I Put Him on Display

Photo by Carol Highsmith of a Western Store Display Window

If you put Him on display, how does God look so far?

Three things contributed to this blog topic.

1.  So far this year I’ve read book of Proverbs seven times and have noticed that the father, talking to the son he loves and delights in, says many times and in many ways something like this:

Listen, pay attention to, accept, treasure and always follow the instruction of your father from your heart so that you will be wise, discerning, and happy.  Delight in my ways ( which are God’s ways) and you will bring gladness and rejoicing to yourself and to me and your mother.  Give me your ear and your heart and love what I say and do so that you will not bring grief, shame, disgrace, bitterness, humiliation or destruction to yourself or to your parents.

2.  Last week my oldest grandson, asked, “What is sin? The overly simplistic definition of sin that evolved was, “Sin is anything you think, say, or do that does not reflect God’s moral character as revealed in his moral law.” That is, “You know you are sinning when you don’t ‘look like’ a son of God.”

We talked about how, when he disobeyed his dad, his actions were really saying, “I think I know better than you – I’m smarter and wiser than you so I will just ignore you and do what I think is best.” When you do things that go against your heavenly father’s instructions, my husband and I explained, you demonstrate an unloving attitude toward God and show that you don’t think he’s wise – that you don’t value him. You insult him, and make him look bad in the eyes of others.

3.  Our youth pastor, in his recent sermon on Psalm 2:11, “The Joy of Fearing the Lord,” remarked that, as a son connected to his father physically, relationally (he loves and respects his father), and spatially (they live in the same town), he did not want to do anything to cause his father to be embarrassed or mar his father’s reputation.

We sometimes bring grief to our family through association.

You get the drift. As sons (and daughters) we can, and sadly sometimes do, bring grief to our fathers (and mothers) when we choose our own destructive ways over their godly instructions, when we show that we don’t think they are wise – when it’s clear we don’t value what they say. We bring shame, disgrace, bitterness, humiliation, and destruction on our earthly parents because of their family association with us.

A foolish son is a grief to his father
And bitterness to her who bore him.
Proverbs 17:25

And, as sons and daughters of our heavenly father we can bring grief to God because of our destructive disobedience that demonstrates lack of love for him and respect for his word. We can shame God’s reputation – his name, because of our family association with him.

My son, if you heart is wise,
My own heart also will be glad;
And my inmost being will rejoice
When your lips speak what is right.
Proverbs 23:15-16 (NASB – Compare to Ezek. 36:21-23 and Eph. 4:25-32 below.)

The Culture’s Way

But this is not mainstream thought is it?  Our society, as a whole, encourages us to think of ourselves as independent beings. Listen to the lyrics to the sixties’ song “You Don’t Own Me,” and try to focus on the autonomous attitude Lesley Gore communicates rather than a specific attitude toward her boyfriend, who I agree doesn’t own her. Do you think today, fifty years later, the general attitude of independence the lyrics promote still typifies our cultural mantra?

Isn’t it still true? We don’t want to be told what to say or what to do. We just want to be ourselves, young and free, to live life they way we want and to do and say whatever we please. We don’t want to be owned, and we certainly don’t want to be on display as a reflection of anyone.

The Christian Way

But that’s not the Christian way. God owns us because he made us and because he has redeemed (bought) us. He does tell us what to do and say, and he tells us to live life his way. Rather than letting us be ourselves, he commands us to lay down our old independent life and take up our new God-dependent life lived in his Spirit. He changes us to make us more like him, for our own good, but also and mainly because when we go out as his sons and daughters, we put him on display.

A Side Note but an Important One

Notice, in the summary of what the father says to the son (#1 above), that he uses words like love, delight, and treasure. He says things like love me from the heart. Delight in and treasure my instruction.

Give me your heart, my son,
And let your eyes delight in my ways.
Proverbs 23:26 (NASB)

This tells me that my display of God involves my motivation and my attitude. If my display of God is to honor him, I must be motivated by love for God, delight in him, treasure of (highest regard for) him and his word. It involves my ready and willing attitude.

Think about it. If we try to honor our parents by dutifully following their instruction without being motivated by love for them, if we listen and do what they say out of resentful obligation and not delight, we will end up dishonoring them – our begrudging display of them will bring shame on them. In the same way, a begrudging attitude toward our father God and his law that is displayed for all to see, whether we mean for it to or not, dishonors him.

 An Obvious Conclusion

Jesus is our model here. He perfectly obeyed the father (Phil 2:8) out of love for God (John 14:31), and he perfectly imaged him (John 14:9; 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15 ). And God, the father said,

You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” Mark 1:11 (NASB).

Other References

Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,” declares the Lord God, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight.  Ezekiel 36:21-23 (NASB)

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.  Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.  He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:25-32 (NASB)