The Good Old Way: A Father’s Day Message


Read:   Jer. 6:16 a, b; Prov. 22:28


Jeremiah’s time was eerily similar to ours. God’s people had turned away from him. They’d turned to idolatry and fornication. They were imitating the worldly, pagan practices surrounding them. They were mistreating one another, cheating one another. The politicians cared nothing for God’s truth. Even the priests and shepherds abandoned God at his word.

In 1:13 Jeremiah uses a striking metaphor to describe this apostasy. God’s people have turned away from him, the truth, the living fountain of water. In his place, they have fashioned their own cisterns. In other words, they have forsaken the true God, and they had tried to replace him with worldly, idolatrous satisfaction.

God’s people (old covenant Judah) were both a church a nation. Like old covenant Judah, the church today in many cases has turned away from God. We’ve become worldly. We worship entertainment. We think premarital sex is just fine. We keep quiet about abortion and same-sex marriage. We think there are other ways to God except by Jesus Christ. In other words, we are living and thinking like the pagans around us —  just as ancient Judah did.

Our nation has turned away from God. Of course, no modern nation is the people of God in the way that ancient Israel was. However, our own United States was founded mostly by Christians, and certainly on Christian principles. But like Judah of old, our nation has turned its back on God and his truth.

The book of Jeremiah is almost painful to read. If you want to read some of the most agonizing parts of the Bible, read the first part of Jeremiah. Some people have the idea that God lacks emotions (that’s he’s not “passible”). I don’t think they understand or truly believe the book of Jeremiah. God describes how his heart is broken because his tender bride, the Jews, have committed adultery on him. But he also calls them his children. He tells Judah,  “I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me” (3:19). But they turned away from their Father, and they quit following him. So God warned that a fierce civilization (Babylon) was coming to besiege the city, and rampage, and take captives back to their own land. It’s all very harrowing reading.

In the middle of all of this tragic apostasy, God the Father gives his children a way back, a way out. It’s in 6:16: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”

This Father’s Day, I want to stress three important facts from this verse. It will help us to be better fathers, it will help our children to be better children, and it will help our church to be a better church. It will help our nation to be a better nation, if only we would hear.

Stop and Look Around

First, “[s]tand by the roads, and look.” The Jews were walking, they were traveling, but they had lost their way. God told him to quit walking. He told him to stand and look.

Have you ever noticed that when you are busy doing wrong, Satan has a vested interest in keeping you busy. He has a great incentive to keep you and me from slowing down and thinking. And today we have text messages and Facebook and our iPod playlist to keep us busy every waking hour. These days it is literally possible to keep yourself from thinking about God and his word and truth every single minute you are awake. And that’s precisely what many people do. They instinctively know that if they slow down, if they are quiet, if they muse with their own hearts, they might think about God and how they’ve turned her back on him. So they stay busy, not thinking about God.

But God tells us to stand — not walk or run, but stand and look. Look at where you are. Look at the road you’ve taken. Would you like to know why you are where you are today? Because you took a road to get there. If you’re not where you should be, you need to get off that road, and get back on the right road.

Let me give you some examples of this, based right on what Jeremiah says. Check out 6:10c, “[T]he word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.”

God’s word an object of scorn? Can you imagine it? But we live in those days. Who wants to talk about living a holy life before the Lord when pornography is so pervasive? When prescription drugs are so available? When filthy movies play at almost every theater every week (and, of course, at home on premium cable)? When abortion is birth control’s backup plan? When nobody cares about prayer meetings? When more and more people want the government to pay for their groceries and healthcare and prophylactics?

The time comes in the history of certain cultures and civilizations that they depart so much from God but they don’t even know how far they’ve gone.  In 1:15 Jeremiah says, “Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.” He didn’t say they didn’t blush; he said they didn’t know how to blush.

Have you ever considered how rare blushing is in our culture? Blush is defined as “the red color that spreads over your face when you are ashamed, embarrassed, confused, etc.” Blushing happens when a sensitive, embarrassing topic comes up that we don’t want to think or talk about. Years ago young women (some men too) would blush when people discussed sexual intercourse or pregnancy. They really blushed when people talked about shameful sins like homosexuality or cross-dressing or sadomasochism or incest. But few people blush today. They do not blush because they are quite comfortable talking and hearing about detestable sins. They are callous about the sins that anger and sadden God. They are blissfully brazen faced.

Therefore, when they hear what the Bible says, they are really stunned. They can’t believe that the Bible would forbid what they take for granted. Obviously, then, the Bible must be wrong.

