In “What’s in a (Domain) Name?” I briefly explained the heart of this website.
Let’s jump from the Old Testament, the last book, the last verse, in which God says that through Elijah he will “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,” to the New Testament, the third book, the 15th chapter. If you have a “red letter” edition of the Bible, you’ll see lots of red starting in chapter ten. Jesus is doing a lot of talking, a lot of teaching.
In Chapter 15 he’s teaching about the love of the Father, a Father whose heart is turned to his children in love. He starts out by comparing God the Father to a man who has lost one sheep out of a hundred. His love for that one lost sheep is so great that when he finds it, he calls together his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him. Then Jesus draws a comparison, saying that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who turns to God than 99 who already love him.
In his second story, Jesus talks about a woman who has ten silver coins but loses one of them. She lights a lamp, sweeps the house, and searches carefully until she finds it. She’s so happy that she, too, invites her friends and neighbors together to rejoice with her! Again, Jesus says, “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner” who turns to him.
The third story drives home the point that our God is a gracious and loving Father who has a heart of compassion for his children, for you. Even though his younger son was rebellious and had really messed up his life, the father loved him deeply, and overwhelmed him with love when he returned home. He demonstrated his love by hugging and kissing him, providing him with the finest robe, ring and sandals, and preparing a feast for him. He expressed his love for his older son too, by assuring him that everything in the father’s house belonged to him as well.
God wants you to experience that kind of love. It’s unconditional. It’s not based on your intellect, skills, abilities, strengths, looks, behavior, decisions, or personality. It’s based on the fact that He loves you, and He’s called you to be a loving dad to your kids. After all,
- God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
- Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13
God wants you to demonstrate that love regularly, consistently, whole-heartedly, completely.
- This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12
These New Testament stories “bring to life” the last verse in the Old Testament. They clearly show a Father whose heart is fully turned to his children in love.
Consider two other New Testament fathers whose lives, and the lives of their families, were transformed by the love and power of Jesus.
A Turned Heart, A Transformed Father
The first transformed father is a man of influence, a man of stature. He was a “nobleman,” from Capernaum (John 4:46). He had heard of Jesus and his ability to heal, and heard that Jesus was in the area. This nobleman had a great need. He cared deeply for his son, and his son was sick, “at the point of death.” He begged Jesus to return to his house with him, “before my child dies.”
Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.”
Then John makes an amazing statement. In a matter-of-fact, simple style, he writes, “So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.”
He believed Jesus! He believed! No doubt. No questions. No, “Really? He’s healed?” No, “Really? How can I be sure?” No, “Don’t you have to come pray over him?” He believed!
Then, John says, he acted on his belief, “and he went his way.”
Oh, how many times have we heard the words of Jesus, the precious promises of the Lord for us, and doubted? How many times have we failed to believe? Too many!
But this dad “believed the word that Jesus spoke to him.”
Then came a greater belief, a remarkable transformation, and a turned heart.
On his way home, “his servants met him and told him, saying, ‘Your son lives!’”
I wonder who was in charge when this dad was away from home. Another son, perhaps, or his wife. Was his most trusted servant given the responsibility? I’d love to hear the conversation at his home just after his son was healed. “We have to go tell the master! He needs to know! Simon, you go. No, not by yourself. He’ll never believe just one of us. (His servants, more than one, met him.) Perhaps two of us, maybe three, can convince him.”
Again, John records no surprise, no shock for this dad when he hears that his son, who was at the point of death, was healed. But he must have been elated! He must have been overwhelmed! His son, his beloved son lives! Instead, John records that this loving dad, a man of few words, two words in this situation, asks, “What time?”
Then John concludes with a simple, yet powerful statement: “And he himself believed, and his whole household.”
Wait a minute. We already knew this nobleman believed. Yes, but this belief was different. This belief, was not just in Jesus as a remarkable man, as a miracle worker or healer, but it was belief in Jesus as Lord, as God, a belief that had the power to transform him and “his whole household,” a belief powerful enough to turn each family member’s heart to the Father!
I want to say, “John, tell us more. What happened? What did they say? What did they do? How did his wife respond? His children? How did things change?” But John ends the story and leaves us amazed at the tremendous power of belief; belief in Jesus as the Son of God, the Savior, the Messiah.
Prior to this encounter with Jesus, this nobleman was a man of influence in his family and in his business dealings. After this encounter, surely he became a man of spiritual influence as well, no doubt encouraging his household, as well as friends and neighbors, to believe and “grow” in Jesus.
He would probably never forget the words Jesus spoke to him before he returned home. They would remind him of the love and power of this Jesus. They would encourage him in his down times, and lift him when he was weary. They would serve as a marker, a starting point, for a life transformed, a household transformed. They were the same words his servants told him when they met him on the road. They were everything this nobleman needed to be convinced that Jesus was who he said he was. They were, very simply, “Your son lives!”
Another Father, Another Heart Turned!
The second transformed dad had a demanding job. He was a jailor in the city of Thyatira. No thanks! One night he received orders to lock up Paul and Silas for stirring up the city. He “put them in the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:24). Just another couple of troublemakers. Just another routine night at work. And so he dozed off, confident in the strength and security of the prison walls and the chains that bound these men and the others.
While he slept, Paul and Silas prayed and worshiped while the other prisoners listened.
