Wisdom for Fathers

June 16, 2024 ()

Bible Text: Proverbs 4 |


Wisdom for Fathers | Proverbs 4
Brian Hedges | June 16, 2024

Let’s turn in our Bibles this morning to Proverbs 4. Today we’re going to be looking at wisdom for Fathers from the book of Proverbs, and I also just want to say happy Father’s Day to all the dads in the room. I’m thankful for you and the role you play in your children’s lives.

I don’t think it’s any secret to any of us—it wouldn’t be a surprise to say that there is a crisis of fatherhood in our country today, and I want to begin with some statistics from the National Fatherhood Initiative. According to this organization, there are some 17.8 million children—that’s nearly 1 in 4 children in America—that do not have a biological, step, or adoptive father in the home. When fathers are absent, here’s a long list of the problems that that can cause: greater risk of poverty, more likely to go to prison or commit a crime, more likely to become pregnant as a teenager, greater likelihood for drug and alcohol abuse, and so on. I don’t need to read the whole list; we’re familiar with these statistics.

On the other side of the equation, when there is a strong presence of a father figure in a home and those fathers are involved and not detached, that produces a strong foundation for a child’s wellbeing, and such kids will be at a lower risk of emotional and behavioral problems, neglect, abuse, injury, low school performance, criminal activity, prison, and so on.

We know this. We know that dads are important, we know that fathers are important. We know that there is a problem in our world today as many dads have abandoned their post and have not fulfilled their role as fathers.

I’m thankful for those of you who are filling that role, and this morning I want us to think about what Proverbs teaches us about fatherhood.

I’m grateful for my own father. I’ve had a great relationship with him for many years. He’s in his seventies now. I’ll never forget that when I was fourteen years—right about the time I turned fourteen—my dad asked me to do something very specific. He said, “Brian, I want you to read one chapter of Proverbs a day, and just read through the book again and again and again.” I was the oldest child so I really wanted to please my parents, had a good relationship with them, and I actually did it. From fourteen years old until I left home I read through Proverbs about once a month for those years. I haven’t really kept up the practice over the years, but I have read Proverbs many times, of course, and I’m grateful for how my dad tried to instill wisdom in me by encouraging me to read this book.

This morning as we’re looking at Proverbs we’re going to be looking at a father’s address to his sons. Maybe you’ve noticed this so far in this series, that especially in the first nine or ten chapters of Proverbs, again and again you see that we have addresses from a father to a son. It would begin, “My son, receive my teaching,” or, “attend to my words,” or so on.

In fact, you have language like this about fifteen times in the book, and ten such addresses in Proverbs 1-9, so in many ways the book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings and sage advice that’s been summarized by a father to be handed down to his children. It just reminds us of the crucial role that fathers played in ancient Israel.

I think as we begin this morning, maybe it would be helpful to start with a few qualifiers as we think about fatherhood in Proverbs.

(1) The first one is simply this, that Proverbs assumes the healthy family structure that lay at the heart of covenant obedience in ancient Israel, where both fathers and mothers loved their children and raised them in the fear of the Lord. This is an aside, but one of the things the commentaries point out is that in comparison with other wisdom literature from the ancient near east, Hebrew wisdom literature is unique in emphasizing the role not only of the father but also of the mother. You can see that over and again in Proverbs. Proverbs just assumes that ideal family structure and those healthy relationships.

(2) We know that that is the idea, that’s the goal, but we also know (this is the second caveat) that in a fallen world, and especially in our world today, that that ideal is rare. It may be this morning that in your own life you did not grow up in a healthy family. Perhaps your father was absent, or maybe worse, your father was there but he was abusive, or maybe he was detached and uninvolved. My guess is that in the room today there are many who carry what we might call “father wounds” in their hearts, wounds from a father that have profoundly shaped you as a person and shaped your lives in ways that you continue to carry that hurt with you.

