Faith of Our Fathers Sermon by Pastor David A. Reed at Immanuel Baptist Church June 18, 2017

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On this Fathers Day I can't help thinking of one of my favorite hymns,

# 423 in our hymn book, "Faith of Our Fathers."

It's a popular hymn

that's sung in churches around the world.

These are the words of the first stanza in our hymn book:

Faith of our fathers, living still

In spite of dungeon, fire and sword,

O how our hearts beat high with joy

Whene'er we hear that glorious word!

Faith of our fathers! holy faith!

We will be true to thee till death!

 

Yes, we treasure the Faith of our Fathers.

But, how is it that we possess that treasure today?

How did the Faith of our Fathers get passed on to us?

It was by fathers and mothers teaching their sons and daughters

and they, in turn, teaching their sons and daughters,

for generation after generation.

At Ephesians chapter 6

the Bible commands children

to obey their Christian parents,

and it also commands Christian parents

to bring up their children

in the training and instruction of the Lord Jesus.

[ READ Ephesians 6:1-4 ]

 

We can be thankful for fathers and grandfathers,

mothers and grandmothers,

who brought up their children

generation after generation

in the training and instruction of the Lord.

The Apostle Paul

had a young believer named Timothy

who assisted him in his missionary travels.

Paul knew and appreciated

where Timothy had gotten his faith in Christ:

It was from his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois.

Evidently Timothy's father was not a believer,

but his mother and grandmother were.

So, Paul began his 2nd letter to Timothy by

talking about how they had raised Timothy to believe.

Paul wrote,

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,

To Timothy, a beloved son:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.

Timothy's mother and grandmother

had taught him well - not only about Christ,

but also about the Old Testament.

And they didn't wait until he was grown up,

but taught him the Scriptures when he was still a little child.

The New Testament had not yet been completed then,

but Paul said to Timothy farther on in his 2nd letter,

at 2 Timothy 3:14-15,

"you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Some translations say "from infancy" instead of "from childhood,"

and they are accurate.

Paul could have used the Greek word TEKNON meaning child,

or TEKNION meaning little child,

but instead Paul used the Greek word BREPHOS

which can refer to a baby in the womb,

or a newborn, or older infant.

So, Timothy's mother and grandmother

must have begun reading the Scriptures to him

even before he could understand,

continuing and helping him to understand as he grew.

And that's the pattern

that God has always urged people of faith to follow.

Genesis 18:19 tells us that God said this about Abraham:

"For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him."

Abraham's son Isaac continued in the faith,

but Abraham's other sons Ishmael,

Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah, apparently did not.

At least we know that the nations descended from those other sons

ended up in pagan worship.

Of course, Abraham must have taught all his sons.

But some did not respond to his teaching.

And that happens today, too.

Parents do the best they can,

but children make their own choices

when they grow up.

Isaac's son Jacob continued in the faith,

but his other son Esau apparently did not.

The Edomites descended from Esau practiced pagan worship.

And even the children of Jacob

apparently drifted away from God, until God sent Moses

to free them from slavery in Egypt

and to restore true worship among them.

Through Moses, God gave them

more than 600 laws

that taught them how to live and how to worship.

According to Deuteronomy 4:9

Moses before his death encouraged the Israelites with these words

to pass on to their offspring their knowledge of God:

"Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons."

 

Moses said further, at Deuteronomy 6:7,

that they should talk about God with their children continually.

He said,

"You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."

So, God expected parents to talk to their kids about Him,

all the time, at every opportunity.

 

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In a sermon a few weeks ago,

I mentioned how after the global flood

all mankind descended

from Noah and his 3 sons and their wives,

but most of mankind lost the faith of Noah,

because fathers of whole nations

failed to pass on that faith.

There's a saying that "A chain is as strong as its weakest link."

That weak link is where the chain breaks.

So, in a chain of descent,

with parents passing on the faith to their children,

generation after generation,

all it would take is one father who failed

to pass it on.

His offspring and their descendants

would lack the knowledge of God.

And that's how the Gentile nations ended up pagans,

worshiping idols and false gods instead of the one true God.

One father here, and another father there

failed to pass on the faith to their children,

and the result was whole nations ending up pagan.

 

But the coming of Christ changed all that.

As we read last week in the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus,

when the Jewish Messiah would come,

the Gentile nations would turn to Him for hope.

The Apostle Paul spoke to a pagan Gentile audience

at the Areopagus on Mars Hill in Athens, Greece,

and he told them according to Acts 17:30,

that God overlooked their centuries of idol worship,

but was now calling all nations back to Himself.

Paul told them at Acts 17:30,

"Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."

