From Darkness to Light (6/19/16)

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1 Peter 2:4-17 says, As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”


“A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”

            They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

                9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

                11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

                13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

In this passage, Peter refers to Jesus as “a chosen and precious cornerstone,” which references Isaiah 28:16. The initial readers of this letter most likely understood what Peter means with this example. Modern scholar N.T. Wright says, “For a first century Jew…the great hope of Israel was that the true God, YHWH, would return to Zion (Jerusalem) at last, coming back to live forever in the Temple – once, that is, it had been properly rebuilt so as to be a suitable residence for him…There was a long tradition of speaking about the Temple being built on the ‘rock’, on the ‘cornerstone.’ Find the right ‘stone,’ and you may well be on the way to building the new Temple, ready for God to return.”

Peter is saying the ‘Cornerstone’ is here and the temple is complete. However, the ‘Cornerstone’ is Jesus and the new temple isn’t located in Jerusalem. It’s located in you, the church – the living stones. Because of this, you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and God’s special people who have been called out of darkness into the wonderful light.

Since today is Father’s Day and I’m preaching from inside of a cave (the sanctuary is decorated as a cave for VBS), I’d like to concentrate on what it looks like for fathers to be living stones who walk in the light with Jesus. We know from life itself and from God’s word that being a father is serious business.

Proverbs 13:24 says, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” As unpleasant as it can be at times, fathers have to discipline their children. It can come in the form of punishment for disobeying the rules. We all understand this interpretation of the verse.  Discipline can also mean something else.  During the time this proverb was written, shepherds would use a rod, or staff, to guide the sheep wherever they wanted them to go. Discipline also means guidance. It isn’t always easy to do this.

When our daughters were growing up, their school allowed grades 5-8 to attend the Christmas Dance. In my opinion, there is a large disparity in the maturity levels between 5th and 8th grade. As a Christian father, I didn’t want our daughters attending and I assumed they understood this. Our oldest daughter, who was in 5th grade at the time, assumed otherwise.

One evening, roughly two weeks before the dance, I heard her talking about all of the things she was going to do at the dance. I was a little surprised that she thought she could attend so I told her I didn’t want her to go.

The next half-hour was rough. She became really upset and told me all of the reasons she should be allowed to go. The school said it was OK. All of her friends were going. She would be an outcast if she didn’t attend.

I explained to her that I didn’t think 5th graders should be attending with 8th graders but she didn’t want to listen. Finally, I looked at her and said, “I hope that we can be friends but God didn’t put me here on earth to be your friend. Do you know what God put me here to be?” Through tear-stained eyes and with a sobbing voice she responded, “My daddy.” “That’s right.” I replied. “And speaking as your daddy, you’re not going.” That was such a difficult thing to do I still remember it 15 years later. Disciplining our children is hard but this is what God calls fathers to do.

Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Exasperate means to ‘infuriate.” Don’t be excessively harsh with your children and raise them up to be angry at you, the world and at God. I know of more than one person who struggles with the church as well as their faith in Jesus because their Christian father was too harsh or even abusive to them. While it is important to be firm in discipline, it’s much better to raise our children with the love and forgiveness that Jesus offers than it is to raise them with heavy-handedness and fear.

The Bible not only reveals things we should do as fathers, it also reveals things we shouldn’t do.

Genesis 25:28 says, “Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” Both parents had a favorite child and it showed. This led to dysfunction in their family which fueled the tension between two brothers. Isaac and Rebekah’s failures in parenting was then passed down to their children. Genesis 37:3a states, “Now Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than any of his other sons…” This allowed Joseph to grow up as a spoiled brat. His brothers eventually hated him because of how he acted. Preferring one child over the others is a recipe for disaster which can be passed on to future generations.

Another example of poor parenting comes from King David. He had children with multiple wives. This was common in his culture. In 2 Samuel 13, we read David’s son, Anmon, raped his half-sister, Tamar. David was furious when he heard what happened. However, he did nothing about it. Two years later, Tamar’s full-brother, Absalom, killed Amnon because of what he did to Tamar.

King David was a man who loved God and tried to faithfully serve him. As a matter-of-fact, God was so please with David that he called David “a man after his own heart.” Even though David was a great man of God, he was an absentee father. He created an atmosphere where his son thought it was OK to rape his sister because dad wouldn’t do anything about it. And Amnon was right. David didn’t do anything about it.

What do these examples from Isaac, Israel and King David show us? Men who faithfully serve God aren’t automatically good fathers.

Peter says in Vs. 9 that God has called us out of darkness into light. Yet the darkness of our sin nature can still be strong. It can convince us work is more important than our children. Being right and in control is better than training children in love and peace. Sometimes it goes in the opposite direction and tells us being our children’s friend is more important than being their father. Our sin nature can lie to us and persuade us that since we call on the name of Christ we’ll automatically be good parents.

These perceptions simply aren’t true. We need to make sure we’ve moved from the darkness of these false viewpoints into the light of what God says it means to be a Godly father. So, how do we do this? While there isn’t a magical formula for this, here are a few vital concepts we need to accept and then apply to our lives:

1) Earthly fathers needs to point their children to the heavenly Father. God calls fathers to be the spiritual leader in the household. Not mom. Not the pastor. Not the church. Far too many fathers step back from this responsibility and force their wives to assume this role. Fathers, if you’re doing this, you’re sinning against God and against your family.

The church isn’t responsible for this either. Think about it. The church has your children one or two hours a week. Many weeks it doesn’t even get that. While the church is responsible for providing you and your family with the best instruction possible, there’s no way it can effectively meet all of your children’s spiritual needs in such a short amount of time.

Fathers, if you don’t know the Bible, then read, study and learn it so you teach your children what it means.

Listen to the Holy Spirit so you can teach your children how to recognize when he speaks.

Built your faith on Jesus the Cornerstone, even when it’s difficult. This helps your children learn how to live by faith.

2) Spend time with your children. Of all the adult Christians I’ve heard talk about their childhood, not one has said, “I wish dad would have worked more.” Unfortunately, many expressed regrets that dad didn’t have enough time for them. Research shows one reason some teenage girls and young women are promiscuous is because they’re looking for love and affection from men because they didn’t receive love from their own fathers while they were growing up. Males who have little guidance from their fathers are more likely to be involved in unethical and even criminal activities. While I understand that some jobs require us to put in a lot of hours, our jobs or careers should never be more important than your children.

3) Don’t blatantly be a hypocrite. I say blatantly because no matter how hard we try, we’re all hypocrites in some ways. However, don’t act one way at worship on Sunday morning and then another way the rest of the week. This teaches your children that Christianity is an activity instead of a way of life. Peter says in Vs. 11 we are to “abstain from sinful desires” and walk in the light.

4) Have fun being a father and know you won’t do everything perfectly. Enjoy your children and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be flawless. God knows we’ll mess up from time to time. After all, we’re only human.

Fathers, build your faith on the “Cornerstone” and allow Jesus to help you be the best Godly father you can possibly be. Your children, and your wife, are depending on it.