If they stood, and stopped, and considered, they’d know they were on the wrong road. They’d see the ripped-up marriages. The millions of children from broken families who barely see their mom or dad. Young single men who don’t care about supporting a wife or children. Young single women who care more about a career than about bearing children and caring for a husband. If they looked, they’d see the self-centeredness and the lack of real, lasting friendships. They’d see they are on the wrong road.

Only Two Ways

Then, after they stand and look they (and we) should:

Second, “ask for the ancient paths.” The Bible doesn’t teach that all old ways are good ways. After all, the first evil way is very, very old: the Garden of Eden. Don’t think that all the old ways are the best ways. This is a big problem as we age. We think the “good old days” were better than they really were. We romanticize the past.

When Jeremiah talks about the ancient paths, however, he means the paths that all the Jews should have known about, the paths that started their very nation, the covenant paths of God and his Word. Solomon was likely talking about the same thing: “Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set” (Prov. 22:28). A landmark established property boundaries. It was sacred. It marked out the land that a man and his family owned. To move a landmark was to steal (Dt. 19:14).

The last few generations we’ve lived in a time that is obsessed with change. “Make it new” is the theme of modernism. We don’t make products that will last for many years. We make cheap products that will break very soon so that very soon we can buy new, shiny ones. Understand that this isn’t just because people want cheap products. It’s because they want new products all the time. They are in love with change.

Change can be good. If we’re sinning, we need to repent; we need to turn around; we need to change. There’s nothing wrong with improvement. But all change is not improvement.

I was reading C. S.Lewis this week, and I encountered one of his famous statements: “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” Our culture above all else wants to be progressive. But too often we’re progressing in the wrong direction. That’s not progress; that’s regress. Progress means getting off at road and getting back on the right road. And, according to Jeremiah, the right road is the ancient road of God’s ways.

What is that ancient road? It’s loving and honoring and serving and obeying God. It means not trying to imitate the surrounding sinful culture. There’s an antithesis, a radical difference, between God’s ways and the world’s ways. God’s way means glorious, committed sex within marriage. The world’s way means all consensual sex is permissible (even desirable). God’s way means pouring your life out for other people. The world’s way means putting yourself first at all costs. God’s ways for husbands means leading and cherishing and sacrificing for your wife and children. The world’s way means letting your wife lead and ignoring her and her needs. God’s way for wives means loving and submitting to their husbands and training children (as God gives them). The world’s way is to create your own life apart from your husband and children. God’s way for children means honoring and obeying their parents. The world’s way means getting your own way. God’s way means you get satisfaction and joy by loving and trusting him. The world’s way means you get satisfaction from chemicals or images on machines (“gaming”).

There are only two ways. Only God’s way is the right way.

Ours is a day of multiculturalism and moral relativism. It’s rude to say that one spiritual or cultural way is better than another. The multiculturalists don’t really believe this (let’s call them “boutique multiculturalists”). They would never say that a racist or sexist culture is equal to an egalitarian culture. The college freshman relativist who says, “Who am I to judge somebody else’s morality?” gets religion whenever somebody steals his iPod. He finally is forced to admit that there’s a right way and a wrong way.

There are the old biblical paths and the new worldly paths.  Find the old paths.

The Good Old Way

Third, the old paths are “where the good way is … walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” Now think about this. The old paths aren’t just the right paths. They are the paths that are best for us. They’re the paths that end up in joy and peace and satisfaction and hope. In other words, God’s way is meant to bring us delight.

The Devil launched his Big Lie in the Garden and Eden by trying to convince Eve that God didn’t have her best interests at heart. “The reason God won’t let you eat of one tree is because he’s keeping something good from you.” In other words, God’s ways will keep us bored and unhappy, while Satan’s rebellion is pure fun. This is a destructive lie. All the heartache and anguish in the world has come about because people believe that lie. Drug and alcohol and porn and gaming addictions, and broken marriages and friendships, and venereal diseases, and poverty, and war, and anxiety, and sadness are all the result of believing and acting on Satan’s lie.

But if you want to find rest for your souls, walk in the old path.


I conclude with an exhortation this Father’s Day. Fathers, don’t be shy about leading your children in the good, old way. That’s literally what Jeremiah calls it — the Good Old Way. Be brave in your family. Take your stand with Joshua:

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh. 24:15)

The culture wants you to think if you do this, you’re “imposing your views” on your family. That’s precisely the wrong way to look at it. Instead, if you refuse to lead in the Good Old Way, you’re leading your family away from joy and delight and blessing; you’re leading them into ruin and judgment.

