“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!
“How great is the love that the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!"
(1 John 3:1 NIV).
Our lives are a journey.
Much of our time and energy is spent on our day to day living. We are caught up in what we do and what we are trying to achieve or want to become. We want to do a good job at work, even if that only means showing up regularly and being on time. We want to look good both in terms of our outward appearance and the things we accomplish. We want to be noticed and to be thought well off. We like other people’s good opinions and their approval. It becomes important to us that our act looks as if it is all together.
The deepest longings of our hearts are only satisfied when we find what we are made for.
We are all searching for love. Our problem is not so much that we are searching but where we are looking to find the answer. There are many counterfeits which clamour for our attention and our time. They try to seduce us with the lure of easy pickings and quick gratification. They do not satisfy for any length of time and leave us wanting to come back for more. Counterfeit lovers are short term and need constant feeding!
We all need love. Ideally, it should be the very foundation of our lives. But in our journey through life many of us do not receive the love we need.
The truth is that we have all been loved with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). God draws us to himself with his love and his kindness. His love is unconditional. It is his love that will make us totally safe as we become hidden in him (Psalm 32:7). He becomes our light and salvation and we need have no fear (Psalm 27:1). God has a perfect plan for us, a good plan that is for our prosperity, not to harm us but to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
“You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honour and power. For you created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.” (Rev 4:11 NLT)
“... everyone who is called by name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:7)
God’s original intention was that he would enjoy us and that we would enjoy him forever. When we read the Bible without any filters or preconceived ideas it is truly amazing what he says about us.
He made each one of us to bring him pleasure. All too often we believe that the “everything” in Revelation 4:11 excludes us! We picture God taking great delight in the creation of the natural world but it seems the creation of man has brought him nothing but trouble. We imagine him enjoying looking at the mountains and the forests or the seas and the lakes but frowning with contempt as he looks upon us. We see him enjoying the earth’s expanse but waving a stick of judgement over mankind.
Although everything was created to give God pleasure, sadly the fallen world and the fallen nature of humanity means that there are many things that sadden his heart. He delights in us glorifying him and bringing him pleasure. As we are awakened by his love we become aware of the glory resting on us and we can enter into the glorious inheritance which he has for his children.
God takes great delight in all of his children. None are excluded from his love; we were all made to bring him pleasure.
May our hearts be awakened to the truth of who we really are.
"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." (John 17: 24-26 NIV)
However much we remember of our early days, that is not the beginning of our story. It begins way back in time, in fact, before time began. Before the foundation of the world God had each one of us in mind (Psalm 139:16). He knew all about us. He knew where we would be born and where we would live (Acts 17:26). The prophet Jeremiah was told that God knew him before he had been formed in the womb. He knows each of us intimately and more importantly he has made us in order to have friendship with him!
So, our story begins in the beginning.
From before the creation of the world there has been a beautiful unity and harmony in the Trinity. Relationships between Father, Son and Spirit were based totally on love. There was no element of control or manipulation. There was no fear or insecurity, nor were there any divided loyalties. The Trinity was complete in itself. It was so complete, in fact, that God did not need creation as an object to love. Yet, Jesus prays that we will enjoy and be drawn into the same unity and the same relationship which the Trinity enjoys. Jesus’ prayer is, quite simply, that we would be like him!
So the beginning of the story is perfect love. Everything in creation was made by love and for love. Love was the foundation of the world. Love was the essence of the life that was breathed into us. Our story begins when a loving Father breathed love into the human race. It was what we should have enjoyed forever. God really is our Father. He knows everything about us. He chose the day we would be born and the places we would live. He knit us together in our mother’s womb. He is the Father of our spirit. We were conceived in his heart before the beginning of time. Not one of us is a mistake.
God has always been Father and he always will be Father. His heart’s desire is to be a Father to you!
"I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:18 NIV)
"I myself said, “‘How gladly would I treat you like my children and give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.’ I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me." (Jeremiah 3:19 NIV)
I am very privileged to have four lovely children. All our friends know that I am their father. Their friends know that I am their father; school teachers, bank managers, work colleagues – they too know I am the father of these four children. Many people know that I am a father but only four people know it intimately. Those four are my children. They have lived with me and shared my hopes, dreams and failures. They know what I like and what I am like. They know what I like doing, where I like going and the sort of food I like. They know what makes me cross and what makes me happy. They have experienced my care, my love and my provision. They are my three daughters and my son.
It is just the same in the church. Most people know that God is a Father in much the same way as people outside of my family know that I am a father. They know that fact because they have been taught it or because they see it in Scripture. But they may not have experienced it. Too many people in the church only have a theology of God as a Father but few have come to experience him as a Father to them.
God’s heart is that we come to experience him as Father. God, our Father, wants us to have a heart of sonship and to experience his love as Jesus did. After all, when we became Christians we became children of God. May the eyes of your heart be opened and the ears of your spirit tuned in to hear the voice of One calling you, the One who has always been Father and who wants to be a Father 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.