Isa 63:15 – Isa 64:8 | Mk 1:4-11
When it comes to living in the revelation of the heavenly Father the contemporary Church is in a very bad way. Having returned to Anglican worship after about 20 years I noticed new liturgies seemed to give less prominence to the Father. And when a diocesan prayer calendar came out I couldn’t ignore the fact that not one modern prayer was addressed to God as “Father”.
The archbishop agreed there was an issue, but there’s no evidence the author of the prayer diary has altered her views on fatherhood. Confusion about God the Father is not limited to Anglican liberals.
Sometimes the formula: “In the Name of God, Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier” is substituted for, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
This is functionally heretical because the eternal Persons of the Godhead cannot be reduced to their roles in creation. God is essentially and not nominally “Father”. Human parenthood is but a dim reflection of this divine Fathering.
In prayer gatherings I often hear more petitions to “God”, “Lord”, “Holy Spirit” or “Jesus” than to the Father; this is a sign that many Christian leaders are struggling to participate in the Spirit (Phil 2:1 ESV) who moved Jesus to teach us to pray, “Our Father in heaven….” (Matt 6:9 ESV). Is this the generation more spiritually ignorant of Fatherhood than any other?
Perhaps we have a special problem in this realm because Australians are “cosmic orphans” inhabiting a nation founded on parental abandonment, and a country of absent fathers separated from their children through war, hardship and emotional distance.
I was in a meeting recently where a prominent pastor shared how being in Africa he was approached by a young man who had observed his caring relationship with another local.
He asked, “Can you be my spiritual father?” to which the pastor replied, “Sorry, I can’t.
I have sons of my own in Australia and x is my adopted son here in Africa. But I can be your friend.” In failing to impart to this young man a vision of the unlimited, unconditional, abounding love of the heavenly Father this pastor grieved the heart of God and left his young “friend” abandoned.
Ignorance and fear of intimacy with a heavenly Father is a foundational reason for the discipleship crisis in the Australian Church.
A recent blog examining issues responsible for intermittent Sunday Church attendance attributed this problem to our neo-liberal culture.
Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.
There is truth in this description of our society, but if neoliberalism has power it’s a consequence of a relational deficit with God as Father, and its individualism, materialism etc. are signs of Fatherlessness.
The providential care of the “heavenly Father” is the exact opposite of such a worldview (Matt 6:25-34 ESV).
See Article: What is the future of ‘gathered’ church? | August 30, 2018 | PDF pages 4 | by Ian Paul | Original Source: psephizo.com
In the genealogy of Jesus we read of “Adam, the son of God.” (Luke 3:38 ESV). Paul could preach even to pagans, “we indeed are his offspring” (Acts 17:28 ESV). Yet it has been profoundly said, ‘While God is the Father of all people, all people are not the children of God’. (G.C. Bingham). God is the Creator-Father of all but not all freely enter into this relationship.
Worse, the revelation of God as Father in creation is always corrupted into a perverted idolatrous image of fatherhood. The true God laments, vs.26 “so the house of Israel shall be shamed: vs.27 who say to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ For they have turned their back to me” (Jer 2:26-27 ESV). The origin of such dreadful distortions goes back to the Fall. In listening to and obeying the voice of Satan the first couple exchanged a heavenly Father for submission to a mere creature.
Original sin is an attempt to abolish Fatherhood (John Paul II). It denies God’s benevolent love that originates/fathers all creation. The first sin was patricidal, aimed at killing God’s loving authority in human life.
Through Adam we all became “sons of the evil one” with two immediate consequences; shame in relation to each other and fear in relation to God. ““I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”” (Gen 3:10 ESV).
The appearance of God from heaven brought an anticipation of punishment (cf. 1 John 4:18 ESV) because sinful humans are “children of wrath”.
Guilty men and women cannot desire intimacy with the heavenly Father but resent a fatherhood they experience as unjustly judgemental.
They refuse to accept the fact that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness….”.