Finally: our godly fathers who went before walked in the Good Old Way. They worked hard and prayed and gave money and sacrificed so that we would stay on that road. We owe it first to the Lord, but also to them, our forefathers, to stay on the Good Old Way. They have committed a trust to us. They knew about prayer and about reading the Word and about strong marriages and godly children and a Bible-preaching, Gospel church and a society that knew about God’s moral law and tried to uphold it. We dare not betray them. We dare not betray our Lord most of all. Let’s live in the Good Old Way.


God Is Not an Absentee Father



Read:  Rom. 8:14­–17; Ps. 103:13–14; Mt. 7:7–11


I’m ambivalent whenever I hear the popular expression “Christ-centered.” It’s understandable why we’d use it. Jesus the Christ died for our sins and rose (1 Cor. 15:1f.). He’s the exact imprint of God to man (Heb. 1:3). He’s King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). He’s our only mediator — there’s no salvation without him (1 Tim. 2:5). We disciples are called “Christians” (Ac. 11:26).

But we must always remember that there are two other members of the Trinity. They’re just as important as our Lord. There’s no hierarchy in the Trinity. That’s called subordinationism, and it’s heresy. Each member has a role to play in God’s plan for the world (his “economy”), but none is more important than the other.

We should be wary lest we deemphasize the Father and the Spirit. I want to talk about the Father today. I’ve quoted three important teachings in the Bible regarding the Fatherhood of God. But I want to do more than talk. I want the Holy Spirit to change our thinking about God. Of all the mental errors in the world, none could be more dangerous than errors about God.

Projecting human relationships onto God

Perhaps the biggest reason we entertain mistaken views about God is that we project human relationships onto our relationship with God. The most obvious example is our own fathers. There are no sinless fathers on earth. Even those of us who had faithful, godly, Christian fathers did not have sinless fathers. And it’s easy to project back onto God’s Fatherhood the relationship we’ve had with our own fathers. But that has things just backwards. God’s Fatherhood is the pattern toward which human fathers should strive, not vice versa. Our human fathers do not show us what God is like as a Father. God as the Father shows us what human fathers should be like.

I’d like to consider this morning whether some of our ideas about God have been mistaken. And if they have been mistaken, let’s pray that we can change that.

The Christian name for God

One more point of introduction: this topic is so important because, as J. I. Packer wrote: “‘Father’ is the Christian name for God.” There’re many names for God in the Bible: Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah), Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide), El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty) are just three. But the predominant Christian name for God is simply Father.

This is why Jesus begins the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father, who art in heaven” (Jesus constantly referred to God as his Father). This is why the Apostles’ Creed starts, “I believe in God the Father Almighty.”

This is not how unbelievers should mainly see God, but it is how we Christians should see God. The first and the main thing (by no means the only thing) we need to know about God is that he is our Father.

God could not have chosen a tenderer way to describe himself to his people. Let me prove this for you from the Bible.

The Glory of a Father’s Adoption

First, God has adopted us into his family.

Paul writes: “[Y]ou have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” “Abba” is a Hebrew word (though used here in the New Testament) of tender endearment. In English we might say, “Papa.”

Paul is saying that the Holy Spirit assures our hearts that God has adopted us into his family.

But God already had a family. We often don’t think of this. God has an eternal Son. Since that Son came into the world 2000 years ago, we Christians have known him as Jesus the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. God wasn’t lonely. God has been a Father from eternity past. He’s never not had a child. But he wanted more children. He didn’t want more because his Son wasn’t sufficient. He wanted more because he wanted to share the great love and communion that they already had (Jn. 17:20–26). “This is so blessed, so fulfilling, so glorious,” the Father said, “that we need to share it with others.” And that’s why God created man and woman.

Of course, we are not God’s child in precisely the sense that Jesus is. He is fully God, and we are not. But we are no less God’s children than Jesus is (Rom. 8:17).

We’re here today, worshiping in God’s church, because God wanted more than one Son. He wanted more than one child. He wanted many sons and daughters.

Adoption contrary to nature

Adoption is not biological. It is contrary to nature. We adopt children that we cannot, or do not, birth biologically. This is a fascinating point. We cannot choose our biological children. We have them as they are given to us. But we choose our adopted children. A childless couple, for example, travels to Africa or China and inspects little boys and girls and chooses one. And if all goes well, and if they pay a hefty fee, and if they fill out innumerable forms, after a long time they might be able to bring that child home.

Understand that God the Father chose us as children: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph. 1:5). It was the Father’s will to gather more children into his family, and he chose each one of us as his child, and he has already determined our destiny that we will always be his children.

