it and if God doesn’t reveal someone to share it with, there will be someone this year that you can give that CD to. Just a powerful, powerful word that he shared with us.
We’re going back to the book of Ephesians, Following Jesus in A Spiritually Hostile World, Ephesians chapter 3, verses 14 and 15 this week. Would you stand with me as we give honor to God’s Word? For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in Heaven and on Earth derives its name. [He repeats] For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in Heaven and on Earth derives its name.
[Prayer] Father, thank You for Your word once again. I pray that as we open our hearts to what You want to say to us, Holy Spirit, through these two verses, you would speak to each one what we need to hear personally. I thank You, Lord, how You personalize it by Your Spirit. I pray that the seed of Your Word will find good soil in our hearts. Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, speak to my heart, change my life, in Jesus’ Name. Amen, amen. You may be seated.
As we come back to our series, today again we have this contrast between Ephesus in the first century and America in the 21st century. Again the Apostle Paul is writing to a church located in a city that is the center of the city and their main thing they were known for was goddess worship, the goddess Artemis, also called Diana, but the goddess Artemis and there are statues of her—there is one in the Vatican Museum today. She was also called the many-breasted one. She was the goddess of the Greek-Roman area. And the history of Ephesus, again, was the Amazons, the Amazon female tribe that ran a matriarchy. And some say it was a legend, some say it was based in fact, but apparently hundreds of years earlier there may have been a tribe there where men were excluded; it was female only. So it’s in this setting that the Apostle Paul writes about kneeling before the Father, from whom His whole family in Heaven and Earth derives its name.
Now we are going to talk about fatherhood today. I know it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, and I wish that romance solved every problem. Wouldn’t that be great? And when we’re young, we think it does, but it doesn’t. In fact, marriage is just the beginning. And that’s an issue with a lot of men. You know, a lot of men think that the wedding is the end. The conquest is over, I’ve won, I got her, and now I just coast for 50 years and we’ll be okay. But the wedding is just the beginning. How many have discovered that? Maybe–I don’t know if we need to rework the ceremony. It should be something like a missionary commissioning or something, you know? [Congregation chuckles.] The more we make it a celebration, I don’t know if we feed into that concept sometimes that men have, that it’s like, “oh, it’s over”. No, it’s just starting.
In America today, according to the Fatherhood Initiative Group, Fathers.com, that when you ask people what’s the number one problem in America, that fatherlessness is included in the list. 72% of Americans say that’s the number one problem in America, and it’s true. In fatherless homes, the children are much more likely to get into crime, to do drugs, five times more likely to be poor. For girls, when there is not a father, they are much more likely to get pregnant, to have teen pregnancy. So many, many people in prison today, the vast majority, are dealing with father issues.
Now it’s interesting. Last week was kind of a set-up for this week, in God’s time. With Sam, it wasn’t fatherlessness, it was his mother who had left. Mother had left the family and Father raised six children and he got attached to his dad, but he was mad at the world. And I’m not sure which is worse, if Dad leaves or Mom leaves, but in this case, Mom had left, and we’ve had time individually with Sam, and he said his dad loved his mom, and he is still not sure to this day what happened. His father would honor his mother in that, when he would ask his father, “What happened, why did Mom leave?” And he would say to Sam, “Have you asked her?” “Yes.” “What did she say?” And he would say what she said, and he [the father] would say, “Well, she should know, she was there.” And that was it. He would never give his side of the story. So that honoring of his father, we can understand, even though he got into trouble, but he came around, because his dad exemplified the Heavenly Father’s love for us.
But fatherlessness is a big issue. And [for] a lot of people, it goes very, very deep. In fact, years ago I had read this book by Paul Johnson, Intellectuals, [full title is Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky, copyright 2007] and by the way, college students, you will hear a lot of these people quoted in class: Rousseau, Marx, Sartre and others. I encourage you to read this book. Their lives were a mess, just a total mess, and you won’t be told that. Well, a recent book called Faith of the Fatherless, [Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism by Paul C. Vitz, copyright 2000] [says] a lot of atheists today are people who had father issues, and we can understand that. Issues with their earthly father they transfer to the Heavenly Father. Most atheists are male, white, and came up in a religious family, and had issues with dad.
