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The Father-heart of God

THE FATHER-HEART OF GOD
Jesus’ Foremost Revelation

In this article, we look at Jesus’ primary revelation of the nature of God and explore how it informs our relationship with God and shapes our identity as human beings.

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Why Did Jesus Come?

If you asked ten believers why Jesus came to earth, you’re likely to get five or six different answers. For example, you’ll hear things like…

  • He came to die for us.
  • He came to forgive our sins.
  • He came to save us.
  • He came to show us how to live.
  • He came to make a way to heaven.

While these are all indescribably glorious blessings that are ours because of what Jesus accomplished, they are not the primary reason Jesus came.

Let’s pick just one telling verse and let Jesus speak for Himself. In John 14:6, Jesus said,

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Notice, Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father”. He did not say “no one gets saved” or “no one gets to heaven”. The goal is not salvation or heaven, but a relationship with the Father.

Jesus essentially came to reveal the nature of God. He peeled back the curtains of heaven to reveal the Father. And in revealing the Father, Jesus came to restore all of creation back to God’s heart.

Let that sink in. Deeply. Profoundly.

This isn’t merely a Sunday School lesson for children. Nor is it a dry, dusty doctrinal statement. This is the foundational revelation Jesus downloaded. Yes, Jesus died for us. Yes, He forgave our sins. Yes, Jesus has saved us.

However, He did all this to restore us to the Father: a reunion of love that restores humanity’s identity and restores God’s creation under the stewardship of a redeemed humanity.

This single revelation, God’s Fatherhood, informs our identity, frames our faith, shapes our values and fuels our mission. Without this foundational revelation, we may well be seeking that which we already have. Without this undergirding truth, we may well fudge our purpose and misrepresent our mission.

A Holiday Lesson

The importance of this critical truth was highlighted to me during a holiday many years ago. I was blessed to be given a week at a friend’s cottage at the beach. Trying to unwind during the first few days, I stumbled over a couple of jigsaw puzzles. Both were scenic pictures of 1,000 pieces each.

I tackled the first with great relish, expecting to conquer the challenge rather quickly. Instead, I struggled for two days! I just couldn’t figure it out. With far less resolve, I had a go at the second puzzle. Again, I could not make heads or tails of it.

Just as I was about to throw in the towel—Whipped by a couple of puzzles!—I realised my problem. Some prankster had switched the box lids!

I was trying to build a puzzle with the wrong picture in mind. With the right picture in mind, I finished the puzzles relatively easily. The relief to my pride was huge!

As I reflected on my frustrating experience, it occurred to me that it mirrored the plight of many believers.

In the same way that I was trying unsuccessfully to build a puzzle with the wrong picture in mind, many sincere believers are trying to build a life of faith with the wrong picture of God in mind.

If we have a distorted, broken or incomplete picture of God, we’ll end up with a distorted, broken or incomplete walk with God.

Simply put, we are only as secure as our concept of who God is. We are only as strong as our picture of God.

What is Your Picture of God?

For simplicity’s sake, let’s consider five pictures of God and the distortion caused when not anchored in the revelation Jesus gave us.

CREATOR?

Many people view God as a Creator. Of course, God is our Creator and as His creation we have incredible privileges and responsibilities.

However, if we view God fundamentally as a Creator, it’s easy to begin to relate to Him as a Distant Relative or worse yet, an Impersonal Force. The result? This is one reason so many believe God is everywhere but live like He is nowhere!

PROVIDER?

Others view God essentially as a Provider. Again, God is without doubt our Provider and we can be assured of His care and provision.

Yet if we view God fundamentally as a Provider, we begin to relate to Him as a Cosmic Butler or worse, a Slot Machine in the Sky. The result? We believe God exists for our personal benefit and get offended when He doesn’t deliver on demand.

LORD?

Still others view God essentially as a Lord. Yes, He is Lord … our King, the Supreme Ruler. For sure!

But if we view God fundamentally as a Lord, we end up relating to Him as a Drill Sergeant or worse still, The Divine Killjoy. The result? The intimate relationship God intends for us is void of grace and becomes stifled by a thousand rules, demands and obligations.

