Happy Father’s Day, which is a greeting that leads into today’s message,
which will center our thoughts on the spiritual responsibilities fathers have for their
Actually, just so no one will think it is just fathers who need to listen to this message, I
should be quick to point out that most of what will be talked about can apply to mothers
as well. And to grandparents . And hey, while we are at it, to aunts and uncles, too.
And how about to any adult who has any influence over any young person? May we all,
who are adults, listen.
And yes, the younger ones can listen, too, so you will know what those of us are adults
are supposed to do in a spiritual sense. In fact, there is a brief verse associated with one
of today’s passages that is directed to you - what you are to do you can help us fulfill
what the Bible says about the spiritual responsibilities we have.
Today, the message will begin with two New Testament passages. One tells how Jesus
was interested in children. The other features what the apostle Paul taught. That one is
just verse long. It is the one passage for today that is directed specifically to fathers. We
will then move to an Old Testament passage that tells us some of the ways - how and
when - we can teach children the spiritual things they need to know. At the end I have
an example of how important spiritual training is.
First for today, Mark 10:13-16.
To set the stage, I will mention that shortly before this first passage, Jesus had faced
trouble from two groups of people.
First, His disciples did not get along. It seems they were fussing about which one of
them was the most important. Jesus had to settle the argument, which He did by
teaching that to be first, a person has to be a servant. Service, not accolades or positions
of authority, is what makes a person great.
Second, some Pharisees - Pharisees were important Jewish leaders - confronted Jesus.
They tried to trick Him into saying something wrong, which they hoped would get Him
into trouble. Jesus dealt with that. Very effectively, by the way. As always, He turned
the test back on those who asked the question, thereby Himself avoiding getting into
I mention those two incidents to say that Jesus, in verses 13 through 16, had just had
two difficult situations with which He had had to deal. Plus, this was about halfway
through His ministry, and He might have been tired from that.
It was then that, in verse 13, they - referring to some adults - took their children to Him.
Now, it seems that when I think of this passage, the adults I see in my mind were
mothers. But the Bible does not say that. It simply says they were bringing children to
Him. So hey, maybe there were some fathers in the group of adults. Maybe there were
some grandfathers. Or grandmothers. And maybe some aunts and uncles. Maybe some
But they were bringing their children to Jesus, that He might touch them.
To touch them means more than to just lay hands on them. It infers also speaking a
blessing over them. A prayer, as it were, that God would watch over their souls. That
God would soften their hearts to receive the spiritual things the parents or others
intended to teach them.
They were bringing children to Jesus, that He might touch them. But the disciples,
when they saw what was happening, stepped in and blocked the adults. They went so
far as to rebuke the adults. “Go away,” they said. “Do not bother Jesus. Go away.”
Of course, as just suggested, the intent of the disciples was good. Jesus was tired
physically. He was tired emotionally following the two run ins He had just had - the one
with the Pharisees and the one with the disciples. The intent of the disciples was to give
Jesus some time to rest.
However, their intent was not Jesus’ intent. When He saw what was happening, He was
indignant. According to a commentary He read, He was upset His disciples would try to
stop Him from doing good to others, which was His purpose. And especially doing good
to children. I love the wording in the commentary, which is doing good “to those of the
rising generation.” If they were not blessed - if they were not prayed for to know about
spiritual things - what hope was there for the future?
Jesus was indignant. He said to His disciples, “Step aside. Do not hinder the children.
Let the children come to Me.”
It seems the disciples were having a difficult time, does it not? Again, they had, not too
much before this, got themselves into trouble by arguing about greatness. Here they
were in trouble again.
And once again, Jesus used the trouble as an opportunity to teach. Remember? The
first lesson for the disciples had had to do with the need to be a servant. Here the lesson
- verses 14 and 15 - actually, there were two lessons - they were, “Let the children come
to Me, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God” and “Whoever does not receive the
Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
What does that last part mean? What does it mean to receive the Kingdom of God like a
child? Here are two thoughts about children.
They are inquisitive, aren’t they? They want to learn. Is that not what all of us are to do
spiritually, no matter our age? Are we not all to be eager to learn more about Jesus and
I hope I never get to the point where I think I know everything there is to know about
spiritual things. And hey, I know a whole lot of people who are a whole lot smarter than
me, but I hope none of us ever thinks we have arrived in spiritual knowledge. I think
there will always be more to learn.
And children are under authority. Of course, rebellion is, I guess, part of the growing up
process, but children are happier if they know they can - and if they will - depend on the
parents for wisdom and care and direction. That is what our relationship is to be with
God. We are to be under His authority. We are supposed to rely on Him for everything
Jesus taught His disciples. Then He took the children in His arms. And listen to this,
which I just read. He did lay hands on them. That is recorded at the end of verse 16.