Think about the implications of this fact before we move on. God didn’t just choose children en masse. He didn’t just choose a group of children. He came by the orphanage, as it were , he inspected, that he chose us (when we were sinful and unlovely) to be in his family with him and with Jesus and with the Holy Spirit. With all of our sins and failures and unbelief, the Father still chose us. He wanted us to join him and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and to revel and rejoice with them and share their communion, and to be where they are eternally.

This is the Father of adoption.

The Tenderness of a Father’s Compassion

Second, our Father is compassionate to us. The Psalmist sings these lyrics:

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

That expression “he knows our frame” means literally “he knows how we are formed.” Well, he knows how we are formed, because he’s the one that formed us. Let’s think about that creative act for a moment.

In Genesis we learn that God formed man from the dust of the ground; he breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. This is man’s composition. The word “soul” in the Bible doesn’t have the meaning that the Greeks gave to it. For the ancient Greeks, the soul is the “real you” inside your body. Your body is a prison or a cage, and the soul is the “ghost in the machine.” When you die, the “real you” escapes and the prison or cage is gone forever.

In Genesis we learn that man became a living soul, that is, a living being, after God breathed into dirt that he had fashioned as a human body. It’s God’s breath in the dirt that constitutes man a living being.

Now let’s think back at the song that the Psalmist wrote. God is our Father. He has compassion on us just as a human father has compassion on his children. He knows our frame, that we are dust. God knows that we are dirt. He knows how weak we are. He knows how anxious we can be.

This week I was talking to a dear Christian man. He’s a local businessman. I’ve known him a long time. I was at his business, and he pulled me aside, and  shared with me some of the great hardships he’s enduring at home and work. His wife suffers from a difficult cancer. The company for which he works has been putting pressure on him to move or be demoted. He suffering anxiety and panic attacks. I told him that I knew just what he was going through, and I stopped right there and prayed that our heavenly Father would calm his heart and meet the desires of his heart.

Our Father is not unaware of our dusty frame. He made that frame. He probably made us from dust so we can vulnerable, so that that we would rely entirely on him. He didn’t make us steel machines. He made us from dirt. Dirt is very weak and vulnerable. We are made marvelously, amazingly, in God’s image (Ps. 139), but we are still a composite of dirt and breath. God is our Father, and he wants us to trust his Fatherly goodness.

Father’s longing to protect and care for children

There’s something about men, the right kind of men, that impels them to have children.  God places a desire in men to love and protect the weak and vulnerable. This is a main reason that a man wants to marry a woman, and it’s a main reason that he wants to bring children into the world. We don’t just want to play with them and have them love us. We have an innate desire to shower our goodness and our care and protection on a little, helpless life. This, too, is what impelled the Father — our Father — to adopt us into his family. We are weak and helpless and vulnerable. And he wants to show his great love and power and tenderness and mercy by caring for his children.

Those of you going through real difficulties today, remember this: God the Father longs to show compassion. In fact, he often allows us to go through hardships so we will turn to him as a heavenly Father. When our little children come to us and ask, “Dad, can you fix this?” our heart goes out to them, we know our obligation to them, and we would go to any length necessary to come to their aid. Know this: our Father will go to any length necessary to come to our aid.

The Father’s Desire for His Children’s Requests

Third, and finally, our Father wants to give us good things. Jesus invites his disciples:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

We often read the word of God, but we don’t think hard about what we read.

Jesus is contrasting human fathers negatively with our heavenly Father. He is saying: if our earthly fathers are sinful, and if they still care deeply for us, imagine how much our heavenly Father, who is not sinful, cares for us.

I’m afraid that many Christians, and perhaps some of us, have developed severely mistaken ideas of God on this point.

We sometimes think, “The important thing isn’t what I want but God’s sovereign will”. Of course, in the ultimate sense, that’s true. In another sense, it’s a slap in the face to God. Would you think of your own father that way? What if you heard your children say, “The important thing is not what I want, but what my father wants.” I daresay, that sentiment would not entirely please you. And there’s a simple reason for this. You want your children to know that one main thing you long for is to give them things that they want. You want them to know that you want to do good things for them. You don’t want them to think that you do not care about them, that all you care about is getting your own way all the time. God does get his way, but please understand that one big way that God gets what he wants is to please his people.

God is more loving, more caring, more interested, more compassionate, and more selfless than any human father could be. Therefore, he wants to “give good things to those who ask him.”

Don’t deprive God of his Fatherly delight

Think harder with me: if God wants to do good things for us at our request, we are depriving him of what he wants by refusing to ask him for good things. If your children never asked you for any good things, would that silence please you? I dare say, it would annoy and sadden you.

