The tragedy of the story in Genesis chapter 3 is that it always seems to be blamed on God. Adam and his wife had been given very clear instructions on what they should do and more particularly what they shouldn't do. They made a choice, albeit under the deceitful lure of Satan, and they chose to disobey God. It was their choice that led to the action of them taking the fruit from the tree.
Before moving on, let me make one very important point. They were able to make that choice because God, the Father, had given them the priceless gift of free will. In giving that gift God took a risk because it is only the gift of free will which enables us to love. Without it we could not love because love is always a choice, it is in our power to love or not to love. Without that gift we would be programmed to live according to a set of predetermined rules or values.
And so at the end of Genesis 3, Father God has to make the painful decision to drive Adam and Eve out of the garden. Too often we view this as an act of judgement, the punishment for sin and a wrong decision. I would like to ask you to view this not as judgement but rather as a tremendous act of mercy. It was an act, however painful, which prevented them remaining in the garden and being able to eat from the tree of life. The result of which would have been living forever in a fallen, broken state. God knew that was too much for mankind to bear. Death entered the human race to save us from ourselves, or at least to limit the extent of the damage we had caused.
In that moment God did not change, nor did he abandon his plan; the plan he'd had from before the creation of the world. The plan for relationship and family has not been shelved, it continues and is the same plan (the only plan) that the Father has for you and me.
For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:6-7 ESV)
It was mankind that chose to walk away from the Father's plan. We chose a pathway of independence and self-sufficiency. The Father did not change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His plan and desire is the same today as it was in Genesis chapter 1.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21 ESV)
The only relationship that God has ever wanted to have with you is to be a Father to YOU. He wants to be one with you, fully and totally united with you. Jesus describes that unity on his last evening before he is taken away to the cross. Just as the Father and Son are one, so we can also be one with them: "just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us".
A few verses later (v24), Jesus prays that we may be with him where he is (and that is at the Father's side). As we know, Jesus only said the words he heard his Father say and therefore this desire, expressed by Jesus, is one that is deeply rooted in the Father's heart. This is the relationship the Father desires. He does not want us to be distant, fearing him or living in independence. He is longing for relationship with us where we know that we can be, and indeed are, one with him.
We often talk about being one with one another. That is only something that truly flows out of our oneness with the Father. This is the Heavenly reality and I encourage you to embrace it in your heart today. You and the Father are one, just as the Father and Son are one. This is our sonship.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29 NIV)
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV)
Last week I looked at the Father's desire to have a family and how that family was rooted in his heart throughout all of eternity before the clock started ticking in Genesis.
I let my imagination wander and I wonder what God thought his children would be like. I imagine him seeing Jesus and knowing instantly that he wants his family to be just like his son, Jesus. Paul catches hold of this for us and writes that we are being transformed into Jesus' likeness. Of course, if the fall hadn't happened we would always have been like him. But the fall brought a separation which has now been reversed through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are redeemed back into everything that the Father had always planned for us.
You may look at your life and think it is not very Christ-like. You may be aware of your actions and attitudes and think how far they are from those of Jesus. Well, I have some good news for you! The Father does not see you the way you see yourself. He sees you from the perspective of Heaven. Not only are you like his son Jesus, but you are 'in him' as well.
You and I are in Christ and to me, this means that when God the Father looks at us he sees Jesus.
We live in a fallen world with all its imperfections and weakness but that does not reduce the Heavenly reality in any way. Daily we are becoming more like Jesus. This is our sonship.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV)
When did our story begin?
I think we often believe it started on the sixth day of creation when God created mankind. Having made a home for us to live in, he then spoke a word and the first human rose from the dust. When we think like this, it means we miss God's eternal perspective as our story very quickly falls into one of sin and separation from God. We miss an important fact.
What we miss is that our story actually began in eternity, long before the clock started ticking in Genesis. Before the world had been created God was thinking about his family, thinking about us! In that timeless period he longed for a people made in his image who would live as sons and daughters to him.
Like any father be wanted a family that would bring him pleasure. I believe that's the desire of earthly parents too, we want to delight and enjoy our children.
We can see the Father's pleasure throughout Scripture. We see the longing for relationship, constantly re-iterating how much we, as his children, bring him pleasure and glory. We are not distant or a far off. He is close to us as he has promised to never leave us but rather to love us with an everlasting love.
God is our Father and always has been.
And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him. (John 8:29 NASB)
And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. (Exodus 33:14-15 NASB)
I really believe that there is something in each one of us that desires to know the Father's presence. We may not always recognise it but we are all created in his image and made to have relationship with him. We were made to enjoy unity with him. In Genesis, in the garden, there was a longing in the heart of mankind to be with God. That longing, although ruined through the fall, was not totally lost.
How ever far people go from God there is still a desire in their heart to know him. People may look in the wrong place but, nonetheless, the longing is there.
Through Jesus. it has been possible for this ruined, broken relationship to be restored. The longing in the heart of every person to know God can be turned to search in the right direction. Our heart can be satisfied as we discover the depth of Father's presence with us.
Moses longed for the presence of God. He did not want to start his journey on his own so first of all he asks for someone to come alongside him and help him. God goes beyond his expectations and rather than giving him a companion, he promises Moses the reality of his presence. God himself will go with him. You can feel the relief in Moses' response "if you don't go with me, then we aren't going anywhere".
What about us? His presence is always with us as he has promised to never leave us. He is always with us but do we recognise his presence? Are we like Moses? Longing for the Father's presence? Are we like Jesus who knew that his Father was always with him?
