Our Heavenly Father
Most of us can give thanks to God for our parents. Belonging to a family is important to all of us and having a father who cares, protects, and provides is special. We had no control over the family into which we were born or the kind of home they provided. Some of us had a close to ideal environment, while others of us grew up in conditions that we would rather not think about too often. Whereas we had no choice of the family we were physically born into we all have two choices we can make today. First, we can choose to be adopted into the perfect family, the family of God over which our Heavenly Father is the head. Second, we can choose to reflect the way He fathers us in our family relationships.
In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul used the idea of adoption to describe our relationship to God. He wrote that because we are all sinners by both nature and action, we are all separated from a holy God and all that He desires for us. But when we accept the provision of Jesus on the Cross for our sins we are, as Jesus put it in John 3, born again into the family of God. Paul illustrated it as adoption into God’s family. Read Romans 8:15.
There was probably no concept in the New Testament more radical for the Jews of Jesus’ day than to accept the fact they could come before God and call Him their Father. When we pray the “Lord’s Prayer” and begin it with “Our Father who is in heaven,” we think little of the significance of that concept, but it was totally radical to those who first heard it. What a contrast that was to the Old Testament saints’ understanding of God where it was considered forbidden to even speak or write the name of God. God could be referred to by lots of titles that described Him, but He was a holy God with whom one dare not become too familiar and thus become irreverent. Jesus gave us the privilege, once our sins have been removed, to address Him the same way.
There is a sense in which God may be said to be the father of all. He is the creator of all and the sustainer of all. Read Acts 17:28. But that relationship carries with it no special privilege or blessing. It is merely a statement of relationship based on common origin and does not allow for any doctrine of automatic universal salvation. In fact, Jesus taught in John 8:32-44 that we are actually, because of our sins, children of the devil. Jesus said we become children of God only as we are bought back at the price of His precious blood and adopted into the family of God. Then God becomes our personal Heavenly Father.
The Old Testament occasionally used the concept of the fatherhood of God as a way of describing God’s relationship to Israel. Those references, however, are never related to an individual nor are they all that frequent (see Psalm 103:13 and Isaiah 64:8). None of those references, however, come close to the personal relationship suggested by Jesus when He taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven.” Nor do any of the Old Testament references come close to the relationship suggested by Paul when he described us as adopted into God’s family. The relationship with the eternal, almighty, all glorious creator whereby we can call Him Father is possible only because of the Cross. That relationship is made real when we accept Jesus by faith.
What does the adoption into the family of God really mean? What kind of a Father is God to each of us? What kind of a parent/grandparent should we be based on the example of God?
First, our Heavenly Father is always available to us. Paul wrote in Romans 5:1-2 that we have access to God by grace because we have been justified. Our Heavenly Father is always there for us. When we want to talk to God we are never put on hold or asked to call back later or given a list of numbers to dial depending on our need. We are simply ushered immediately into the throne room to visit with Him. We ought to cherish the opportunity to talk to Him. The example of God’s constant availability is a challenge to each of us as earthly parents.
Not only is our Heavenly Father always available to talk to, but He is also always there to help us. Read Hosea 11:3-4. Not only did He lead us in our first faltering steps as a new believer but has said, through Jude, that one day we will be presented without blemish before Him. That is another way of saying that He will guide us all the way. Paul wrote that He who began a good work in us will bring it all to completion. In the letter of James, we read that if any man lacks wisdom let him go to God. Life in general, and the Christian life in particular, is difficult with unknown twists and turns so we need a hand to guide, and a voice to give advice. Our Heavenly Father is always available for such. He has given us His Word and His Spirit and will give direction as we take advantage of His desire to guide us. Read Ephesians 5:1. God does not just turn us loose and tell us to make it on our own, to find our own way. He does not say experience life and learn from it. He clearly leads us by example and by His Word and His Holy Spirit in the way we should go. As earthly parents we need to be available with the kind of guidance by example and in word that will encourage our children to walk in pathways of righteousness and truth.
And our Heavenly Father knows what we need and is anxious to provide for those needs. The New Testament presents various references to God’s desire as a Father to provide for His children. Read Matthew 7:7-12 and Matthew 6:25-34. The lesson is obvious. Our Heavenly Father will care for us if we allow Him to do so. That does not mean that we will have everything we ask for. No caring parent gives any child all he wants, but certainly we will have all we need. Since our Heavenly Father is the example of the kind of a parent we ought to be, a major responsibility is certainly to provide for the needs of our family while perhaps at the same time saying lovingly, “You don’t need that and I shouldn’t give it to you.”
And our Heavenly Father disciplines His children. Read Hebrews 12:7-11. Discipline comes in various forms and shapes. Sometimes it comes in terms of punishment. God will sometimes punish us for sins committed in the hope that we will learn from it, repent of it, avoid it in the future. Sometimes discipline is in the form of difficulty or hardship to strengthen us, and God also does that. But His discipline is always rooted in His love and in His desire that we become all He redeemed us to be. In it all He overshadows us with His love and that love guarantees His best for both now and eternity. Read I John 3:1-2.
What a powerful picture of the love of our Heavenly Father, whose Son paid the price of buying us back from Satan, so we are free to belong to Him. He only asks in return that we accept His offer and make Jesus our own. What a challenge to all of us as earthly parents to love our families so much that we will seek to provide that which is best for them for not only now but, far more importantly, for eternity. We need to be sure that we love them enough to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We need to not only bring them to church but to teach by example and through family devotions the truths of God. We can do no less if we truly love them.
This Father’s Day we should give God thanks not only for our earthly fathers but most of all for our Heavenly Father. We should consider the responsibility we have as parents to be like our Heavenly Father in the ways we live in our earthly families. As we thank God that He is willing to be our Heavenly Father by adopting us into His family, let’s remember that because we are His children we know that He is always there to help us, is always anxious to watch over us, supply our needs, and guide us in the way we should go. When necessary He disciplines us or stretch us so that His love may provide all that He desires for us. What a special relationship is ours with our Heavenly Father! What an example for earthly parents!