Last week we saw that we have not been left on our own, as orphans in an orphan-hearted world, but that Jesus came to make a way for us to know the Father and that we are truly sons and daughters. This is a great comfort to us. We are not alone; in fact, we have a Helper who is with us every moment of every day. That Helper (also called a Comforter) is the Holy Spirit.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17 NIV)
This is one of the first times in the New Testament that we read of the way the Holy Spirit comes and helps us. It's before any of Paul's teaching on the importance of the Gifts of the Spirit in Corinthians and Romans. Jesus doesn't talk about the gifts of the Spirit but, rather he dwells on the person of the Spirit who is our Comforter, Helper, Guide and the One who enables us to know that we are one with the Father. The gifts follow but the important thing that Jesus is communicating is that the Holy Spirit is like a bridge between us and the heart of the Father. In fact, I see him as an elastic bridge; not only does he bridge the gap but he then draws us right into the heart of the Father.
The Holy Spirit, living in us, is the reality of the continuity of God's presence with us. He reminds us of everything that Jesus has taught, he continues to bring it alive for us and he is the enabling power to help us walk as Jesus walked. Ezekiel saw this when he prophesied that God's own Spirit would live in us and cause (or motivate) us to walk in his ways (Ezekiel 36:27).
Living in the Spirit is the hallmark of our sonship. It is our inner confirmation that we are sons of God and therefore we're enabled to cry "Abba, Father!" "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16). And so, my encouragement today is to go on being filled with the Spirit.
I think we would agree we live in an orphan hearted world. We recognise the symptoms in other people, in our world systems and probably in ourselves. So, what is an orphan?
An orphan is separated from or taken out of a family, it has a lack of identity, it lives a lonely, fear based life leading to performance and striving. An orphan sees God as a master or judge and so everything has to be worked for and becomes a reward. An orphan seeks position, acceptance and validation which, once achieved, will be hung onto, whatever the cost.
Jesus understood all this, which is why he says:
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (John 14:18-20 NIV)
Even although the disciples had been with Jesus for three years, during which he had taught them, discipled and counselled them, he still sees them as orphans. In essence he sees them as being fatherless. He recognises the longing of each person to find and know a father. This longing has been in each human heart since Adam and Eve walked out of the garden, having chosen independence and separation from God.
Jesus comes to put all this right. He reveals the Father, not only to the disciples but also to us. He tells us that both he and the Father will come and make their home in our heart (John 14:23). We are not left fatherless, he has come to us and will be a Father to us.
Today I encourage you to open your heart to this amazing truth. Not only is God 'a' father but he wants to be a Father to YOU.
Last week I ended by encouraging you to discover the resting place of the Father's love. I am convinced that the enemy seeks to rob us of two major parts of our inheritance: our rest and our freedom. Of course, these are interwoven; the more at rest we are, the freer we are and vice versa. Rest is our inheritance and I'm not talking about sitting on a couch and doing nothing. I'm talking about the stillness and peace in our heart.
"There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience." (Hebrews 4:9-11 NIV)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28 NIV)
An inheritance is a gift, it's not a right. A gift is given, but for it to be a gift it has to be received. We are promised a life of rest but we have a choice whether we receive the gift or not. The writer of Hebrews is very clear: we can continue a life of works and religious duty or we can jump from the hamster wheel of works into the resting place of his love. In fact, the writer of Hebrews thinks that this is really important for us to do as he says 'make every effort' - some translations say 'strive' or 'be diligent' to enter your rest.
Paul's pretty clear about this, as he, too, reminds us not to focus on the results of our own works (Eph 2:9) but rather to seek out those things which God has already prepared for us to do (Eph 2:10). This is the point of what Jesus said in Matthew 11. "Come to me, take my yoke upon you, you will find rest for your souls".
What has been stolen can be restored. As we look to him he becomes the source of our life. We begin to live like Jesus, only doing what the Father gives us to do. It's then that our heart finds its resting place.
We are made alive in Christ! (Eph 2:4) What a glorious statement and its impact has clearly caught Paul's attention. He's so excited about this revelation that once again he pauses and launches into another of his famous prayers. A prayer for us. Just as we saw last week he starts off with the words "for this reason". Because we are made alive in Christ...
"...I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV)
Our salvation is a gift, it is not achieved through our works - if it were some would inevitably score more highly than others. No, our salvation is a gift which comes to us through our faith in him. Even our own faith is not self-generated, that, too, is a gift. Everything we need is made available to us and we simply need to appropriate it for ourselves. We are no longer distant but have been brought into the Godhead through Jesus. Not only joined to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit but being joined, as a family, with one another.
This is the backdrop for Paul's prayer. This divine revelation of unity leads to our hearts being strengthened by the Holy Spirit in order that it can become a place for the Father to live. It's a home of love where our heart comes to rest. This love is immeasurable yet it is strong. It becomes the foundation of our lives and therefore everything we do comes from and out of love.
The Passion Translation puts it like this: Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life. (v17)
Today, I encourage you to make his love your resting place. It is safe and secure.
What an amazing list of blessings Paul gives at the start of Ephesians chapter one. As you read this list (and I encourage you to take some time to do so) you feel his excitement and joy as he recites the goodness of the Lord. At the end of this great list he pauses for breath before launching into his famous prayer which starts with these words: "for this reason". Because of all these great blessings...
"...I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 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." (Ephesians 1:16-18 NIV)
Paul asks that we would receive two things which will enable us to live in the blessing he's just recounted. First though, we need to note to whom Paul is praying, who is the Giver? Paul makes it very clear that the Giver is the Father. And so he asks that we would receive a spirit of wisdom and revelation which will enable us to know the Glorious Father better than we do at present. Secondly, Paul asks that the eyes of our heart would be enlightened in order that we would know who we really are! The word enlightened means to see with understanding - this prayer is about our heart understanding something profound which has previously been hidden.
When we read this prayer in the context of the whole passage, we see that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is also our Father and that (from before the creation of the world) we were meant to live as sons and daughters. We can only see this by revelation and, thankfully, the ability to receive revelation is a gift from the Father. This is not an intellectual understanding but an encounter that touches and changes our heart. We see, and understand, with our heart.
We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing simply because God is our Father and we are his children.
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.