SAVIOUR?

Many today view God essentially as a Saviour. And thank God He is our Saviour; we are forgiven, saved and made brand new!

However, if we view God fundamentally as a Saviour, we quickly start relating to God as a Sin Collector or the Guilt Remover. The result? We become increasingly sin-conscious rather than God-conscious, and this is a miserable way to live.

FRIEND?

Finally, others view God essentially as a Friend. Certainly today, more and more followers of Jesus are revelling in what it means to enjoy fellowship with God and walk with Him as Friend.

But if we view Him fundamentally as a Friend, we often slide into relating to God as our Buddy or our Pal. The result? It’s easy to then adopt a casual or familiar attitude and lose all sense of reverence and devotion.

While God is certainly a Creator, a Provider, a Lord, a Saviour and a Friend, a picture of God that plugs into any one of these at the expense or exclusion of the others can become a distortion of God’s nature.

God’s Fatherhood

Jesus stepped into human history to reveal God’s nature with crystal clarity.

If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him … Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

(John 14:7, 9 NIV)

CREATOR?

Yes, God is a Creator but only because He is first and foremost a Father. As our Father, He created us in His image and likeness that we may be His children. His Father’s touch is seen in our individual beauty and uniqueness. Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29, 30).

God is not a distant relative or an impersonal force. He didn’t merely create us and leave us to our own devices. As a Father, the Creator continues to actively participate in His creation.

PROVIDER?

Yes, God is a Provider but only because He is first and foremost a Father. As our Father, He provides for us. And like any good father, He will—at times—withhold the provision from the child if the provision will spoil the child. Think about that for a moment.

If a child is selfish, bratty or entitled, how does a good parent respond? With appropriate discipline or by throwing more toys their way? In the same way, the Father provides discipline when we need it (Hebrews 12:9-11).

LORD?

Yes, God is our Lord but only because He is first and foremost a Father. As our Father, He governs us and leads us. He knows how best this life is to be lived having created it in the first place.

Father God governs with mercy and justice. His rules don’t restrict the enjoyment of life, they enhance it. In the same way that the rules of a sport protect the participants, bringing order and maximum enjoyment of the game, so God’s counsel does the same.

SAVIOUR?

Yes, God is our Saviour but only because He is first and foremost a Father. As our Father, He immediately sought to rescue us when we fell. Through a love we can only begin to imagine, Father God restores us to Himself in Christ.

Here’s an important truth: God doesn’t want our sin. He has already taken it once … and He died for it. Father God doesn’t want our sin. He wants us! His forgiveness not only cleanses us from all sin, but His grace enables us to walk with Him in purity and truth.

FRIEND?

Yes, God is our Friend but only because He is first and foremost a Father. As our Father, He desires our fellowship and friendship with us. However, this awesome reality does not negate that He is first our Father. He is not our “buddy” or our “pal”.

My own natural father is among my best friends, but he remains my father. My respect for my Dad governs how I relate to him and it keeps me from becoming presumptuous and overfamiliar. Likewise, our reverence for our heavenly Father governs how we respond to His invitation of friendship.

Fatherhood: Identity of Love

Think about it…

God could have picked any foundational name on which to hang His identity. Of course, He reveals Himself as Creator, Provider, Saviour, Lord and Friend. In fact, He reveals Himself by many beautiful names throughout the Scriptures. He does so to help us understand His character and the various attributes of His wonderfully comprehensive and delightful Personality.

However, as a foundational name, the primary revelation, He could easily and rightfully have chosen the title Great and Awesome, Most Sovereign Holy God.

Think about how different everything would be. God would essentially be unapproachable.

Our identity? Slaves. Or robots.

Our responsibility? Blind allegiance to His commands with harsh consequences for any and every indiscretion.

But this is not what God did.

Instead, He revealed Himself essentially as a Father.

Our identity? Sons and daughters.

Our responsibility? Love.

No wonder John rejoiced:

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”

(1 John 3:1)

It was John who declared:

God is love.”

(1 John 4:8, 16)

Yes, God shows love, but more than that, God is love. Love moves God. Love is God’s motivation.

