Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 ESV)
And yet I will show you the most excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:31 NIV)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV)
We hope for many things, some of which we may see happen whilst others fade away like a candle that is burning out.
Hopes, like dreams, are things we hold onto and they are things we really want to experience. I guess most of us know what it feels like when our hopes or dreams are shattered. It's a bereavement. We feel the loss acutely.
Faith is a bit like a fishing line. It goes off into the future, hooks onto one of our hopes which we then reel back into the present. Faith brings our hopes into our reality, it gives them substance. Of course it would be nice if we had faith for all our hopes and dreams but it often doesn't work out quite like that.
My encouragement is that you ask Father which of your hopes are going to be drawn into the present. That's faith. Let the fishing line of faith catch your hopes and dreams and may they become a reality in your daily lives.
Faith and hope are important but they are not the most important. Paul reminds us that love is the "most excellent way".
Whatever happens with our hopes and to our faith, we are always held in his love. His love surrounds us every day of our lives regardless of how we feel or what is happening. He is always faithful, he is always loving and when we don't see our hopes realised we do have the assurance of his love holding and carrying us.
For more information about the next 'A' School, Experiencing Father's Love, click here
"Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18 ESV)
God has always been Father, but does that mean we have always been his children?
Many years ago, I was single. Then I got married and became a husband. A few years later we were blessed with our eldest daughter and I became a father. Sometimes that's the logic we apply to who God is. We are born again, we become a child of God and we automatically assume that is the point in time he became a Father.
Well, look at it this way. A couple of years after our eldest daughter was born we had a second daughter. I was already a father at that point in time so I did not become a father, I already was one. Our family was simply getting bigger and my fatherhood growing. So can we apply this picture to our heavenly Father? Maybe. God has always been the Father of Jesus and so the more the children he had the more his family would grow, the more his fatherhood would extend.
But even this is not a complete picture. We read in Ephesians 1:4-5 that we were chosen to be sons and daughters before the foundation of the world. Jeremiah was known before he was in his mother's womb (Jer 1:5). David writes in Psalm 139 that we were known intimately by God before our birth and that he was our Creator. God's fathering of us goes way beyond our human understanding.
Many of us have had painful experiences with our earthly parents, none of us have had perfect parents and that view can colour how we see our Heavenly Father. He is way and beyond anything we have experienced and however difficult that has been he is the Perfect Father. He has always been our Father. The trouble is, we wandered off in our own independence and thought we could manage life without him. He has pursued us and done everything to bring us back home. Through Jesus, he has made it possible to come back into relationship with him.
A couple of weeks ago we saw how God is Father. Put very simply he has lost his children and he wants them to be found and to come home.
Paul describes it like this: "God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Therefore since we are God’s offspring....." (Acts 17:27-19 NIV). We are his offspring because he has always been our Father. We are invited to become children, sons and daughters, as we come home to him and that way is through Jesus and Jesus alone.
“I myself said, “‘How gladly would I treat you like my children and give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.’ I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me.” (Jeremiah 3:19 NIV)
This is the prophetic cry that has been on God’s heart ever since Adam and his wife chose to walk in their independent and orphan-hearted ways in the garden. In fact, I believe this is the cry that has always been on his heart, even since before the beginning of time.
God longs, he waits, he yearns, he desires to be called ‘Father’ for one very simple reason. That’s who he is. He does a lot of other things: he heals, he provides, he cares, he protects and so much more. There are 365 names for God in the Old Testament, the majority of which describe his nature or personality together with the things he does. But one name describes who he is - ‘Father’.
As we saw last week, he has always been Father and he longs to be a Father to YOU.
Generally, a father will only give his inheritance to his children, he will not give it to servants or slaves. Our Father has a wonderful inheritance for us. It is the best inheritance of any nation but it is only given to sons and daughters.
There is so much more to being a Christian than purely being saved, as wonderful as that is. There is more. As we know God as Father, I believe he opens the door for us to step into our inheritance in a much greater way. (I have written more about this in my recent booklet “Father’s Comfort” which is freely available from the Articles page on the website).
He is Father, he always has been Father and he is waiting for you to call him “my Father”.
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” (Luke 2:46-49 ESV)
As we read the gospel stories we follow the story of a Son and his Father. Does this story start with a baby being born in a borrowed stable and end with death on a Roman cross? For many that is their understanding. But this story started even before the clock started ticking in Genesis chapter one. This story runs from all of eternity before Genesis and it will run right through all of eternity after Revelation. It is a relationship which is set outside of time.
John understood this when he starts his gospel account with the words “In the beginning”. He is not referring to the creation story in Genesis, but is looking back into eternity before the clock started ticking. He sees a relationship and he describes that for us throughout his gospel. He describes a relationship which is one of perfect love.
