Session 23: A Father’s Love

 

Father God, open our hearts to You as our Father.

The Old Testament concept of God as Father is different than the New Testament concept.

Let’s look at four passages where God is referred to as Father in the Old Testament:

What type of father is described in these verses?

For the most part, in the Old Testament we see God the Father as the corporate Creator of all. The one who rules and establishes those He made. The One who deserves to be obeyed and if rebellion occurs there are stiff consequences to pay.

Read Jeremiah 3:19-20

What do these verses tells us about God’s heart and desire when it comes to the name Father?

Stacy says:

The image of God as creator, ruler, harsh judge is really the only image I had of Him until I was in my mid-twenties. Reading these Scriptures makes me want to shudder. I remember as a teen hoping I had not angered God to the point of no return. I was often scared He would never want me, never allow me to be with Him. Some would say if you are not sure you are saved, then you’re not. I wasn’t sure what it meant. Did I need to be baptized again? Move to the altar and repent? Was there some prayer I didn’t say correctly?

I was a scared young girl living in a world with a scary, harsh God.

It has taken many years for God to reveal to me He is so much more. He is Redeemer, Savior, Friend. After reading a book recently where the author describes God as “for me,” I began thinking of God the Father in this way. A Dad that is for me, encourages me, has faith in me, always wants the best for me, and will go to great lengths to see me become who He created me to be.

Jesus introduced us to God as our Father. More than just Creator and Keeper, but One who loves His enemies, draws us into His family, and calls us His sons. Jesus made the way for us to call Him Father, the name He desires to be called.

In the definition of the Greek word for father we see a picture of both the Old and New Testament concepts of God as Father:

paterGod is called the Father… of the stars, the heavenly luminaries, because he is their creator, upholder, ruler. …of all rational and intelligent beings, whether angels or men, because he is their creator, preserver, guardian and protector… of spiritual beings and of all men. …of Christians, as those who through Christ have been exalted to a specially close and intimate relationship with God, and who no longer dread him as a stern judge of sinners, but revere him as their reconciled and loving Father[1]

The love of God the Father according to Jesus is what we are going deeper into this week.

Did you interview a father this week?

What did you learn?

Did you take what you learned to your heavenly Father? Did He confirm similarities? reveal differences?

Carol says:

In anticipation of preparing for the study on A Father’s Love, I interviewed my husband about his love for our children. I asked him to share how he felt about them, how he loved them.

At first, he tried to put me off. He told me the love he felt was a parent’s love so I should be able to answer the question, I didn’t need him. I explained how moms and dads love differently. When our children were small my love often came out in the form of over-protection. His love came out in adventures, like taking preschoolers fishing in alligator infested waters.

So, when he finally began to put into words his feelings I was surprised by some of his answers…

It was like falling in love. If they need anything I would help them. I want to be there to encourage them in the things they do.

I asked if they could do anything to make him stop loving them. He said, No… well unless they killed me. Then I don’t think I would love them. But I wouldn’t know, I’d be dead.

As I reflected on his answers. I saw some similarities and differences between the love of the earthly father of my children and the love of our Heavenly Father. Some of which I saw in our study this week.

The instigation of a father’s love begins at birth. From early in the pregnancy, the mother is well aware of the new member of the family. Making lifestyle changes, because everything she does has the potential to affect the well-being of the child in her womb. She feels the baby’s first movements. Early flutters changing to nudges and finally painful kicks in the ribs.

Moms begin to bond with their child in utero. But dads, they don’t meet them till they are born. Face to face, they fall in love with their newborn child.

Read 1 John 4:9-10

What kind of love do we see in the passage?

  • Sacrificial love.
  • Saving love.
  • Active love.
  • Grace-filled love.
  • A one-sided love.

 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us…

1 John 4:10

Fathers love their babies first, even before the child is capable of love. God loved us from the very beginning, even before we were born.

Read Ephesians 1:3-6

How long has God the Father known His children?

It’s interesting to remember God made man in His image, male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27). He made one man in His image, then removed the woman from the man making male and female.

God the Father’s love is like that of a father and a mother. Only He knew us from before creation, not just from an umbilical cord connection. Before we ever were, He knew our life from beginning to end.

How does it make you feel to be loved by God in this way? knowing everything about you and still loving you?

Read John 3:3-7

How do we become God’s child? a part of His Kingdom?