And the word Father embodies this love, anchoring the nature of God. No other word more fully captures God’s many magnificent characteristics:

  1. Good
  2. Kind
  3. Caring
  4. Gracious
  5. Generous
  6. Patient
  7. Just
  8. Forgiving
  9. Faithful
  10. Truthful

As James so brilliantly stated:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

(James 1:17)

Jesus’ Primary Revelation

How much emphasis did Jesus give this revelation?

  • When Jesus spoke to God, He called God “Father”. Every time.
  • When Jesus taught us about God, He referred to God as “your Father”. Consistently. Every time.
  • When Jesus showed us how to pray, He taught us to speak to God as “our Father”.
  • Jesus even called the Holy Spirit, the “Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4,5). Paul beautifully amplified this point explaining that the “Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”. He then taught that the indwelling Spirit enables us to enjoy intimacy with “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:14-17). Abba, of course, is the Aramaic word for Daddy.

Faith is essentially about a relationship with the Father, made possible by Jesus’ completed work and enabled by the indwelling Spirit.

As Paul states so succinctly in Ephesians 2:18,

For through [Jesus], we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”

We are only as secure as our concept of who God is. We are only as strong as our picture of God.

We enjoy a dynamic life with God to the degree that we nurture a clear picture of His nature.

As Tony Fitzgerald often says, “We will never know who we are until we know whose we are.”

Because God is essentially a Father, my identity is essentially anchored in sonship. I am a son. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s the greatest thrill. The highest honour.

Our identity is informed by the nature of God.

We are sons and daughters. Our security rests in God’s Fatherhood. Everything else flows from this place of intimacy and security.

The Importance of Identity

Let’s go back to the beginning for a moment. All the way back. To the creation of the world (Genesis, Chapters 1 and 2).

Along with creating the natural world, God also defined the nature of good and evil. He ascribed value to each day of creation and upon creating humanity, the Scriptures declare,

God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”

(Genesis 1:31, italics added)

Created in God’s image, Adam and Eve were positioned as custodians over the created world (Genesis 1:26-28). Using their God-given facilities, such as reason, intuition, volition (the gift of choice) and the like, they were to steward the world on God’s behalf.

To borrow a psychological term, Adam and Eve were fully actualised individuals. From the Scriptures, we note that they existed in three-fold harmony:

  • with their heavenly Father,
  • with one another, and
  • with the created world they were commissioned to steward.
A World of Harmony

Notice that the first two points are relational and the third is functional.

With a healthy sense of personal worth (identity), they enjoyed a sense of security in their union with God and one another, and they enjoyed a sense of significance in the dominion mandate God entrusted to them. In other words,

  • Security flows from harmonious relationships in which we enjoy a sense of affirmation and affection.
  • Significance flows from meaningful tasks in which we experience a sense of adequacy and accomplishment.

This world of harmony, framed by God’s definition of good and evil, is God’s vision for humanity.

Secure and significant in God, Adam and Eve enjoyed an inner assurance that could be captured in these self-beliefs:

  • I am loved.
  • I am cherished.
  • I am valued.
  • I am competent.
  • I am talented.
  • I am valuable.

This leads to a humble assurance that (1) I have worth, and (2) I offer worth.

A World of Discord

As representations of all humans, Adam and Eve sought to define good and evil on their own terms. This grasp for power introduced disharmony into the world and put them at odds with their Creator’s vision. And in abusing their God-given faculties, they forfeited the authority God entrusted to them.

This disharmony had several unintended consequences. For one, what were once inherent attributes in a world of harmony—security and significance—turned into deep, defining, driving needs in a world of discord.

Disconnected from God, from one another and a God-given purpose, human beings are driven creatures, goaded by a deep restlessness in the human spirit: I am worthless, and I am useless.

This is true for all men and women regardless of century, culture or circumstance.

Out of sync with the Father, we are driven to meet our need for security and significance by pursuing a host of “other things” in both conscious and unconscious ways.

And the result is universal and inevitable.

Driven, we use people, we consume things and we pursue goals all in an attempt to find meaning and satisfaction. Our self-preserving, self-serving and self-advancing bent leads to disharmony and discord.

