So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. (Ephesians 4:17-19 NIV)
Last week I talked about the importance of allowing the eyes of our heart to be opened to the truth of who God really is and who we are. To see these truths requires a revelation which comes as a gift from our Father. It is with the eyes of our heart that we see the truth.
This week we look briefly at the opposite. The futility of our own understanding. The picture Paul paints is not very attractive: we don’t see clearly, we are separated from the life of God, we lose a sensitive heart and end up with a hard heart. How different to what we read last week. The trouble is we like to boast in our own wisdom and understanding, it draws attention to us and makes us look good. Paul only has one word to describe this: futile.
When we see with the eyes of our mind we see what God does and so may miss who he is, our Glorious Father. When we see with the eyes of our mind we focus on what Jesus does rather than allowing him to lead us to the Father.
When we see with the eyes of our heart we see who God is, the glorious Father. When we see with the eyes of our heart we allow ourselves to be led to the Father. We focus on relationship rather than on activity. As the eyes of our heart are opened, I believe it is inevitable that the eyes of our mind will begin to close and we lose our hard heart and regain a sensitive heart tuned into the heart of the Father.
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 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 1:15-18 NIV)
In Paul’s prayer, he is praying for two specific things which he longs would be the experience of each and every Christian. The only way we can receive these is through the gift of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation and it is the Father who gives us this gift. We will not experience these things through our own wisdom or knowledge but through an encounter with our Heavenly Father. What then does Paul want us to receive?
Firstly, he wants us to know God better. It is truly amazing that the Father gives us the very gift we need in order to really know who he is. He is so keen for us to discover the truth that he gives us the spirit of revelation so our eyes might behold who he really is. We are given a clear pointer to who God really is by Paul himself; he introduces his prayer by telling us who he is talking to: the God of our Lord Jesus Christ and if there is any doubt, this God is the Glorious Father.
Secondly, he wants us to know who we are, “the hope to which we have been called”. Paul wants us to know our true inheritance which is to live as sons and daughters to our Heavenly Father.
These two factors are fundamental. The only way we can see them is when the eyes of our heart are opened. We can’t understand them with our own (limited) understanding but we need a divine revelation, given to us by the Father and one which finds its home in our heart. I pray today, that the eyes of heart may be more fully open to these amazing truths.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favour and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:1-6 NIV)
These verses are a conversation between a father and his son where the father is imparting wisdom to the younger man. Each instruction is followed by a blessing.
Don’t forget my teaching, it will bring peace and blessing.
Be loving and faithful, you will find favour with both God and man.
Don’t rely on your own knowledge, instead rely on the Lord; that’s the best way to live.
Do you see how often the heart is mentioned? The father is not trying to impose a set of rules that must be obeyed, nor is he seeking to encourage the son to live out of his own strength or resources. Rather he is showing the way of the heart. The blessings and fruitful life that flow from a heart relationship.
This, too, is important for us. We are not called to a life of slavish duty and obligation but to a relationship built on love. We can only ever love because he first loved us and it is as we open our heart to love that we enter into the blessings described for us in Proverbs. I encourage you to look at your life? Are you ruled by duty or are you led by love? Being led by love will lead us into a wide open space where there is freedom and rest.
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (Isaiah 40:10-11 NIV)
This chapter is a wonderful picture of a strong and mighty God. It shows us his power and majesty and how incredibly big he is. It recounts his marvellous deeds and how he can do anything he wants to do. It also shows us how small we are, how minute our strength and ability is when compared to him. We are like a speck of dust or a drop in a bucket.
We often see people like that in the world, who use their power and position to be controlling and manipulative. They only want to see their will being done and they don’t mind who they hurt or trample on to achieve their aims.
My question today is do you view God like that? Is he someone you think is controlling and manipulative, seeking to force you to do his will? That’s a wrong view of God and not one borne out by the Isaiah 40. Yes, he is strong and mighty but he demonstrates his strength in ways that show his heart for us.
The chapter starts with the word COMFORT. His strength comforts us and therefore his power is for our good, it is to build us up and encourage us.
In verses 10 and 11 there is a description of a strong God, yet he reaches down and carries his people like a shepherd would carry a lamb. Great strength expressed through tenderness and compassion.
Finally the chapter ends with rest and renewal as we wait upon the Lord.
Yes, God is all powerful but he channels his strength, not into control and manipulation but into comfort, tenderness and renewal.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5 NIV)
It is clear from this passage that we have been brought back into relationship with the Father. Through Jesus, we now have peace with God and this enables us to come freely to him irrespective of how we feel or what we think we might have done. We have the assurance, not only of our sins being forgiven but also a right relationship with God, our Creator and Father. Despite this (which, of course, is very good news) we live in a world where there will be suffering. It is because of the assurance of our right relationship with God, the Father that we are able to hang on and endure the suffering that is thrown at us. As we do, we are inevitably changed. Hope, that for which we long for, the certainty of our future with him can be drawn into the reality of our day to day life.
What I particularly want to draw out of these verses is that the ability to go through suffering is based on his love being poured freely into our heart. It is not the consequence of our own works.
The Father’s love is not the end of the journey. It is not a reward for persevering through suffering, allowing our character to change and somehow finding hope for the future. No, it is because his love has been poured into our heart that we are able to endure suffering (through which we are changed). I often say that God does not pour his love into our mind in the hope that, one day, it will drop into our heart. Receiving his love is not an exercise of our will or mind, it is the free gift of HIM pouring HIS love directly into our heart.
It does not end with love but begins with love. His love is the foundation on which we build our lives, it is a solid rock, anything else is shifting sand.
The Passion Translation says: “we can experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10 NIV)
Last week I highlighted the Father’s intimate and perfect knowledge of us. He knows us because he created us. He created us because he wanted us to be his family, living in unity and being like his son, Jesus.