It may be that some of us in the room this morning who are fathers have regrets. In fact, I would guess that all of us who are fathers have at least some regrets. I certainly do. Some may have really deep regrets, mistakes that were made or ways in which you sinned against your children. So we need to be reminded this morning that our hope today is in the gospel, which promises that those wounds and those regrets can be healed and can be forgiven by our heavenly Father, God our Father, who is the only perfect Father.

(3) The third and final caveat to begin with this morning is just about the nature of Proverbs. Proverbs provides for us wisdom, but not guarantees. Proverbs, as we’ve seen, is wisdom literature, and it represents the wisdom of a father passed down to a son, but by its very nature Proverbs is giving wisdom that has to be applied, but it’s not giving us a guarantee that if you just follow these three steps of parenting that everything’s necessarily going to turn out great for your children. In fact, much of this wisdom has to be applied by the children.

Derek Kidner, in his commentary, points out that even in Proverbs we see this. He says,

“Many are the reminders that even the best training cannot instill wisdom but only encourage the choice to seek it. A son may be too opinionated to learn, a good home may produce an idler or a profligate. He may be rebel enough to despise, mock, or curse his parents; heartless enough to run through their money; and even to turn a widowed mother out of doors.”

So there are no guarantees that if you just follow the wisdom of Proverbs that you’re going to raise wonderful kids. We are all absolutely dependent on the grace of God to work in the hearts of our children and need to be praying to that end.

But, knowing the limitations of what Proverbs teaches us and the limitations of this message, I do want us to dig into Proverbs 4 and try to unpack this father’s teaching to his son and glean some lessons for fathers today. Of course, if you’re not a father I think you will be able to make the application to your own role as well.

Let’s begin by reading from Proverbs 4:1-4 and then verses 10-19.

“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding.
I give you sound learning,
so do not forsake my teaching.
For I too was a son to my father,
still tender, and cherished by my mother.
Then he taught me, and he said to me,
‘Take hold of my words with all your heart;
keep my commands, and you will live.’

Drop down to verse 10.

“Listen, my son, accept what I say,
and the years of your life will be many.
I instruct you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life.
Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evildoers.
Avoid it, do not travel on it;
turn from it and go on your way.
For they cannot rest until they do evil;
they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble.
They eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.

“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble.”

This is God’s word.

What I want to do this morning is focus in on this language of ways and paths that we see here in Proverbs and give three directions for fathers, based on this language and based on this particular exhortation in Proverbs 4. I think this summarizes essentially the wisdom of the book of Proverbs for dads.

1. Know the Way

Here’s the first exhortation or the first directive: it is to know the way. You may have noticed as we read through it this morning this language of “way” and “path.” In fact, if you were here last week we saw this in Proverbs 2. There’s this contrast between two ways or two paths.

You can see this here in Proverbs 4:11. “I instruct you and lead you along straight paths.” Verse 14 speaks of the path of the wicked and the way of evildoers. Then in verses 18-19 you have the contrast: “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.”

There are two ways, there are two paths. Those words are almost interchangeable, and together they’re used close to a hundred times in the book of Proverbs, so this is a significant theme that runs through this book. And Proverbs is showing us that there are these two contrasting ways of life. There is a way of righteousness, there is a way of wickedness; there is a way of wisdom, there is a way of folly; there is a path that leads to life and to blessing and there’s a path that will inevitably lead to destruction, to ruin, and even to death.

In many ways, what the author is doing in Proverbs is simply applying the moral absolutes of God’s law, God’s moral law as revealed in the Old Testament, especially revealed in the Sinai covenant, and is taking those moral commands and applying them to the life situation of his children.

Trempor Longman in his commentary shows this relationship between the Ten Commandments and wisdom. You can see this on the screen. I don’t even need to read all the verses, but it’s pretty obvious when you look at this that the Ten Commandments—such as “honor your father and mother” and “don’t murder” and “don’t steal” and “don’t lie or commit adultery or bear false witness”—those commands are being very specifically applied by this father to his son in the book of Proverbs. There are many more verses besides those.

