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Monday, April 20, 2020

God the Father

There are certain times in life when you tend to pause and ponder everything. It may be when you are a senior in high school and about to graduate and start a new phase of life. You may contemplate who you are and who you want to be and what you want to do with your life.  Perhaps it is when you’re nearing the end of your life and you realize you will die soon; you may reflect on all your years and what it was all about—your joys, your regrets.  There are other times too—maybe when you become a parent and hold your baby in your arms or after a divorce or when someone you love dies.

God has given us all time to reflect over the past several weeks. Never in the history of the world has there been a time like this. Oh yes, there have been plagues before, and plagues that killed far more than COVID 19. However, never before has the whole world, all at once, been so affected as we have been in this time, a time when the whole globe has been disrupted all at once.  It is unique in the history of the world.  And this has given everyone a chance to think about things in a way we might not have thought about before.  What insights have you gained?

The Disciples and earliest followers of Jesus had a special time of reflection too. Jesus was arrested and tortured, crucified and buried.  On the third day he rose from the grave in victory!  Jesus spent 40 days with His followers, proving he was really alive. Then, Jesus gave His followers their mission and He ascended to Heaven to be with the Father and His followers were left to contemplate all these things.

One of the most important commands Jesus gave before He ascended in found in Matthew 28:19.  His followers were left to ponder these words as they waited to be filled by the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 28:19
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Trinity
This statement, known as the Great Commission, is Jesus instructions to His followers (and to us).  We are on a mission to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Now, there is something for the Disciples (and us) to think about. The mission, though it may be grand and overwhelming—is not hard to understand—“Go make disciples.”  But what about the part: “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”?

Jesus helped us understand God better than anyone else who ever walked the face of the earth.  This is because Jesus is God. In Jesus, God took on human flesh.  John 1:1 says, “In the beginning the Word [Jesus] already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Jesus and God one and the same. But wait, I thought Jesus was the Son of God?  John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  Yes, Jesus is the Son of God, but somehow also mysteriously Jesus is God. And who is the Holy Spirit?

You see, the Disciples and earliest followers of Jesus had a lot to think about!  Very early on, they recognized and began to teach the triune nature of God.  We know that there is only One God, for this is what Jesus taught from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”  Christians don’t worship three Gods.  We only worship one God.  However, the One God exists as a Trinity.

Though the word “trinity” is never used in Scripture, we see the Trinity of God expressed throughout the pages of the Bible.  We see God and the Spirit of God at work in the creation in Genesis 1:1-2. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” And John 1:1 tells us Jesus, the Word, was also there. “In the beginning the Word [Jesus] already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Genesis 1:26 even uses a plural form when speaking of God at creation.  “Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” You find this in the NLT, NIV, and KJV as well as the original Hebrew.  And when Jesus was baptized in Matthew 3:16-17, we see all three persons of the Trinity. “After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”  Did you see them?  There is God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus the Son.

So there is only One God, but He is a Trinity of Three Persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Still confused? That’s Ok? The Apostles began to teach this triune nature of God as soon as the Holy Spirit filled them at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 (40 days after Jesus ascended to Heaven), but it took several centuries for the Christian Church to work out all the details of the Trinity as a formal  doctrine. How do you verbalize the mysterious nature of an infinite God in feeble human language? The Trinity is the best we can do. There is One God, but He is three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

So pray for me!  My task over the next several weeks is to write about the mysterious, infinite, inconceivable nature of the Trinity.  Pray that God gives me the words.

God the Father
Let’s look at God the Father today.  God is our Father.  Of course, God is Jesus' Father.  His Spirit overshadowed Mary and she conceived a child in her womb who is Jesus.  God the Father is the Father of Christ.

God also created us. In a grand sense, God created us all because He created the human race. Genesis 1 tells how God created male and female in His own image. So God is our Father in the macro sense. However, God is also our Father on the micro level Jeremiah 1:5 gives us this sense as God said, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart.” And as our Father, God provides for and protects us before we even know about Him.  I have three children and each time I held them as newborns, I was struck with the overwhelming sense that I was their father and my job is to protect and provide for them.  I supposed that's the way God designed us to be.  There is something in our DNA that compels us to shelter our offspring.  That's probably a good thing, because it's a lot of work and children (especially as infant) do nothing in return.  They don't even realize what you are doing, let alone show any gratitude.  On the contrary, infants are incredibly needy.  They need you to do everything for them--feed them, clean them, protect them, sooth them, nurture them.  And this is what God does for us; even before we have any awareness of Him, God is our protecting and providing Father.