Becoming a child of God the Father requires a spiritual birth. It does not just happen because we are born in the flesh.

This would be quite a shock to the Israelites — let’s put aside the whole being “born again” thing for a moment — because their whole relationship with God was based on their natural birth. Whose flesh they belonged to was important. Who their earthly father was made them a member of God’s family or not.

When the Jews returned from exile in Babylon, if they did not have proof of their lineage back to a tribe of Israel they were limited in their participation in the community and could not partake of the holy sacrifices (Ezra 2:59-63). The Jewish system was based wholly on the flesh.

Jesus introduces a different birth — a spiritual birth — and it never comes from the flesh.

Do we have any control over our natural birth? when we are born? where we are born? who we are born to?

Do you think we have control over our spiritual birth?

Just like we have no control over our birth in the flesh, we are not in control of our spiritual birth. It is the work of the Spirit.

Carol says:

The conclusion of Jesus’s teaching about being born again, John 3:8, I’ve always thought of as a description of those who have been reborn. That’s how we live, but as I read it this week in context of being born again, I saw it say something a little different.

 “… The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:8

The word “wind” is the same Greek word translated as “Spirit” — pneuma. So I reread the verse as: The Spirit blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

In that reading, I get a picture of the Spirit moving in the lives of those who come to a spiritual rebirth. He blows into their lives, they don’t know where He came from, but they hear Him. In the hearing, they are born again. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17 ESV

Once we are born His spiritual baby, we grow up by faith. He blesses us with the Holy Spirit which we need to grow and mature. Just like an earthly father provides what his children need to grow, God provides us with the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:11-13).

The Father’s love has a transforming power in our life.

Read John 5:19-30

What can Jesus do without the Father?

What does the Father give to the Son?

A father’s love is not based on rivalry but on a training up to hand over authority either to share equally or in a greater capacity. A father’s love equips and lifts his child.

Carol says:

I’ve seen it in my husband when it comes to tennis, a sport he enjoys and passed on to our children.

He enrolled them in tennis lessons as children. Spent time with them on the tennis court as they grew. Hitting balls back and forth. Chasing errant balls. Retrieving balls from over the fence. Encouraging and teaching.

Two of our children played competitively in high school. One went on to play in college. We went to tennis tournaments to support and encourage. I watched my husband pace and cheer… and yesretrieve tennis balls that flew over the fence. In between matches he sought opportunities to hit tennis balls with the kids.

Our youngest son can beat his dad now. There is no animosity or sense of competition between them. My husband is proud of his children’s tennis abilities. He even says our daughter runs him off the court!

A father’s love lifts and celebrates when the children grow in the loves of the father.

When a father loves a child well, the child longs to please the father and be like their father. God the Father loved Jesus perfectly, therefore Jesus only did what the Father showed Him. In turn, the Father raised Jesus to be like Him, giving Him more and more authority. The Father knew He could trust Jesus with judgment and the power to raise the dead, because of His love for the Father, He would only do what would honor the Father.

Let’s go back to 1 John 4:9-10 and add the next verse with it.

Read 1 John 4:9-11

Because of the Father’s love, how should we love one another?

As we grow in the grace and knowledge of God’s great love for us, we ought to be growing to love others in the same way. This is part of the transformative power of Father God’s love in our lives.

Have you seen evidence of God’s transforming love in your life?

Stacy says:

Last week, as I considered the woman caught in adultery, something new came to mind. Jesus asked, “Woman, where are your accusers?” There was no one left to condemn her. No one except… Jesus. (John 8:1-11) It occurred to me Jesus, the one with all authority to judge and condemn was standing there with the woman. He could have stoned her for her sin. What she did was terrible in the eyes of God. He had every single right to judge and yet… He didn’t.

This idea is slowly transforming how I love others. I’m recognizing I often judge before I love. It wasn’t Jesus’ way then, it still isn’t. I’m learning to love first and leave the judgement to the One with all authority to judge. It is a slow process, and I fail often, but Holy Spirit is changing me little by little, renewing my mind, transforming my ways. (Romans 12:2)

As we end today, let’s spend some time with this week’s memory verse plus one.

Recite John 15:9-11

“…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, ad that your joy may be full. …”

Jesus has loved us with the same love the Father has loved Him. So when we look at the way Jesus loves us, we are seeing the Father’s love for us.

Have you had trouble seeing Jesus’s love as the Father’s love for you?