In other words, what this father is doing is holding forth before his children the way of the Lord in contrast to the way of the wicked. This is one of the first things that a father has to do today. A father has to be clear on the very nature of right and wrong.

That may raise an objection, right? It may raise an objection even in some of your minds or some of your hearts. If you are new to Christianity or if you’re not a committed Christian yet, if you’ve accepted many of the presuppositions of our culture today, there may be something your heart that says something like this: “No one really has the right to say to another person that this way is right and that way is wrong. You can’t impose your moral standards on someone else; you can’t restrict their freedom of choice, their freedom of self-expression.”

You might even be thinking, “What is right for me is not necessarily going to be right for you. The path that is right for me may not be the right path for you; the path that was right for my parents may be different in my generation; the path that Christians walked in another generation, we walk a different path today. Nobody can really tell any individual that one way is right and one way is wrong.”

That’s essentially the air that we breathe. That’s called moral relativism, and it’s something that I think we have to answer, we have to address.

I think the response is to simply ask another question. If you have that kind of presupposition, wouldn’t you agree that there are some things that are always wrong in all circumstances, whether someone feels like it’s okay or not? I mean, for example, wouldn’t we all agree that no one has the right to murder another person? That no one has the right to recklessly take the life of another human being? I think we would all say that that’s wrong. No one has the right to break into another person’s house and steal their possessions. Wouldn’t we all agree that it’s wrong and always wrong for parents to withhold the basic necessities of life from their children, such as food and shelter?

If you would agree with that, then you agree that there is some kind of objective moral standard by which we can discern right and wrong and then shouldn’t object to Christians saying that there is such a standard, that there is a right way and that there is a wrong way, that there is a straight path and there is a crooked path.

The real question is, who is it that determines the fundamental nature of right and wrong? Is this something that the individual determines in his or her own heart and life? I think we’d all have to acknowledge that certainly that can’t be the case, because there are some individuals who think that they’re in the right when they’re very clearly in the wrong. We can all see instances of that.

Is it determined simply by a society, what a culture determines together that this is what’s right in our situation and in our culture? Again, I think we would have to say, when you look at history, that can’t be the case, because there have been whole cultures, whole societies, whole nations who have been wrong on moral issues. Think of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Think of the American south and race-based slavery. We know it was wrong. We know that the whole culture got it wrong. We know that people justified it, they thought they were right; they were really wrong.

There has to be a standard that is greater than individuals, greater than societies and governments, otherwise no one could hold either bad people or unjust societies accountable for their moral choices. So there has to be a standard that’s above and outside of ourselves, something that’s woven into the very fabric of the universe and into nature itself. That’s actually what the Bible teaches, that the source of this standard of right and wrong is found in God himself.

The other answer to the idea that people should just be free to choose on their own whatever they want to do, without anyone imposing a standard on them, is that actually, that kind of freedom doesn’t even really exist. We all end up serving something outside of ourselves. No matter who you are, you’re going to serve something, and it’s going to become your master. You’re going to live for something. You may live for pleasure; if you do, you will become mastered by pleasure, you’ll lack self-control, and you’ll be at the mercy of your appetites.

You may live for the approval of someone else; if so, you’re always going to do what you do, trying to calculate, trying to get their approval, and you’ll be enslaved to what they think of you. You may live for your own independence, but if so, then independence will be your god, and it will prevent you from enjoying the kind of relationships that require a deep, self-giving commitment in your life. None of us are really free in the sense that we’re free to choose whatever we want without consequences. There are consequences to our choices.

There’s a way that leads to life, there’s a way that leads to death, and one of our jobs is to know the difference between these two ways. It’s to know the way. It’s to know the difference between right and wrong, the path of evil and the path of justice and righteousness; to know it deep in our hearts so that we’re able to communicate it to our children.

2. Teach the Way

That leads to the second directive. We need to not only know the way, we need to teach the way. You can see this in the strong emphasis on instruction that you find in this passage and throughout Proverbs. Look at Proverbs 4:1-4 again.