As we read the gospels we are let into this story, we are invited to see what this relationship looks like. We are given a glimpse of how Father and Son relate to each other and how they relate to other people. This relationship is like no other. It is certainly not like the relationship the Pharisees and Leaders had with either God or the people. This was a new type of relationship, it was family.
In fact, this sort of relationship has always been in God’s heart. He wanted a family. He longs for sons and daughters who will be just like Jesus. The relationship we see is not just for us to view as spectators, it is one we are invited into. Just as God is Father to Jesus so he wants to a Father to us. That's who he's been and who he will always be.
Jesus was single-minded in his desire to live in the Father’s presence and be found doing his will. What about us? My prayer is that we, too, would long to be in Father’s presence and doing his work, not as servants but as sons and daughters.
God has always been Father, and he longs to be a Father to YOU.
"See what kind of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God. For that is who we are!" (1 John 3:1 NIV)
Since before the beginning of time the Father has only had one plan and that was for a family. A family of sons and daughters who would live in relationship with him and be able to experience a perfect Father's love. His plan has always been that we would be like Jesus and would know and experience exactly the same love that Jesus knows and experiences.
Often we view the cross as the pinnacle of Jesus' ministry, the purpose for him coming to earth. In no way am I diminishing the power of the cross and the amazing work that Jesus accomplished on that cross. The cross was the only way for the Father's plan to be achieved. It was necessary in order to redeem us and bring us back to the Father.
The cross, though, is not an end in itself. It is the means to an end which means it becomes the doorway for the outpouring of Father's love into our hearts. Everything that Jesus spoke about in John 14 is fulfilled through the cross as the Father's love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
That love changes everything. It is a love that brings us freedom. It is a love that brings us relationship. It is a love that brings us into our eternal sonship.
It is the fulfillment of the Father's plan: that you and I may know we are loved as Jesus is loved.
I have revealed to them who you are and I will continue to make you even more real to them, so that they may experience the same endless love that you have for me, for your love will now live in them, even as I live in them! (John 17:26 TPT)
"This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:9-10 NIV)
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." (1 John 3:16 NIV)
Last week we saw how we had been rescued; we saw that the Father sent a Saviour as it is impossible for us to save ourselves.
That was a big sacrifice for both the Father and the Son.
The Father knew that the only way for us to come back home was to have the burden of sin lifted from us and for it to be totally destroyed through the death and resurrection of Jesus. For that to happen the eternal, divine Son of God had to leave the beauty, peace and rest of Heaven and take on the brokenness of humanity. Despite leaving that place of eternal comfort he knew that his Father would be with him every step of the way, even through the agony of the cross.
Jesus made that sacrifice willingly. Not just because he loved the whole of the human race but more than that because of his love for his Father and his absolute desire to do and see his will accomplished.
It is this sacrificial love that draws us towards our eternal home. It draws us to the place of comfort and rest where we can experience the love of the Father and to know that he is loving us right now.
Recently, in the UK, a prominent politician resigned from leading his party due to the attack on his faith by sections of the media. He concluded his resignation speech with these words:
"....what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour. In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something ‘so amazing, so divine, it demands my heart, my life, my all’.
This person was the recipient of sacrificial love and he knew what it meant for him. It meant everything. My prayer is that we, too, will discover the joy of abandoning ourselves to our Father, not because we have to but because we want to.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:16-17 ESV)
Most of the time we are unable to save ourselves. We are out of our depth, in something too deeply, unable to turn and swim against the tide. We need to be rescued. When we try and save ourselves we end up using a lot of energy and slowly we start to lose the battle. We need a Saviour.
Thankfully that is what our Father did for us. The human race was stuck, it was unable to save itself from the pathway of sin and the orphan-hearted ways of the world. We needed to be rescued and that rescue is what we have just celebrated over the Christmas season. A Saviour who was given freely to the world in order to deal with the problem of our sin and in doing so, to make a way for us to come home to our Father. This was the only way that this rescue could happen. A sin-free Son coming into this world to save us from the power of sin and to open the way for us to live as sons and daughters.
The coming of the Saviour was not to condemn but to bring freedom.
The orphan-hearted system we have left behind is one of guilt, shame and condemnation. But the way of sonship is one of freedom.
As we start 2018, my prayer is that we will all experience a greater level of freedom as we grow in our sonship and become more like our Saviour.
A Father to YOU is a signpost to the heart of the Perfect Father. When we became Christians we were given the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Sadly, many of us fail to take up that right and instead continue to live as slaves or orphans. But our true destiny is being sons and daughters who have a permanent place in the Father's family. This blog is an encouragement to help you know who God really is and who you really are.