There is a photo of the former President of the US, John F. Kennedy, sitting at his desk in the Oval office, while his son is playing under the desk. There is also another photo of his two children playing in the office. The photos struck me, because to the rest of the country and even the world, he was known as President, and no one can wander in and play under his desk or run around the office. But to his children, he was Father, and they had access to him anytime. I am sure that was very special.
For those who follow Jesus, we can call God, “Father”. He is not just creator. He is not just judge. He is our heavenly Father. That is very special.
J.I. Packer is my favourite Christian author and he says in his book Knowing God: “Adoption is the highest privilege of the gospel. The traitor is forgiven, brought in for supper, and given the family name. To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.”
The death of Jesus makes it possible for us to not only be forgiven but to be adopted into God’s family. This means we know God as Father.
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This is so important because we all need a father to give us teaching, affection and an example of how to live. Many of us have been under-fathered; not given enough affection, teaching and example to help us grow to be mature.
The generous Father
In Luke 15:11-32 we find out what our Heavenly Father is like. This story is known as the story of the “Prodigal Son”, but I think it would be better to think of it as the story of the extravagant father. When the son asked the father for his share of the estate, the father was not only willing, but he gave what was coming to the son who asked (Luke 15:12). The son takes off and the money runs out. He then remembers how well the servants were looked after by his father. They had an abundance of food (Luke 15:17).
When this rebellious son returns, it is like the father was waiting for the son (Luke15:20). What did he say to his son when he returned home? “You no good, good for nothing, disobedient child”? No, he didn’t say that. He was filled with compassion. He ran like a man of his time would never have dared to do. He showed affection by hugging and kissing him (Luke 15:22). The father not only clothed him, he dressed him like royalty. He not only gave him something to eat, he gave him the best food. He threw an extravagant party for him.
God, our Father is rich and generous as we see in the father in the story.
The father is also generous to the older son (Luke 15:28). The father doesn’t leave the older son in his self-pity party. He goes out to engage with him. He wanted him to be part of the celebration.
Alexander the Great had a General whose daughter was getting married. He valued the General and so offered to pay for the wedding. When the General gave the treasurer the bill, it was enormous. The treasurer came to Alexander and told him the amount. To his surprise, Alexander smiled and said, “Pay it! Don’t you see – by asking me for such an enormous sum he does me great honour. He shows that he thinks I am both rich and generous.”
God, our Father is rich and generous as we see in the father in the story. He is rich in mercy, kindness and grace. We can see this in the fact that he generously gave his Son to die for us, so we can call God, Father.
The ever-present Father
We see through the whole story that the Father is ever-present. We see it particularly in the words he says to the older brother: “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours’” (Luke 15:31).
When I was growing up, my dad had two phones on his desk at his office. They were those old phones that were connected to the wall and you had to manually dial. One of the phones he received work calls on. The other phone was a private number that only my mum, myself and my sisters knew. Do you think we used and abused that privilege? Of course we did. I’d ring up and ask: “Dad, can I go to Craig’s place?” “Dad, can you please get some milk on the way home?” I had direct access to my dad, so I used it.
We have a private number for God and so we have direct access to him as our Father. We have access to him all the time because he is an ever-present Father.
Romans 8:15 says: “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him, we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”
“If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.” – J.I. Packer
God is ever-present with us by his Spirit. His Spirit makes it possible for us to cry, “Abba, Father”, the most intimate way of referring to and relating to him.
J.I. Packer also says: “If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.”
Packer says that “we should take the following truths” and “say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as your wait for the bus, any time your mind is free, and ask that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it is all utterly and completely true:
- I am a child of God
- God is my Father
- Heaven is my home
- Every day is one day nearer
- My saviour is my brother
- Every Christian is my brother too.”
As we come to Father’s Day, we may remember how our dad enriched our lives or how he deprived us of what we needed from him or even worse, mistreated us. Whatever experience we had with our earthly fathers, we have a perfect heavenly Father who provides perfect teaching, perfect affection and a perfect example. He is and will continue to “father” you.
L-T Hopper is Content and Partnerships Director at Katoomba Christian Convention (KCC). He is married to Belinda and has three daughters. He served as a church pastor for 20 years before moving to KCC. He loves cycling (probably too much).
Further content on God as Father is available on the free KCCOne app, as well as other discipleship resources. Find out more at kccone.org.au.