Heaven is a place from which judgement often comes. Fire from heaven consumes God’s adversaries as a sign of his fearful presence (Deut 4:11, 36 ESV). But it lovingly burns up acceptable sacrifice.
Corruption concerning the likeness of God as Father is multigenerational. The sons of Adam were generated in the likeness of his fallen image (Gen 5:3 ESV); as such Cain “naturally” rebelled against God’s direct command just as his father had done (Gen 4:7 ESV).
Following in the way of parents is seen in scripture as a potent force; “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me” (Ex 20:5 ESV). Even more tragically the powers at work to distort Fatherhood are supernatural.
Romans teaches that before we met Christ we had received “the spirit of slavery to fall…into fear” (Rom 8:15 ESV).
This “spirit of slavery” involves demons, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods… worthless elementary spirits of the world”.
Evil spirits induce slavery to sin, fear, control and the idolatry this breeds (cf. Heb 2:15 ESV). All the cost of rejecting God as Father.
Unhealthy paralysing fear continues onwards from Eden. In essentially defining sonship in oppositional terms, vs.14 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. vs.15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” (Rom 8:14-15 ESV), Paul seems to be recapitulating the events of the exodus.
Delivered from slavery in Egypt the people of God were “led” through the dangers of the wilderness by the Lord and his Spirit.
Despite God’s presence they repeatedly fell back into an irrational and destructive fear that moved them to long for a return to Egypt. These things are overcome for us in Christ.
THE OLD TESTAMENT PROMISE.
The Old Testament openly acknowledges God and his dwelling place “in heaven” from where he acts with power for those who call on him;.
In the most intimate expressions of Old Testament Israel is named as God’s “firstborn son” who he liberated from Egypt.
This however only made the repeated idolatry of the nation more grievous.
Hope for salvation came to focus on the Messiah and his relationship with the Lord ; “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” (2 Sam 7:14 ESV).
But given the perennial disobedience even of the kings (1 Chron 28:6-7 ESV) a radical separation remained between the Father in heaven and his earthly people.
So Isaiah is moved to call out in anguish, “Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation. Where are your zeal and your might? The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion are held back from me. For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name…. But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”.
Only the Holy Son of God who is the “man of heaven” could bridge the gap between sin-bound people and the heavenly Father.
JESUS AND THE HEAVENLY FATHER
When it comes to the revelation of the heavenly Father Jesus’ life and teaching are revolutionary. In the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, the Father is mentioned 17 times
That many people focus on the sermon’s teaching on “the Kingdom of God”, mentioned 8 times, and ignore the emphasis on the Father (mentioned 17 times), illustrates an inbuilt guilt-bias against Fatherhood.
Jesus’ intimate relationship with God as Father derives not from any human tradition but his own revelatory experience. In this regard the events of his baptism seem particularly catalytic.
In rabbinical Judaism from around New Testament times “Father in Heaven” is nearly always used in the context of fixed and stereotyped linguistic formulae.
Little use is made of the expression to describe a unique relationship between God and Israel.
There are no references to God as “The Father in Heaven.” and when God is related to as heavenly Father he is never portrayed as active. This is the direct opposite to Jesus’ relationship with his heavenly Father who is dynamically working in Christ’s words and works.
WHITE PAPER: God the Father in Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity: Transformed Background or Common Ground? by Goshen-Gottstein, Alon | 01.10.2003 PDF pages 27 Original Source: jcrelations.net
vs.10 “And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. vs.11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”” (Mark 1:10-11 ESV)
The opening of the heavens means that the separation between the realm of God and that of humans has been taken away. The heavenly has broken into the earthly bringing a uniquely intense revelation to Jesus that he is the Son of the Father in heaven.
This is an eschatological and apocalyptic event publically marking, unlike for example the virginal conception, a fundamental shift in the relationship between God and humanity.
The opening of the heavens are an answer to the longing prayer in Isaiah, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down… to make your name known…” (Isa 64:1-2 ESV).