Question: Are you a better father than God? If not, we need to get busy asking God the Father for good things, because as a loving father he delights to do good things for his people. Do not deprive him of his fatherly delight.

Let’s review: (1) God our Father adopted us into his family; he chose us to be Jesus’ brothers and sisters. (2) God our Father is compassionate to us as his children; he knows our dusty frame. (3) And, finally, God our Father wants to do good things for us; let’s not deprive him of what delights him as our Father.


Wright, Wrong, and Inerrancy


Andrew, I’m curious what you think of Wright’s critique of inerrantism (if that’s a word) as a product of “modernist rationalism”? I do believe that American evangelicalism is very strongly formed by the philosophical foundations of modernist thought in Descartes and others, so in trying to disentangle our theology from these not-so-biblical ways of thinking, I see the problems. Is our advocacy of the bible as the inerrant and infallible Word of God predicated on Cartesian thinking that requires indubitable propositions for certainty, lest we fall into subjective skepticism? Is it really “all or nothing”? I honestly can’t conceive of an alternative. It seems to me that if I can’t trust one part of the Bible, I’m not sure I can trust the rest. I’m trying to grapple with this problem in a way that enables me to distance myself from the unGodly aspects of Cartesian rationalism, but I honestly don’t know how to do that without allowing every man to interpret the Bible in his own way (i.e. total subjectivism). Thoughts? Regards, —-



—-, your instincts are entirely correct. While I’ll need to read his impending book on the topic, Wright is wrong on this point, and the fact that he is broadly conservative on other topics (but not every one, by any means) makes his unnecessary bibliological qualifications especially mischievous. I’m glad that Tom doesn’t boldly declare himself an errantist, but the fact that he believes the category of inerrancy is some sort of enlightenment construct is so historically untenable as to give his assertions an air of unreality. That the term inerrancy is a post-Enlightenment term is precisely irrelevant. The church in every sector, East and West, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Radical Reformation, held well into the 19th century that the Bible teaches no error of any kind. Quotes from Luther and Calvin trotted out to refute this nearly self-evident notion (such as that the apparent discrepancies in the numerics in Kings and Chronicles are no big deal) are to no avail. The Bible contains round numbers, approximations, and differing (“multi-perspectival”) accounts of the same event, and pre-Enlightenment theologians knew this as well as moderns. The question is not and never has been whether the Bible conforms to a certain era’s notion of accuracy, but simply whether it is entirely truthful book.

John M. Frame is entirely correct in his recent essay in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (not yet online) that inerrancy is not merely a theological truth or even a worldview but a way of life. People who really affirm biblical inerrancy aren’t obsessed with numerical approximations. They’re assessed with obeying and loving and hearing the very living word of the living God in every detail. Tom is anxious that people who affirm inerrancy don’t understand the “story” of the Bible (his interpretation of the “story”). Of course, the capacity to misinterpret the Bible isn’t limited to inerrantists. Indeed, if the Bible isn’t true, even in detail, it’s not clear how we, as our Lord, can live by every word that proceeds from God’s mouth (Mt. 4:4), just as it is not clear why we should listen to a story that is not true, even if its errors are the errors of detail, if that story claims to originate from the very mouth of the living God.




When Law and Liturgy Won’t Work


It’s not surprising that we live in an age of liturgical renewal, because the stripped-down minimalism of modernity as expressed in liturgy has created a vacuum into which the superficialities and inanities and, in the case of some liberal churches, downright demons (like Lutheran goddess worship), have rushed. Liturgies are good, bad, or mediocre, but they are not is optional.  Conservatives’ liturgical renewal (liberals do have their own version and reasons for it) is designed to re-sacralize life in our deeply secular age.


No doubt a liturgical minimalism hasn’t assuaged secularism, but if you’ll examine Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age you’ll see his profoundly argued thesis that it was the retreat from godly “enchantment” as a “lived experience” (the constant awareness of God and his Spirit, as well as demons and Satan, actively at work in the world in all parts of one’s experience) that’s at the root of Western secularization. This retreat is reflected in the move, drenched in Enlightenment prejudices, to adhering to external structural (divine) law without godly “enchantment.” Ironically, the recent Reformed program of a return to a law-based society without the accompanying “lived experience” of godly “enchantment” of (for example) both ancient Israel and the primitive church is actually a capitulation (and contribution) to secularism in the church. Liturgical renewal, while significant, will equally contribute to that secularism, if unaccompanied by the very “lived experience” I mention above. It’s the constant reality of the living God forever surrounding us and constantly at work in the world, and not merely external obedience or superior liturgy, which will combat secularism.


The problem of secularism — and its solution — is much deeper than we sometimes imagine.