Fathers’ Day 2011 - God Our Father
“Our Father in Heaven” Matthew 6: 9 What words describe your earthly father? Do you feel comfortable addressing God as “Father?” Why or why not? The Lord’s Prayer begins with a simple statement about who God is. Jesus invites us to say “Our Father” when we pray. 1. We Do Not Pray Alone The Lord’s Prayer is not a “private” prayer. The words “I” and “me” are not found. You are admitting that you are not the only one in the world who has a concern to bring to God. “Our” means that you are in a fellowship of God’s children around the world. This is important because it is very easy to become me-oriented when we pray. To pray like this imparts a bigness and expansiveness to your prayer because it includes all of God’s children everywhere. When we pray “Our Father” as a congregation, we cease to be individuals coming to church with our own particular burdens. Instead, we become part of a family with a common heritage and with shared values. That family of brothers and sisters is even more decisive than a biological family. It is a family created by the new birth and made possible by the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ for our redemption. The first step in prayer is to learn to call God “Father." The only people who can do that are those who are the children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. It is popular today to say “We’re all God’s children” - blurs the distinctions between those who know Jesus Christ and those who don’t. We must declare that this is a prayer only true Christians can pray. It is not a prayer for Buddhists, Hindus or Muslims. They have their own prayers and rituals based on their beliefs. The Lord’s Prayer is a Christian prayer based on Christian truth and it is intended for those who have been born into God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ. 2. Like Father, Like Son When you call God “Father,” you are saying there is one in heaven who hears and knows and understands and cares. Whatever a good father on earth would do for his children, that’s what God in heaven will do for his children. When you say, “Our father in heaven,” you are proclaiming that he has the authority and power to hear you and to help you when you pray. Sons and daughters have family rights that guarantee them access to their father. That’s a big part of what being a father is all about. My children don’t need an appointment to see me, and I don’t need an appointment to see my Heavenly Father. Even in the midst of running the entire universe, keeping the stars in place and making sure the planets don’t run into each other, and while he oversees 6 billion people with all their troubles, cares, worries, fears, problems, and difficulties, our God still has time for us. He listens to us as if He had no one else to listen to. 3. A Friend in High Places We pray to our Father who is “in heaven“. We tend to think that earth is where we are and heaven is where God is, which we imagine is beyond the furthest star. That’s not what it means. “In heaven” refers to heaven as the centre of the universe and the seat of all authority, power, dominion and greatness. You are on earth and therefore limited to this little ball floating around the sun in a little corner of a big galaxy called the Milky Way. That galaxy is just one of millions of galaxies in a universe so huge that we cannot accurately measure it. We are “on earth” - means that we pray from a position of weakness and comparative insignificance. God is in the seat of all authority and all power. When you say, “Our father in heaven,” you proclaim that he has the authority and power to hear you and to help you when you pray. Because God is in heaven that he has the power to help you. Think of it this way: Our = I pray with others. Our Father = I pray to One who cares for me. Our Father in heaven = I pray to one who has the power to help me. Every single word is crucial. You don’t have a need in your life that he can’t meet because he’s a father in heaven who hears and answers prayer. A New Way of Looking At God - Father The central word is Father - name “Father” is applied to God very seldom in the OT - never by a person referring to God as “my Father.” It always refers to God as the Father of the nation of Israel. When we come to the NT, we discover that Jesus called God “Father” more than 60 times. The revelation of God as our personal Father is based on the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. It’s not that he wasn’t a Father to his people in the OT, but that’s not the primary way He revealed Himself. Only in the NT do we discover that God is now the Father of those who come to the Lord Jesus Christ by faith. Word “father” - 3 basic things. 1. It refers to source, paternity or origin. God is the source of all that you have. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow“. “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:25). When you call God “Father,” you declare that your ultimate origin rests with him. 2. It speaks of parental authority. He is God and you are not. He is running the show and you are not. He is a father; you are his child. We must not use the fact of God’s love as an excuse to reject his right to rule over us. Because he is our Father “in heaven,” he has the right to do as he pleases even if his ways do not always sense to us. We should affirm our confidence in his goodness toward us at all times. 