“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding.
I give you sound learning,
so do not forsake my teaching.”

Then he refers to his own father’s teaching in verse 3.

“For I too was a son to my father,
still tender, and cherished by my mother.
Then he taught me, and he said to me,
‘Take hold of my words with all your heart;
keep my commands, and you will live.’”

There’s this emphasis on passing on wisdom and instruction to the next generation, and that’s one of a father’s jobs.

Now, if we situate this more broadly in the teaching of Proverbs, we could say that there are actually three features to parental training in this book, the book of Proverbs. There are three features, and all three of these features have to work together. You might think of this like a three-legged stool. You lop off one leg and the whole thing topples. You can’t have one without the other. You have to have all three for the parental training to be effective.

(1) Those three features are, first of all, affection. This is really just assumed, and you can hear it in the tone of the language. “Listen, my sons,” “O my sons.” I mean, over and over again there’s this affectionate tone. “I too was a son to my father, still tender and cherished by my mother.” It’s the assumed tone. Here is a father who with great affection and great earnestness is taking the time to communicate his wisdom, his hard-learned wisdom to his children, because of the love that he has for his children.

Throughout the Scriptures, when God is referred to as a Father, occasionally in the Old Testament and over and over and over again in the New Testament in the words of Jesus and the apostles, what they emphasize when they emphasize the fatherhood of God is the compassion of God our Father, the tender mercy of God our Father, how our Father is patient with us and he understands us and he cares about us and he cares for us. He’s showing us that the template for fatherhood is God himself in his tender compassion and mercy as a Father.

It’s that kind of affection and love for our children that must characterize our lives. If that foundation is not there, then all the instruction is going to come off as harsh and will likely be ineffective in the lives of our kids. There has to be this affection. That’s first.

(2) Then there’s also discipline, and Proverbs emphasizes this. Of course, this is where you have the famous rod passages in Proverbs, such as Proverbs 13:24: “Whoever spares the rod hates his children, but the one who loves his children is careful to discipline them.” Or Proverbs 22:15, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.”

We read those verses, and I think we have to acknowledge that passages like this are certainly out of fashion today. In some ways we might even say that there needs to be a necessary correction to what was an overemphasis and perhaps even abuse of passages like this. I think we can look back to generations in the past and even manuals that were written on parenting, and so on, giving detailed instructions for physical discipline that went way too far. We all have heard of horrible examples of Christian parents who in the name of discipline ended up abusing their children and ended up doing great harm to them. So there’s been an understandable reaction to the use of corporal punishment.

I think we should also acknowledge that even in the scholarly realm there’s some debate on what the precise application of these passages is. There’s one scholar, William Webb, who’s written a book called Corporal Punishment in the Bible, and he argues that the application of these passages to small children is a misunderstanding of their original intent and also a mistake. He says that most pro-spanking Christians are inconsistent in the way they apply these passages today.

On the other hand, most of the commentaries that I’ve looked at believe that Proverbs does encourage some form of physical discipline. And you may think I’m dodging the bullet, but I’m actually not going to try to settle the debate this morning, whatever your interpretation is. We’ve been kind of on both sides of that issue and have tried to find what seems to be a wise approach to discipline in our family.

But let me give you two boundaries that I think should govern the way we think about discipline. Here’s the first one: Proverbs in no way gives approval to abuse of child discipline in any way. There’s no place in Christian parenting for discipline that is done in anger or any form of discipline that causes physical harm or emotional trauma to a child. When that takes place, it is certainly a misuse and a misapplication even of these Proverbs, if they are taken at the most literal reading and application.

On the other hand, I think we have to say that some form of discipline is necessary for the sake of children. It’s essential in parenting, because children do need to be trained. They need to be trained to discern the difference between right and wrong, and they need to see that when they do wrong there are consequences to those actions. If we don’t impose some form of discipline in our child-rearing, we will eventually feel much regret as older children, as they go into adulthood without moral boundaries, without understanding self-control, without recognizing the difference between right and wrong, as they begin to make choices that bring great grief and heartache to their lives and to ours.

