In his book The Great Awakening, Chuck Swindoll recalls the sense of freedom and independence he felt when as a teenager he received his first driver’s license. His father rewarded him.
“Tell you what, son… you can have the car for two hours, all on your own.” Only four words, but how wonderful those four words: “All on your own.” Wow!
I thanked him….. My pulse rate must have shot up to 180 as I backed out of the driveway and roared off. While cruising along “all on my own,” I began to think wild stuff – like, ‘This car can probably do 100 miles an hour. I could go to Galveston and back twice in two hours if I averaged 100 miles an hour. I can fly down the Golf Freeway and even run a few lights. After all, nobody’s here to say “Don’t!”’ We’re talking dangerous, crazy thoughts! But you know what? I didn’t do any of them. I don’t believe I drove above the speed limit. In fact, I distinctly remember turning into the driveway early….I had my dad’s car all to myself with a full gas tank in a context of total privacy and freedom, but I didn’t go crazy. Why? My relationship with my dad and my grandad was so strong that I couldn’t, even though I had a license and nobody was in the car to restrain me. Over a period of time, there had developed a sense of trust, a deep love relationship that held me in restraint.
Similarly, our love relationship for our heavenly Father keeps us from abusing the freedom He gives us. Recently, I was teaching on the subject of adoption, as Paul writes in Ephesians 1:5 In love 5He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – The question was asked, ‘When you call God your “Father”, how do you picture Him? Is it a title of respect, or of love, or of power?’ Most viewed it as a combination of the three as most of them had a similar, loving relationship with their own fathers and respected him and his instruction. Along with that respect was a healthy recognition of power. Not everyone has a positive, loving relationship with a father figure. The view we have, positive or negative, or non-existent, of our fathers will reflect in some manor, in our view of God as our “Father”. For some, “father” brings remembrances of a domineering, ‘do as I say or else’, tyrant figure with no sense of love. For some, a “father” was pretty much invisible, offering no boundaries at all, no direction, no involvement… and no relationship. Where there is no discipline, no consequence, there is no teaching, no caring, no love.
For the adolescent that resents the discipline of their father, they need to understand that the opposite would allow them grow up not knowing right from wrong, and that there are consequences for doing wrong; whether they come from him or from society. But preceding discipline there must be love; a love relationship that displays the “why” of the discipline.
Fathers, avoiding the conflict that discipline brings, doing your best to win your child’s favor no matter what, is not the definition of love. Loving your child with all your being is only a one sided love. A love relationship extends that love that you feel, to a love that is applied. A love that wants only what is best for the other; to teach, instruct, and keep them from harm.
Throughout scripture we are told to “fear the Lord”. Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;” How interesting it is that the “all of the above” answer that was given earlier, is precisely what is meant to “fear the Lord”; to love the Lord, to respect the Lord, to acknowledge and “fear” His great power. But know this; although God is not looking for an opportunity to punish you for stepping out of line, sin comes with severe consequences. God cannot, will not, coexist with sin. Know also that God genuinely loves you, not just with words. He loves you enough that he warns you about sin – stay away from it. It comes at a great cost! Everything God does for us is because of His great love. He sent His only Son to die for us – to justify and reconcile us to Himself.
God set us free from sin. He loved us first, and now He wants us to love Him back by honoring Him, fearing Him. We follow His direction, His commands; we fear Him because we love and respect our Father.
Deuteronomy 10:12-13 12And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?