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God’s Character

The Message of Jesus, Part 1

Revealing God’s nature was central to the Message of Jesus. 

Jesus re-revealed the Father-heart of God, restoring humanity to God’s loving fatherhood, a love relationship that restores humanity’s identity as children of God and humanity’s destiny as custodians of all creation.

Why Did Jesus Come?

If you asked five believers why Jesus came to earth, you’ll likely get five different answers. 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 reason Jesus came.

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 restored relationship with the Father. After all, what is salvation but a restored relationship with Father God. And what is heaven but the assurance that this restored love relationship transcends this present age.

To put it plainly: Jesus essentially came to reveal the nature of God; specifically, His Father-heart.

The context is important to remember: Jesus came to a people whose revelation of God was badly distorted through centuries of entrenched religion. He reminded this oppressed people that their God was, in fact, a loving Father.

What’s more, in peeling back the curtains of heaven to reveal the Father, Jesus came to restore all of creation back to God’s loving parent-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, He has saved us.

However, Jesus did all this to restore us to the Father: a reunion of love that restores humanity’s identity as children of God and restores humanity’s destiny as custodians of God’s creation.

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.

Why? Because our relationship with God depends on our view of 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 ditches in which we inevitably land if we do not anchor them in the revelation Jesus gave us.

A 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 ditch we land in? Indifference. This is one reason it’s so easy to believe God is everywhere but live like He is nowhere!

A 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 Fairy Godparent or worse, a Cosmic Butler who serves at our beck and call. 

The ditch we land in? Entitlement. We believe God exists for our personal benefit and get offended when He doesn’t deliver on demand.

A Lord?

Like the first-century Jews, 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 ditch we land in? Guilt. The intimate relationship God intends for us is void of grace and becomes stifled by a thousand rules, demands and obligations.

A 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 ditch we land in? Shame. We become increasingly sin-conscious rather than God-conscious, and this is a miserable way to live.

A 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 ditch me land in? Casualness. 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.

What is the Gospel?, The Message of Jesus

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)

So, is God a 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.

Is God a 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).

Is God a 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.

Is God a 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 Jesus.

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.

Is God a 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 this for a moment.

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 through many beautiful names in 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.

How would this have informed our identity? We’d be nothing but subjects. Slaves.

How would this have shaped our relationship with God? Our only acceptable response would be blind allegiance to His commands with harsh consequences for any 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

If you’ve grown up in a Christian family or have travelled in church circles for any length of time, you may perhaps assume that “God the Father” is merely the title for the First Person of the Godhead.

It’s so much more than that, however. In fact, it’s not a title. Rather, it speaks of God’s loving nature.

Centuries of soul-destroying religion had obscured God’s character to Jesus’ first-century Jewish audience and He reminded them who their God was through His lifestyle and teachings.

How much emphasis did Jesus give this revelation?

  • When Jesus spoke to God, He called God, “Father”. For example, in His prayer in John 17, Jesus addresses God—not as Lord or Creator or even several names—but consistently as Father (John 17:1, 5, 11, 21, 24, 25).
  • When Jesus taught about God, He referred to God as, “your Father”. For example, in what we call the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus referred to God—not by various different names—but consistently as Father (Matthew 5:16, 45, 48; 6:1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 14, 15, 18, 26, 32; 7:11, 21).
  • When Jesus showed us how to pray, He taught us to speak to God as, “our Father” (Matthew 6:9).
  • Jesus even called the Holy Spirit, the “Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4)—the “Spirit of truth” that the Father bestows to us, ensuring we’re no longer “orphans” (John 14:16-18). Paul beautifully amplified on this point explaining that the “Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:14-17). He then taught that the indwelling Spirit enables us to enjoy intimacy with “Abba, Father”. Abba is, of course, the Aramaic word for Daddy.

To sum up then…

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 brilliantly 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 revelation 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.

NOTES

What Now?

Jesus restored us to the Father, a love relationship that restores humanity’s identity as children of God and restores humanity’s destiny as custodians of God’s creation.

In Personal Identity, we explore the identity question. In God’s Purpose, we explore humanity’s destiny purpose.

Personal Identity, The Message of Jesus, A Better Future Now

Personal Identity

[The Message of Jesus, Part 2]

Restoring humanity to the Father, the Message of Jesus heals our broken identity, restoring us as children of God. Loved by the Father, we are both secure and significant.

God's Purpose, The Message of Jesus, A Better Future Now

God’s Purpose

[The Message of Jesus, Part 3]

Restored to the Father as His children, the Message of Jesus restores humanity’s destiny as custodians of creation. We’re commissioned to partner with Jesus in His restoration plan for the earth.