We need to remember that the loving discipline of a parent should mirror the discipline of the Lord himself. Proverbs 3:11-12—another one of these “my son” passages—says, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves as a father disciplines the son he delights in.”

(3) So there is affection, there’s discipline, and then finally, there is instruction. I’ve already emphasized the instruction language here in Proverbs 4. So it invites some application.

How do we as dads—more broadly, parents—how are we to teach and to instruct our children? How does this instruction happen? It has to happen on the foundation of affection; that has to be there. That means, dads, you need to love your kids, you need to hug your kids, you need to express love to them verbally, physically, in all the appropriate ways. You need to show your children that you love them. There has to be the affection, there has to be discipline in some form. But how are we to do the instruction?

I would suggest that there are both formal and informal ways in which to do that. Formal ways could be things such as being sure that your family is on church on Sunday morning, where they are receiving the formal instruction and teaching of Scripture with the gathered congregation, or being sure that your kids are involved in youth group or some other form of Christian community where others are able to pour into them.

Then you might look at formal ways within the home. If you follow some kind of liturgy on the holidays or if you do something like family Bible reading or family devotions, all of those things are wonderful things to do, and we’ve done a number of those kinds of things off and on over the years.

There are also, though, informal ways. These are the things that happen when you build an atmosphere in the home, an environment in the home, where there is regular and ongoing dialogue about truth and about the word of God and there’s freedom to ask questions, there’s the opportunity to answer those questions. In many ways, I think this is what is envisioned in Deuteronomy 6:5-9, the famous shamah passage. I think it’s a passage that’s evoked over and again in the book of Proverbs. It reads like this:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

The idea there is that the whole atmosphere of the home and of the family is one of ongoing discussion and dialogue. You’re talking about this at the table, you’re talking about this as you’re walking along the way. There’s this constant interaction between parents and children, talking about the commands of God, the word of God.

Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies that can happen in the lives of young people who are raised in the church is if they’re raised in the kind of home where they are not allowed to ask questions, they’re not allowed to express doubts; that’s not permitted. Every time some kind of doubt or question is expressed, that gets stamped down. “We don’t believe that in this family. We believe this. How dare you question this?” That’s the wrong approach, friends!

Instead, we need to cultivate an atmosphere where kids can ask questions and they can begin to recognize that there is a deep bench in Christian history, that there are answers to every question that could possibly be asked, and that there is the freedom to have dialogue and discussion and to wrestle through the claims of the Bible, the claims of Christianity, that there are answers for those questions. Your kids are going to have those questions; they need a place where they can ask those questions and have some of those questions answered. It’s up to us to create that atmosphere in our homes.

That means a couple of applications for us.

(1) Number one, to teach the way, you have to know the way yourself. You can’t teach what you don’t know. So dads, you need to be in the word. You need to be in the word. You need to have a devotional life, you need to be reading the Bible so that you are growing yourself in your understanding of truth, so that you’re able to communicate that with your kids and teach that to your kids.

I love the example of Hudson Taylor, the famous missionary Hudson Taylor, who was the founder of the China Inland Mission. In the biography written by his son and daughter-in-law, called Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, they talk about the devotional life of their busy father, who was always traveling, but how he made time for the word of God. They say,

“It was not easy for Mr. Taylor, in his changeful life, to make time for prayer and Bible study, but he knew that it was vital. Well do the writers remember traveling with him month after month in northern China by cart and wheelbarrow, with the poorest of inns at night, often with only one large room for coolies and travelers alike. They would screen off a corner for their father and another for themselves, with curtains of some sort, and then, after sleep had at last brought a measure of quiet, they would hear a match struck and see the flicker of candlelight, which told that Mr. Taylor, however weary, was poring over the little Bible in two volumes always at hand. From two to four a.m. was the time he usually gave to prayer; then he could be sure of being undisturbed to wait upon God.”