That is what the parents or other adults requested. But He went beyond that. He took
them in His arms, which means He hugged them, which indicated affection, love, holy
And yes, He blessed them. That means He prayed over them, asking the Holy Spirit to
come upon them - to protect them, to lead them, to, as mentioned earlier as being the
wish of the adults, to watch over their souls and soften their hearts to receive the
spiritual things they would need.
Interestingly, Jesus did not, that day, get the rest the disciples thought He needed. We
know that because the very next part of Mark 10 has Jesus leaving from where He
blessed the children and immediately having yet another opportunity to teach. But that
was OK with Jesus. His purposes were to help and teach and do good. He was more
than happy to have had the opportunity to bless the children.
So, fathers - and yes, this applies to every other adult, but since this is Father’s Day,
fathers - are you willing to have your children blessed by Jesus? Are you willing to ask
Jesus to help your children have and keep childlike attitudes spiritually so their souls
and hearts can be right with God?
Jesus is ready and willing to help. Please, make sure you ask Jesus to bless your
children. And, as we get to the next two passages, that you do your part in helping that
The first next passage is in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians 6:4.
Interestingly, right before that verse, Paul has some instructions for children. So
children - young people - listen. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is
Paul referred to one of the Ten Commandments to back up the teaching. The fifth
commandment, which says, “Honor your father and mother.” As Paul mentioned, that
is the first of the commandments - in fact, the way I read them, it is the only
commandment - with a promise, which is that things would be well with those who
obeyed the commandment, and that they would live long on the earth.
“Children, obey your father and your mother.” But then, in verse 4, Paul instructs
fathers how to promote that. “Bring your children up in the discipline and the
instruction of the Lord.” In other words, teach them what they need to know spiritually.
Including the need to honor you and their mother.
But also in the verse is a warning. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.”
As I have said before, perhaps with this verse, but also with similar ones, I am no
authority on the subject of verse 4 because I am not a father, so I do not know all the
daily things that can go on that might cause a father to provoke his children to anger. I
mean, I am sure a lot of children do things that provoke their fathers to anger. It seems
that fathers reacting the same way would be so easy.
But the teaching is that fathers are not to provoke their children to anger. At least, if
you are a father, you need to work on keeping your anger under control. And again, I
am not lecturing or criticizing anyone. I am simply reporting what is in the Bible.
But, aside from avoiding anger, how can fathers - and mothers and grandparents and
aunts and uncles and all other adults who have any influence over a child - how can we
who are adults do our part spiritually by teaching spiritual things? An answer is found
way back in the fifth book of the Bible. Deuteronomy, chapter 6.
This passage applies to today’s topic because of what it says about how and when to
teach. But before that, there are some instructions for the adults who are to teach. A
listing of things that are to describe any adult who wants to teach spiritual things.
The passage begins with verse 5. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind, and these words which I commanded you
this day [what is recorded earlier in Deuteronomy that teaches how God’s people are to
live] shall be upon your heart.”
If you want to teach children spiritual things, you yourself need to love God. And it is
not enough just to say you love Him. You have to feel it. You have to think it. You have
to show it by how you live. It is to be a total controller of all you do and think and say.
And you yourself need to study. You need to study so well that what is taught in the
Bible gets into your heart, affecting everything you do and think and say.
When that is taken care of, then spiritual teaching of children can be done. How and
when? Verses 7 through 9.
“You shall teach the commands of God to your children, doing so diligently.” The word
“diligently” means you are to work hard at teaching. You are repeat the commands
often. You are always to try to instill the commands in your children’s souls and hearts.
Teaching is to be a daily, life-long pursuit.
“You shall talk about the LORD’s commands.” Those words indicate serious, reverent
talking. And no, that does not mean you better never tell a joke or crack a smile. It
simply means your children are to know that the word of God is important.
You shall talk about the LORD’s commands at all times - “when you sit in your house
and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise.”
Your home. May that be a place where spiritual things are taught.
When you walk by the way. May you talk about spiritual things when you are traveling.
At least you can pray for safety for the journey. Maybe as you travel you can point out
the beauty of God’s creation. Maybe being in a car for a long period of time is a good
time to display patience.
When you lie down and when you rise. Are you maybe reading a Bible story at night
with your family? Do you pray at breakfast, being thankful for the food and asking for
the strength needed for the day?
“You shall bind God’s teachings upon your hand, they shall be as frontlets between your
eyes, and you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” In
other words, your faith is to be seen.
The Jews had - some still do have - little boxes, attached to their forearms and heads by
straps. In the boxes were select verses.
For them, it was usually verses 4 and 5 of Deuteronomy 6. We talked about verse 5 a
moment ago. Verse 4 is the proclamation that “the LORD our God is one LORD.” The
proclamation is that our God is the one and only God.
