"Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God." (John 16:25-27 NIV)
I often think that the disciples must have found the conversation over their last meal with Jesus quite confusing. After all, they are just ordinary guys, fishermen with little education who have had their lives radically changed by being with Jesus. I imagine they felt a bit lost when Jesus was talking about them being in him and him being in them (John 14). Maybe they didn't really understand what Jesus was talking about when he said he was going back to his Father and then they would return and make their home in the disciples' hearts. These ordinary men were taking part in a conversation that had never taken place before.
And now, Jesus tells them he will start speaking clearly to them instead of in complicated pictures. What a relief!
The very next thing Jesus tells the disciples is probably one of the clearest, yet most profound, statements in the whole Bible:
"The Father himself loves you"
Pause for a moment and let those words sink into your heart.
We are loved by the Father. Jesus explains to his disciples (and therefore to us as well) that we have direct access to the Father; like any child we can come to our Father at any time of the day or night, 24/7.
In fact, Jesus goes further at the end of John 17. We are loved by the Father in exactly the same way and with the same intensity of passion that he loves Jesus. This, Jesus tells us, is the reason he came to earth. He came to reveal his Father in order that we may know the Father himself loves us. That is good news!
"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love." (John 15:9 NASB)
In John 15, Jesus likens us to a branch that is attached to a vine in a vineyard. It would have been a very familiar picture for his listeners as they were used to seeing vineyards on the hillsides around their towns. They would have understood what Jesus meant when he said that each branch needed to produce fruit. They would have known all about pruning.
The point Jesus is making is that our life comes to us through him. He came that we would have life and have it in abundance. He came to set us free. He encourages us to abide, or remain, in him and as we read on, we see that this means to remain in love, in his love.
It is easy to think that this primarily relates to our love for him but that is not the case. It is actually the other way round. Abiding in his love is us being the recipients of the love he has for us. We stand under the downward flow of his love into our heart. Life flows into the branch through the vine, not the other way round.
At the start of 1 Corinthians 14, Paul encourages us to pursue love or, as the Passion Translation puts it, "so above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run". Again, this is not so much our love for others or for him, but his love for us.
The Message encourages us to make ourselves at home in his love. Let it become our greatest desire to remain in his love for us.
"But those who embraced him and took hold of his name were given authority to become the children of God!" (John 1:12 TPT)
Knowing you belong is very important. A sense of belonging puts a foundation in our life and gives us a feeling of security and well being. Knowing that you're in the right job or the right church is important; knowing you live in the right house in the right town is important. Knowing you belong to your family is vital. More importantly is the security of knowing, in our heart, that we belong to our Heavenly Father.
Sadly, this sense of belonging is missing for many people. There can be a cry inside of us that says:
"who am I?"
"where do I fit?"
"do I belong?".
After Cain had killed Abel, God came to him and told him that he would be a restless wanderer on the face of the earth. That is a very lonely existence. It is an empty existence and one where survival has to be fought for. If we don't know that we belong we are like Cain, there is a restlessness inside of us that prevents us living the life of peace and rest which we are promised. Being restless means there is always something more I have to do in order to feel loved, valued or accepted.
As we come home to the Father that restlessness ceases. Each one of us needs to hear the Father say "welcome home, you belong". We are taken into his embrace as he says those words to us and our heart comes home. We belong!
In that belonging we start to experience the truth of who we really are. We are his children and Jesus tells us in John 8 that we belong to the family forever, Instead of being restless we live in rest and this means there is nothing more I have to do in order to feel loved, valued or accepted.
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." (Ephesians 1:18 NASB)
Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1 is well known. He asks the Father to give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation so we may come to know who he really is. The implication of this statement is that it is only possible to fully know him by revelation from above. The Father himself gives us the revelation we need, it is not something self-generated or worked out in our mind. It is a direct revelation of the Father, given to us by the Father.
That is amazing! He gives us what we need in order that we might know him.
The revelation of the Father, from the Father, leads to the eyes of our heart being opened so we may know the life to which we have been called. This new life is sonship. We were chosen before the foundation of the world and predestined to receive (or to live in) the full rights of sonship (Ephesians 1:4-5).
As we begin to know who he really is and allow him to be a Father to us we discover the journey of sonship. We discover who we really are.
Sadly, many people do not see with the eyes of their heart. They remain trapped. We see this illustrated for us in Acts 28:26-27:
GO to this people and say, “You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them."
Hearing and seeing but not understanding because of a hardened or closed heart. When the eyes of our heart are closed we are unable to turn to him in order that we may be healed and restored.
My encouragement today, is for you to ask the Father for that spirit of wisdom and revelation to fill your heart so you can clearly see who He really is. As you do, you will be drawn into this new life of sonship where God is a Father to you.
"In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." (Hebrews 1:1-3 NIV)
I am often asked "what is the Father like?"
The reason I believe this question is asked so frequently is because we see God, the Father, through a series of filters and therefore we don't see him clearly. Very often we see him through the filter of our earthly parents. We project what they were like onto God and so we distort his image. Despite this, I believe there is a longing in our heart to know him.
Jesus shows us what the Father is really like. In John 17, we read that Jesus has made his Father's name known and that is much more than a simple introduction. It is the revealing of the full nature, personality and character of the Father. Everything Jesus did was a reflection of what his Father is like: he healed people because Father is a healer, he provided for people because Father is a provider, he was kind and gentle with people because that is what Father is like. To know what the Father is really like we should look at Jesus rather than look through the filters of our earthly parents.
Moses asked to see the nature and personality of God and we read the account of that in Exodus 34:6-7. What Moses saw in part we can fully see and experience. Our Father is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.
Jesus is the one who reveals the Father to us and we have a promise in John 17 that he will continue to make the Father known. If we see Jesus, we see the Father.
We do not have to be satisfied with dark or fuzzy filters but we can see him clearly. He is the perfect Father and he wants to be a Father to us. As we begin to know him as Jesus knows him we enter into a completely new relationship with him. This is walking as Jesus walked.
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." (Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV)
Many of you who've heard my story, will know of the time when someone said one simple sentence to me: "Mark, you've learned to be a servant, but God wants you to be a son".
For me, that was one of those moments of deep revelation which became a heart experience of knowing who God really is. In that moment I knew he was my Father and that I was his son. It was a moment of transformation, one that continues to resonate in my heart today.
It was the beginning of a journey. A journey that I didn't fully understand for many years; in fact, it was twenty years later that I began to understand the significance of that simple sentence. It was, and still is, undoubtedly a prophetic statement. It pointed me to the consequence, or fulfilment, of what it means to be a Christian. Sonship. Even today, that sentence propels me deeper into the depth of the Father's love for me.
Too many of us are stuck in servant-hearted Christianity, which is more about what I can do for God rather than what he can do (or has already done) for me. Yes, serving can be good but we serve as sons not as servants. Jesus served, but it came from a heart of sonship.
Recently I have been asking myself what it means for us to walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). For many people the answer becomes "what do I have to do?" Do I have to write a list of all the things Jesus did and then try and work my way through them? That's hard work. And it's impossible. This is what I have concluded: for us to walk as Jesus walked means to have the same heart as he had, the heart of sonship.
As we start the new year can I encourage you to look at your hearts. Are you more motivated by what you can do for him rather than resting in what he has done for you? As we live in the flow of life from Heaven into our hearts it will automatically flow through us and out of us. It will cause us to walk in his ways. It will cause us to live like Jesus.
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)
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.