Living Beyond the Comma - June 21, 2015 _____________________________________________________________________________
Scripture Reading: Heb.12: 9 –
Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them;
shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits and live?
text clearly identifies two fathers; one with a little “f” – the second with a
capital “F”; one is an earthly father, while the other is the heavenly Father –
God Himself. We’ll come back to this at the end of this message.
Theme: Living Beyond the Comma
did not consciously design this message for Father’s Day. As it turns out,
however, it does seem to be appropriate. It began with an early morning
remembrance of a Biblical character. His name was Jephthah. He appears in the
book of Judges. We’ll get to him in a moment.
Google search revealed that, while many have pleasant memories associated with
this day (or Mother’s Day for that matter), many more have very negative
memories. I want to speak to that particular issue this morning.
may sound a bit arrogant; it is not meant to be, but I am going to tell you the
very most important thing you can possibly know about your father.
generation preceding the record of the Judges has often be called the “Joshua generation.”
This generation was born in the wilderness; the sons and daughters of the
generation that had come out of Egypt in the Exodus. That entire “Exodus
generation” (with a couple of exceptions) all died in the wilderness because of
“Joshua generation” had grown up in the presence of their parent’s failure.
They watched them die in that failure over a forty year period. They witnessed first-hand
what unbelief had done to their parents; they determined it would not be the
same with them. And that is the first good news I have for us this Father’s
Day: We do not
have to repeat the failures of past generations; we are not the hopeless
victims of family history. You do not have to be defined by that history. Your
identity is not the compilation of the failures and mistakes of your parents,
grandparents, and great grandparents.
“Joshua generation” did not deny the failures of their parents’ generation.
They faced that history with honesty and learned its hard and difficult
lessons. By doing so they rose above those failures and became a victorious
generation. They became more than their family history.
Joshua record is a wonderful testimony of the victory and triumph of a
generation that broke free of and lived beyond their father’s history. But then
we read that Joshua died – he and that entire generation. With that the story
changed dramatically and that dramatic change is reported in the book called
pattern seemed simple enough: Israel would commit idolatry (the worship of
false gods). God would NEVER abandon them; instead He would bring discipline to
bear upon them in order to turn them around. That discipline was provided by an
enemy nation rising up and subjecting Israel to oppressive servitude.
Eventually Israel would repent, and God would raise up a deliverer (a judge)
who would lead God’s people to victory. The Judge would die and the whole
pattern would repeat itself.
was the ninth Judge, and we meet him in chapter
11 of this book. Here is where we get back to the theme of this message.
The opening statement regarding Jephthah is this: Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a valiant
meaning of his name is: ‘to open’; openness in an extremely wide range of application. In addition to the rich meaning of his
name, the first scriptural statement concerning him identifies him as a valiant warrior.
Israel ever needed a valiant warrior it needed one at that very moment. They
had been oppressed by the Philistines and Ammonites. They were chafing under
that oppression and were entirely worn out. They needed a valiant warrior. So
when we meet Jephthah in this story we begin to hope; we see both the need and
the answer to that need.
the structure of that opening statement I ask that you notice the punctuation
mark that follows the word warrior. It’s a comma. (Here
it is: ,). It is there to separate two items in the same statement. Note
what comes after the comma: ‘…but he was the son of a harlot.’And here is the
tragedy of it all: what followed the comma completely eclipsed what preceded the
family along with the larger community labelled him, named him, and assigned an
identity to him. That assigned identity was not ‘valiant warrior’ – it was ‘son of a harlot’ – or as we might say
in our times: illegitimate child or bastard son.
this with great care and attention: When that community stuck that label on
Jephthah it effectively cut itself off from the blessing and deliverance this
true valiant warrior could have brought to them. When
we label a person we do not limit that person nearly as much as we limit the
blessing that person could be to us.
that sound familiar – like another great Figure of history? Not even Christ
could do in His hometown the mighty works He did elsewhere. His hometown had
labelled Him the illegitimate or bastard son of Mary. Though He was the very
Son of God, in His hometown He was limited to the label they had tacked Him
with. Think about the tragedy of it: His name was Emmanuel – meaning: ‘God with
us.’ That’s who He truly was and is, but His hometown could not relate to Him
beyond the false identity they had assigned Him.
carefully: Before sticking any label on anyone, realize
that that label sets the measure of your relationship with that person.
bring the lesson home!
one escapes this life without being labelled. That label is tightly tied to our
history: our parentage, the community we lived in, the schools we attended, the
kids we played with, and on and on. That history has assigned us an identity. At the
heart of that history – its very foundation – is our father (or in the broader
sense our parentage). It is my conviction that the most important question
regarding our identity is: Who is my father?
do not mean to be insensitive in asking that question. I know that for some it
is a deeply troubling question – either because you do not know who your father
was, or you know too well who your father was and wish he had been someone
else’s father. All of this can be very painful. I do not want to leave you in
your pain this morning – nor does God.
true identity is definitely rooted in your father, but do you know the identity
of your true father? In Hebrews chapter
12 the writer identifies two fathers – the fathers after the flesh, or our
earthly fathers (depending upon the translation you read). And secondly he
refers to the Father of our spirit or soul – again depending upon your
translation. This second Father – who is actually our first Father – is none
other than the infinite, almighty God Himself.
parents birthed the biological body that stands before you but I am much more
than mere biology. I AM SPIRIT – and God alone
created and brought forth the spirit that presently lives inside this body. My
identity is not tied to this body and all the history related to it. My true identity is spirit, and God fathered my spirit,
therefore my true identity is found only in God the Father.
true life did not begin when the doctor slapped me on the butt and I began to
cry. My true identity did not begin with that slap either. My true life and
identity began in the very mind of God – who by the way is SPIRIT. History relates to time but our true life and identity
precede both time and history.
writing of man, told us that, ‘God has set eternity in their heart.’ He also
told us that, ‘Man
goes to his eternal home.’ That eternal home is not a six foot deep
hole in the ground. That hole in the ground relates only to the body, history,
and time. But we are more than body, more than history, and more than time.
apostle Paul preached to the philosophers and poets at Mars Hill. He told them
this: “For in Him
(God) we live and move and exist.” He then quotes from the writings
of those philosophers and poets to back up the point he just made: “For we are indeed
His offspring.” I love the way Peterson writes this in ‘The
Message’: ‘We are
is the truth that existed long before the comma. This is the truth that redeems
whatever came after the comma. This is the truth that overcomes and is greater
than all the details following the comma. What we were
before the comma – before time and history, what we were in the heart and mind
of Father God – we still are. We are the image of God! And nothing in time or
history – no matter what comes after the comma – can finally undo what God our
true Father has done.
We live in a culture of gender confusion and identity crisis. And
the further we move away from God our true Father the greater that confusion is
going to become and the deeper that crisis of identity is going to be.