I think about my own upbringing and countless memories of seeing my dad with an open Bible on his lap. The point isn’t just for your kids to see the open Bible, but it’s for you to actually be in the word of God, so that you are able to have these conversations, you’re able to teach your kids, you’re able to pour into their lives.

(2) Here’s the second application: teaching takes time. So dads, prioritize relationships with your kids. Maybe the most important exhortation I’ll give you this morning is, dads, you have to get in the game. You have to engage. Don’t be the parent sitting on the bench. Don’t be the second string parent. Don’t be on the sidelines, where Mom is doing 90 percent of the parenting work and you only step in in the crises. You have to be involved in your kids’ lives. You have to make time for them. That means you have to prioritize family, and not let work and hobbies take so much time that there’s no time for your children.

There are a lot of ways to do that. It may be taking teenage sons to lunch and asking what’s going on in his heart and his life and having a conversation with him, or doing that with your young adult children. Maybe you take your daughter on a daddy-daughter date, where you’re spending time doing something fun, doing something that she loves to do, so that you can convey your love, your affection for her, and you can be in those conversations. But some way or another, dads, we have to be engaged in the lives of our children if we want the opportunity to pour truth into them and show them that we love them and care for them.

3. Lead the Way

You need to know the way, you need to teach the way, and then third and last, lead the way. Look again at Proverbs 4:11: “I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.”

There’s an old story told about four preachers who got together, and they were debating, “What’s the best Bible translation?”

One of them said, “Oh, I like the old King James Version. I love the old, majestic language, the Elizabethan English. God has honored the King James Version with his blessing. This is the language that holds out reverence for God. I love the King James Version.”

The second minister argued, “No, I prefer the New American Standard. That’s the most accurate translation. That gives us the most literal rendering of the original languages. We need accuracy, and the New American Standard is the most accurate.”

The third one said, “No, I believe it’s the NIV! The NIV is the language of our time. We need the Bible in the language of the people today, and that’s modern English. That’s the version for me.”

They all looked to the fourth minister to see which version he would support. He said, “I guess I would say the living Bible is the best translation.”

They all kind of scoffed. “Don’t you know that the Living Bible isn’t even a translation, it’s a paraphrase? Why would you choose the Living Bible?”

He said, “No, I don’t mean the Living Bible paraphrase, I mean the living Bible that I saw in my dad, because he lived out the word of God.” He lived it out.

Dads, that’s our job. It’s to be a living Bible to our kids; it’s to live out the truths of Scripture, leading the way for them. That means we need to lead by example in our character, in our behavior, in our attitudes, our relationships, our devotion, our commitments, and in our repentance; seeking to cultivate a godly character in our own hearts and lives, and doing what Jesus has commanded us to do in our attitudes and the dispositions of our hearts—don’t overlook that. If you want a good rubric, a good way to do some self-examination, take Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, and all the rest), and examine yourself in life of that. Are you bearing those fruits in your life, in your relationships with your children? When they see you, when they think of Dad, do they think of Dad as loving and as joyful and as peaceful and as patient and longsuffering? You need to have those attitudes.

I think one of the most powerful ways that we can lead is by leading by example in humility by admitting our mistakes when we’ve done something wrong, confessing our sins, and seeking the forgiveness of our kids.

I’ll never forget growing up one occasion when I had something of a disagreement with my dad. I was close to leaving home; it was, I think, my last year of high school. Something came up, and there was an argument. I was hurt, I was upset, I was very angry with him. I remember being in my room just kind of seething in anger, and a couple hours later he came and knocked on my door and very humbly apologized for what he’d said and how he had handled it. He asked me to forgive him. The feelings of love and respect and gratitude that overflowed my heart were stronger than the anger that I felt just moments before, because of that humility and that willingness to confess and acknowledge that he was wrong.

Dads, this is one of the most important things you can do for your kids. In doing this, you are modeling how to be a disciple of Jesus, someone who’s not perfect but who is seeking to live in dependence on Christ as you turn from sin and you trust in him.