So that’s where America is, to a great degree, and where Ephesus was, in a place that had matriarchal heritage. And Paul writes this: For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in Heaven and on Earth derives its name. Its name. What does that mean? Well, we are kind of used to family names. Family names haven’t been around forever. In populations where it’s not really large, someone would have one name; they would not have the second name. In fact, in parts of India today, in south India, in the Tamil area of India, there is not normally a family name. Some have Westernized and they would take a second name but they don’t necessarily use it. So Pastor David Moen in Chennai, India–they just call him Moen, that’s his name, Moen–and his children and so forth, they have a name but they don’t do, necessarily, culturally, what we do.
Well, as the population grows, you have to distinguish. We see it even in scripture, John son of Zebedee, because there was more than one John. Pastors here will tell you, and staff, when someone comes in and says, “Frank called,” the first thing I’ll ask is what? Frank who? I know lots of Franks, I know lots of Johns, I know lots of Jims, I know lots of Sallys and Cindys, so who is it? And so, in our cultures, like in Swedish, you have S-O-N at the end, like Johnson or Johanson, that sort of thing. Or the Dutch, Van, you know, son of. You have that second name being added, that surname.
Well, what is he talking about here, because he uses a relational term rather than a name, per se? For this reason I kneel before—not Yahweh or Elohim or El-Shaddai–the Father, from whom His whole family in Heaven and on Earth derives its name. I think it’s very important today to understand that Jesus taught us that when we come to God we should think in relational terms, not so much in titles, but in relationship. Now on Earth, typically, when someone is distinguished, we use the title—doctor, president, whatever, so and so, sir, madam—and we will address them by title. But God wants us to approach Him in a relational term, Father. Jesus taught us, when He taught us to pray, it is: Our what? Father, who art in Heaven. Again, not Yahweh, not Elohim, not El-Shaddai, not all those wonderful names of the Old Testament. He said, “Say Father, Father.” That’s how He wants us to see Him and to address Him, relationally.
Well, God does have a name and names, but when He revealed Himself to Moses, He said in Exodus 3:14, when Moses said, “Who shall I say You are? What is Your name?” God said what? “I Am.” And I’d like you to think about when you say “I am”, you’re invoking God’s name. Now in the Far East, many times the family name comes first. How many of you are from a culture that the family name comes first and then the individual name comes second? There’s a hand here. In China, yeah, many places in the Far East the surname comes first. I would ask you, when you say “I am”, what comes after it, does it fit God’s name? “I am a child of God.” That fits. “I am more than a conqueror. I am victorious through Jesus Christ.” How about, “I am fed up with you.” Does that fit using God’s name? So when we say “I am”, we’re invoking God’s name and I think we should think about that. But when we speak to Him directly, He really wants us to use this relational term, Father.
We all have names, and it’s interesting, in Genesis, it starts with names. It could have started with numbers. God could have called Adam One [he laughs], Eve Two, you just count off. That’d be interesting today, wouldn’t it. You get born and you have number—there are seven billion on the planet now, but there were probably five or six billion before us, so you are Twelve Billion Four-hundred Sixty-nine Million. Do you ever feel like a number? Yeah. But He named names. He named names and they had meaning. Here in verse 15: from whom His whole family in Heaven and on Earth derives its name, we have a word that the translators really wrestle about how to translate. It’s the word patria, πάτρια, and it means, literally, fatherhood. You could translate it: from whom His whole fatherhood, or His fatherhoodness, in Heaven and on Earth derives its name. Well that’s kind of an awkward translation, so most translators say family. From whom His whole family, so here he [Paul] is writing again to Ephesus. It’s not matria, it’s patria.
The last 40 years in America, a lot of people have really struggled with this, the whole issue of patriarchy and resisting the idea of patriarchy. We see patriarchy very clearly in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament Jesus emphasizes the equality of all. Now it’s in the Old Testament, even back in Genesis, God creates male and female in His image, okay? It says: In His image God created male and female, created He them [Genesis 1:27, KJV]. So both male and female are in the image of God. And in the Old Testament there is both male imagery of God and there is female imagery of God, like a mother nurturing or nursing her children. There is very little matriarchal language in the New Testament. It’s almost exclusively patriarchal but it has a different emphasis than the Old Testament. The emphasis is leadership, not rights or even honor, but it is responsibility. So this patria in the New Testament, is leadership, not dictatorship. It’s leadership among equals, and I’m going to use a term that I’ve not read, [but] that I feel comfortable with; I will call it a patriarchal tension, and that is, regardless of gender, we are all equal before God but God wants men to lead, not to dictate, but to lead.