From now on the name “Father” will now be fully revealed in Jesus the true Son of God. Compared to the unfaithfulness of Adam and Israel.
The descent of the heavenly Spirit (Mark 1:10 ESV) conveys a remarkable dynamism to Christ. Many times in the Old Testament the Spirit of God came mightily on certain people to empower them for a prophetic of kingly task.
But he did not remain. Jesus is now mightily anointed with spiritual power to bring in his Father’s kingly rule.
The communication from heaven, ““You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”” (Mark 1:11 ESV) vitalises Jesus’ Sonship.
The language of “beloved Son” communicates to Jesus that he is uniquely related to God, and it will fulfil the Lord’s command to Abraham to take his “beloved son” and sacrifice him (Gen 22:22 ESV Greek O.T.)
This revelation of the Father’s particular love strengthens Jesus for the journey to the cross. “Son” is also a dominant messianic title implying universal dominion.
The heavenly Father will work with power through Jesus to establish his kingdom on earth. The utterance ““well pleased”” signifies the delight of the Father in Jesus and fulfils the covenantal relationship between Yahweh and the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah (Isa 42:1-2 ESV) as the one who will have dominion over the nations.
The Servant Songs in Isaiah culminate with the humiliating but redemptive death of the Servant. In the Gospels the Servant now identified as Jesus receives the Father’s pleasure, (“with you I am well pleased” Luke 3:22 ESV), because of his obedience to death (cf. Matt 12:18-21 ESV).
The baptismal obedience of Jesus reverses the rebellion and judgement scene of Genesis 3.
He is the true Son through whose submission the heavenly Father will exercise dominion over the earth and fill it with glory.
Jesus’ whole life and ministry is an exposition of the loving, just and merciful character of the heavenly Father. He reveals the Father through manifesting the delivering works of his kingdom.
The meaning of “Our Father in heaven” is expounded in providing the hungry with daily bread, forgiving their sins and delivering them from evil (Matt 6:9-12 ESV).
See, for example, Jesus feeding miracles; his proclaiming forgiveness and his releasing people from evil spirits.
Since the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer indicates the revelation of the heavenly Father comes via answered petitions it must be the experience of unanswered prayer which is the greatest block to believers receiving the testimony, “Abba! Father!”.
Contrary to some popular preaching the Aramaic word “Abba” does not mean “Daddy”.
It seems to combine both respect and intimacy, and was commonly used by an adult son in his dialogue with his father. (This is not how the word is used in modern Hebrew, where it does mean “Daddy”.)
The work of the cross exposes to us the origin of Father-confusion in the hearts of believers.
FATHERHOOD GLORIFIED THROUGH THE CROSS
The writer of Hebrews had a profound understanding of the Sonship of Jesus, vs.8 “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering…. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. vs.9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb 2:10 ESV; Heb 5:8-9 ESV).
The author understood that Jesus was Fathered through the cross. This is what we see forcefully through the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane.
It is only in approaching death under the divine wrath that Jesus addresses God as “Abba” (Mark 14:36 ESV). Judgement is the significance of the dreaded “cup” in Gethsemane.
His impending suffering draws out of Christ the most intense intimacy with his Father. Why then does he cry out on the cross; ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34 ESV).
Does the Father turn his face away from his Son at the point of his deepest need?
Some preachers and song writers mistakenly teach this, but the Father did hear Jesus when he cried out in anguish.
The messianic psalm which Jesus quoted from at his point of dereliction goes on to say, “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.” (Ps 22:24 ESV).
If the Father turned his face away it would mean evil, sin and death are more powerful than his love for his Son. This is impossible.
Or does the loss of his beloved Son place in his heart a grief rendering him speechless?
Words plainly fail here, but from a Trinitarian perspective the death of Jesus “extends right through to the centre of the Father; for the Son does not cease, even in dying, to be generated by him and to convey his eternal gratitude to him, in a love that expresses its utmost intensity precisely now…. The Father must possess unimaginable power if he can look on, apparently powerless, while his Son moves into suffering” (Adrienne von Speyr).