We have a God-shaped hole that only restoration with the Father can fill (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and no matter how much we throw into the vacuum, it only ends up deepening the void.

The greatest need of the human heart is not the assurance of eternal security. It is the desperate need for security in the Father’s heart now.

Our Identity in Light of God’s Fatherhood

Earlier in this article, we mentioned a quote from Tony Fitzgerald: “We will never know who we are until we know whose we are.”

This statement provides a clue concerning the question of our identity.

Firstly, God is the whose and His nature is defined by His Fatherhood.

Now here’s the secret:

Our identity is informed by the nature of God.

When we know whose we are, the who question comes into clarity.

Because God is first and foremost a Father, I am first and foremost a child of God.

I am a child of God. You are a child of God.

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”

(1 John 3:1)

This may sound terribly simple. As far as merely intellectual information goes, it might even sound simplistic.

However, it’s a life-transforming revelation that once unpacked, defines our core identity.

So, let’s consider how life-transforming it is by looking at some words that describe our walk of faith in a similar exercise to the one we did above with God’s nature.

Again, for simplicity, let’s stick to just a few: along with being a child of God, we’re called to be a steward, a servant and a soldier.

Now, unless we understand the Father-heart of God and derive our essential identity as a child first, we’ll fall into a few ditches, confusing who we are and mistaking what He has called us to do.

STEWARDS?

Yes, we are called to be stewards of all that God has entrusted to us (1 Peter 4:10). But unless we derive our identity as a child first, we’ll botch our role as stewards. We’ll hold on to things too tightly, failing to entrust to God what is His.

Rather than stewards, we become hoarders and end up deriving our identity in what we have. In a phrase, our identity is defined by our things.

SERVANTS?

Yes, we are called to be servants of the Lord, revealing Him to others through acts of service and good deeds (Matthew 20:26). But unless we derive our identity as a child first, we’ll botch our role as servants. We’ll serve others for our own benefit with mixed motives, seeking attention or approval for what we do.

Rather than servants, we become slaves and incorrectly derive our identity from what we do. In a phrase, our identity is defined by our achievements.

SOLDIERS?

Yes, we are called to be soldiers of Christ, advancing the Kingdom of our God (2 Timothy 2:3). But unless we derive our identity as a child first, we’ll botch our role as soldiers. We’ll consistently fight the wrong battles, looking to defend our turf and protect our self-interests.

Rather than soldiers, we become renegades and err in deriving our identity in what we fight for or against. In a phrase, our identity is defined by our cause.

CHILD FIRST

When we define ourselves as a child first, we find our sense of identity in Him and Him alone. Then…

  • we can be faithful stewards.

Our attitude is “I’m a son. I’m a daughter. I look after all I have as a gift from Father, which I’ll ultimately return to Him for account” and not “I have worked for all that I have and will do whatever I must to keep it. Everything ultimately depends on me. If I don’t look after number one, no one else will”.

  • we can be faithful servants.

Our attitude is “I’m a son. I’m a daughter. I serve for my Father’s pleasure and delight” and not “I use others to fill my own need for affirmation, approval or recognition”.

  • we can be faithful soldiers.

Our attitude is “I’m a son. I’m a daughter. I only fight the battles my Father deems important. I live for His cause” and not “I fight the battles that trigger me, battles that validate my sense of worth or that move my sense of injustice”.

When we grasp God’s Father-heart and accept the privilege (and responsibility) of our identity as children, we are empowered to live life as He intended … because every child is empowered by the Presence of their Father.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

(John 1:12)

Our identity is informed by the nature of God.

Because I know whose I am, I know who I am.

God’s my Father, and I am His child.

I’m not merely a number. I am not just a pawn on the chessboard of life. I’m not a mistake or an accident. I’m not merely the product of random chance and probability.

I am a child of God. I am made in God’s image and likeness.

I have worth.

I’m not merely skin, muscle tissue and bones. Nor am I merely consuming oxygen to survive.

As God’s child, I have competencies and abilities.

I offer worth.

Therefore, as a child of God, I am secure and significant:

  • I am loved.
  • I am cherished.
  • I am valued.
  • I am competent.
  • I am talented.
  • I am valuable.