You see, some years earlier, the hearts of Paul and Silas had been turned to the Lord, too. Paul was changed from being a persecutor of Christians to being a believer in Jesus (See his story in Acts 9). This transformation enabled him to praise God even when his feet were in stocks, and he was stuck in prison at midnight, having just had his back badly beaten with rods, many times. It made quite an impression on the other prisoners. Perhaps the jailor, too, heard this duo singing as he drifted off to sleep.
Then an earthquake changed everything. The jailor, awakened by the commotion, saw that all the prison doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were loosed. Assuming the prisoners had fled, and knowing the consequences he would face for failing in his duties, he quickly decided to take his own life. But Paul, way back in the inner prison, called to him “with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’”
Paul knew. The prisoners stayed. They must have been “blown away” by what they had just seen and heard!
This jailor, this dad, recognizing the miraculous in this set of circumstances and shaken to the core, now fell at the feet of Paul and Silas trembling, and asked “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
In a word they told him; in a word. “Believe,” they said. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
He did believe, and another amazing transformation took place. In an instant, this jailor, this dad, went from being just another man doing his job, to a servant and believer in Jesus, influencing his entire household to become believers as well. He took Paul and Silas to his house (“Get up, Honey, we have guests! Kids, wake up! You’ll never believe what just happened!”). He fed them. He washed their battered bodies. He had them speak to everyone there. Then, it says, everyone believed, and everyone was baptized! How amazing! Each family member’s heart was turned .
Finally, we read, “he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.”
So, this dad, in a very short night, after midnight, went from near death by suicide–to rejoicing, because he and his family now knew the truth–the truth that God is real, that God was for him, that God loved him.
At the start of the night this man, although outside of the jail’s walls, was more imprisoned than the men he locked up in chains behind bars. By morning, he too was free!
What about you? Are you a transformed man, a transformed dad? If not, all it takes is a simple prayer. And the presence and power of God will change you. “Lord, I need you. Turn my heart to you, Father, and to my family.”
What happens when you pray that prayer? Paul explains what takes place in Galatians 4:1-7. He says that God sent Jesus to “redeem” us, that is, to ransom us, to pay the price for us, for our sins, in order to adopt us as his own sons. “And,” he says, “because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (See also Romans 8:17.)
Jesus cried out to the Father this way, saying “Abba, Father,” just before he paid the price, with his life, to redeem you (Mark 14:26). Abba, Father, turn my heart to you.
Some Will Question Your Change of Heart
Fortunately for the nobleman and the jailor, their families were ready to embrace their sudden transformations. Perhaps their dire situations, their desperate needs or the miracles they witnessed opened their hearts to this change.
Unfortunately, not every family is as welcoming.
Perhaps you’ve been a “jerk” in some way for so long that, if you announce a sudden transformation, they’ll think, and perhaps say, “We’ll believe it when we see it.” Maybe you’ve given them plenty of reasons to be skeptical. Instead, consider allowing the Father to work in your heart and life over time, and let your renewed words, attitude, and actions speak for themselves. When you’ve demonstrated true change, others will be more open.
Some won’t embrace the change in you, perhaps, because they’re a little lazy or stubborn. They prefer to relate to you as they always have. They’re programmed to think about you, and feel about you, in time-tested ways. They have years of history with you. They might be thinking, “Who the heck is he? What’s gotten into him?” Change isn’t easy. If you’ve ever known someone who, for whatever valid, perhaps God-inspired, reason, changed the name they go by, you know that some family and friends stubbornly resist the change. It might take some of them weeks, months, or years to accept it. Some may never yield.
Some might give you grief because they realize that you’ve changed and they’re stuck in a rut–they need what you have, but don’t know how to get it, or don’t think it’s possible for them to change.
In some cultures, you’d be rejected out-right. Cut off. Disowned.
You’re in good company. Jesus himself faced this type of misunderstanding and rejection often, even from family members. Mark (6:1-4) records that when Jesus went back home and taught in the synagogue, astonishing many with his wisdom and mighty works, they couldn’t let him out of their “box.” “What?” they thought. “Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary,” and sibling to these common people we know? “So they were offended at Him.” In their minds he was just a carpenter. In reality, he was much more than a carpenter.*
But you can handle it, because you know. You know the transformation is real. It’s a God thing. At the right time, share your story with them. I once was lost, but now I’m found. I was blind, but now I see. It was not because of anything I did, but completely by the grace of God. He opened my eyes. He changed me. He turned my heart.
With some people you might have to make a choice. Jesus spells it out for us: “He who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” He’s not telling you to forget family if they give you grief, but, rather, stick to your guns in your relationship with him. Don’t let family or friends cause you to compromise your walk with the Lord. After all, “he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-38). Finding your life, in Jesus, is well worth it. In fact, it’s priceless!
*Initially a skeptic, Josh McDowell thought that Christians were “out of their minds.” Later he discovered “that Jesus, instead of being simply a first-century Hebrew carpenter, truly was the God he claimed to be.” Josh shares his amazing story, and how his heart was turned from hating his father, the town alcoholic, to loving him fully, and seeing his dad transformed by the love and power of God, in his book, More Than a Carpenter.
Worship with Chris Tomlin’s “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) here.
Worship with Hillsong’s “Came to My Rescue” here.
Worship with Hillsong’s “Mighty to Save” here.