They attached the straps in such a way that whenever an arm moved, the box would hit
the hand, and whenever the head moved, that box would hit between the eyes. That was
very important to them because each time they felt either box, they would be reminded
who God is and that He is to be loved with everything a person is.
For us, there may be different verses that we want to be reminded of. For me, I think
they might be Psalm 118:24 - “This is the day which the LORD has made. Let us rejoice
and be glad in it.” That one used to be my favorite, and still is a good reminder for me to
And my newest favorite? John 6:68. Jesus had asked His disciples if they wanted to
join the many other followers who were leaving Him. Peter answered - this is verse 68 -
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Of course, we are not in the habit of wearing boxes that hit our hands or between our
eyes. But can we at least remember meaningful Bible verses - remember for our own
good - and remember to teach them to our children? If certain passages are important
to us, maybe they will be important to our children. Let’s never be afraid of speaking
and living out what the Bible teaches.
And no, most of us are not going to paint Bible verses on our doorposts and the gates of
our fences. But can our faith still be visible? Maybe with Christmas decorations
outside. Or with a Bible on display inside the house. Hopefully a Bible that shows it is
Fathers - and all adults - take your children to Jesus and bring them up in the discipline
and instruction of the Lord. Start by loving the Lord yourself. Then use every
opportunity you have to teach and show your faith.
Why is that important? I have two explanations, the first coming from the next few
verses of Deuteronomy 6.
You see, the people of God, not too much earlier, had escaped slavery in Egypt. They
were on their way to a land promised to them by God. A land of plenty. A land of great
cities, water, food. Things they would enjoy when they got there. Things for which they
had not worked. The cities had already been built by others. The cisterns had been
hewn by others. The vineyards and olive trees had been planted by others.
The Promised Land was a wonderful place. But God knew the danger of such plenty.
The danger was that the people of God might forget the land was a gift from Him. The
danger was that the people would stop worshiping Him and obeying Him.
The only way to avoid that danger was for them to continue to love God. And the only
way for the next generation to avoid the danger was for the adults to teach their children
so the next generation would also be able to stay loyal to God.
That second part explains why it is important for us to take our children to the Lord and
teach them about Him. It is important because that is the only way the next generation
will remember God. Second, let’s very briefly review the Old Testament Book of Jonah.
In chapter 1, Jonah was instructed by God to go to Nineveh and pronounce God’s
judgment against the city. The people of the city were vicious and violent. They were
known for doing horrible things to other people - to their enemies, certainly, and often
foreigners who happened to stop at their city. God had decided to punish the city.
Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. He was afraid for himself. And he did not think
the Ninevites were worthy of being warned. In fact, he was concerned that if God’s
judgment was shared, the Ninevites might repent and escape the coming doom. Jonah
did not want them to escape.
So Jonah fled. But he was captured by a huge fish that ate him. For three days, Jonah
was in the belly of the fish, after which, at the end of chapter 2, he was vomited out. I
am not sure, but I think he was vomited onto the same dry land from which he had
started his escape.
In chapter 3, God gave Jonah the same instruction about Nineveh. Though still
reluctant, Jonah obeyed. And guess what. The Ninevites did exactly what Jonah was
afraid they would do. They repented. And God did exactly what Jonah was afraid He
would do. God forgave the Ninevites and spared them His judgment.
That displeased Jonah, but of course it was a very good thing for the Ninevites.
However, listen to what I have read historically. Just about a hundred years later,
Nineveh was destroyed. The city was destroyed as a judgment from God.
Why? Because the next generation did not continue to follow God as the generation
talked to by Jonah followed. Which I can only assume means the one generation did not
teach their children about God. The result was tragic.
May we who are adults - especially those who are parents, but all of us who are adults -
may we take seriously the responsibility we have to take our children to Jesus, to bring
them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, to teach them in whatever ways
will work, doing so diligently.
And hey, if you have not always done that in the past or if any of us are not doing that at
this point, do not get discouraged. Instead, start doing all that now, always relying on
God for the direction and the strength to teach your children.
Today’s closing is a reading based on the hymn A Christian Home. Since it will be in the
form of a prayer, this will serve as today’s benediction.
O Lord, give us homes and lives built firm upon You, our Savior.
As adults, may You be our Counselor and Guide.
And may all the children we know be taught Your love and favor.
May we all learn to give our hearts to You, the crucified.
Lord, please give us homes and lives with godly fathers, mothers, and others.
Make us people who will always place our trust and hope in You.
Together, may adults and children alike find joy in serving others.
May love still shine, even when days are dark and grim.
O Lord, our God, may our homes and lives be Yours forever.
May we trust to You our problems, toils, and cares.
Help us to keep You at the center of all we do.
In all things and everywhere - as adults and as children - be our Lord and Master.