4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
Some of us have grown up having a great relationship with our Father and some of us have not, others haven’t known the presence of a Father in their lives at all. When we use this title for God the Father we are really putting a very human label on a being that is vastly superior to any human father we could ever know and we need to understand that. Many times we can mistakenly take the experiences we have had good, bad, and nonexistent and project those onto the Lord without even realizing it. We can find ourselves expecting the same type of relationship even. If you’ve grown up with a distant father that was very loosely involved in your life you may find yourself expecting the same from the Lord. If your father was involved but that involvement was negative or even abusive you may think of God as an angry disciplinarian that is usually disappointed in you.
Think about being there that day among the multitude of people that had walked with Jesus from many neighboring cities as he healed the sick and lame, gave sight to the blind and then stopped on a mountainside and sat down to teach. As he taught the crowds there how to pray he instructed them to say “Our Father.” This was surely seen as a radical teaching at the time, after all the Pharisee’s of the time viewed any closeness with God as something that must be earned not freely given to the masses.
Jesus is making a statement asking the crowd to pray like this, he is suggesting all the people there in that crowd can come to God and have a very close intimate familial relationship with him. He is saying to this crowd and to us today that we can come to God as a child comes to a parent. God is called father at times in the Old Testament but not in the context Jesus is suggesting here on the mountainside. Jesus through this prayer is offering an invitation on behalf of the living God. He is expressing to those that will hear him the type of relationship God wants from us by instructing us to regard him as “Our Father.”
Are we to see our Father in heaven as a disciplinarian? Is he a God that has set up a system of rules to simply control us and force us into obedience? Is he a God that punishes when we aren’t staying in line? Is God looking down on us with the disappointed look of a parent wishing we’d get our act together? This is very typical relationship between a human father and child so it’s no wonder many that see our faith from the outside and view our God in this way, they will at times even pull verses out of context from the Bible and tout them around as good reason to not believe.
Then there are those in the faith that spend years with this warped view of the Lord. They think of God as having more authority than compassion, as a type of universal detective on the hunt for your wrongdoing ready to administer justice rather than redemption. I cannot help but think that this thinking is much more fueled by the experiences they’ve had with there own parents rather than any real study being done into the Word God has given us. Many can think that we should help this God of condemnation by pointing out the sins of others around us. This is not the Gospel.
Parental relationships are commonly based on a system of work and reward, and rightly so, but we can also carry this thinking into our relationship with God thinking that it’s what we do that will gain his affection, attention, or even prosperity. Some false teachers have zeroed in on this and are touting a message that the masses seem to be flocking to, which is that God wants you to be rich, if you’ll only do these certain things he will lavish you with material possessions, and if he doesn’t it’s something your not doing that’s preventing it.
These false perceptions of the Lord humanize him they bring him down to a lowly view in which he does not belong. His Word tells us again and again that he is not like us, it tells us that God is a being so grand and so deep we as his small creations will spend an eternity gaining the smallest grasp on who and what he is. Jesus was not telling us on the mountainside that he is much like a human father, no. He was describing to us in a way that we might understand it the great love God has for us and the very intimate relationship he wants to give us all.
God has given us rules to live by much like a parent yes, but he has not given us the law as a great set of obstacles we must complete to gain greater affection or rewards from him, no. Nor did he give them to us to produce feelings of perpetual guilt and remorse.
The Lord loved us when we were still steeped in our sin before we ever came to him he loved us just as much then as he ever will. He gave us the laws as a road map or an instruction manual that would lead to our betterment for us not for him. He gave us these laws out of his great love for us. God the Father certainly wants to pour out rewards on us his children but he hasn’t then set up obstacles to those rewards, no, there are ours for the taking, no conditions, no work to be done, if we have accepted his son and fully committed ourselves to walk in faith with him then we can now take and enjoy the full measure of what he wants to give us! We need only to believe and enjoy!
There are some in our faith that have fallen into the thinking that through our obedience we gain these rewards, no, that is not the Gospel, that is legalism and as long as we have this incorrect and lowly perception of God we will not allow ourselves to enjoy the entirety of what he offers us in the Gospel.
We can think with our selfish sin filled human brains “It can’t be that easy, surely we need to do more to get more.” After all we have lived all our lives in a world that works just like that, but it’s just not that way with the Lord, in fact it’s the opposite. The love and rewards he pours out on us in abundance are the very things that produce obedience in us not the other way around. If we do not allow ourselves to believe and accept this gift he wants us to have than we ourselves are the obstacles.
We can say to ourselves “But I don’t deserve it.” Your right we don’t and we never will but thankfully it’s not about us, it’s about him, it’s not about what we do, it’s about what he has already done!
By saying this I am not suggesting that the Christian life is an easy one, it is not and that is why Christ calls us to count the cost. The Christian life however is going to be much much harder if it’s based on you and your abilities rather than based on the Father and what he can bring about in you. God the Father created all there is then created us out of his great love so that one day he could adopt you as his child and lavish you with his great love and joy. Not because you could do something for him, not because you have something he needs, just because he has it to give and wants to give it to you! And more than that he came to planet clothed in flesh, lived in poverty, and died a terrible death being nailed to a tree to buy you, to pay the price to purchase you back from sin, why? So that he could love you for eternity. That is just who he is, so let’s not bring him low and humanize him by suggesting his love comes with a set of expectations and conditions, it does not. His love produces in us a great desire to grow toward the likeness of his son, not to get his love, but because we already have his great love.
If we have truly accepted and committed ourselves to Christ we have access to a joy and a peace that transcends all understanding. He wants us to recline into his Forgiving hands and know that he has forgiven all we have done, past, present, and future. He wants us to recline in his Sovereign hands resting in the complete security of his all encompassing control. He wants us to recline in his Loving hands knowing that we are loved because of who he is not because of who we are. He wants us to recline in his Fatherly hands knowing that he has adopted us as his children and that all that is his is now ours.
Some might say “How can we know we have been adopted by him, or that I am truly now his child?” Paul tells us here in his letter. He will place his spirit in us that then cries out “Abba, Father.” Once we have come to the Lord there is a longing of the soul and of the spirit he has placed within us for the father’s closeness and presence. We seek to grow closer and closer to him, we find ourselves clinging more and more tightly to him like a child wanting to remain in the strong secure arms of their Father. We run to him with our joys, we run to him with our sufferings.
We run to him like a child our arms open, our heads held back, knowing he will lift us up, we will see his face, and be pulled into his embrace our great Cosmic Father, our Daddy, our Abba!