Some time ago I learned that, as a father, I have a responsibility to tell what are called “Dad Jokes”. A Dad Joke is corny, often repeated and requires a captive audience.
For example, with the family trapped in the car as it drives past a cemetery Dad will say, “Here we are at the dead centre of town” to be followed by, “It’s very popular: people are dying to get here”.
The point is that fathers are not perfect.
Indeed, some fathers are so imperfect that, for some people, their experience of a father makes it extremely difficult for them to cope with understanding God as Father.
Don’t compare God the Father with fathers you know. To learn what it is to have God as your Heavenly Father you need to look in the Bible.
At the same time that we know that our own father was not perfect, neither were we perfect in our role and relationship as sons and daughters. Not like Jesus was. So first think about the Father-Son relationship Jesus had.
- 1. God the Father of Jesus
- Jesus had a very special relationship with God the Father from the start: God the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus in Mary the virgin and so Jesus became “God in the flesh”. Jesus is the only person conceived in this way and therefore became “the only begotten” Son. He is the Firstborn, the pre-eminent one, the most important member of God’s family. (Lk 1:35). Also, just as his conception and relationship with God the Father is unique, unlike anyone else he lived out his relationship with God the Father perfectly.
- So perfectly, in fact, that he had complete unity with his Father: “I and the Father are one,” (Jn 10:30) he said. “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (Jn 14:7) Jesus said to Thomas. If you have seen Jesus you have see the Father. If you know Jesus then you know God the Father.
- Jesus relationship with his Father was by no means casual, informal or occasional. He maintained his relationship with God the Father by spending private time with him. Luke 5:16 says, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” If Jesus needed to do this, how much more do we?
- By a public declaration at the time of Jesus’ baptism God expressed his love and Fatherhood for Jesus and the pleasure he took in him. Mark 1:10 records, ‘As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” ‘
- As the perfect son would do, Jesus did exactly what his Father wanted him to. He completed the work God the Father had for him to do. At the end he could say, “it is finished.” If you know God is your heavenly Father you respond to him with obedience, even if the act of obedience is inconvenient, painful or fatal. Jesus was obedient to his Father even to death on the Cross (Lk 22:42).
- 2. Is God everyone’s Father?
- Is he “Lord and Father of Mankind”? Some would like to think he is father of all since he is creator of all – he is the potter and we are the clay (Is 64:8). But really points out that humans are simply God’s creatures. A pot is dependent on the potter but that does not mean it has a relationship with its creator. The potter is not the Father of the pot.
- In the OT God was spoken of as Father but only to those who belonged to his chosen people, to those who belonged and lived in the covenant God established with them and by which he redeemed them. Isaiah wrote in 63:16 “But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. “
- Where God is spoken of most clearly as Father is in places like Isaiah 9:6 where there is that wonderful prophecy which we know to have been fulfilled in Jesus: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. “ The full discovery of God the Father came to us through Jesus.
- Some Jews came to Jesus and claimed to be Abraham’s offspring and that God was their “Father”. Jesus told them neither was true.
He told them that they might be Abraham’s descendants but Abraham was not their father because they did not do what Abraham would have done. Abraham would have acknowledged the truth of Jesus as the Christ but they would not. Abraham was not the father of these religious Jews.
Some of the things Jesus said are so breathtaking and confrontational.
He told them they were “slaves to sin”, that anyone who sins is a slave to sin. “We have never been slaves of anyone” they replied. But how wrong they were.
Then Jesus told them God was not their father either; their father was Satan.
‘Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.’
Doesn’t this mean that for all who do not know Jesus’ salvation, all who are still “slaves of sin”, also have Satan as their father? In that case they certainly do not know God as their Father.
- God is not Father to all mankind. The words “Lord and Father of Mankind” do not even come from the Bible – they come from a poem that became a hymn. We don’t establish our theology from hymns even though they can be helpful if you read past the title:
Dear Lord and Father of Mankind
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
- 3. Jesus wants us to know God as Father
- It is something that Jesus wants for us. On the eve of his crucifixion he prayed for you and me; he wanted us to know the unity he had with the Father:
Jn 17:21 “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.“
In other words, our unity with Jesus and thus with God as our Father has the powerful effect of demonstrating to the world that Jesus is indeed the Saviour sent by God. By demonstrating this unity we play our part in allowing God to achieve his plans. How very important it is that we develop and demonstrate this unity! May we also be united and united in Jesus in the same way Jesus was in God and God in him.
- Jesus taught his disciples to pray to “Our Father” in what we know so well as “the Lord’s Prayer”. (Mt 6:9,10)
- 4. How does God become our Father?