So, God left the Gentile nations in the ignorance

that their forefathers had brought upon them,

but that was all to change when Christ arrived.

A couple of weeks ago we looked up Jeremiah 16 verses 19 - 20

where Jeremiah prophesied that the Gentile nations

would someday worship the God of Israel.

He wrote:

"O LORD ...the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods."

 

The Gentile nations inherited lies

because their fathers taught them idolatry

instead of true worship of the one true God.

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So, how can we benefit in practical ways from all this?

First, we can have hearts full of appreciation

for our fathers who DID pass on to us the Faith of our Fathers.

And Second, we can be inspired

to follow their example,

and to instruct our children and grandchildren

and great-grandchildren in the faith.

But that is Oh, so much more difficult to do today

than when the Scriptures were written.

Why is it so difficult now?

It is because children have been taken out

from under the influence of their parents.

Parents now

have much less time to spend with their children

compared to the normal situation

throughout human history.

From infancy onward,

kids are now dropped off at day care or public school

early in the morning, and picked up at the end of the day.

Once at home,

they spend much of their time

in front of a TV set, or looking at electronic devices in their hand.

Contrast that with this:

In 2nd Kings we read about a Shunammite woman

whose husband had a room built in their home

for Elisha the prophet to stay there with them

whenever he was in the area.

The family was well-to-do and had everything they needed.

So, there was nothing Elisha could give them in return-

except that the woman was barren,

and they had no son-

--which was a disaster in those days.

So, Elisha sought a miracle from God,

and she bore a son.

The account goes on to tell how, when the boy was growing up,

he experienced pain in his head, and suddenly died.

Then, in response to prayer from the prophet Elisha,

the Lord brought the boy back to life.

But the part of the story that I want to refer to

is 2 Kings 4:17-18, where it tells about

the child being born and growing up.

It says,

The woman conceived and bore a son at that season the next year, as Elisha had said to her. When the child was grown, the day came that he went out to his father to the reapers.

As soon as the boy was old enough,

he joined his father in working the farm.

All down throughout human history

the overwhelming majority of sons

worked alongside their father

farming the field,

shepherding sheep or goats

or fishing and mending the nets.

 

They worked alongside their father

and they automatically picked up their father's

values and beliefs.

Boys spent their time, not just with their father,

but also with their uncles and other older men

on the farm, or shepherding or fishing.

For thousands of years of human history

girls worked in the home

alongside their mother and their aunt and their grandmother

cooking together, sewing, knitting

and caring for younger children.

So, girls automatically picked up the values and beliefs

of the older generation.

 

It was not difficult for a father and mother

to follow the Bible's admonition

to pass on the faith to the next generation.

But all of that has changed today.

And the change happened so gradually

that hardly anyone noticed.

Formal education was instituted

so that youngsters could learn to read, write and do arithmetic.

They spent a few hours away from their family

to learn these necessary skills.

And when formal education was instituted in this country

the teachers were either clergymen

or other Christian men and women.

The Bible was used in the classroom, and hymns were sung at school.

All of this complemented and supplemented

the father and mother's efforts

to raise their children in the faith of our fathers.

But now the public education system

has a curriculum that teaches godless evolution

and that belief in the Creator is an old-fashioned superstition.

Now the public education system

teaches kids from Kindergarten on up

that some families have two daddies,

instead of a Mom and Dad,

and that some families have two mommies,

instead of a Mom and Dad.

And, instead of Christians teaching the kids,

many of the young teachers

are themselves modeling lifestyles

condemned by the Bible.

They teach either subtly or directly

that Christian morality is an old-fashioned thing of the past,

that the marriage of one man and one woman

is just one of many equally acceptable ways of life,

along with homosexual, lesbian and transgender options.

So, today when a father and mother try to raise their kids

in the faith of our fathers

it is a real challenge.

It becomes a huge effort to offset and contradict

what the kids are learning at school.

And the public schools are only part of the problem.

There is also television, radio and the internet

where anti-Christian values and ideas are promoted as truth

and where Bible-believers are portrayed

as somehow wrong, out of step with the way things should be.

So, Christian parents and grandparents

need to work MUCH harder

and pray MUCH harder

to raise their offspring in the Faith of our Fathers.

This church looks like a fortress with its twin tower battlements,

and in a way it is a spiritual fortress

defending the Faith of our Fathers

against a world increasingly hostile to the Bible message,

hostile to the Gospel of Christ.

As the letter of Jude says, in Jude 1:7,

we need to earnestly

"contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."

Whether it's raising children,

or just living our day-to-day lives in a hostile world,

we need to fight for the Faith of our Fathers.