I was educated in an all-boys’ school in England where we recited the Lord’s Prayer during our morning assemblies. It didn’t mean a lot to me at the time, but I had memorized the prayer by the time I was eight or nine:
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory. Forever and ever. Amen.”
(I can close my eyes even now and remember those school assemblies as I say this prayer out loud!).
My family would also attend church at Christmas and Easter time, and while I confess I don’t remember most of the liturgy that I tried to follow, I remember that during the Eucharist we often recited phrases about “God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,” not least of all in the Apostles’ Creed.
When I became a Christian at age 16, I decided to follow Jesus and to call God my “boss.” I remember sitting in the middle of Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool (the home of the world famous “Grand National” Horse Race) during a Christian Youth Festival, talking to God and asking him to be my Lord and Savior.
Fast-forward 10 years (!) and as the father of a newborn son, I remember being overwhelmed with love for my first son (don’t worry—I was equally overwhelmed at the birth of my second son!). It slowly dawned on me that if as an earthly father I felt so much love towards my own son, how much more might God the Heavenly Father feel love towards us as His children. To be honest, I had never really related to God as a Father. I had just presumed that Jesus was the main feature of being a Christian. I had a basic understanding that as Christians we were somehow “children of God.” Of course, I continued to recite the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father…” but it didn’t fully register with me that God actually wanted to be “My Father”!
Throughout my early 30s, I became increasingly aware of God’s character as a Father, not only to His Son, Jesus, but also to His people (see Hosea 11:1). Then it dawned on me that the Lord’s Prayer, which I had been introduced to over 25 years earlier, opens with Jesus telling His disciples to address their prayers to “Our Father.” Somehow Jesus was telling His disciples that His Father was their Father, too. Perhaps He wanted to be my Father as well?
My breakthrough came as I began to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “I AM the way, the truth and the life. Nobody comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
I had always presumed I was coming to Jesus for Jesus! But here Jesus is saying that He is the Way to the Father! “Our Father” wants to know us, and we meet Him by coming to Jesus. [And just to be theologically tidy, I realized that the Holy Spirit is in on this invitation, too, since He is the Spirit of Sonship (adoption) who causes us to cry out “Abba, Father!” (Rom. 8:15)].
I had always presumed I was coming to Jesus for Jesus! But here Jesus is saying that He is the Way to the Father (John 14:6) – Click to tweet
This was revelatory to me! The Trinitarian Godhead wants to introduce me to God as my Father. His promise in 2 Corinthians 6:18 is that “I will be a father to you and you shall be sons and daughters to me.”
It took me 15 years of following Jesus to realize that I had been given an invitation to come to the Father to be a son, not simply to be a servant to Jesus. All of a sudden I had an identity that was somehow wrapped up in the very character of Father God Himself. Ultimately it led to a powerful encounter with the Father’s love that changed me forever. My family noticed the difference, my church leaders noticed it—even I could see the difference in myself!
If you hang around HRock for any length of time, you will notice many people speak of such an encounter with the Father’s love. Perhaps you have never encountered this Father’s love for yourself. Then I want to invite you to journey with me in this series of posts as we uncover the heart of the Father and the implications for us on our identity. My prayer is that you will choose to respond positively to the invitation to call God “Abba, Father.”
In the meantime, let me ask you this: Do you know God as your Father? Were you even aware that he wants to be a Father to you and for you to be a son or daughter to Him?
You can follow me on Twitter @mattjamd!