My guess is there are some kids in this room who have been hurt by a father and they’ve never heard their dad say, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me? I was wrong.”

When you do that, you don’t blame the kid. Even if you think it was 50 percent their fault, that’s not how you apologize. “I was wrong, but you were also wrong.” You don’t do it that way. You just own your sin, confess your sin. “I was wrong, I shouldn’t have treated you that way, I shouldn’t have said that. I sinned against you. Would you please forgive me?” Model for them repentance.

Years ago, Holly and I very quickly recognize in parenting that we were going to make a lot of mistakes, and we have. We’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years. We were not going to be a perfect example in everything. There are so many things that I wish I could do over again, do differently. But we agreed that one thing we could do is we could model repentance, and when we’d done something wrong with the kids we’d confess that to the kids and ask them to forgive us. We’ve had to do that many times. Dads, I commend it to you.

Know the way, teach the way, lead the way—that’s what we’re called to do. The last thing to say, of course, is that when we think about this “way” language and we get to the New Testament, Jesus not only uses this language as he talks about a narrow way and a broad way, but Jesus says, “I am the way.”

Do you remember John 14:6? Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” “I am the way.”

I love these words of C.S. Lewis. This is from Lewis’s essay, “What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” where he just draws out the distinctive nature of Christianity and the claims of Christ. He said,

“If you had gone to Buddha and asked him, ‘Are you the son of Brahma?’ he would have said, ‘My son, you are still in the veil of illusion.’ If you had gone to Socrates and asked, ‘Are you the son of Zeus?’ he would have laughed at you. If you had gone to Mohammed and asked, ‘Are you Allah?’ he would first have rent his clothes and then cut your head off. The things Jesus Christ says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, ‘This is the truth about the universe. This is the way you ought to go.’ But he says, ‘I am the truth and the way and the life.’ He says, ‘No many can reach absolute reality except through me. Try to retain your own life and you will be inevitably ruined. Give yourself away, and you will be saved.’”

Jesus says, “I am the way,” and in saying that he is the embodiment of wisdom. All of it is fulfilled in Christ. Dads, the best thing you can do for your children is not only to know the way and teach the way and lead the way, but to follow Jesus Christ, who is the way; to walk with him, to know him, to serve him, and to follow him.

If you’re here this morning and you’ve never followed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I want you to know that in Jesus we find the way of life, we find the way of righteousness, we find the way of wisdom, we find out how life really works by looking to Jesus, and it’s only in following him with all of our hearts that we will really discover the true meaning of life. Let’s pray together.

Father, we thank you this morning for your word. We thank you for the truth of your word and the wisdom that it teaches us, and we ask you now to give us hearts to receive it. May we not be like the hard soil, where the seed falls but is quickly snatched away by the birds; or like the shallow soil, where the seed goes initially with some joy but never takes root to bear fruit; or like the thorny, weedy soil, where the desires, the distractions of life choke out the seed like weeds so that it never bears good fruit. Instead, may we have good and honest and prepared hearts. May the seed go deep into us so that it will bear the fruit of wisdom and righteousness in our lives. Lord, we need your Holy Spirit for that. We pray that your Spirit would apply this word to us today.

We thank you this morning for the hope of the gospel, the hope of a perfect heavenly Father that can heal the deepest wounds of our hearts, a heavenly Father who models for us what compassion and mercy looks like and who always stands, like the father in the story of the prodigal son, with open arms, ready to receive his wayward children home. Lord, we come to you as Father today. We thank you for this grace and we lean into this grace and ask you, Lord, to heal our hearts, forgive us of our sins, and renew us today by the power of your Holy Spirit.

As we come to the Lord’s table, may we come today with humble and grateful hearts as we remember what Christ our Savior has done for us to welcome us into the family of God, to give us a seat at the Father’s banqueting table. Lord, remind us of these truths today and draw near to us in real grace and fellowship as we continue in our worship. We pray this in Jesus’ name and for his sake, amen.