It’s All About God!
Part 5—A God who is Father
ILL: In an article for The Wall Street Journal, writer Leonard Mlodinow shares a funny story about baseball great Joe DiMaggio:
It was the summer of 1945, and World War II had ended. Former soldiers, including famous baseball stars, streamed back into America and American life. Yankee slugger Joe DiMaggio was trying to be “Yankee fan Joe DiMaggio,” sneaking into a mezzanine seat with his four-year-old son, Joe, Jr., before rejoining his team. A fan noticed him, then another. Soon throughout the stadium people were chanting, “Joe, Joe, Joe DiMaggio!” DiMaggio, moved, gazed down to see if his son had noticed the tribute. He had. “See, Daddy,” said Joe Jr., “everybody knows me!”
Joe Jr. was mistaken; it wasn’t all about him, but about his father. We make the same mistake. It’s not about us; it’s all about God, a God who is our Father.
That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Introduction: Jesus taught us that God is our Father.
It’s all about God. Creation is God’s world; history is God’s story; and you are God’s person. You are not your own; you were bought at a price. You belong to God, and your story is just a tiny part of God’s great story. Get over yourself! It’s all about God.
God is holy—there is no one like Him; He is totally unique and different; He is completely good and righteous.
God is eternal—He is the only one who always has been and always will be. He is eternal in every way: in his knowledge, power, presence and love. You can never exaggerate God!
God is worthy—He is worth every bit of honor and praise you can give Him. David did a great job last Sunday talking about this. God is worth more than you can give Him; you can never give God too much!
God is Father. That’s what we’re going to talk about today. For some of you, it is almost impossible to relate to God as a Father. Maybe your father was absent or neglectful or abusive. Recently I was talking with a friend of mine who feels this way. She told me, “I can relate to Jesus, but not God. The whole Father thing is bad for me.” Her dad was abusive; for her, God as Father is not a comforting image.
ILL: Francis Chan, in Crazy Love, writes about his relationship with his father.
“The concept of being wanted by a father was foreign to me. Growing up, I felt unwanted by my dad. My mother died giving birth to me, so maybe he saw me as the cause of her death; I’m not sure.
I never carried on a meaningful conversation with my dad. In fact, the only affection I remember came when I was nine years old: He put his arm around me for about 30 seconds while we were on our way to my stepmother’s funeral. Besides that, the only other physical touch I experienced were the beatings I received when I disobeyed or bothered him.
My goal in our relationship was not to annoy my father. I would walk around the house trying not to upset him.
He died when I was 12. I cried but also felt relief.
The impact of this relationship affected me for years, and I think a lot of those emotions transferred to my relationship with God. For example, I tried hard not to annoy God with my sin or upset Him with my little problems. I had no aspiration of being wanted by God; I was just happy not being hated or hurt by Him.”
I won’t ask for a show of hands, but I wonder how many of you can relate to Francis, or to my friend.
My relationship with my father was a mixed bag; my dad was an alcoholic and was abusive to my mom. Sober, he was a great dad; drunk, he was terrifying. Sometimes I loved him, other times I hated him; I ended up mostly trying to avoid him.
When I learned that God is my Father, I had to let my understanding of a father be reformed. How does that happen? Jesus does it. Jesus showed us what our Father is like.
John 14:6-9 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Jesus fully revealed the Father. If you want to know what the Father is like, look at the Son. So we’re going to look at Jesus and what He revealed about the Father. God is your Father; what kind of Father is He? What is the first quality that comes to mind? Love. He is…
1. A Father who loves you.
More than any other quality, Jesus said that love describes our Father. The Father loves the Son—their relationship is characterized by love.
John 3:35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.
John 5:20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.
The Father loves the Son, and the Son loves us with that same love.
John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
The Father and Son share an eternal love, and have invited us into their love.
John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
John 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
The Father and the Son, who love each other, also love us, and want us to love them. And notice, how do we show our love for God? By doing what He says; by obeying His commands or teaching. This is not Jesus being legalistic; this is Jesus teaching us what love is. Love is very practical. Love is not just a sentiment, a warm emotion. Love is doing what is best for another person no matter what it costs you. Love is doing good for others. This is how God loves us.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
How did God demonstrate or show His love? Christ died for us. Jesus did what was best for us no matter what it cost Him—and it cost Him everything. This is not sentimental or emotional love—this is active love. Right now, the Father loves you; but He is not just having warm feelings for you; He is doing what is best for you.