It’s as simple as four people deciding where to go to eat, and you go around and everybody says: “I don’t care. Anything is fine with me.” “I don’t care. Anything is fine with me.” You ever done that? And after about ten minutes of “I really don’t care!”, somebody has to make a decision, not for themselves, but for the group. They know the group, they know what the group needs, so they say, “How ‘bout we go to such-and-such a place?” Now those who said they didn’t care are supposed to say, “Fine” but once in a while, it’s like, “No, I don’t want to go there.” That’s the heartbreak of leadership. [Congregation laughs.] “I thought you said you didn’t care. Okay, how about this?”
A lot of wives, they want their husbands to lead, they want their husbands to know what the wife needs and to respond accordingly, but us men–I speak as a man today–we are not good mind readers. Amen, men? How many men agree with that? [much affirmation in the room] We are just not good mind readers, so you have to drop clues, like tell us directly. [Congregation laughs.] That’s a clue. If you tell us directly, there’s at least a 50% chance we’ll get it. [Congregation bursts into laughter and scattered applause.] Don’t tell us more than 18 times because then that would be nagging.
So loving, servant leadership is the model that we see in the New Testament. We see that with Jesus, we see it with the Disciples, we see it in the early church. Now we were doing membership classes here the last week or so, and I was thinking about this patriarchal tension, because virtually every year I get a question about, “Why is our elder board all males?” It is the only part of our congregation that, right now, is gender-specific. Now the congregation can change that at any time. If you vote to change it, you can do it. But everything else, every other board, pastors, everything, is not gender specific, just that board, and I’m asked why. Well, one of the answers is that we are blessed to have many Godly, qualified men who are willing to lead and assume responsibility in the body of Christ. For that we are grateful, amen? Because a lot of congregations don’t have that and they really become matriarchies. So there is this patriarchal tension that we have, and it crops up in many ways in our families. It crops up with names, with names themselves.
Now when you get married, you face this issue. What name are we going to use? Well, there are very few cultures where they have a matriarchal name being passed down from generation to generation. I understand there is a Berber tribe in North Africa where that is their cultural history. I understand in China, before 1600 BC, that there were places in China where they did that. But pretty much universally, the man’s name, the husband’s name, which is his father’s name, is used as the name for the family. Well some say we’ll get around that by a hyphenated name or whatever. The problem is that only lasts for one generation because you think about it, two hyphenated names getting married, then you have four hyphenated names, and then eight hyphenated names, and it just kind of doesn’t work. So what do you do?
Well, I will tell that when I asked Arline to marry me and we talked about spending the rest of our life together, if she had said to me, “Paul, I love you but I’m going to keep my dad’s name,” “You’re not man enough” is what I would hear. You know, like that commercial, the girl comes [and shouts] “I got into one of the best colleges in the country!”—have you seen that? And the father hears, “I got into one of the most expensive colleges in the country.” What I would hear is, “You’re not man enough for me to take your name.” To which I would say, “That’s a deal killer, because if you—it’s probably not going to change 10 years into our marriage, so if–by faith you don’t think I’m man enough to do what I need to do before God and our family, then don’t marry me. Don’t marry me.”
A person may say, “I won’t take my father’s name. It’s not that my father is the preferred male over my husband, so I’ll take my mother’s name.” But your mother’s name is her father’s name so it’s the grandfather’s name that you’re taking. “Well, I’ll take my great-grandmother’s name” but that’s her father’s name. So we have a patriarchal history that I believe actually is Biblical. In Genesis, chapter 3, who names Eve? Who gives Eve her name? How many think God gives Eve her name? [A few hands go up.] How many think Adam gives Eve her name? [Many hands go up.] Boy, you are Bible scholars. I already set you up though. [spoken as an aside] I think I gave them a clue. Adam names Eve. Adam gives Eve her name; it’s a beautiful name, it’s a wonderful name. But he gives it to her. But when a man does that, he needs to understand the responsibility that he is taking, and God sees men as responsible for their families.
