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Fatherhood: Tending the Garden

Stonebrook Community Church http://www.stonebrook.org

“Fatherhood:  Tending the Garden”


John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Stonebrook Church – June 15 – Matt Heerema




Well, today is Father’s day, that wonderful, well-entrenched American tradition (1972), that took cues from the smashing commercial success of Mother’s day and was created for the purpose of selling more greeting cards and neck ties. Conveniently this year it falls right over the top of the Church’s celebration of Trinity Sunday, that Sunday that is set aside (for those churches who pay attention to such things) to celebrate and dwell on God’s triune nature, leaving a lot of my brothers in other churches very confused about how and what to preach today.


All joking aside, however, I think it is wonderful to take a day, even a Sunday sermon, to recognize and celebrate Fatherhood and Motherhood. And it is my honor today to preach about Fatherhood. Oddly enough, the topic is closely tied to the triune nature of God, which we’ll get into briefly in a bit.


It is appropriate to honor fathers today, and would you do me a favor, if today is your first father’s day as a new dad, would you please stand? [Greet them, talk about gift we have for them…]


I also want to acknowledge that Father’s Day, like Mother’s day is meant to be a happy time of celebration, but can be a time of pain and sadness for some. Some don’t have very fond memories of their fathers, or might not know them at all. Some who have wished to be fathers have been unable to have children. Some have lost their fathers recently and are still reeling from the pain. I wanted to assure all of you that the Bible promises that none of us are without a perfect Heavenly Father, who can be loved and experienced in very real ways, and that this is no mere consolation. That without first knowing your heavenly Father, and loving Him supremely, your earthly father, no matter how wonderful, will always disappoint.

God reveals himself as Father throughout the Bible, but this Psalm shows this very well.



Psalm 68:4–5 (ESV)

                         Sing to God, sing praises to his name;

lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;

                           his name is the Lord;

exult before him!

                         Father of the fatherless and protector of widows

is God in his holy habitation.


This day and this message, too, can be for more of you than just those who currently have physical offspring. Some of the more powerful lessons I learned about fatherhood I learned prior to becoming a father. The scriptures also speak of having Spiritual children, those that you have discipled and help raise in the faith. God also calls us to be helpers of the widow and the orphan.


My big premise today is that Fatherhood at root, is baked into what it means to be a Christian man, whether or not you have physical children.


Before we go further though, it might be apparent that I got a bit of sun yesterday. My red-facedness isn’t from embarrassment or extreme emotional fervor (yet), but I wanted to take a second and publicly thank the men (and brave dear sister) who came out yesterday to help me with a massive landscaping project., { ** SLIDE ** } Gary Harris, Jeff Wigdahl, and a number of you from The Rock gave up their Saturday to work tirelessly to pretty drastically re-haul my back yard, and I am extremely grateful.


In preparing this message, I tried to decide what would be most helpful to all of you. I am a younger man, and my children are younger. We have grandfathers in the room who could give much richer parenting advice. With four girls, 7, 5, 3, and on the way, my expertise is somewhere in the range of princess movies, pre-school, and potty training. I had somewhere in the range of four to seven very memorable G-words, and about as many P-words which could be easily written down and memorized, but I didn’t think that would be most helpful coming from me.   I want to be a little simpler than that, and give you men, especially you younger men, just one big idea that you could carry with you that I think would orient your whole mind, and whole understanding of your task.   This concept has been so huge for me over the last several years, that I think of it as sort of the True North of Christian manhood. When I’m dialed in to this, my task makes sense. When I’m not, people get hurt.


We are to Glorify God through Tending The Garden.




POINT: Man was created for the garden. For the covenantal bonds and relationships of family, community, and work.


[Read Together]

Genesis 2:5–18 (ESV)

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.


10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. 14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.


15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”


18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”



Genesis 1:26–28 (ESV)

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

         27So God created man in his own image,

                           in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”




We were created to work and to keep a Garden, to nurture it, and to fill it with community and family. Man was given this task as primary head, under God, and lead-worker, and woman was created as his helper in the task.


[Read Together]

Ephesians 5:22–30 (ESV)

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.


Men, to understand your task, you must understand that in the context of family, you are the head, the authority. I understand that in our culture this is a controversial thing to say, but it has only become so controversial because we are so bad at exercising our authority in a Godly way. Because we are children whose natural inclination is to disobey our heavenly father at every opportunity, we either abdicate this authority and fail to lead, provide, and protect, OR we do these things ruthlessly with an iron fist. We demand our rights as head of house and end up bossing our wives around as if they were the help rather than our helpers, and we treat our children like nuisances or servants, rather than cherished treasures.


Authority is edifying. It is given to you, so that you may give life to others. We are to use it to build those around us up. To help them to thrive.


Authority is self-sacrificing. As we follow the example of our Heavenly father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, we see that the way to wield this authority is to take initiative, be the first one in, last one out, never demand our rights, but serve, relentlessly and tirelessly.


Work and Keep Your home (wife & family)




Ephesians 5:25-30

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.




Ephesians 6:4 (ESV)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.


Commentary: “Note the male responsibility”…


“Gave himself up…”

“Don’t hate: nourish, cherish…”

“Don’t provoke, bring them up…”


And so we see the gardener analogy starting to take shape.