The Father seemingly emptied himself of the Son’s filial presence committing himself to a form of suffering in the suffering of the Son (Habets). “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them” (2 Cor 5:19 ESV).
By revealing the full extent of the love Father and Son have for one another and the world the cross glorifies the Father.
As the locus of all the saving acts of God in it is the lens of divine forgiveness. If on the cross Jesus endures for us the Last Judgement this is that “perfect love which casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18 ESV).
The highest revelation of the perfect Father comes not in witnessing great acts of power (cf. John 2:23-25 ESV) but in witnessing his full and free forgiveness; Christ’s awesome prayer, ““Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”” (Luke 23:34 ESV) proceeds to and from the heart of the Father for us all.
Jesus’ own exhortation, vs.44 “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, vs.45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…. vs.48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:44-45, 48 ESV), illuminates the perfection of heavenly Fatherhood in terms of forgiving enemies, which is the achievement of the cross.
It has been stated that if Jesus hadn’t prayed this prayer his persecutors were in real danger of being consumed by fire from heaven (Bingham). If this is true it’s not because the Farther is mad with anger, but because he is perfectly holy.
The complete revelation of the Father to us awaits the final dwelling of humanity with God in heaven.
In seeing Jesus as he is (1 John 3:2 ESV), the Lamb once crucified but now the glorified Son, we will know that only a Holy and Righteous Father (John 17:11, 25 ESV) could forgive so totally and at such great personal cost. Before the face of God the cry “Abba! Father!” will be drawn out of the hearts of the children of God forever.
When all the former troubles wrought by sin, Satan and death are forgotten our vision will be filled with the glory of the Lamb (Rev 21:23 ESV). The “forgetfulness” we will enjoy in eternity is a participation in the new covenant, where God declares, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”” (Jer 31:34 ESV). For us, “the wrath of God is finished”, as it was in the cross.
We will realise in a completely spontaneous way that such a great God can only be named “Father!” This will be the final application of the gospel, that it is “the glory of the Father” that raised Jesus from the dead.
When Jesus said to Mary Magdalene outside the empty tomb, “‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”” (John 20:17 ESV), he announced that his glorification (Act 1:6-11 ESV) was reuniting humanity to the Father, in heaven.
In Christ we are united with “the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist” (1 Cor 8:6 ESV), united with the One who is the origin and integrating point of all heavenly wisdom and riches.
Which he has placed in Christ (Col 2:3 ESV). In the heart of the heavenly Father (John 1:18 ESV) is found the plan for the creation of all things and its unity in Christ (Eph 1:9-10 ESV), the gift of the Spirit to the sons of God (Acts 2:33 ESV), endless joy (1 Pet 1:8 ESV), infinitely satisfying worship (Heb 12:18-24 ESV), perfect conformity to the will of God (Eph 1:11 ESV) and unlimited communion with the divine life, “The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Rev 21:7 ESV).
Cf. “Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Rev 14:1 ESV) The people of God have a seal upon them from an all loving Father of allegiance, protection and deliverance.
Since all these things are so wonderfully ours in Christ we can enjoy in real measure his own spontaneity with his Father through the gift of the baptismal Spirit and the blessing of the heavenly voice (Mark 1:10-11 ESV). By grace God is our “Abba! Father!” to the same degree as is Jesus (1 John 4:17 ESV).
Being in the Son of God all wrath and judgement have been taken away so we can glory in a shame free and guiltless liberty far beyond any natural relationships. Hallelujah, what a Father!
Years ago I was led to pray facing Uluru (Ayers Rock), a spiritual hub for Indigenous people, occult practitioners etc. in central Australia.
I sensed the Spirit leading me to declare with authority, “Judgement has been taken away!” This was a proclamation to resident evil powers of the completed victory of Christ.
If the conscience of God has been satisfied so should our consciences be. Cf. “I have no wrath” (Isa 27:4 ESV).
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 9. September, 2018 Location: Alive@5
Author: Dr. John Yates
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