Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life ?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. (Matthew 19:16-18 NIV)
In the garden, Adam and his wife were tricked. They were basically told that if they did something (ate from the tree) then they would become like God. It sounded good, but it was a trap and one we have all fallen for.
I guess all of us, in our heart, want to be like God or want to please him. Maybe not a bad motivation but not the one that fashions our relationship with him. In fact, the lie told to Adam and his wife is the one we often listen to. "What must I do?" When we live like this it's tiring. In reality, we have no idea if we are doing the right thing. It may be the right thing on one occasion but completely wrong on another.
This trap has drawn us away from our eternal destiny where we were meant to live as sons and daughters. Walking like Jesus and only doing what we see the Father doing.
The secret is not to live from the tree of knowledge of good and evil but to live from the tree of life. The expression of life itself.
The rich young ruler had done the right things all his life yet he still asked the question "what must I do?" That question never satisfies because principally we are not doers but recipients of the flow of life from Heaven into our heart.
Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:3 NIV)
When we look at the life of Jesus we see that his identity was not defined by what he did but by who he was. Satan's attack on Jesus, like those of the Pharisees, was that he said he was the Son of God.
Whilst spiritual gifts are important and necessary for the life of the church they are not the things which give us our identity. We desperately need more of the gifts of the Spirit and we should earnestly desire them (1 Cor 12:31).
Paul tells us they are good but he also tells us there is another way which is the more excellent way of love. In 1 Corinthians 13 he is not principally talking about our love for others but the Father's love for us. This is the best and most important way, more necessary and vital to us than the gifts of the Spirit. This is the way that leads to life. As we become rooted and grounded in love we will discover the ultimate gift that will never fail or let us down. It is the gift that goes beyond and outlasts all other gifts. A life of love is the one we should pursue with all our heart.
Whilst we desire the gifts of the Spirit, we should chase after love or make it our greatest aim. The gifts of the Spirit have their place but it is ultimately only love which transforms lives.
As our heart is filled with the love of the Father we will start to see him face to face and become known by him (1 Cor 13:12).
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is who we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1 NIV)
Sadly, our image of God is often distorted as we view him through the filter of our earthly parents. When we've been looking through a filter the only way to see clearly is to remove the filter.
Sometimes it's not easy to remove the filter as the mindset it has created has become a part of us. However, we do not need to let our historical view of God define our future relationship with him.
Our true Father is the perfect Father and he is with us through the good times as much as the difficult times. He never leaves us, nor does he let us down. He is always faithful and his love for us is constant and unimaginably amazing. Too often we know him as a father, rather than knowing him being a Father to us. One is piece of information, the other describes a heart relationship.
His love for you and me is extravagant. It's like going to a feast where there is almost too much to eat. You feel you want to try a bit of everything that is laid out but there's just too much. You don't want to miss anything but you don't have the capacity to try everything. The Father's love is like that, it's overwhelmingly generous.
Traditionally, the religious and historical picture of God has not been a father but a distant (and often angry) God. This is not the Biblical picture. As we remove the filters we will see him as he really is. The eyes of our heart will see not just a father, but we will see and experience him being a Father to us. We will know that his eternal love is being poured into our heart and that we are truly loved.
Now this is eternal life: that they know you (the Father), the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3 NIV)
I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. (John 17:6 NIV)
We have a revelation when we see something that was previously hidden. It's an experience which enables us to grasp something that we didn't know or understand. A revelation changes the complex into something blindingly obvious.
Reading through the Old Testament, we often see God described as a father but somehow his people could never see or experience him as one. In their mind, God remained distant and someone they were unable to have a personal relationship with.
It took the coming of God's son, Jesus, before we were able to glimpse the real nature of God as Father, as our Father. In Matthew 11:25-27 Jesus tells us that he came to reveal his Father and that revelation will lead to us discovering a life of rest and dependency on him. We can discover the easy yoke of relationship which will free us to walk as Jesus walked.
The wonderful thing is, Jesus goes on revealing the Father (John 17:26) and it is something he wants to do for us, I believe on a daily basis. Jesus reveals the Father's nature and character and he shows us that we are loved in exactly the same way as he is loved. He enables us to see who God really is.