How do we treat the plants we are tending?  

Care, time, attention, study, understanding.


I used to have the conception that it was my job to build and to mold my children, to construct them somehow. Understanding the gardening analogy helps me see that my job is to till the soil, to feed and water, to nurture, to tend this creation of God’s that He has entrusted into my care, such that they grow into His design for them. This does involve pulling weeds and pruning branches, yes, it involves correction and discipline, but even here we do so with lack of harshness. Men, we must protect our wives and our children from our anger. We must crucify it.


This moderates the rules I make for my children. My commands to my children (the good ones) are aimed at, not my convenience, but their thriving. If that is at the expense of my convenience, so be it.


This analogy plays outside the home as well:


  • Work and keep your church
  • Work and keep your community
  • Do this through your VOCATION


Back to the garden


Rhetorical question:

How did Adam do at his task? He failed. He failed so epically that he corrupted every single one of offspring’s, offspring’s, offspring’s, offspring’s, offspring’s, offspring. How would you feel as a parent if one of your children was so twisted that they murdered your other child? Adam’s failure was such that within a few hundred years, the scriptures say that every single intention and thought of the hearts of every person was nothing but evil, all the time. And apart from Christ, we are just like our Father Adam, and apart from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we are just like Adam’s children.

The Heavenly Father looked on and saw His children lying to each other, stealing, killing, dominating, enslaving, the direct opposite of His command to them to love, nurture, cherish, tend one another, and He was greatly grieved.


Have you experienced this grief as a parent? There is a difference between prideful anger at the insubordination of our children, and heartfelt grief that they are refusing to walk in love, wisdom


Enter, Jesus, who, by the way, Himself experienced in a very real way *every* kind of pain and sorry, and joy that we experience on this day:


  • who experienced the loss of His earthly father at an early age,
  • who never had physical offspring,
  • who suffered humiliation and scorn, abuse and torture, and was ultimately murdered by, ruthless men. ,
  • who was abandoned by His Heavenly Father,
  • who was betrayed, denied, and abandoned by those He poured His life into.
  • and all of this though He was totally without fault, totally without sin, totally undeserving, which is something none of us can ever say.


  • who was Glorified, vindicated, honored publicly, and exalted by His Heavenly Father,
  • whose work has many many spiritual offspring,
  • who Himself is One With the God THE Father.


Jesus knows exactly what you are going through on this day. He experienced it all, first hand. And He is calling you to follow after Him. Here’s what that means: life your life in such a way that you give up your life so that other’s might live.




{ ** SLIDE ** }

  1. Resolve to die for your family.


{ ** SLIDE ** }

John 15:12–13 (ESV)

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.


{ ** SLIDE ** }

2. Resolve to pray.


Communicate with your Heavenly Father. Go to Him for the Wisdom you will need to lead your family. Go to Him with your frustrations and your worries. Ask Him for everything you need to do you job. Energy, Time, Money, Health, Help. As I’ve done this over the years He has never let me down.


{ ** SLIDE ** }

3. Resolve to repent.


You will fail. You already have failed. You will sin against God and against your family. Repent. Do not underestimate the power of humbling yourself before your wife and before your children and admitting your sin. They already know what it is, but to name it, and to apologize for it, and to turn from it in front of them, this is where the power to fix your family and the authority to lead comes from. I don’t have a guarantee of instant results here, though you might be surprised. But what I can guarantee is that nothing will change if you do not.


Do not underestimate the necessity of humbling yourself before your God and confessing your sin and repenting. This is the only way to be saved. Jesus has already done all the work to forgive your sin, and cleanse you from unrighteousness.  


{ ** SLIDE ** }

1 John 1:8–9 (ESV)

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


{ ** SLIDE ** }

4. Resolve to depend on God’s Grace.


You will always need it. You will never be completely “fixed” in this life. For the repentant, there is always enough forgiveness for every failure. For the humble, His power will shine through your struggles and weakness as you lean on His strength, and are honest with your family (home and church) about your shortcomings, you don’t have to be superman, Jesus has that part locked down.


{ ** SLIDE ** }

5. Resolve to not do this alone.


God saw Adam in the Garden, alone, and said “It is not good for man to be alone.” This was not just a commentary on Adam’s need for a wife. It was a commentary on Adam’s need for community. God has designed us to work together inside community and family. He has designed us as needy. To ask for help is not a sign of weakness, it is an acknowledgement of God’s created order for things.


God has designed the community of the Church to be the only place where we can have all our spiritual, relational, and physical needs completely cared for. He has commanded us to band together as believers and bear one another’s burdens, share one another’s joys and sorrows, to instruct each other in the Faith. In it we also find the practical help we need for parenting, marriage, learning to work, advice, mentoring. We need each other. Commit yourself to the community.   I was told once that the best thing you can do for your family is to march yourself and your family directly into the middle of the church community and start serving. If you do that, you will be safe.


This is called the body of Christ because it is Jesus’s body. If you want to be close to Jesus, get close to His body.


I hope this has been helpful. I’d be more than happy to stick around for awhile if you have questions. I will likely refer you to men and women who are much wiser than I, but I’ll do my best. Happy Father’s Day. Let’s pray to our Heavenly Father.