And like any father, God loves us.  However, unlike any other father, God our Father loves us perfectly.  He always knows what to do, has the power to do it, and loves us perfectly so He does exactly what we need.  Love is not just warm and fuzzy affection.  Sometimes love requires discipline.  Hebrews 12:6 says, “For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

God the Father grieves for us when we turn away.  It breaks our Father's heart when we turn our backs on Him.  If you've ever had a child who disappointed you, you understand something of what God feels for His own wayward children.  If you've ever had a friend betray you or a spouse be unfaithful, you know something of the heartache God feels for His rebellious children.  However, God feels it infinitely more deeply because of His infinite character and perfect love.

Thankfully, God our Father never gives up on us.  Jesus told a famous story called the Prodigal Son (Luke 15).  In the story, a man has two sons and the younger demanded the Father go ahead and give him his inheritance; in essence, he was saying, "I wish you were dead. Give me my inheritance now."  The gracious father gives the son his inheritance and he runs away to a foreign land where he wastes all the money on wild living. Finally, he hits rock bottom and is on the brink of starvation, longing to eat the slop he is feeding the pigs.  He decides to return home and beg his father to take him back as a slave.  He goes home, but his father runs out to see him and embraces him.  The father, puts a ring on his finger and a fine robe on his back and throws a "welcome home" party for him.  And this is what God the Father does for us.  He longs for us to choose to come Home to Him.  And He graciously welcomes us home whenever we repent and turn to Him.  God welcomes us home, cleans us up, heals us of the terrible wounds we sustained while we were running from Him in our rebellion.

There is another sense in which God is our Father.  God adopts us.  Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.”  Adoption is a choice.  Society expects us to take care of our biological children.  It's against the law to abandon them.  Even if society didn't enforce this, nature itself testifies that we are obligated to care for our offspring.  The same is not true for a child who is not your own.  We may feel a tenderness for a child that doesn't belong to us, but we are not obligated to provide for them in the same way we are obligated to care for our own.  That is why we laud those special people who adopt.  We understand that they are showing extraordinary compassion by committing to expend tremendous resources to care for a child that is not their own.  It is a choice they make.  And this is what God the Father has done for us.  The Father is under no obligation whatsoever to care for us.  Because of sin, we have turned our back utterly on God.  Sin has effectively severed the parent child relationship.  And yet, because of His great love, God chooses to adopt us as His own children when we accept Christ as Lord.

And so God becomes our proud Father, just as He is the Father of Christ.  When God looks at us, He does not see our sin, our rebellion, our flaws or weaknesses.  Instead, because of what Christ did for us on the cross, God sees Jesus in us.  And it makes God so proud.  So we could apply what God said about His Son to our own lives.  In Matthew 3:17, when Jesus was baptized “...a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”  If you follow Christ, God is proud of you too.  And we can now live in ways that continue to make God the Father proud to call us His sons and daughters.

Have you ever known a father’s love? No matter how special your earthly father was, it was only a glimmer of the Love of Your Heavenly Father.  In fact, your earthly father was good only because he was copying the character of God the Father.  God the Father loves perfectly, powerfully, and infinitely.

Perhaps you have never known a fathers love.  It is an regrettable fact in our broken world that too many fathers do not act the way a father should.  They do not protect and provide.  They sometimes abandon or fail.  And I know many who read these words have never really known the love of a father.  And for you, it may be difficult to relate to God as a good father.  But please don't let that deter you.  Instead, understand that you may have a great blessing; for though you never knew a father's love on earth (or knew it imperfectly), God is your Father in the greatest sense.  You are not an orphan; you are not fatherless.  God is your Father and He s the greatest father of all.

And so, I invite everyone to turn to the Father today.  He created you, provides for you, protects you, loves you, chooses you, and wants to be proud of you.  Won't you turn to Him today?

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