2008-06-13 / Faith

Shepherds Corner

A ministry to fathers and their children
BY PASTOR LARS LARSON

The Bible records the lives of many notable men and women of God. Of all the men that lived, the Lord Jesus commended John the Baptist as the greatest.

Jesus said, "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist." Perhaps he was to be regarded as the greatest because of his character. He was a fearless man of God who stood forth boldly to declare the truth, even before men who would destroy him.

Eventually John was executed because he took a stand against a king who was living in adultery (see Mark 6:14ff). Or perhaps John could be regarded as the greatest of men because the Old Testament had foretold of his person and ministry.

The closing of our English Old Testament concludes with this word from God: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." Jesus made it clear that John the Baptist was this promised "Elijah." Jesus said of him, "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come" (Matt. 11:14).

John had come in the spirit and power of Elijah. But perhaps the greatness of John can be seen in the high calling of his ministry. God raised up John to prepare the people for the appearance of Jesus as the promised Messiah of Israel. John had the great responsibility and the high privilege of being the forerunner of the Messiah. He was to prepare the people so that they would be ready to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and receive Him favorably.

It is interesting to note how John could best prepare the people for the Lord Jesus. We read of the priority of his preaching ministry. It, too, was foretold in the Old Testament. The last words of the Old Testament record John's mission: "And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse" (Mal. 4:6).

Four hundred years later an angel revealed to Zechariah, John's father, the nature of his son's ministry. "And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:16, 17).

Many today believe that our nation is in need of turning back to the Lord, that we have forsaken Him who has so blessed our land with liberty and its preservation. Perhaps one of the keys to turning our people back to the Lord is to pray and work to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.

Fatherhood has fallen on hard times. And children's relationship to their fathers has also suffered loss. Fathers through their own failure to be the kind of fathers to their children that they need, coupled with a culture that diminishes or deprecates the role of the father, has resulted in many fathers estranged from their children or they have little influence upon them. But the father is often the key to the spiritual health and development of children's faith. The faith of the children will more often than not follow the pattern or the example of the father.

Fathers, let us see our privilege and responsibility to raise our children in the Lord, teaching them that faith in God and devotion to His Word and His will is vital to life. May our Lord help us turn the hearts of our fathers back to their children.

Lars Larson is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Leominster. He is one of nine local worship leaders who participate in the Shepherd's Corner series.

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