But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the full rights of sonship. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-8 NASB)
In John 1:12 there is an invitation for those of us who believe in Him to become children of God. Sadly, many Christians do not take up this invitation and continue to live as as orphan. We are given the right but we do not exercise that right.
What I have come to see is that becoming a Christian is only the beginning. It is the doorway by which we enter into a completely new relationship with God. The point, however, is not to remain in the doorway but to go through and fully enter into this new relationship. The relationship God has with us is him being a Father to us. The relationship we enter into is sonship.
As Christians, we were redeemed by the blood of Jesus in order that we could receive the full rights of sonship. To me, this means knowing that we are "in Christ", that our relationship with the Father is the same as Jesus'. It means the Father proclaiming his acceptance and affirmation over us: "you are my son/daughter whom I love". It means we stand as heirs to all the promises given to Abraham; that we would be a blessing to the nations.
Receiving the full rights of sonship opens the door for us to begin to walk as Jesus walked. This is sonship.
(The next 'Weekly Signpost' will be on 7th January 2019, have a great Christmas and New Year).
And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:47-49 NASB)
As a twelve year old boy, Jesus brought revelation to the teachers in the temple. He started off asking them questions but in the end it was them asking Jesus the questions. His answers astonished them.
When his parents eventually found him, Jesus responds with beautiful childlike simplicity "I had to be in my Father's house, doing his work". To him, it was so obvious. This childlike simplicity and dependence did not leave Jesus as he grew up, it was how he lived his whole life:
He did his Father's will (John 6:38-40)
He came in his Father's name (John 5:43)
He stood with his Father (John 8:16)
He only said his Father's words (John 8:28)
He lived to please his Father (John 8:29)
He showed us what the Father is really like (John 14:8-11)
The secrets of the Kingdom are hidden from the wise and intelligent and revealed to those, like Jesus, who have a childlike heart (Matthew 11:25). The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children (Mark 10:13).
We are invited to live like Jesus and, to do so, means having the same childlike heart that Jesus had. For some, this can be too hard (like the rich young ruler) as it requires a complete turnaround and a transformation of our heart.
Through his life, Jesus shows us that this is the only way. But it is the way of peace, rest and fruitfulness.
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NASB)
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 NASB)
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NASB)
In a few weeks time we celebrate the birth of a son. A baby born away from home in a stranger's barn. Parents, loving yet mystified by what they knew was really happening. The Son of God coming to earth as a man.
This birth was long anticipated but when it happened it was not what many people had expected. The Saviour King, born to poor parents, not in a palace but in a stable in some remote village.
This child had been prophesied about throughout the scriptures. He was expected, but was he welcome? Isaiah sees the birth of this child as the coming of the Son of God. This Son would be the light of the world, (something John writes about in his gospel) and would bring freedom to the captives. This Son was going to transform the world.
As we have inherited the sonship of Jesus, is it too much to assume that something of this prophetic mantle is also for us?
We are in Christ. We are heirs to all the promises given to Abraham. We are loved by the Father in the same way that Jesus is loved.
In Romans 8, we read that all creation is waiting in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. Sons and daughters are free and they take that freedom wherever they go. As we live in our eternal sonship, change will automatically happen around us. It excites me to think what that might be like.
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21 NIV)
Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24 NASB)
At the end of Jesus' earthly ministry, we are given a glimpse of his eternal relationship with his Father. He has completed everything his Father sent him to do and he has the assurance that he is now returning to his Father. He is returning to the place of intimacy, to his Father's side. As he prays, he shows us what that relationship is like. From before the beginning of time, before the clock started ticking in Genesis 1, he was the son of God. He was a son and he was loved.
Yes, we know Jesus as the King of kings, the Messiah, the teacher, the healer, the prophet. But Jesus only knew himself as the son. He came as a son, he lived and died as a son and he rose from the dead as a son. He went back to his Father as a son. Before the creation of the world he was the eternal son of God.
We can see this same prophetic identity is for us. As Christians, we were chosen before the foundation of the world in order that we might receive the full rights of sonship. The gift of salvation, which we receive, is to bring us into sonship. Not a relationship we should compare to our imperfect human relationships, but one we should compare to the eternal sonship of Jesus.
From before the creation of the world we were chosen to be eternal sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.