I cannot earn this love. There is nothing I can do to deserve it. It’s given. It’s a gift.

The obvious and reasonable response is gratitude.

Grateful that I’m valued and valuable, I want to bring pleasure to my Father. It’s simply my privilege to do so.

And I bring the Father pleasure by representing Him well and doing His will.

Not to earn His love and acceptance. I already have His love and acceptance.

Rather, because I am loved and accepted, it’s my privilege as His child, to honour Him with my life, my attitude and my actions.

Childhood Vs. Sonship/Daughterhood

Childhood is the foundation. The starting point. Our identity is informed by the nature of God.

Because God is a Father, I am His child. This is forever settled. I am secure and significant in Him.

Childlikeness Vs. Childishness

Childlikeness is a key quality throughout our journey in following Jesus.

It keeps us humble and hungry to learn. It keeps us open and responsive to the lessons Father longs to teach us.

Childlikeness maintains our innocence, and it keeps our hearts from growing hard and crusty.

Jesus said,

Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

(Mark 10:15)

However, growing as a person and growing in our faith requires growing out of our childishness. Personal and spiritual maturity requires shedding our childish inclinations, those self-centred and self-absorbed tendencies that want things done our way. In fact, the root of all of humanities problems can be summarised in one word: selfishness.

Selfishness is all about me, myself and I. And it means that most of my childish motivations are based on…

  • self-preservation (protecting things I have),
  • self-enrichment (procuring things I want) or
  • self-advancement (promoting myself).

To shed my childishness, I need to learn and grow.

Sonship/Daughterhood

The Scriptures describe this personal and spiritual growth in the imagery of a child becoming a mature son/daughter (1 John 2:12-14 c. Isaiah 9:6).

God desires His children to represent Him as mature sons and daughters, to stand in the family name with confidence, to honour Him and to do His will. Incredibly, Father God invites us to partner with Him in building a better world.

And we do this by imitating Jesus, the Son of God, who modelled true sonship. Jesus is the Model Son in whose footsteps we now follow.

We mature into sonship/daughterhood by imitating His life and teachings.

Jesus is also the Model of a new humanity. He modelled a life of selflessness. Secure and significant in God’s love, He served freely and generously not needing the approval or applause of others.

As we imitate Jesus, learning from His life and applying His teachings, His nature forms within us by His enabling Spirit.

Importantly, our growth doesn’t earn God’s love or acceptance. Rather, it’s our gratitude for the love and acceptance we so freely enjoy that fuels and motivates our response.

This is what it means to do the will of God.

Yes, God’s will also includes things yet unknown (discoveries along the journey ahead), but as a starting point, God’s will for my life isn’t overly complicated.

God’s will is anything that honours Him and reveals His love to others.

It starts in the small things, the everyday things like…

  • keeping my word,
  • forgiving those who wrong me,
  • apologising sincerely and making restitution when I wrong others,
  • building healthy relationships,
  • serving when opportunity presents,
  • helping those in need,
  • managing my time and money,
  • paying my bills on time,
  • taking care of my property and possessions,
  • looking after my mental and physical health.

I do God’s will and honour Him through these seemingly small, everyday tasks. I do them faithfully and joyfully because, as a maturing son/daughter, it’s my pleasure to honour God.

Yes, I’m not doing anything particularly impressive …yet.

Yes, it doesn’t look particularly world changing. (Even though if every follower of Jesus faithfully did the above, it would change the world.)

But that’s actually the point.

I cannot become a better human or build a better world until I first…

  • rest content in Father’s love as His child.
  • discover the sublime joy of growing into sonship/daughterhood by doing His will.

The “big things” in life like making a difference in the world and having an impact in the lives of others, through whatever your life or career goals might be, are important. They’re important to you. And your Father.

However, none of these life or career goals will ultimately fulfil you because the thing that will ultimately make you happy isn’t a thing.

It’s a revelation.

You are a child of God. In Him, you are secure and significant.

You have worth and you offer worth.

  • You are loved.
  • You are cherished.
  • You are valued.
  • You are competent.
  • You are talented.
  • You are valuable.

