Looking out over the congregation at TRC, we must recognize the enormous blessing that is being bestowed upon us in our children (Ps. 127:3). But this should also be a regular reminder of the high calling and responsibility that comes along with these gifts. Some of you are tempted to despair constantly, and some of you are tempted to presume. But Jesus is the answer to both of these.
The Father who Frees
Jesus is the only perfect son, who perfectly honors His Father. Therefore, our only hope of living the fifth commandment is knowing and walking with Jesus and being filled with His Spirit. Jesus identifies Himself as the one who obeys His Father (Jn. 8:28-29), who speaks what He has seen with His Father (8:38), who has come from the Father (8:42), who honors His Father (8:49). Jesus says that His word is what makes known the truth, and the truth is what sets people free (8:31-32). And since this word is from the Father (8:28), to obey those words is to act as free sons (8:34-36). The controversy arises between Jesus and the Jews because He implies that they may need freeing from slavery, about which they are a bit touchy (8:33). Which is either a highly selective memory, a creative interpretive style which some moderns would probably like to get their hands on, or (what is most likely) a straight up lie (Jn. 8:44). Jesus says that the Jews are in bondage to sin (8:34), and this is clearly attested by the fact that they want to kill him (8:37). This is because His word is not in them (which means they are slaves), and they are listening to the voice of another father (8:37-38). Children have a family resemblance, and they learn their lives from their dads (8:39-41). Children love what their fathers love (8:42, 44), and they recognize and understand the speech of their father (8:43). The Jews understand that Jesus is implying that they must be illegitimate sons, bastards born of fornication (8:41). But because the Jews reject the word of Jesus and want to kill him, they prove that God is not their father and that the devil is (8:44-47). The Jews denounce Jesus, and He points out that while He is honoring God His Father, they are dishonoring Him (8:48-50). But Jesus insists that His word is an unshakable fortress; the Father sets slaves free as His sons, making them invincible, even to death (8:51-56). Here, Jesus speaks as the new Moses come to a Jewish Egypt, come to free slaves from their sin, from the heavy burdens of their false father, the devil-pharaoh and his task masters (Jewish leaders) and their murderous ways, even from death itself.
The Gospel & The Covenant
What is implied in the covenant with Abraham and become explicit in the gospel of Jesus is that God’s intention is to adopt the human race into His family, to share His life with them. In other words, there are really only two families in the world: the family of Adam who listened to the devil (his father) and taught his sons to murder, and the family of Jesus who listened to God (His Father) and has brought His sons invincible life. Going all the way back to the garden, to Sinai, to the prophets, the question is always about the word: whose word is being listened to? Whose word makes sense? And the answer to this question reveals who your father is. The children of the devil cannot understand the word of Christ and they are not able to listen to Him (8:43) because their father is a murderer and a liar and a father of liars (8:44). The slaves of the devil are set free when they are enabled to know the truth and adopted as sons in the Son (8:31-36). We must not miss the fact that Jesus is talking to Jews, the covenant people of God, who are in fact descended from Abraham, and yet Jesus says their father is the devil and they are enslaved. This is still a very real possibility in the Christian Church. Jesus says that there will be many who call Him, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and He will say they have never met (Mt. 7:21-23). Paul says that the Israelites who were brought out of Egypt who died in the wilderness under the curse of God are cautionary examples for us (1 Cor. 10:6). This means that there are baptized members of Christian Churches who are sons of the devil, who love the father of lies, and they are full of lies and hatred like their father. John says the same thing in 1 John: knowing God is the difference between light and darkness, and there are plenty of people who claim to know God whose deeds prove otherwise (1 Jn. 2:4, 11). Some people muddle along pretending that the light is actually pretty dim, and others mistake natural personality traits for the real, radical work of the Spirit.
Covenant Love & Faithful Tradition
But Jesus insists that His word is the truth that sets slaves free. Godly education and tradition is nothing more or less than the life of the Triune God shared with His people and their children. Jesus rails against ungodly tradition, which is always either boiling a kid in its mother’s milk or straight up tyranny. This is why we must always begin, continue, and end with Jesus. Honoring parents means obedience to parents (Eph. 6:1-3), which is only accomplished by the life of Jesus in us (8:28, 38, 42, 49). And we should note that Jesus was a full grown man in complete submission to His Father. There is no magic age when the fifth commandment ceases to apply because the children of God never outgrow their love for their Father. The fifth commandment means that you should want to become like all of the best godly aspects of your parents. Some of you are from broken families or you have parents who were unbelievers or even abusive. Some of you may have never known your parents, but in the church, we all have parents. Whether you can look back to your biological parents or you look to close friends/mentors in the body of Christ, you are called upon to want to imitate/emulate all of their godly traits (1 Jn. 2:1). This is also why we worship the way we do. Our worship leaders are from the past, from every century of the people of God, and the Spirit of Jesus leads us to honor them.
Sometimes this can be challenging because you have bitterness toward your parents. You resent how they raised you, their failures and sin, and you can’t see anything good because you hold so much against them. But this is poison for your family (Heb. 12:15), and only the love of Christ can teach you to forgive.
Covenant faithfulness, generational faithfulness is not a mechanical system. It is not an assembly line. It’s all about knowing God the Father, through His Son, Jesus, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. This personal, familial, covenant love is in the first instance a friendship full of love, loyalty, and common goals (1 John 2:24-25). When children grow up and embrace the faith of their fathers this is a miracle of grace. There is nothing automatic about it. But it is a miraculous grace that God promises to give if we ask Him (Lk. 11:13).
The cross is God’s sledgehammer to the curse of sin in families, the curse of sin that plagues generations. God sent Jesus into this world not so that you could have a mediocre life, trudging along in your filth. God sent Jesus as the propitiation for our sins, to be our Advocate with the Father (1 Jn. 2:1-2).