1 John 4:8–10 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
This is love—and what does John point to? Not our love for God, but His love for us, demonstrated when He sent His Son to die for us. We don’t define love by anything we do, but by what God has done for us. God is love, so love is defined by God; and He defines love by what He did for us.
This is love—and He points to the incarnation—He sent His Son. This is what we celebrate at Christmas—this is love: that He sent His Son. This is love—He points to the incarnation.
This is love—and He points to the Cross—He sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. God’s love for you is intensely practical. He has done what is best for you at great personal cost. He has died so you can live.
The Father loves you. It is practical love, active love.
ILL: Gregory Boyle in his book, Tattoos on the Heart, tells the story of a 15-year-old gang member named Rigo. Rigo was getting ready for a special worship service for incarcerated youth when Boyle casually asked if Rigo’s father would be coming.
“No,” he said, “He’s a heroin addict and never been in my life. Used to always beat me.” Rigo began to sob as he described his father’s abuse.
After Rigo composed himself, Boyle asked about his mom. Rigo pointed to a small woman and said, “That’s her over there. There’s no one like her.” Then Rigo paused and said, “I’ve been locked up for a year and half. She comes to see me every Sunday. You know how many buses she takes every Sunday [to see me]?”
Rigo started sobbing again. After catching his breath, he gasped through the sobs, “Seven buses. She takes seven buses. Imagine.”
God our Father, as revealed in the person of Jesus, loves us not like Rigo’s dad, but like Rigo’s mother—with commitment, steadfastness, and sacrifice. We have a Father “who takes seven buses” just to get to us. This is love—the love we celebrate at Christmas. God took seven buses to get to us. Jesus showed us the heart of the Father, a Father who took the long journey of love to find us.
Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart (Free Press, 2010), pp. 26-27
The Father loves you. The Father loves you more than you can imagine! Let’s read this together:
1 John 3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us! How great is it? So great that it is “a love that surpasses knowledge.” I want to pray for you—a prayer that the apostle Paul prayed for the Christians in Ephesus. Let’s pray.
Ephesians 3:14–19 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Amen.
I pray that you together will know how wide and high and deep is the love of Christ—I pray that you will know the full dimensions of His love, even though it surpasses knowledge. The Father loves you…more than you can know!
Would you say this with me: The Father loves me. Let that settle in your heart.
What kind of Father is He? A Father who loves us.
2. A Father you can talk with.
Can you talk with your father? Dads can be kind of intimidating. I know a lot of people who would say that they can’t talk with their dad. Maybe he’s too busy, too disconnected, too overbearing, too scary. Maybe he just doesn’t listen.
But our Father is someone you can talk with. In fact, when Jesus prayed, He usually addressed God as Father. He was talking with His dad. And lest you think “dad” is too familiar, Jesus used the term “Abba”, an Aramaic word that was, and is, the word that small children use for their fathers.
ILL: Zealand, our four year-old grandson from Ethiopia, calls Amy “Mommy” and he calls Zac “Ababa”.
Abba—it is a small child’s word for his father. Papa. Daddy.
Mark 14:36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Jesus prayed this in the garden just hours before His death. In His greatest struggle, He talked with His Father, and He addressed him, “Abba”. Papa. Daddy. Picture a small child curling up in her father’s lap, and saying, “Daddy.” That’s the picture here. “Abba”.
Here’s the cool thing. Jesus taught us to pray to our Father.
Matthew 6:9-13 This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
“Our Father.” When we pray, this is who we talk with: our Father; the one Jesus called “Abba”. Jesus modeled this for His followers and they imitated His practice. They began to speak with God as child would its Father, as Abba.
Romans 8:15 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.”
Galatians 4:6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
Our Father…Abba…Papa…Dad. When we pray, we don’t pray in fear, but as sons and daughters who are talking with their Father, whom they love. Abba. We used to sing a song that goes like this:
Abba Father, Abba Father,
Deep within my heart I cry.
Abba Father, Abba Father,
I will never cease to love you.
Sing with me:
Father I adore you,
Lay my life before you,
How I love you.