".... just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to receive the full rights of sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:4-5 NASB)
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16 NIV)
As I have travelled in Africa and across Europe, I have met people with all sorts of backgrounds, upbringings and education. But what has struck me is that no one is prevented from coming to the Father. It is not dependent on education or where we fit into society. Whether we are poor or rich, whether we are highly educated or have only a simple understanding, we can all know that God is a Father to us. All it requires is a childlike understanding and simplicity of faith. I really believe that no one is barred from experiencing the Father’s love and from knowing, in the depth of their heart, that they are his son or daughter.
I also know that there is no formula or switch we can flick to make us suddenly receive this extravagant love.
I believe this revelation is for everyone. The fulness of God’s goodness and love have not yet been revealed to the world. As we love one another as he has loved us, the world will start to see who he is. As we let him build the church, and take over our programmes and activities, the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. As we are revealed as the free sons of God, creation (including the people who are a part of it) will come into the same freedom. As we begin to enjoy the wide open pastures, people around us will be set free from their own captivity.
As we live in love we allow its transforming power to change our hearts. John encourages us to “live in love” (John 15:9), not to come in and go out as it suits us, but to dwell there permanently. It is only as we live in love that we can come to know and rely on the love that God has for us (1 John 4:16).
The power of God’s love will transform us and will keep on transforming us as long as we let it. God wants us to know who he really is. He does not want to stay shrouded in mystery and he certainly does not want to be known as distant or angry. He wants to reveal himself to us as he is.
God is a Father. He has always been a Father and he wants to be a Father to YOU!
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 NIV)
I wonder what picture the word ‘freedom’ conjures up in your mind? For some it may be the film “Braveheart” and the longing in William Wallace’s heart for a free Scotland. For others it may be a desire to escape somewhere on your own without any responsibility or worry. Whatever picture we have in our minds freedom is something we all long for.
Freedom is quite difficult to define. Many people will say it is about having the right to do as you please but it is bigger than that. Freedom is not doing as we please but being totally uninhibited in the life that God has planned for us. Freedom has boundaries which are there to protect rather than restrict us. A train appears to be limited by the railway track but it is the track that provides its very means of freedom. The train can go nowhere without the track. A car would not be able to move freely on a railway track as the rails would inhibit its movement. A car needs a road, a train needs the rails. Freedom does not mean we have to be in control. Instead it means that we are able to hand control over to God, who ultimately is the only one able to fulfil all our desires.
Jesus knew what it was to be free. He was not bound by the restrictions of humanity. Although he had stepped into humanity his life was a richness of extra-human activity in which miracles became the norm. On one of his first public appearances he turned water into a very generous quantity of excellent wine. He fed over 5,000 with just five loaves of bread and two small fish. He walked on water. He could turn a disastrous night’s fishing into a bumper catch. He could pay his taxes by finding a coin in a fish’s mouth. He healed the lame, the lepers and the blind. He told simple stories that confused the wise and set the listening heart totally free. But true freedom goes beyond the miraculous. It is freedom from bondage to addiction and performance and from the need to be ‘right’. It’s freedom to forgive and love others whatever the cost. It’s freedom from fear, selfish anger and the need to retaliate.
As we learn to live as the children of God we will understand more clearly what it means to be true citizens of the heavenly kingdom here on earth. When we start to leave our orphan ways behind and allow our lives to be filled with Father’s love, we will leave a life of slavery and bondage and enter into the glorious freedom of the sons of God.
His Kingdom is our inheritance and it is a life of freedom!
“The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lordyour God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” (Deuteronomy 1:30-31 NIV)
We live in a competitive society. Schools, colleges, sport, and even families push us to be the best. We have to fight to be the top of the pile. We are taught that any indication of weakness is wrong. Sadly, this driven lifestyle spills over into our Christian lives. We think of all the things wecan do for God - as if he needs our helping hand! We may think that we can earn his favour with our activity and that our religious duty will lead to his blessing or will catch his attention.
The biblical reality is very different. Our relationship with God is not dependent on our efforts but totally dependent on him.
We may often think that God wants to lift our burdens and release us from the weight of the things we carry. We might think he will walk alongside us carrying our burdens whilst we run free. God will lift our burdens from us but he will also carry us! In fact he promises to carry us ALL the way. He never grows tired or weary, nor does he need to put us down for a rest. He is entirely capable of carrying us all the way through whatever life may throw at us. It is not the strong or independent who are carried. It is those who know their own weakness who let the Father carry them and who understand that they are loved unconditionally.
Jesus’ invitation to come to him (Matthew 11:28) is an invitation to lay aside our own strength and to let go of the desire to make a name for ourselves; to stop building our own kingdoms and simply to come and let him carry us. This is the safe haven we discover as we learn to rest in him.
