Tuesday, 08 November 2016 10:45

A Most Precious Christian Reality

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Do you know what the apostle John writes in holy thankful jubilation in 1 John 1:3? He exclaims there in Christian excitement, “And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Let us think together about what true Christians around the world believe when saying in spirit and truth what is also stated in the first article of the so-called Apostles’ Creed: I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. Christians may have God as their Father and what that means most wonderfully is expressed beautifully in the 16th century Reformation Heidelberg Catechism in Q&A 26.

The question asked to the Christian there is: What do you believe when you say, I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth? [Answer]:That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them; Who likewise upholds and governs the same by His eternal counsel  and providence), is for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father; on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt but He will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body; and further, that He will make whatever evils [trials and hardships] He sends upon me, in this valley of tears, turn out to my advantage, for He is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being faithful Father

Isn’t that quite the confession of faith, dear friends? Do you see and hear how it is in line with the main Scripture text for this message, “And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”? 

How encouraging and comforting to know and live out, by God’s grace and Spirit, the Christian teaching of having God as our Father in and through Christ Jesus!  How important to notice here that speaking of God as our Father, the Christian meaning of that is not referring only to God being the Father of creation, as marvelous as that is. Nor even on God being the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as awesome as that is. But no, even more, it is telling us that the one God of creation and only God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is also “our Father” by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.  The one true God, indeed, the only God, supreme over all and Creator of the whole universe, is “my Father” the Christian may believe in and through Christ Jesus.   To know and believe in God as “God our Father” and being in Him and receiving from Him is a most precious Christian reality.  When it is well with your and my soul, as confessing Christians this matter isn’t dry and dead doctrine, no, but blessed and most wonderful gospel truth beyond words. “And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” May this Christian gospel teaching grip us all now in mind and heart in the way of true faith and conversion and consecration before God and our neighbors.  

To that end, in thinking about God as our dear Father, as Christ and the apostles also surely meant that concept and relationship, let us consider the following four points:

1.  It’s uniqueness!

2.  It’s basis!

3.  It’s riches!

4.  It’s delightfulness!

First, it’s uniqueness! The reality is, dear friends, only Biblical Christianity speaks of being in a relationship with God as our Father.  All other religions and cults of this world know not this wonderful gospel truth.  Every man-made religion either promotes God as a being so far removed from us and wholly uninterested in us, or speaks of God as a being only ever demanding to us, and always insisting on us doing this or that to appease him and please him. Or, on the other hand, false religions speak of God as being so much like us that he can’t be distinguished from us at all really. Heathen religions such as the Muslim faith, and also the Jewish orthodox faith, don’t present God or know Him as a personal Being of grace and mercy and lovingkindness and as One Who literally will be as a father to his children.  Others, especially those promoting a false brand of Christianity, speak of God as just a single being who is only always generous and kind as long as you behave yourself in life.  For many people God is like a lifeless, unfeeling, cold, heartless vending machine where as long you put in your contribution, God will serve you as you expect and like.  

But the Christian religion, the only true faith as taught in the Bible, tells us of the one true triune God as being, indeed, wholly other than ourselves, and infinitely above us, and yet the very God who will come so lovingly close to us and with us! Yes, the Holy Bible teaches us God, the one true God, is majestic and supreme and pure beyond description and eternally independent, and still at the same time, He is the very God Who will be as our Father to us and for us.  The infinitely removed God from us will truly come so absolutely close in relationship with us that we may call out to Him and relate with Him in the intimate relationship of knowing Him as our Father.

To give Scripture evidence of this gospel truth is not hard.  Think of Jesus’ words as resurrected Saviour speaking to Mary Magdalene as recorded in John 20:17b.  There Jesus said to Mary, “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God.”  Isn’t Jesus teaching here that God’s people may know and trust the Lord their God as their Father?  Doesn’t Jesus teach the same too with the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer which He gave for His children to pray? What is the first line of the Lord’s Prayer? How may we address God coming to Him in all our needs and cares?  “When ye pray”, says Jesus in Luke 11:2, “say, Our Father, Who art in heaven….”  We read also from Romans 8 those triumphant verses [14ff] where Paul states, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

The term “father” reflects a person who tenderly loves us and genuinely cares for us, someone we can go to in all our cares and needs as children. The Christian faith declares that so God will be for His people! Again, this is the grand distinction of Christianity: The Christian gospel message proclaims a God Who will be our Father.  Do you understand and confess this uniqueness of the Christian faith?  J.I. Packer in his classic book, Knowing God, states how this is the test for how well you understand Christianity. You sum up the whole of the New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as “a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator.” A right description of the whole of Biblical Christianity in the light of the New Testament “is the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father.” As Packer put it: If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he [or she] makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls [your] worship and prayers and [your] whole outlook on life, it means that [you] do not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, [and] everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctly Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God.

How true these words are, and so I ask you again: Do you understand and believe for yourself this uniqueness of the Christian religion, proclaiming God as the Father God for all His people? It is good here to ask: How can it be that God the Holy One, so infinitely separate from us, can actually be also our Father?  Is He not the most Holy One, and we as sinners, fallen in Adam, most unholy? Is the one true God not wonderful and majestic in every way, and we, as sinners, wretched and miserable in every way, left to ourselves?  Yes, yes, yes! But still this is the astonishing marvel, the amazing mystery of the gospel. God’s people may have and know and enjoy God as their Father!      

