A couple of years ago, a card manufacturer decided to give inmates of a county prison the opportunity to send Mother’s day cards, nearly every prisoner took advantage of it, come Father’s day, the card manufacturer decided to offer the same service. Not one card was sent out!
Over the past few years I have been blessed with the opportunity to counsel young men and boys through various challenges, strikingly, the one common thread running through all their lives, is a poor relationship with their fathers’. James Dobson, in “Bringing up Boys” mentions that he has never counselled a homosexual male, that has had a good relationship with his Dad. All of this brings me to the conclusion that the concept of Fathers nowadays, is not one garnishing great praise, nor is the legacies many of them are leaving.
When looking at God the Father we seem to find ourselves at 2 ends of the spectrum, where He is either:
- Strict, loveless, distant, unapproachable, not there at all, or
- A buddy, soft, easy to manipulate, genie, there for me
If we take how the world has represented the concept of Fathers today, we would be excused for coming up with a list that looks something like this:
- They are not a necessity;
- They often are the problem;
- They are a myth;
- Their role is not in the home;
- They add little value;
- They are lazy;
- They are low achievers;
- They are hard, not gentle or tender;
- They can’t communicate;
- They are distant;
- Their authority is ill-placed; and
- The responsibility of fathers is a remnant of a sexist society.
When it comes to looking at God, it simply is not good enough to ask if a person believes on God, but rather to ask what kind of God they believe, as the God they believe in, may not be a true reflection of God at all, but merely a perception influenced by years of religion, judgement, hurt and pain dished out by people they have come into contact with.
IN Luke 15:11-32 we come across three stories: The parable of lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son, one common thread joins them all, and that is that there is celebration when that which was lost is found.
We must always remember that God’s heart is for the lost, it breaks for those who don’t know him, it yearns to reach out and take hold of those who are alone, it searches far and wide to capture the tears of his children, it aches at the idea that his beloved are not with him.
Take a look at Psalm 56, and the imagery that David describes, remembering that this the same guy who killed Goliath, waged victorious battles and lead a nation. Just think of the relationship and understanding he must have had of Father God, to be able to see this side of God and yet stand in faith and the knowledge that God when deliver his army from many battles.
What is your understanding of a father, what is your children’s understanding of father and what is the worlds understanding? All of these will influence the likelihood that there will be a relationship with God, they will influence the closeness, trust, feelings of security. If the image of God is distorted, so will be the relationship.
The role of a father is not merely a leg to the table of parenting that makes the table all wobbly when missing. The role of a father is irreplaceable as it points people to the Father, it gives them a glimpse of Him, it gives them a preview, it gives them a reason to reach out, or to run away. This is why there is such an attack on Godly men, and fathers specifically, because if the father can be tainted, then why will people search for comfort in Father God, if that title has been exclusively used by men who have hurt them, belittled them, failed them and generally never lived up to their expectations.
God seeks not only to save his children, but to restore them to their rightful place. It is this restoration that is key, this requires a proper understanding of the Father, salvation can come by confessing our sins John 1:12 and calling on his name so that you will be saved, Acts 2:21. But the restoring to a place in his family requires us to know his heart, to understand that he doesn’t just want you to be saved, but to be reunited with him, to restore the heart connection.
Without a proper understanding of God as Father, we may never inherit hell, but will we ever inherit the title of sons and daughters of a most high God, and will we actually know what it feels like to have His love showered on us, and not just the understanding that we have been saved?
One of the greatest difficulties I find as a Christian is getting to grips with how much God loves me, where is the limit, when have a gone too far, when will he say “that’s enough” “you’re outta here” “I’m taking back the title of son”. There’s the old funny threat that says “I brought you into the worlds so I can take you out”. Where is that place for God?
The best example I have of God’s limit to His love for me, is to ask what is my limit to the love I have for my son, when will I say enough. I Can’t, the love I feel towards him can’t be expressed and it can’t be extinguished. There is nothing he could do to dent how much I love him. I can be angry, hurt, disappointed sure, but the love is never touched, it flows constantly, the only change is when it overflows with joy. I need to look at how He views me, through the eyes of how I view my son, and that will only give me a fraction of an understanding, but that fraction floors me, and it is from this frame of reference that I must live out my relationship.