Now, on this foundation, becoming a better human and building a better world is not only possible but certain.

There’s nothing more impacting than a person…

  • who is at peace within themselves.
  • who doesn’t use and abuse others for their own selfish ends.
  • who seeks the highest good for others.

Notice the emphasis on who.

That’s the power of identity.

The Parable of the Father’s Love

Luke, Chapter 15 is famous for what is called The Parable of the Prodigal Son. I’d like to suggest that it is not primarily about the prodigal. It is the first of three parables, and the third builds pointedly on the first two to reveal The Father’s Heart.

Luke opens the setting for these three parables by revealing Jesus’ audience (vv. 1-3). The religious establishment of the day was aggravated beyond comprehension at Jesus’ open-hearted and generous acceptance of the dregs of society: the lost, the last and the least. “This man receives sinners, and even eats with them!” complained the indignant religious leaders.

Jesus then tells them, not one, but three parables. Jesus seldom did this. It was not His habit to underline a point He was making. Yet the fact that Jesus tells three parables to hammer one point and concludes with one of the longest parables He ever told, seems to add significance to it.

First, Jesus tells the parable of the faithful shepherd who hunts high and low to find his lost sheep (vv. 4-7). Then he tells the parable of the faithful woman who goes on a search and discovery mission to find her missing coin (vv. 8-10). The words that He uses to express the elation of heaven—“rejoicing” (v. 5), “rejoice” (v. 6) and “more joy” (v. 7)—are in stark contrast to His audience’s cold and gloomy attitude towards those they considered sinners.

As if Jesus had not made His point, He then goes for the jugular. In a kind of jab, jab and knock-out, Jesus then tells the parable of the faithful Father, revealing the love of the Father not just for lost sheep, not just for a lost coin, but for His beloved children.

This is not primarily a parable about the prodigal son, even though he is the primary beneficiary in the story. The parable essentially reveals the Fatherhood of God, and the message is, in fact, directed to the religious leaders represented by the older brother in the story. The younger, prodigal son only features to expose the older, religious brother’s hard heart and to reveal the extravagance of the Father’s lavish, unconditional love.

According to the Jewish law on inheritance, the older son would receive two-thirds of the inheritance and the younger son would receive one-third. A Jewish father brought his children into their inheritance while he was still alive, and in this story, the father clearly released both sons into their inheritance at this time (v. 12).

The next few verses highlight the popular, well-known account of how the younger, prodigal son wasted his inheritance in wild living, only coming to his senses after being forced to scrap for a meal with a pig … not exactly a kosher moment (vv. 13-19).

But let’s pick up the less popular account of what the older son did not do with his inheritance.

Notice the way Jesus describes the oldest son’s actions and reactions. First, we learn that “the older son was in the field” working (v. 25). The man is hardworking and dutiful.

However, when confused by the sounds of celebration, who does he inquire of? “He called one of the servants and asked what these things meant” (v. 26). What? He asked the servants rather than his father?

On hearing that his younger, troubled and disgraced brother had finally returned home safely, what is his reaction? Joy? No. Relief? No.

“But he was angry and would not go in” (v. 28).

His immediate reaction was anger … and then to pout and sulk!

Was he angry that his brother had broken his father’s heart? Sadly, no. Was he righteously angry that his brother had brought shame upon their family? Again, no. He whined and complained bitterly, saying, “you never gave me a young goat that I might make merry with my friends” (v. 29).

The older son lived in the same home as his father, he enjoyed the blessings of his father … but he never knew the heart of his father.

How many times would he have seen his grieving father pacing up and down the porch, scanning the horizon with longing for even a glimpse of the prodigal son? How many times would he have seen his broken-hearted father bent over in sorrow, weeping for his lost son? Did he share his father’s grief? No. Did he carry his father’s burden? Sadly, no.

The older brother, symbolic of the religious leaders, focused on his own efforts and rewards— his self-interests, his stake, on what he had and what he did not have—rather than on relationship with his father: “Lo, these many years I have been serving you” (v. 29). Never once did he share his father’s heart. He missed the point: relationship with his father.