We live in a fallen world and that has caused there to be separation between us and our Creator. In fact, in the garden we were pulled away from him through the lies of the enemy.
Because of this separation the question in verse 7 “Where can I flee from your presence?” is often rooted in fear. There is fear of judgement or punishment and that causes us, like Adam and Eve, to want to run and hide. We think we might be able to find a dark corner where the Father won’t be able to find us. As the Psalmist reminds us, there is no place to hide.
Shame, guilt and condemnation try to force us away from his presence into a place where we think we can be safe. We can’t hide. Our Father will seek us and draw us into the light of his presence. He does so, not to judge but because of his love for us.
We can respond to this question out of fear or we can respond with to love. As we respond to love we discover that the Father’s love is all embracing and that it is a secure place for us to step into. There is no fear in love. In responding to love we discover that not only does he know us, but we are known by him. A deeply intimate knowledge which reflects his care of us and his love for us.
As you mediate on this Psalm can I encourage you to see how precious his thoughts of you really are.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! (V17)
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. (Psalm 139:1-3 NIV)
Very often we think of ourselves in a particular way which is shaped by our history and circumstances. We create a picture that we then use to define our identity and which shapes the beliefs we hold about ourselves. That then becomes a filter of how we perceive the way in which other people and God see us. Our perception is valid as it comes from our history and experience but it does not mean it is the correct picture of who we are.
In Psalm 139 we read a detailed account of how the Father sees us and therefore we can believe that this is the true picture of who we really are.
He knows us intimately simply because he created us. He knew what we would be like before we were conceived, before we were knit together in our mother’s womb. He planned each and every day and intended that we should have a good future.
His knowledge of us goes way beyond our knowledge of ourselves. It’s complete, intimate and not based on the filters of history or experience. It is seen from the perfect, eternal perspective of a loving Father. His intimate knowledge of us is too wonderful for us to grasp or understand. As I read this Psalm I find myself asking the Father to give me a glimpse of his knowledge of me, rather than me seeing myself through my filters.
Why don’t you try doing that as well. “Father, how do you see me?” You might be surprised by what he says!
Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. 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 wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” (Deuteronomy 1:29-31 NIV)
One thing that has crept into the church from the world is the praise of strength and personal achievement. The world, whether our education, business or political systems, encourage, indeed strive towards strength. Strength and being strong is promoted whereas those who are weak are put down and treated with contempt.
If we can make something happen in our strength or through the force of our personality it is deemed to be a good thing.
In Deuteronomy we see Moses painting a very different picture. A picture of weakness where we allow our Father to reach down and carry us like a father carries a child. Not a picture of strength and self reliance but one of dependence on our Father where we allow him to not only take our burdens, but to carry us all the way. He carries us through both the good times and the tough times.
Jesus often took a little child to demonstrate the nature of the Kingdom. It is to little children that the secrets of Heaven are revealed and it is to them who more easily see the Father (Matthew 11). The simplicity and power of the Father's love is hidden from those who think of themselves as being wise and learned.
Paul puts it very clearly. The power of recognising our weakness is the key to seeing God's power released. God's power is not demonstrated when we try to be strong or self reliant but it's seen through our weakness.
As we recognise our own weakness we will discover the life of rest and peace which often alludes us. We will discover a life of freedom as we watch and see what our Father is doing. We just get to go along for the ride.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trouble so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NASB)
One of the things we don't talk about very often, despite it being mentioned over a hundred times in the Bible, is comfort. Comfort is an incredibly powerful expression of love and it is something that we need to talk about, but more than that it is something we need to experience.
In Ecclesiastes 4, Solomon describes the desperate state of the human heart when we do not receive comfort. His shocking conclusion is that people are better dead rather than not being comforted.
Comfort is an expression of love which goes to the painful depth of our heart and brings relief to the trauma or grief that we've experienced. It is the only way that trauma or grief can be washed out of our heart to set us free. We lose an unwelcome friend that has made its home in our heart, often for many years. The Father's comfort is the only way that trauma can be permanently erased.
Comfort, however, is not something we purely need to receive for past hurts or wounds. It is something we can receive daily in order that a reservoir of comfort builds up inside of us giving us the strength and energy we need to face our daily lives. Without this surplus of comfort we struggle from one situation to the next. A comforted heart is one that has come home and found its place of rest in the centre of the Father's love. A comforted heart has undergone a transformation where the barren desert has been transformed into a joyful, fruitful garden.
I encourage you to receive comfort daily in order that your heart can undergo this much needed transformation.
This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we're free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ's. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first. (1 John 4:17-18 The Message)
It has to be possible for us to live in love. We read so much about it in the gospels and in Paul's letters but we often ask ourselves whether it is attainable. It seems too far out of our reach. Yet it wouldn't be in the Bible if it was impossible, simply put there to tantalise us and leave us feeling miserable when we don't hit the target.
In John's first letter we read we can 'know and rely on the love God has for us'. These are not words that find a home in our intellect, they are experiential words which belong in our heart. They describe a relationship, one which we can prove time and time again as we rest in Father's love. It is, as Jesus said, 'remaining in love' (John 15) or as Paul puts it 'the resting place of his love has become the very source and root of our life' (Ephesians 3:17 TPT).
We see this expressed very clearly towards the end of John 17 when Jesus is praying that we would discover the reality of being with him where he is; in the bosom of the Father.
As we live in love, the spirit of sonship is released in us and we will begin to walk as Jesus walked. It is something that will completely transform us.
Living in love is not something we can manufacture in our own strength. Rather it is us opening our heart to receive the love of the Father which is poured out freely by the Holy Spirit. It is seeing with the eyes of our heart that God is love.
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.