It is fundamental to our walk with God, Jesus and Holy Spirit that we understand the Fatherheart, otherwise, like with natural fathers, if we don’t know the extent of the love, the relationship, the support and protection, if we don’t know His heart for us, we can never truly say we will trust Him with ours, and everything that goes with that, whether it be trusting Him with finances, our future, our hurts, our dreams and especially our forgiveness. You see we need to realise that all these things flow out of Father, not Father out of thee things.
The way I see it, we have 2 challenges when it comes to getting a better understanding of the Fatherheart of God, the first, looked at above, is how we see God as father, the second is to see ourselves as adopted. For most people, adoption seems to be an unequal alternative, it is plan “B”, not as real as biological. Another reason why we struggle to understand Him as Father, is because we don’t understand the power, permanence and value of adoption. We say the words, Father, son’s, daughters, but if we see being adopted into a family, as not having as equal a standing as biological, then we won’t be able to grasp him as being our “real” father. If you had a birth certificate issued after you were born again, how would yours differ from mine, besides the name? There would be no difference! IN South Africa, a birth certificate of a biological child and that of an adoptive child are the same. No mention of the way the child entered the world, no differentiating between natural and chosen. That’s exactly how it is with us!
If we don’t see the value in adoption, we will struggle to relate to each other and most importantly, if we struggle with being adopted, we will struggle with seeing Him as Father, as such, struggle to get His Heart for us as His children.
Tenderness, safety, security, intimacy, these are words that we should be able to picture ourselves experiencing with a Father, but we won’t have these with God, if he is not seen as our Father (the true example of a Father and not the ones proposed by society and television) because otherwise, it’s just a bit weird having these feelings for someone who isn’t as closely connected as a dad is, especially for guys. I’m not intimate with another man but my dad and my son, so how can I expect to have a heart connection if He is not really my dad.
Out of this Father Son/daughter relationship comes trust, security, freedom, acceptance, belief that prayers will be answered, healing etc. You can’t put the cart before the horse. He doesn’t become your father after we do these things, we do these things and believe them, because we are expecting and asking our Father for them, and if we don’t see him as our dad, are we then maybe just saying the words in hope that relationship will follow?
So it’s not just about understanding the Fatherheart, but understanding that as adopted men and woman. In order for us to understand His Heart and his love for us, we need to understand it as adopted sons and daughters, if we can’t see ourselves as adopted, we’ll struggle to receive his love because we won’t see Him as our Father
John 14:18 says “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” That was us, and is many others still!
Ephesians 2:12 says “Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.”
Galatians 4:3-7 says “In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
We weren’t just delivered out of slavery but adopted as well, powerful stuff.
Ephesians 1:3-6 (NIV) says “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
When Paul talks of adoption, he has the Roman idea of adoption in mind, something initiated by the father, and permanent.
J.I. Packer in Knowing God calls the doctrine of adoption “the greatest blessing of the gospel. Adoption is the highest blessing of the Gospel, higher even than the gift of justification because of the richer relationship with God that it involves…Justification is a forensic idea, conceived in terms of law, and viewing God as judge… Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as Father. In adoption, God takes us into His family and fellowship, and establishes us as His children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the father is greater.”
Romans 8:15-17 says “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
In Roman adoption the primary purpose was not to provide children for barren women. It was to perpetuate the estate of the adopting father. That’s why adopted sons in the Roman world had equal inheritance rights as biological sons, and so do we!
Look at the lyrics in the song By Your Side by 10th Ave North
Why are you striving these days?
Why are you trying to earn grace?
Why are you crying?
Let me lift up your face, just don’t turn away
Why are you looking for love?
Why are you still searching as if I’m not enough?
To where will you go child?
Tell me where will you run, to where will you run?
Such intimate words, picture being in his lounge, in his lap, holding his hand, hugging him, kissing him on the cheek, squeezing into his chest, calling Him Daddy, feeling weird yet? We have lost, as a people, the freedom of feeling this way towards God our Father. Be vulnerable with God. Align yourself and pursue the revelation of what it means to be adopted, and then allow God to treat you, and interact with you as his children, His real Children, and see how you will start to understand the Fatherheart and everything else that you are legally and relationally entitled to as His sons and daughters.
Seek His heart, and see how you will be rewarded with a relationship incomparable to anything you’ve ever dreamt possible.