We too can be good, dutiful, faithful believers and miss the point entirely. A revelation of the Father-heart of God is crucial to intimacy with God and a fruitful walk in Christ.

Herein lies another core issue: the older brother found his identity in what he did; rather than in who he was. The sad truth is that he was more a servant than a son, even though he had already been given his inheritance. Unless we live in a clear revelation of God as our Father, and thus derive our identity from that revelation, we too may miss the point. Just as God hangs His identity on fatherhood, our destiny hinges on a clear sense of identity borne in the revelation of the Father-heart of God.

Until we understand whose we are; who we belong to; who our source is; who we derive our identity from … we will never know who we are. We may spend our lives trying to find something we already have in Him!

Lessons from Parenting

Without doubt, being a father to my own two children has been the single most enriching revelation of God the Father other than the Scriptures itself. To sense the selfless, unconditional love of a parent flowing through my entire being reveals something of Father God’s love to me, to some degree at least. Perhaps this is why Paul encouraged Timothy and Titus to ideally choose elders from those who have children of their own (1 Timothy 3:1-5; Titus 1:5, 6).

I have always encouraged my children to express themselves through, among other things, painting and drawing. Over the years, we’ve gone through reams of paper determined to give them a continual new and blank page to express their imaginations. Initially, their “work of art” was a sum total of blotches and scratches, but with much encouragement—genuine delight at baby strokes—and a continued supply of try-again blank paper … slowly, slowly, they began to learn how to express their creativity in more distinguishable pictures. Does not Father God do the same with us?

Some assume God is expecting perfection from day one and every day following. Any attempt that colours outside the lines will get a crack behind the ears and a heavy scolding—no place for expression, kind of like: “If at first you don’t succeed … shame on you!”

The result: so many live trapped by a fear of failure.

However, no decent father would treat his children this way. And the writer to the Hebrews reminds us that our earthly fathers parented us “as seemed best to them”, but our heavenly Father parents us “for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). God the Father is the perfect parent.

As each day dawns, Father presents us with a new “blank page” to express ourselves in line with His delight. Jeremiah described it this way: “the Lord’s mercies … are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22, 23). No matter what mess we’ve made before, each new day opens alive with the possibilities of forgiveness, restoration and a new start. No wonder Paul cheered: “now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). As we awaken to each new day and align ourselves with Him, He gives us another clean slate. In this way, the Father’s kiss enlarges us … and we share of His Divine nature.

The Father’s Pleasure

Jesus ended this parable in Luke, Chapter 15 with an uppercut aimed at the religious jaw of those He squared off against. He concluded in such a way that He expected the older son and, by extension, the religious leaders to be convinced of the Father’s love.

Jesus finished His parable with these words from the loving father:

It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”

(Luke 15:32)

Although we do not know if the older son ever caught his father’s heart, we do know that most of the religious leaders did not. But let us make sure that we do.

Throughout the three parables in Luke 15, Jesus gives us an amazing inside peek behind the curtain of heaven. He used the word “rejoice”, “rejoicing” or “joy” five times from verses 5-10 to describe the prime activity of heaven. He even refers to degrees of joy that the host of heaven experiences in the Father’s Presence (v. 7). He then powerfully and extravagantly paints the picture of Father’s joy in describing the reunion between the prodigal and his father, detailing the celebratory party held to express the father’s love (vv. 11-32).

Think about it. The prime activity of heaven centres on the Father’s delight in His children.

All this goes to underline a powerful point. You are dearly loved. Extravagantly so. Lavishly and unconditionally.

Father God delights in you. He takes pleasure in you.

The Father is for you. The question is … are you for you?

While teaching on the purposes of God and mankind during a foundations class, I was once asked why God created us. The question was asked in a way that said, rather refreshingly, “I get all these theological answers but … why? Why would a self-sufficient God, totally enjoying the community of the Trinity, entirely satisfied and fulfilled in Himself, create us?”

Suddenly the light went on for me. I answered, “Father God was having a party and wanted us to share in the fun”. And for all the theological answers I have, which are Biblically true and correct, this one remains my favourite.

Listen. The Father is inviting you to the party:

Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”

(Luke 12:32)

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