I remember the exact place I was sitting when I heard a quote that transformed my understanding of God.
If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.J. I. Packer
It was in a sermon by David Platt on the Fatherhood of God that I first began to see God as my Father, and not just my Lord. I always knew that God was my Savior, the King over my life, and I would have said He was my Father. But I don’t think that truth was reflected in my relationship with God. I resonated with John Wesley in his statement:
I had even then the faith of a servant, though not that of a son.John Wesley
My personality is one that strives for perfectionism, and that has often resulted in legalism in my spiritual life, especially as a teenager. I wanted to please my Heavenly Father (as well as my earthly parents), so I did everything I could not to disappoint Him. I kept the rules “perfectly,” I checked off all the boxes, hoping that would mean I had earned my place in God’s family.
But just as we do not choose our earthly fathers, I could not work my way into being God’s daughter. He adopted me. He chose me, not because of my own merit as a daughter, but because of His love as a Father.
So what does it mean to have God as your Father? Paul writes this about our sonship in Romans 8:15-17, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
This is one of my favorite passages, one that brings me hope and encouragement when I fall back into sinful patterns of trying to please the Father on my own. It reminds me of these three truths….
Access to the Father
First, being a child of God means we have unconditional access to the Father. I have heard it said that the only person who dares awake a king in the middle of the night to ask for a glass of water is his own child. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Brother and sister, we can cry out to the God of the universe, and He promises to hear us! In a sermon by Russell Moore on adoption, he talks about how many international orphanages are quiet even though they are filled with children. After so long of not having their cries answered, babies will simply stop crying. When Paul says that we can cry “Abba! Father!” it means that we can be confident in calling out to our Father, knowing that He hears and He answers.
Confidence in our Salvation
Second, we have confidence in our salvation because God has adopted us once and for all. We have been adopted–past tense. Just as a court determines that a child has a new forever family, we have been grafted into the family of God for eternity. How do we know? God the Father gave us His very Spirit to remind us of that. When we feel uncertain, unloved, and overwhelmed by our burdens, Paul reminds us later in the chapter, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32).
Our Heavenly Father saved us, and unlike so many fallible earthly fathers, He will never leave us. This gives me confidence, because no longer do I believe I have to “do the right thing” in order to earn His favor, I can lovingly serve Him as a daughter knowing that His love for me is unconditional.
Hope of Inheritance
Finally, when God is our Father, we have hope that He has secured our inheritance as His sons and daughters. The treasures of this world are nothing compared to the reward He has for us when we are united with Him in eternity. When we suffer in this life, our Father comforts us by reminding us that He will wipe away every tear and take away every pain. He promises us every good gift, not only in this life, but fully in the life to come.
Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
We are co-heirs with Christ, meaning everything that God gives to Him, we will receive as well! We are not second-rate citizens as God’s adopted children; we are counted as among the firstborn! Praise His glory!
Because of these truths, I no longer see myself as a “servant” in God’s Kingdom, fulfilling my role out of duty and fear. No, I can commune with God as a daughter relates to her loving father.
While I was blessed to grow up with a dad who displayed the love of a good father, I know not all those who are reading this had that experience. For many of you, your earthly father only hurt your perception of God as Father. My heart breaks for those that were harmed or neglected by the very ones who were supposed to reflect the unconditional love of the Father. But know this, brother and sister, God is your Perfect Father. While you were disappointed by your earthly father, you can delight in your Heavenly Father. While your earthly father abused you, your Heavenly Father will heal you. While you were forgotten or forsaken by your earthly father, your Heavenly Father forsook everything for you. While your earthly father may have been harsh, absent, stingy, or worse, your Heavenly Father is gracious, present, and generous. His lovingkindness has no end.
Whether this weekend is cause for you to celebrate or mourn, know that right now, you can cry out to the God of the Universe because He is your Father.