- By knowing Jesus as Saviour: Jn 14:6 – “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is such an astounding statement that it is offensive to many. I am glad they are not my words. No other action, religion, philosophy, lifestyle, spirituality or theory gives anyone access to God the Father except solely and uniquely through Jesus. Anyone who claims otherwise is wrong and anyone who finds this claim offensive is being offended by Jesus Christ himself. The only way to know God as Father is to first know Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
As he said Jn 8:31 – If God were your Father, you would love me.
- Here is a quote from CS Lewis I came across recently. Give it a bit of thought and you will see that it is not a complete side track:
“If Shakespeare and Hamlet could ever meet, it must be Shakespeare’s doing”.
I don’t know how Shakespeare could have gone about arranging such a meeting. Hamlet was a figment of Shakespeare’s imagination. All that this character Hamlet said and did was invented for him by Shakespeare. Shakespeare could, I suppose, have somehow written himself as a character in the play and so met Hamlet but how this would work is beyond my creativity to imagine. But still it would have to have been a meeting instigated by Shakespeare, no Hamlet.
Not that God was limited in the same way because, in fact, he did enter our world just so that he could meet us and interact with us. He became the man Jesus, God in the flesh and so, as creator did and does take the initiative and instigate a meeting between creator and creature.
Only the creator could possibly reveal himself to the creature; Hamlet could initiate nothing. Similarly, there is no way we could initiate a relationship with God the Father.
If any of us, as creatures, can possibly have any knowledge of God the Creator then God must be the one who reveals himself to us; we could initiate nothing. If we could then God would not be God. We love God because he first loved us.
Last week a convention of atheists was held in Melbourne. It was rather like atheists going to church. Atheists want to use reason and logic and demand a proof that God exists. Of course, they have no proof that logic and reason exist nor that they can be relied upon to lead to valid conclusions, to the truth. As the quote from CS Lewis illustrates it is illogical to ask for such a proof. Not only are they in conflict with the scientific and mathematical logic they want to hold to but also, at the same time, with the whole nature of artistic creativity wanting, as a creature, to make demands of the creator. Unfortunately it is a case of being slaves to sin, having the devil as their father, listening to him whose only language is lies.
What can be known of God he has revealed to us; first in creation then through the Old Testament prophets and ultimately in Jesus. (Hebrews 1:1)
- So, how does God become our Father? Read Romans 8:9-17
9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation-but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ” Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
This is another of God’s miracles!
Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit at work in Mary. The same Holy Spirit works in us. The Spirit of Christ causes us to be born again. The old nature which made us a slave to sin and allowed Satan to be our father is dead and at the same time a new life is generated in us.
The same Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead is living in you. The Holy Spirit entered the tomb where Jesus’ body lay and raised him back to life. Such life-giving power! Now the same Holy Spirit lives in you giving new life to your mortal body. You have received a spiritual resurrection into eternity! You have eternal life!
What power resides in you! The powerful, life-giving, resurrecting Spirit of Jesus is in you and with you!
With this relationship alive in us the obvious thing to do is to discard the old, sinful nature. The old nature is dead – put to death by the Holy Spirit! How ridiculous, worse: how weird to continue to allow that old dead nature to have any sway in our lives.
We are led by the Spirit of God and the Spirit communicates within us to our own spirit. It’s a person-to-person communication at the deepest possible level, at a level we never reach with anyone else but the Holy Spirit.
We are given a Spirit of Sonship. “The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children”. We are assured and reassured that God is our Father and we want to express our relationship with the Father in the most intimate of terms. We cry out “Abba, Father”.
By the power of the same Holy Spirit we know that we want to obey our Father and we also know that this obedience will lead us to suffering, just as it did for Jesus.
But we do this with confidence in our relationship with God through Jesus the firstborn Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit. We know that we have been adopted into the family of God the Father and we are heirs and co-heirs with Christ. We are bound to inherit all that he, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, has and will have.
Amazingly, by the love, grace and mercy of God the Father ministered to us through God the Holy Spirit, we may even share the glory of God the Son.
- 5. Conclusion
- It is good to think about and understand the theology, the Bible teaching that leads us to say “I believe in God the Father”.
- But it is better to have the assurance of the Holy Spirit that what you believe is practiced in a real relationship, to be at peace in the comfort of God your Father, to spend time and prayer with God your Father, to know that that relationship is established by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead now living in and with you and testifying to your spirit constantly that you are indeed a child of God the Father.
- As it says in 1 John 3:1, “What marvellous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it – we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are” (Message)