Jesus calls us to abide, remain, in His love.

How do we abide in His love?

There we see the BIG If… if we obey Jesus’s commandments, we remain in His love, which is the Father’s love. God does not stop loving us when we disobey, we just move ourselves out from relationship, out from under the benefits of His love.

What do we gain by obeying His commands?

Joy. To remain in God’s love through obedience is to receive His joy. And His love can’t help but bring joy.

Stacy says:

Lately I’ve been struggling a bit with sadness. No reason for it… no circumstance surrounding it. Just sadness welling up at random times. I haven’t shared it with anyone because it seemed weird to me. I asked God about it, and prayed He would reveal what’s going on. As I sat on the deck last week reading Scripture and completing part of a spiritual discipline I’ve chosen for this year. The author speaks about things that can derail us from continuing on in our spiritual growth. Things like anxiety, worldly distractions… false sadness.

In the moment I realized God answered my prayer. The weird sadness is something the enemy is using to try and distract me from what God has called me to do.

As I completed my prayer time I gave thanks for the answer and marveled at how good God is at providing what I need exactly when I need it. He alone inspired the author to write the book, and led me to the reading at just the right time when I needed it the most.

Abiding in His love… following His way… continues to leave me in awe. I am humbled by His love and personal attention to me every time something like this happens.

Carol says:

I’m not perfect, far from it, but I do try to live obediently to God’s Word and to His personal call on my life.

Most of what I do, the way I spend my days, is an act of obedience. Being here. Writing. Teaching. It’s all difficult for my flesh and I struggle from time to time with doubt. Wondering if I’m not just crazy for living this way.

Recently, temptation to stop living the way I do came into my life. I made the mistake of sharing my spiritual struggle with obedience, and how it left me with little time to do the things I felt I should be doing, like cleaning the house. In response to sharing my heart, I received a flippant, Just quit. The words have haunted me. Not only because it’s tempting to my flesh but because of who spoke them.

As I struggled last week, wondering about my blog writing, I thought about a friend who has followed my blog almost from the very beginning. For six years now. I don’t see or speak to her often, especially since she recently moved. I thought about calling or emailing or writing her to ask what she got out of the readings. Was it helpful to her spiritually? Why does she continue to read? I asked God if I should contact her and waited with the question echoing in my heart.

On the second day of those thoughts, I received a card from her in the mail with words of encouragement. Saying I had been on her mind lately and she wanted me to know…

I have to tell you, I was blown away by what God had done. It takes days for letters to get through the mail, so God put me on her heart before I ever even thought about contacting her.

Abiding in His love, He does things like that for you. Anticipates your needs, blesses you with evidence of His love, and fills you with joy! Why would anyone want to live any other way?

Obedience to His Word is the way to live in His love and opens the door for full joy!

The love Father God has for us continues. He loves us even though we killed Him. Not even our total rejection of Him could make Him stop loving us. So how much more will He love those who receive His Son and become His child.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35-39 ESV

Father God, Your heart is open wide to all who would come, but for those who have come, those who are Yours, Your love is great beyond our imagination!

We should never doubt Your steadfast love — just like Your love for Jesus — the love Jesus loves us with — You will never leave us. You will only do what is best.

As we grow in our love for You, we grow in our desire to be used by You — just like Jesus. Bring us to the place where we can do nothing without You.

Amen.

Next week, we go deeper into A Friend’s Love.

The spiritual discipline we’re inviting you to try is A Friendship Colloquy.

A colloquy is basically a conversation or dialogue. So is prayer, a conversation between us and God. Some-times in conversations we tend to do all the talking. It happens in prayer too.

Consider having a conversation, a colloquy, with Jesus. The point of the exercise is to begin to view prayer as a conversation between you and God. We often pray hoping God will speak to us in return, and then we are often surprised if and when He does. The very definition of a conversation has a give and receive understanding at its core.

Here is the link to a prayer journal page: Going Deeper – Session 23 – A Father’s Love – Colloquy Journal Page

Use the pages to record your prayer and God’s response. It may seem weird at first. After you record your prayer, simply write the thoughts you have next.

Once you’ve finished let it sit for a day or two, then review your conversation with God. What sticks out, does it line up with God’s Word? What did you learn?

Here is the link for the PDF of this week’s homework: Going Deeper – Week 23 – A Friend’s Love 

 

[1] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995).

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