I'm pausing the Weekly Signposts over the summer and they'll resume in September. In the meantime if you're interested in reading a good book then check out my Author Page on Amazon. Or you may want to look at the teaching series I did with Barry Adams - Opening Our Heart to Father.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:1-2,12-12 NIV)
Over the last few months the internet has been a lifeline to many people and organisations. It has enabled us to communicate with one another when "normal" communication has not been possible. It has facilitated something which is valuable to us all.
However, communication cannot replace community.
God is a Father. He is our Father and he wants us to live as a family where we care for one another and where we touch one another's lives at a heart level. Zoom has been useful to us but it does create the impression of us all being in our separate little boxes. We must not allow this to become the 'new normal'; if we do, we shall lose out on one of the most important human needs, the need for community.
Today, I want to draw you back to what is really important. That we set our heart (not mind) on things above. That we remember our life is hidden in Christ, in the Father. That we make love our greatest aim so, like Jesus, we live in and are clothed in love. That we break down the walls of our box and remember we are a family.
To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. (John 3:27 NIV)
These words are said by John the Baptist about Jesus. It is clear that he recognises Jesus as receiving something unique from Heaven. In fact, the word 'give' is used 76 times in John's gospel and it mainly refers to the things the Father has given to Jesus.
This verse is also an encouragement for us. What have we been given from Heaven? What are the unique things that the Father is giving to us? I believe this is another interpretation of the Lord's prayer where Jesus says "your Kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven". What little bit of Heaven is the Father giving you to bring to earth today?
The other important word I want to draw out of this verse is 'receive'. A man can only receive what is given from Heaven. It doesn't say 'a man can only do what is given from Heaven'. We can do a lot of things but do we receive them?
There is a big difference between receiving and doing. One is a gift, the other self-generated. One is done through the strength and ability of another, the other is done in our own strength. One is fruitful, the other can be performance.
Receiving is taking ownership of a gift that comes from another. We receive a gift that was birthed in the Father's heart and as we receive it, we take it into our own heart. It becomes part of us. When we receive a gift from Heaven it will bring fruit and joy.
And so today, I encourage you to ask; "what have I been given from Heaven?"
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:17-19 NIV)
These are very familiar verses and, whilst familiar, it is easy to miss what they are really saying. And so, I'd like to take a few moments to remind us of the depth of truth and revelation these few sentences contain.
First of all, and Paul emphasises this, God is revealed as being the glorious Father. This God whom we love and worship is our Glorious Father, just as he is the Father of Jesus. That emphasis is not accidental, it is a deliberate reminder for us of who God really is, he is our Father.
Then we read of a gift. A gift we are given. A gift given by the Father. He gives us the very thing we need to enable us to see who he is. We are given a spirit of wisdom and revelation which allows us to change our perception of who God is. Wisdom is often personified in the person of Jesus and revelation comes to us by and through the Holy Spirit. Here we have the other members of the Trinity helping us to see that God is our real Father.
Paul's prayer is that we would come to know the Father and then get to know him better. A growing revelation and experience of who the Father is and who he wants to be to us. This revelation leads to the eyes of our heart being opened so we see him and so we also see who we really are. We come into a greater understanding of who we have been called to be (sons and daughters) and as we live in sonship so we discover the inheritance the Father has given us in Christ.
In fact, this all originates in the heart of the Father. At the start of the chapter we read why God wants us to see who he is and who we are:
The Father has blessed us with with every spiritual blessing.
The Father chose us before the creation of the world.
The Father gives us the full rights of sonship.
The Father made it possible for our sins to be forgiven through Jesus.
The Father made known to us the mystery of his will.
Through Jesus, the Father gives us an inheritance.
It's no wonder he wants us to know who he is when there's so much he wants to give us!
If you're looking for some good reading over the summer then some good news. I've reduced all of my books on Amazon by up to 20%. To visit my author store click here.
They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord - the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
"So there is hope for your descendants,” declares the Lord. “Your children will return to their own land." (Jeremiah 31:13,17 NIV)
The eternal love of the Father not only restores us and brings us home but it is also a comforting love.
When we live without comfort it's a very barren place. Our heart is empty as it feels like everything we had has run out. As we are comforted the emptiness we feel is transformed. Our mourning is turned into gladness, our sorrow into joy. Strength and energy begin to return to our heart.
Without comfort there is hopelessness. In coming to our Father and letting his eternal love comfort us, we discover that our future has hope. Not only hope for us but for our descendants as well. A fruitful life is restored. He has good plans for us (Jer 29:11).
The covenant of eternal love reinforces and restates the relationship we have with the Father.
I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33) or as we read in the New Testament:
I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. (2 Cor 6:18)
If you're looking for some good reading over the summer then some good news. I've reduced all of my books on Amazon by up to 20%. To visit my author store click here.
See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labour; a great throng will return. They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son. (Jeremiah 31:8-9 NIV)
We are loved with an everlasting love and last week we saw how that love restores and brings fruitfulness. Today we see how this extravagant love brings us home.
The love of the Father goes to the ends of the earth in order to seek us out, gather us and bring us back to the loving embrace of the Father. There is nowhere we can hide. The Father wants a family and he does everything to bring us into that family, in order that we can know we are his sons and daughters. Home is very important; it is the place of belonging, identity and security. It is the place where we can be ourselves, letting go of any pretence and just being.
Everyone is welcome. There are no exclusions - all may come. The poor and needy are especially welcome and if we're honest, that's all of us. To pretend otherwise is simply us hiding behind our veneer of pride and self-sufficiency.
Home is beside streams of living water which always speak to us of life. When we come home into the embrace of the Father we find life and, as Jesus said, it's life in all its fullness.
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.