April 14, 2014

My father and my Father

Often I tell others that our view of our earthly father will affect our understanding of our heavenly Father, yet I must heed my own words. My earthly father was told I would not live past age 16, so he hardly ever said no. Most of what I wanted was not evil but self-indulgent, like a couple of horses and the use of the family car. However, it put the notion in my head that if I ask God, He will eventually give me whatever I want.

Theoretically, it is easy enough to distinguish between asking for something good and evil. Verses like these even encourage Christians to keep asking . . .

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7–11)

But in practice, I’m blessed by the “good gifts” only in the sense of how God defines good, not how my old self defines it. If I set my mind on some selfish “good” thing, that old nature can be like a bulldog with a bone, even when my Christian faith and new nature in Christ says I’m being selfish.

I can see how this could go the other way too. Those who had abusive fathers could sometimes think God is mean, or those who had irresponsible and uncaring fathers could fear that God did not love them or care about their lives. The Word of God says otherwise, and the rational mind argues that those ideas are not true, but deep inside, doubt and unbelief sometimes cloud reality.

Blaming dad isn’t the route to take. When I fall into a false view of God, I need to review what my heavenly Father has done in my life and what He says about Himself. I also need to confess my blame-shifting too. I cannot hang on to those sinful and selfish “I wants” using those childish misconceptions as an excuse to stay locked in to them. God is my Father, and as good as my father was to me, my heavenly Father has far more in mind than pleasing me for a mere sixteen years. His goals are eternal and life-changing . . .   

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1–3)

He protects and cares for me, but does not want me to be a slave to my old way of life. “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:17–19)

Those “futile ways” may have seemed fine at the time, but whenever I step backward into them, I find myself in a trap that I cannot get out of by my own efforts. Whenever any “I wants” take over, instead of rejoicing that Christ is my Lord and Savior, I am enslaved to selfishness and begin to lose confidence in God. At that point, He bids me to bring it all to Him and leave it all with Him.

I also need to focus on the fact that the blood of Christ was shed so I can be free of such things. If the loss of those “I wants” is difficult, I need to remember that Jesus said, “Not my will but Thine be done” and also that I now belong to His family and His Father.

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. (Romans 8:15–17)

Our Heavenly Father will not indulge selfishness, but He does make His children heirs of all things. Besides, if God said yes to everything I ask for now, I would soon be a slave to self-indulgence. By saying no, I might feel a temporary loss, but the gain is eternal.

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