Let’s talk with Him now. Talk with our Father…Abba. Tell Him what’s on your heart. You won’t surprise Him! Jesus said,
Matthew 6:8 your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
He already knows…but He loves to hear you say it because He is our Father. Let’s pray.
He is a Father who loves you. He is a Father you can talk with.
3. A Father you can trust.
Jesus taught His followers not to worry. Why? Because you have a Father who cares for you.
Matthew 6:25–33 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
Look at the birds! They don’t sow or reap or store in barns; they don’t have savings accounts, retirement plans or stock options; they don’t plan for the future at all. Yet your Father feeds them. Are you more valuable than a bird? How many of you think you are? Don’t you think then that your Father will take care of you? So why do you worry?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Look at the wild flowers in the field! Well, look at them this summer! They don’t work all day to make money; they don’t look in their full closet and whine, “I have nothing to wear”; they don’t spend hours at the mall shopping for the latest fashion; they don’t worry about how they look. But oh how they look! They dress better than King Solomon; better than Tyra Banks (on America’s Next Top Model) or Paris Hilton or that other girl, Victoria Secret; better than Paul Miller! Smokin’ hot! Why are they so well dressed? Because God clothes them. Are you more valuable than a flower? Don’t you think your Father will take care of you? So why do you worry?
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Don’t worry! Your Father knows what you need. Stop worrying and start trusting. Worry is an insult to God.
ILL: Imagine Laina and I with 5 small children; I can tell you, we were living from paycheck to paycheck with little or no margin. It was tight!
Imagine my kids saying, “Daddy, I have a tummy ache. I am worried that we won’t have food tomorrow. I am worried that Avista may turn off our heat. I am worried that the bank may repo our house.” I’d be a little surprised first, then I’d be insulted. “Daddy’s taking care of it; don’t you trust me?”
It’s hard to imagine kids worrying about those things, isn’t it? Why? These are things adults worry about, but kids don’t. Kids don’t worry about those things because they trust Dad and Mom.
We can learn something from our kids. We have a Father who cares for us. You don’t need to worry because He is watching out for you. You are very important to Him—more important than birds and flowers—and the one who feeds the birds and clothes the flowers is taking care of you.
So don’t worry. You have a Father you can trust.
You have a Father who loves you, a Father you can talk to, a Father you can trust; and…
4. A Father you can turn to.
In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus tells the story of the Prodigal Son. I think you know it. A father has two sons, and the younger one says, “Give me my share of the family estate now.” He basically tells his dad, “I don’t care about you; I just want your money. Give me the money and let me go.” So his father does. The young man moves far away and wastes all the money in wild living. Then a famine struck, and the young man had to take a job slopping hogs just to stay alive. For a Jewish boy, you couldn’t go much lower than slopping hogs! Anyone ever watch “Dirty Jobs” on Discovery Channel? Well, if that show was on TV then, this job was on it! He had sunk as low as he could go.
Then one day, this boy came to his senses. He realized that back home, the hired hands on his father’s farm were living way better than he was. He decided to eat crow, to go home and beg his father to take him back, not as a son—he knew he didn’t deserve that—but just as a hired hand on the ranch. So he set out for home and on the way, rehearsed his apology speech.
Pause: he came to his senses. What did he realize when he came to his senses? “My father…” He realized that his father would take him back. He realized that his father was someone he could turn to in trouble. He realized that he could go home.
And you know what happened next. When he got home, the father called the cops and had him arrested. No…the father chewed him out and told him, “You made your choice; now you get to live with it. It sucks to be you!” No. The father ran to him, threw his arms around him, kissed him, and took him back, not as a hired hand, but as his son. He put a robe on his back, shoes on his feet, the family signet ring on his finger, and then he killed the fattened calf and busted out the frozen cheesecake and threw a huge party!
We call it “the prodigal son”; I think we should call it “the Prodigal Father.” Prodigal has a good and bad meaning. Prodigal can mean “extravagantly wasteful”—bad. Or it can mean “extravagantly generous”—good. The son was prodigal—extravagantly wasteful—bad. The father was prodigal—extravagantly generous—good. And the story is really about him, isn’t it.
Who is the father in this story? God. It’s all about God! It’s God’s story, and the hero is our Father who is extravagantly generous and gracious. He is a Father you can turn to. It’s safe to come home; He is waiting for you.