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16 NIV)
Jesus is full of surprises! He taught with gentleness and compassion. He spoke about a new kingdom of love rather than one of aggression and force. He spent time with the marginalised and the poor rather than with leaders or those with power and influence.
At the end of one of his teachings he gives us a vital clue about how we can enter this new kingdom. We have to change, humble ourselves and become as little children (Matthew 18:3-4). This must have shocked Jesus’ listeners! How liberating! No longer are there endless requirements of “do’s” and “don’ts”; no longer are there impossible regulations to be fulfilled. All we need to do is to come like little children.
Although a liberating statement, it was one many of Jesus’ listeners found too hard. They were unable to lay aside their own strength and abilities to find this mysterious way of entering the kingdom. For us to enter the inheritance we are promised we have to change and let go of our sophistication, our striving, our plans and our programmes. We have to stop trying to find our identity in ‘doing’ and instead find it in ‘being’ a son or daughter to the Father. To step back from all of the things which we do in our own strength and motivation requires a humbling and a letting go of our pride and independence. We can learn to live in love rather than activity. We can learn that out of simplicity comes a power which we have not experienced or seen before.
This is a simple, yet powerful, way to live. It is the way Jesus lived and we know the extraordinary things that happened through him.
“Yet to all who received him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NIV)
Jesus was known as the son of God. In fact it was his sonship (rather than his miracles or deeds) that defined his life. At his baptism, before he had started his public ministry, the Father spoke from Heaven and affirmed his love for Jesus simply as his son. Sonship was the key issue that the Devil tried to undermine when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. As ever, the deceiver tried to use the truth to manipulate his own ends. “If you are the son of God.....” (Matthew 4:3,6) were the words he used. Jesus was the son of God and he could have done any of the things the devil asked of him but he refused to submit his spirit to the manipulation and control of Satan. On the mountain when Jesus was transfigured the Father spoke once again from Heaven and re-affirmed Jesus as the son he loves.
Sonship defined Jesus’ life. It defined who he was and through it he shows us the heart of a son, pleasing the Father and living for him. To Jesus this was not subservience but total freedom. It was the full life that he describes in John 10:10. The heart of sonship opens the door to three wonderful things which a slave or orphan never receives - inheritance, freedom and identity.
Having the heart of a son means we are attracted to the Father. Think of a magnet. Depending which way it is placed it will either attract or repel. An orphan repels as he seeks to push himself away from the Father’s love. Whenever the Father draws close he bounces off in the other direction. Turn the magnet round and it instantly attaches itself to the other object. A son is like that. He is attracted by the Father’s love. Psalm 40:6-8 catch hold of the heart of a son; “I desire to do your will, O my God, your law is written in my heart”. As sonship becomes part of us so we desire to do the Father’s will. Obedience is no longer a struggle or something that we have to do. It becomes natural because we do it from our heart and out of love.
The Father longs to welcome you back to him and back to your real home. We are no longer orphans but sons.
“I will be a Father to you and you will be my sons and daughters” (2 Corinthians 6:18 NIV)
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. (Psalm 68:5 NIV)
Think for a moment what it must have been like for Adam and his wife, created as adults living in perfect love and enjoying a friendship with their Creator and their Father. They lacked nothing; they were totally dependent on God and looked to him to supply all their needs. There was a simplicity of relationship which, as we know, was lost. The joy is, it is ours to regain.
As we grow up in a fallen world we start to build walls around our hearts. We are hurt by our families, our schools and our work places and so we try to protect ourselves against more hurt and pain. We have our own way of behaving in order to stay safe. We learn the social etiquette that enables us to put on a brave face but which does not allow us to share our heart. We develop gifts and abilities which lead to us doing our own thing and becoming independent.
Throughout the Old Testament, there is a cry that comes from the Father’s heart which was verbalised by Jesus in John 14:18: “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you”. God did not want to leave us in that state of separation for he simply could not leave us fatherless. He wanted to restore everything that had been snatched away through the fall, so he constantly sought to draw his people back to him. What he really wanted was to live in their hearts and, to God, this was more important than their sacrifices.
God’s love is immensely personal. Although he is Father of creation and Father of mankind he is not distant or afar off. He is not too busy running the universe to be concerned with you. He is interested in a personal and intimate relationship with you.
We all need to know the gentle, kind and overwhelming love of Father God. All of us can enjoy the freedom that is promised to his children. We can become rooted and grounded in his love. It is not an optional extra. It is for you! God really, really wants to be a Father to you – personally, today and forever – to you!
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.