We are personally invited to embrace all that Jesus reveals so we know we are truly loved by the Father and that we are rooted and grounded in his love for us.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:10 NIV)
In order to know God as Father we need to meet him in our heart. Knowing him as Father is much more than simply knowing a fact. I guess we all know he is a father, maybe we know he is the Father but this is not enough. There is a massive difference between knowing that God is a father and to experiencing him being a Father to you. One is a fact whereas the other describes a relationship.
To know someone involves a choice and so it is for us to know God as Father. It goes beyond the fact, or knowledge that we have and it leads us into a personal relationship with the One who knows us intimately. It's allowing our fig leaves to be stripped away so we can stand before him in our vulnerability and dependence.
This might appear scary as we have become comfortable with our fig leaves, we feel safe hiding behind them. Although we may feel safe, this is not the life Jesus talks about when he offers us life in all its fulness (John 10:10).
Sadly, it's often all too easy to let our shame and condemnation prevent us from seeking life. When we fail, we tend to beat ourselves up rather than returning to the everlasting arms of the Father.
Knowing God as Father is to know him in the same way as Jesus knows him. It is far more than knowing about him. It is a heart relationship where we know his personality and nature, and maybe for the first time we begin to feel that we too, are known.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. (Jeremiah 29:13-14 NIV)
When we look at the life of Jesus, we see that he knew his Father's heart. He knew it was a heart of total love and acceptance. The Father was continually pouring his unconditional love into his Son's heart and that is something he wants to do for you and me as well.
We tend to see God through a series of filters which have often been created through our experiences with our earthly parents. Whatever our background has been like, discovering the Father's heart is something for us all.
Knowing the fatherheart of God is to know the heart of God, who happens to be a Father, the perfect Father.
When we know someone's heart, we know them, we know what they think and more importantly we know what they feel. As we come to know his heart, we discover his care and compassion for us. We experience his affection and affirmation, we feel his presence with us and his pleasure towards us. We find that God has a heart and that his heart is turned towards us rather than being set against us.
When you know someone's heart you feel as if you are beginning to know the real them. As we seek the Father's heart, something in our own heart will be satisfied because we will discover more of him. We will be awakened to the truth of who we are and the reality of who he is.
These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:25-27)
Last week we looked at the fruit of the Spirit being expressed through joy. Today I will look at the next characteristic of being filled with love and that is peace.
Jesus promises us the Holy Spirit to comfort us, to deal with our empty orphan heart, to confirm to our spirit that Father has made his home in our heart and to give us peace.
Like joy, peace is not something we manufacture nor is it based on our circumstances or feelings. His peace goes beyond our understanding and takes away our fear. When we live in peace we discover a deep inner rest and contentment. Our striving will cease as we learn to trust him.
At the start of the Israelites journey Aaron declares a blessing over the people.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace’". (Numbers 6:22-24 NASB)
Peace has always been at the centre of God's heart for his people.
Peace restores us, strengthens and refreshes us. Psalm 23 is a psalm of peace: even in the midst of turmoil there is a place of peace, safety, provision and comfort.
His peace, the fruit of his Spirit living in us, will guard our heart and mind (Philippians 4:7) and as we are clothed in love so peace will rule our heart (Colossians 3:14-15).
His peace goes beyond our understanding. It is not rational and, like joy, it is not dependent on our circumstances or feelings. It is the fruit of the spirit of sonship within us, it is an expression of the Father's love finding its home in our heart. When everything is working against us we can be at peace. When our mind wants to go in one direction (usually the way of fear) peace will guide us another way. When our emotions go one way, peace takes us the other.
Jesus breathed on his disciples and said 'peace be with you'. My prayer today is that you will feel the breath of the Holy Spirit breathing peace into you and over you, that you would know it is well with your soul.
But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit. Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless. (Galatians 5:22-23 TPT)
Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10 NASB)
As we walk as Jesus walked we will have the same fellowship, friendship and oneness with the Father that Jesus has. Jesus lives in perfect and complete love, perfect and complete joy, perfect and complete peace and so on. When the love of the Father is poured into our heart we receive the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
The deeper we go in his love the more of this fruit we will experience. The perfection and completeness of love, joy, peace etc will grow in us.
The wonderful thing about this joy is that it's not our joy, but it's his joy. It is the fruit of his Spirit. There is nothing we need to do to work this up in us, it's a gift that is freely given and one we can freely receive.
Despite everything that is happening on earth God is supremely content and happy. He rests in his eternal nature of being perfect and complete.