Men, if we are not successful at home, you are not successful in life. What God measures success by is first of all, relationships, because He wants us to be in relationship with Him. He cares about our relationships here. You may make a billion dollars but if you are not a success at home, you are not a success. And that’s why if you are not being a success at home, you need to get help to be a success. For business you would read a business book, right? To be a better businessman. I go through airports and there are men in the bookstores all the time, buying business books. They want to be a better businessman. To get a man to read a book about how to be a better husband or father, man, you have to almost hold a gun to their head to do it. Why? I think it goes back to they think family should take care of itself or the wife should take care of it. It’s not really something that they need to worry about. Well, that’s not what God says. In fact, one of the requirements for elders in the church is that they govern their family well, I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. That’s what God says to us men. He sees Himself as Father, and He sees us as needing to follow through in our families as fathers. For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in Heaven and on Earth derives its name.
Family names, when you are linked—and you can’t choose your family. Wouldn’t it be great if you could choose your family? Adopted children are so fortunate that someone chose them. And by the way, I’m not saying that single family households are doomed to failure. Thank God for many Godly single moms who are doing a Herculean task, a heroic task, and you are beating the odds. If God be for us, who can be against us [Romans 8:31], amen? With God on your side you can do it, so don’t be discouraged.
But I’m talking about God’s normal pattern here, the ideal that sometimes we want to cast it aside, just get rid of it, because a lot of people in our society–the intellectuals–they think they are smarter than God. Somebody in your family does something that you’re not pleased with, it brings shame to the family, and a lot of times, it’s because of the name. You open the newspaper, there’s a court report there. And I go through it, to see if there’s something that happened that no one told me about, someone I need to pray for, someone I need to be ready to help. Boy, it grieves me when I see a name I recognize, it really does, and the family is embarrassed. We’re ashamed that it’s there.
The problem is that we wait too late to kind of address it. It’s like calling 9-1-1 when you are ready to lower the body into the grave, calling the doctor up—“Can you help?” I would love to get a call—I think I said this years ago—I would love to get a call from a parent someday that says, “My child is not reading the Bible as regularly as they have been. Do you have any suggestions what we could do to get my kid to read the Bible on a regular basis?” But what happens is, families become insular and we’re all taught, to protect the family name is the number one goal, so whatever dysfunction there is, whatever we do behind closed doors—it’s like Vegas—it stays there. You know? And we aren’t going to tell anybody, because to protect the family pride is our number one goal in life.
Let me tell you, that is a recipe for disaster, absolute disaster. I know why we do it. There’s a word for it, and it rhymes with bride [some chuckle]. If there’s an issue, deal with it. The family of God is here; none of us are perfect. You think Arline and I have not had disagreements? [Arline nods her head quickly in affirmation and he laughs.] I feel bad for her how many times she’s been wrong [congregation laughs, and so does Pastor]. I’ve said this before too. Some people think, in the pastor’s home, there’s organ music playing in the background, pipe organ playing, and we have wings on. We flutter from room to room. We’re people just like you. But this issue of shame and pride—shame and pride go hand in hand—where we won’t deal with an issue because we don’t want anybody to know. Sam addressed that last week. We don’t want anybody to know. Well, guess what? If you don’t get it fixed, the whole world’s gonna know about it. And I want to encourage you to face shame and press through it. Press through it. Don’t let it dominate you. If you let shame imprison you, you’ll live in prison your whole life. “I don’t want anybody to know what’s happened.” God knows, the devil knows. That’s really happening, so the rest of us knowing, why is that an issue? God knows and the enemy knows and you know, why not get’r done? If the problem needs to be fixed, get’r done. And you say, “Well, if I go to the body of Christ, if I go to a pastor, I want a quick fix.” We don’t always have quick fixes. It’s just like your family. We’ll walk with you through it. We’ll try to hear from God. We’ll pray with you, we’ll love you.