And how can this further be explained? Here we come to our second main point and consider the basis of this Christian teaching.  You know the basis of this gospel reality, don’t you?  It is in and through the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving work on the sinner’s behalf. As many as believe in Jesus Christ and Him crucified as only Saviour and Lord are reconciled to God and become adopted children of God for Jesus’ sake. Jesus Christ, the Bible teaches us, is distinctly God’s beloved only begotten Son. This Jesus, in the fullness of time, came to this earth sent of the Father to bear the sins of His elect people. And now through His perfect sacrifice on Golgotha, yes, through Christ’s shed blood as Substitute for sinners, all that separates us and prevents us from a most close and loving relationship with God is taken away. Therefore God’s people, as many as repent of sin and believe in Jesus Christ, may truly have and know and enjoy God as their Father.  Here again Packer speaks insightfully and truthfully when he says in his book, Knowing God, Were I asked to focus the New Testament message in three words, my proposal would be adoption through propitiation, and I do not expect ever to meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that. Adoption through propitiation. Propitiation is a Biblical term referring to Jesus’ wrath-removing sacrifice for sin on the sinner’s behalf.  In John 1:12 we are told, “as many as received him [Jesus Christ the Saviour], to them gave he [the LORD] power [or the right or privilege] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” 

This is the great gospel message and it is what brings the only comfort in life and death, to know that we in and through Christ may have God as our dear Father ever for us and with us.  Of ourselves, with our fall into sin in Adam, we are all of the father, the devil. Jesus teaches this clearly in John 8:44. But when renewed and saved by Christ by His grace and Spirit, through Jesus’ once for all sacrifice even to the death of the cross, we become children of God and with Christ have God the Father as our Father. This is the one and only basis for knowing God as your Father. When Jesus was here on earth, on the cross as sin-bearer, He cried out from the darkness of divine judgment, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” that as many as believe on Him as Saviour might ever relate with God as their gracious loving Father indeed.   Apart from Jesus Christ and union with Him by grace through faith, we never can know God as our dear Father.  We are born in sin and enmity against God, and, left to ourselves, you and I only ever remain under God’s just wrath and judgement for sin.  But God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to serve as Saviour of sinners that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 

Are you today calling to Christ Jesus to be your Saviour from sin? Do you look to Jesus Christ and follow Him as your one and only hope of forgiveness of sin, and being reconciled with God, and coming to know God not as your just and eternal Judge but as your gracious and glorious everlasting Father? Don’t fool yourself in thinking you can have God as your dear Father without trusting and following after Jesus Christ.  God’s people have learned to take most seriously Jesus’ own words spoken even the night before His crucifixion and here I’m thinking of John 14:6. There Jesus declares, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  The Savour through His gospel word calls all to come unto Him to be saved from sin and divine and just judgment.  Also now the gospel call is earnestly proclaimed, urging all to seek the Lord while He may be found and to call upon Him while He is near.  The Lord Jesus is out to seek and to save sinners still.  I pray God not one of you will refuse to hear the gospel call now. For think of it.  What is more important than being saved from sin with the only alternative being perishing forever in your sins? And what can be more blessed than being prepared for heaven instead of heading without hope and with no escape to eternal hell?  What can be more special than having God eternal, God supreme, in and through Christ as your heavenly Father here on earth living in this fallen world, truthfully described in the Heidelberg Catechism as a valley of tears?  When you are a Christian don’t you know something of, and tell something of even, the gracious and glorious riches of having God as your Father?  No doubt as confessing Christians our sin often is not speaking of this as much as we should and might!

Here we come then also to our third main point, namely, the riches of having God as our Father. The Bible teaches us the whole idea of a father comes from God, and there can never be so perfect and wonderful a father as God the Father is to His only begotten Son, Jesus, and as He will be and is for  all His children, as many as trust and follow Jesus as only Saviour and Lord. The astounding gospel truth is that everything God the Father is for His only begotten Son and that He gives to His only begotten Son, that very same becomes ours by grace through faith in Christ. Listen to Jesus’ words here in John 15:9. “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” Listen also to Jesus’ words in His high priestly prayer in John 17:25-26.  “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these [my disciples and whoever believes and follows me, Jesus means] have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou lovest me may be in them, and I in them.”  Do you hear it? Jesus tells us here as God almighty and eternal loves and cares for His own Son as Father,  so He loves and cares for all His children, as many as trust and follow after Christ Jesus as only Saviour and Lord.  

And it is truly so rich! For think of God, the very one who made this whole universe and everything in it, and the one who always upholds and guides and governs every detail in this whole world, and along with that all is also truly the most precious Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just stop and consider having HIM as your dear Father for real and forever.  This is the Christian’s portion and comfort, when belonging to Christ in true faith! How rich and comforting this gospel truth is when you think of the many troubles and sorrows, hurts and struggles, and sufferings and tears in this life in our fallen and sin-cursed, devil-infiltrated world.  In Job 14:1 we read, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.” But think of this now, in this world full of troubles and this valley of tears, yes, what a difference it makes when you may have and know this God as your Father in all the cares and challenges and trials and ups and downs in life. When in Christ you may rely on God as your caring Father so entirely, this makes all the difference, truly! 

