Friday, September 21, 2012

We Have a Father in Heaven... Through Union With Jesus Christ

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven... (Matthew 6:9)

“Our Father”

This description of God as “Father,” given by Jesus, must have scandalized the first century Jews. It is well established that these Jews greatly feared God, so much so that they would not even speak his name, and they certainly would not personally address Him as “Father.” Yet with two simple words Christ was challenging their belief that God is hidden, frightening, and unapproachable. Jesus was revealing the revolutionary notion that God is personal - that he is “our Father.

This understanding is distinctly Christian. J.I. Packer writes, “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… “Father” is the Christian name of God.”

Jesus was teaching that God relates to his people as a father relates to his child. We don’t have to tremble before him as a commoner would tremble in the presence of a king. Rather, we can speak to him as a little boy or girl would speak to his or her daddy. We can know that He has our best interests in mind and that we belong to Him forever.

“In Heaven”

That He is “our Father in heaven” establishes God as a Father who is transcendent and sovereign over all things. He reigns from above our circumstances and struggles.

The little girl who runs to her father after a bad dream and finds safety in his strong arms has a good understanding of what it means for Christians to have a “Father in heaven.” We can rest in the fact that He is strong, He is in control, He holds all things in His hands, and all things will work out together for His good.

Sadly, so many of us have a debased understanding of fatherhood. We have seen earthly fathers hurt, abuse, and forsake their children. Perhaps the wounds still linger from our own childhood experiences with our father. Unfortunately it appears that good fathers are the exception instead of the rule.

But notice that Christ clarified how God is not simply our Father; He is our Father in heaven. He is the perfect and sovereign Father. God is the epitome of what a father should be. John Calvin writes, “He is not only a Father, but the best and kindest of all Fathers, provided that we cast ourselves at his mercy.”

Where earthly fathers have fallen short, our heavenly Father has never failed us.

“My God”

The only exception that we find in the Scriptures of Christ not addressing God as “Father” was when He cried from the cross “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The only begotten Son, who was in perfect and eternal relationship with the Father, was now suffering and separated from Him on our behalf. This was the price of our adoption into the family of God. For us to come before our Creator as “Father”, Christ had to come before the Creator as “my God” – bearing his just wrath on our behalf.

The only confidence that we have to call God “Father” is found in Christ. 

Apart from Christ, He is “God”, and we stand before Him guilty and worthy of eternal punishment. Apart from Christ, our Creator truly is frightening and unapproachable. In Christ, however, we can rest in His fatherly love for us. In Christ we can know that we have God’s favor based upon the sinless life, death, burial, and resurrection of His Son. In Christ we can pray, as adopted children, to “our Father in Heaven.”

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