That’s what the whole family in Heaven and Earth, this whole family, is a relational family. It’s not speaking of all creation. It’s speaking of those who are in relationship with the Father, the Father who sent His Son, not only to walk among us and to love us unconditionally, but He went to an old rugged cross, and many feel that He hung there naked. And who was there from His family? Only Mom–Dad may have passed away, a lot of scholars think—only Mom, no brothers or sisters. Almost all of the disciples were gone; they were ashamed. Hebrews 12 says Jesus despised the shame for the glory that was set before Him. [Hebrews 12:2:] Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
You want a moment of glory in your life, you’re probably going to have to survive a time of shame to get there. Let me say that again. You want glory in your life, you’re probably going to have to survive a time of shame to get to the point of glory. Is that too big of a price to pay? Jesus paid it. Hebrews 13, verse 13 says: Let us, then, go to Him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace He bore. [He repeats] Let us, then, go to Him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace He bore. Jesus was crucified outside the city, outside the walls. What did they do outside the walls? That’s where they took the garbage, that’s where they took the human waste, to get it out of the city. Didn’t want to smell it, [so] take it outside the walls. Jesus went to the cross, the defining moment of our salvation, He went to a place of shame. [His voice is rising.] He endured the shame. HE PRESSED THROUGH THE SHAME AND THREE DAYS LATER HE ROSE FROM THE GRAVE AND IS GLORIFIED TODAY AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER, THE I AM THAT I AM. [Voice lower now.] He is our great and glorious Savior. But He wasn’t too proud to deal with shame. That’s our family, that’s our heavenly family. That’s a family where the firstborn, the leader, Jesus, has set the example for us, and He got it done. He did what He had to do. He paid the price for your sin and mine, for all of eternity.
Would you stand with me please? Let’s sing together. “Father, we love You. We praise You, we adore You. We glorify Thy Name in all the earth. Glorify Thy Name, glorify Thy Name, glorify Thy Name in all the earth.” [Chorus is repeated. “Glorify Thy Name” by Donna Adkins, copyright 1976, 1981, Maranatha! Music.]
[Prayer] Father, it is so hard to comprehend that we serve a God who embraced shame, not loving it, not wanting it, but pushed through it, the God that was shamed on earth in Jesus. Lord, we’re ashamed so many times with scandals in Christianity, leaders that we trusted and we thought they were accountable and someone was keeping an eye on them and then we hear just, sometimes, awful things that they have done. We wonder how that could have happened, and we’re ashamed. It’s hard to even go to work and have someone say, “I see another Christian leader bit the dust yesterday. So that’s what you guys believe?” Lord, I pray you will help us remember that working through that shame is just part of following You. Lord, I pray—we are a proud people, we are a proud people—we want more of You. We want to be called by Your Name. We want to be closer to You. We pray you would help us to push through the shame and get done what we need to get done with here on earth, what would please You. Help us, Lord, to please You more than we care about what anybody else thinks, that we care more what You think.
As we close this morning, I am going to ask if there are issues in your life that–I know some of you have signed up for spiritual breakthrough weekend and some of you are in the process of dealing with issues, and I commend you, seeking for a solution. You want to press through to the other side. You want success, but there’s many people, there’s something there that it may not be big, it may not be huge, but boy, the devil has made it so big, the devil has convinced you if other people knew it’d just be the end, the end of everything. I want to invite you this morning to come to these altars and kneel before the Father. In the early church, the Jews, normally they would stand when they would pray, so when Paul says I kneel before the Father, it is an homage, it is submission to God. I invite you to come to these altars and kneel before the Father, to bow before Him. Say, “Lord, You show me what You want me to do, and though it may be hard, it may be painful, and it may decimate my pride and my reputation, I’ll do what You want me to do.” You say, “Pastor, have you had those moments?” Well, I’ve told others, I was cut up into little pieces in the cover article of a national magazine so that’s pretty embarrassing, and I lived to tell about it. God is good. The family of God, by the way, will love you more than you realize. The family of God will embrace you. Is that true? Amen? The family of God will embrace you more than you realize. I encourage you to come. Just bow before Him, say “Lord, what do you want me to do to glorify Your Name?” [He breaks into singing] “Glorify Thy Name in all the earth.”
[Prayer continues] Lord, I pray Your blessing on each one today. Father, we’re so happy to be your children. [The recording ends there as people come forward for an intimate time of prayer and worship.]