Our joy is often dependent on our circumstances but his joy is dependent on who he is. As we receive his love so we receive his joy. Our circumstances may not change but when we become dependent on him we experience his joy being released in our heart. Our joy comes and goes, but his never changes.
You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. (Psalm 16:10 NASB)
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:12)
The joy of the Lord is a consequence of being loved. It is his love being poured into our heart that changes how we feel about ourselves and our circumstances. It's his joy that sets us free and enables us to laugh at our enemies. That's not something we can do out of our own strength.
James encourages us to seek this joy even in times of difficulty as it will empower us to endure and to experience a fulness of life.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 NASB)
My prayer today is that his joy will fill your heart as you experience an overwhelming sense of being loved.
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31-36)
The context of this passage is where a woman has been caught in adultery and is brought before Jesus. It's meant to be a trap. The Pharisees told Jesus what the requirements of the law were and then asked him what he was going to do or say. Jesus does not fall for the trap as he lives by a higher law, the law of love.
Jesus turns everything on its head. In chapter 8 verse 12 he declares "I am the light of the world" and in doing so he turns on the light and everything becomes clear. Light illuminates and enables the reality to be clearly seen. What Jesus does is point people to the truth.
The truth, or reality, is not about observance of the law (or, by the way, the laws we make up for ourselves to keep). The truth is about relationship.
Throughout the life of Jesus, we see that he has one clear mission and that is to reveal the Father, so we may know that we are loved in the same way as Jesus himself is loved. This is the point of the gospel, as Philip so clearly stated in John 14:8 "show us the Father and that will be enough for us".
The Pharisees had made up a whole lot of rules and regulations which kept people away from God. They thought they were protecting the people from an angry God but it had led to a life of slavery, control and manipulation.
Jesus puts everything right. He tells us we are loved by the Father, that we are accepted by the Father; he affirms us and shows us the way to the Father.
And importantly, he shows us by his example that we are all sons of God through faith. As sons we are treated differently to slaves. A slave has no permanent place in the family home, they are always on duty, they can be fired at a moment's notice. They have no security or ultimate sense of well being.
A son, however, belongs. We have a permanent place in the Father's family, we have a home in his house. We belong.
Our place in the family home is not dependent on our behaviour, position or title. It's not because we've tried hard to do the right thing. Our place in the Father's house is guaranteed simply because he is our Father and we are his sons and daughters.
"I will be a Father to YOU, and YOU shall be my sons and daughters" (2 Corinthians 6:18)
The onerous duty of 'doing good' disappears once we recognise that we have no need to impress God with our success. We realise we have no need to buy God's approval. We are already loved, we are already accepted. (Bishop Desmond Tutu 'Made for Goodness')
I wonder if you have ever been the victim of identity fraud. A few months ago, my bank phoned me one evening to ask about a few transactions on my credit card statement. None of them were mine and someone had spent several thousands of pounds in a few minutes using my card details. Thankfully the bank blocked all the transactions and it was dealt with very quickly.
It left me feeling violated and vulnerable.
We've had our true identity stolen. We have had our sonship stolen and the enemy has turned us into slaves and orphans. Because our identity has been stolen we've lost sight of where our true value comes from.
We do not earn our value through our deeds or our works. It is imparted to us simply because our Heavenly Father loves us as his precious sons and daughters. We belong to him and there is nothing we can do to make him love us any more than he does right now. There is also nothing we can do which will stop him loving us. He loves us with an everlasting love.
In Luke 12 we read the story of the man who built bigger barns to store all his wealth. Jesus cautions us through this story not to rely on "the abundance of possessions". For 'abundance of possessions' we could read abundance of achievements, abundance of good works, abundance of performance, or abundance of seeking to please other people. Instead Jesus concludes, let us be rich towards God.
Being rich towards God is, I believe, a heart of dependence on him, trusting him to provide all we need. It's investing in him rather than investing in possessions, activity or the affirmation we may seek from other people. It's knowing that our true value comes from our relationship with him where he continually affirms us simply because we're his sons and daughters.
Martha was concerned with activity and busyness but Mary had chosen the 'better thing' of being with Jesus. God is not impressed by our activity or success. Our value and identity does not come from what we do, but from who we are.
Today, ask him to show you who you really are and what you mean to him.
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.