You can be sure of it, dear friends, thinking also of your own trials and struggles even of this past week, and coming at you still now perhaps. Having God in Christ as your Father, you may be and should be so encouraged in the faith for it truly means that  no matter the trial, God is always as Father most able to help you, being almighty God, and He is ever willing to help you too, being a most faithful Father. God as our Father will always guide matters ultimately for your and my good, come what may. Isn’t this what prompted Jesus to say in Matthew 7:11, speaking about human fathers trying so to be there for their children, “If ye then, being evil [speaking of us sinful creatures of the dust of ourselves], know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him?”  

God is infinitely better than the best father of children here on earth, and He is always endlessly more able and willing to help us than even the best father in a family here on earth.  God the Father is also the Lord of hosts who has limitless resources at His hands to make use of for His people’s good, even when people mean evil against you.  “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want” we read in Psalm 23:1 and so it truly is for God’s people with the LORD, for Jesus’ sake, as their Father. To have God as your Father means you are so safe and secure and blessed for body and soul in life and death and for time and eternity.    As a song based on Psalm 103 puts it:

As a father loves his children, Feeling pity for their woes,

So, [and way more so even!], the Lord to those who fear Him

Mercy and compassion shows.

  Does this Christian teaching make you confess too with that child of God who wrote:

 Parent, and Husband, Guard and Guide,

Thou art each tender name in one;

On thee we cast our heavy cares,

And comfort seek from Thee alone. 

Our Father, God, to Thee we look;

Our Rock, our Portion, and our Friend;

And on Thy covenant love and truth,

Our sinking souls shall still depend.

Is there any other way to live and die triumphantly, dear friends?

I have said it before, and I hope and trust I will repeat and confess it all my life long by God’s grace, namely, that absolutely nothing can compare to being a Christian, nothing in all the world!  Among other reasons is this, belonging to Christ by grace through faith, I may have the one true infinitely great and wise, strong and loving, caring and everlasting God as my dear Father Who will always hear my cry and never leave me desolate. And actually, no matter when it may seem sometimes not the case, always He will lead everything in my life for my temporal and eternal good. “Behold [said Jesus in Matthew 6:26], the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns: yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Do you see the richness of the Christian faith in this gospel truth of having God as our Father in and through Jesus Christ the Lord? The persecuted Christians in the early church under the apostles’ preaching and teaching could be so comforted and encouraged that they were not forgotten or left on their own, for God in Christ would be their dear heavenly Father who loved and cared for them infinitely much.  And it is still the same today. I ask you: Tell me what a non-Christian has in comparison? Tell me the heathen’s comfort and refuge in life and death….and the godless and worldly? They are left with no ultimate comfort, empty and hopeless despair for this life and the life to come.  Oh, Jesus says therefore to all who will hear, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  He truly will, for God in Christ is rich unto all that call upon Him.  Even He will be our heavenly Father, so tender and loving to us in every way for soul and body, for this life and through death into eternity! 

We have one last point to mention yet. Having thought about God our Father and the uniqueness of this relationship for us, and the basis of this relationship, and the riches of it, notice yet the delightfulness of this relationship!  What needs to be said here is that God in Christ truly desires His people coming to know and enjoy His Father. God in Christ, by His Word and Spirit, aims for all His people, as many as repent and believe, coming to discover and rejoice in the intimate love relationship of God the Father with His own Son! Yes, God is out to have His people become partakers and participants in that eternal bond of love and joy and peace within the Godhead and to find therein and thereby endless satisfaction and contentment and peace and joy beyond our wildest dreams.  In fact, He promises all His people who live and die in the Lord an eternity of unending, ecstatic, climactic, most joyful interaction and blessing from God our Father, and from Christ our Saviour, and from the Holy Spirit our Comforter.  That will be GLORY, GLORY UNENDING AND ETERNAL, in the new heavens and earth!

Will you be there one day, who knows how soon now?  Are you headed in the way everlasting, or still on the only other way to eternity, the broad way of sin and unbelief and worldliness, that way that leads to destruction?  Oh, to be in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ and to receive from out of His fullness grace for grace…that is salvation, that is life eternal, that is joy and peace true and everlasting!  Speaking to Christians of God our Father, the apostles, by the Holy Spirit, kept proclaiming to them the precious gospel of Jesus Christ which was and remains and forever will be the best news there ever could be. Think of it, always having the almighty God and Father of all creation and the most precious Father of the Lord Jesus Christ also as your dear Father ever loving you and caring for you, now and forevermore! This isn’t fairy tale teaching but gospel preaching, and whoever comes to Christ in spirit and truth discovers this gospel blessing. “And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”  Oh, won’t this blessed gospel draw you too in the Christian gospel way while it is yet the day of grace? Amen.   

Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor

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