3. It implies tender loving care. God’s loyal love to all His children - love that keeps on loving no matter what we do or how badly we blow it or how many mistakes we make. He is a God who never lets his children go. He loves his children with an everlasting love that is faithful and loyal no matter what happens. When we were far away, he loved us. When we turned our back on him, he loved us. When we broke his law, he loved us. When we went our own way, he loved us. We said, “Leave us alone, we don’t want you around anymore.” He said, “I’m going to stay around anyway.” We ran, he followed. We hid, he found us. We cursed him to his face, he just smiled and said, “I love you anyway.” That’s what loyal love is all about. That’s the Father’s love for his children. He is always near us whether we see Him or feel Him or even whether we believe He is there or not. Good News for Prodigal Children(Luke 15: 11 - 32) The Parable of the Prodigal Son is all about a young man who made a foolish decision and what happened to him as a result. Begins with a younger son who rebels under his father’s rule and perhaps feels put down by his older brother. So he demands his inheritance from his father who agrees to give it to him. Taking the money, he leaves home and journeys to “the far country.” There he spends every cent he has on riotous living. Parties day and night, women on both arms, the good life, the fast lane. Whatever he wants, he buys. Eventually the money runs out. When a famine comes, not having any money and being too far away from home, he attaches himself to a farmer who says, “The only work I have is feeding my pigs.” He ends up homeless, starving, feeding the pigs, eating the pods from the trees. He who had eaten rump steak just a few weeks earlier now dines with the pigs. In the end he lost everything. The prodigal son has hit rock bottom. That’s when his life began to change. He came to his senses and realised what a fool he had been. He decided to return to his father. He mentally rehearsed how he would confess his sin to his father. He got up from the pigsty and started the long journey home. As he shuffled along the road, one question went through his mind: What is my father going to say? Will he take me back? With his head down, he walked along embarrassed and humiliated. We don’t often think about the father’s pain. It couldn’t have been easy for him. He lost part of the fortune he had worked so long for. He lost his reputation in the community. Every time the father went into town, people talked behind his back. Dysfunctional families make good gossip for idle minds. The father knows all about the talk, hears the whispers, and through it all, silently struggles to keep his dignity. But the worst pain was the simple fact that the father had lost his son. After all those years, after all those prayers, after holding him in his arms, after teaching him how to hunt and fish, after pouring out an ocean of love, suddenly the dream is shattered, and the father is left with a huge hole in his heart. Words cannot express the pain, the sadness, the loss the father feels. His son has left home, and no one can console him. After all that, could anyone blame the father if he refused to take his son back? No wonder the son worries as he slowly plods toward home. He has no idea what awaits him. While he was still a long way off, his father saw him - great moment - his father sees him first. His father is moved with compassion. Day after day the father watched for his son. Night after night he waited for his return. Nothing deterred him, not the weather, not the jeers and jokes of the sceptics, not the doubting looks of his friends. Deep in his heart, he knew his son would come back home. Then it happened. He saw a figure slowly come over the rise and begin to walk hesitantly toward him. Throwing all dignity aside, he ran to meet his son, embraced him, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. Smothered With Kisses In that one moment all questions were answered. The son’s fear melted away in the tears and hugs. No one could ever have predicted what happens next. It is for this that we love this story. There are 5 signs of the father’s welcome: 1. The kiss, the sign of forgiveness. 2. The robe, the sign of honour. 3. The ring, the sign of authority. 4. The sandals, the sign of freedom. 5. The feast, the sign of a joyful welcome. “So they began to celebrate.” At the father’s command, a party begins that lasts for hours. How does the father feel? “We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” The Father’s love made him run to the son while his son was still a great distance away. That same love caused him to kill the fatted calf and throw an enormous party. The son who was lost had now been found. Even during the darkest days and the longest nights, the father never gave up hope that one day his son would come home. That’s what God’s “loyal love” is all about. You’ve never done anything that could make God stop loving you. “But you don’t know what I’ve done.” That’s all right. God knows, and he loves you anyway. You’ve never even imagined anything that could make God stop loving you. “I’m far from God.” He still loves you. “I’ve sinned.” He still loves you. “You don’t understand.” I don’t have to understand. He knows and he loves you anyway. “I don’t care. I’m going to go my way.” It doesn’t matter. He still loves you. When you’re ready, he’ll be ready. When you turn around, and you will, he’ll be standing at the door to welcome you back. That’s the mighty love of God. That’s the love of a God who is called Father. I’m glad this prayer didn’t begin, “O First Principle, Hallowed be thy name,” or “O Ground of all Being, Give us this day our daily bread.” Is There Anyone Up There Who Cares For Me? Is there anybody up there who watches over me? Is there anybody up there who knows my name? The answer comes back - Yes. Yes. Yes. There is a God in heaven who cares about you - and he is called Father. The Lord’s Prayer reminds us that if we know Jesus Christ, we are not orphans. We were made to know God and we want to know him, but our sin has separated us from God. We are left with a deep “Father hunger” that won’t go away. Father Hunger Describes children growing up in a family without a strong and compassionate father figure. He may have died or he may have abandoned his family. Perhaps he was so busy that he had no time for his family. Because he hardly knows his children, they compete desperately for little scraps of his love and approval. Children growing up like that desperately want a father and they will look for someone (or something) to fill that void. That’s the story of all humanity. We were made to know God and we want to know him, but our sin has separated us from God. Some people become so desperate that they turn to alcohol and drugs to fill the aching void. Others float from one failed relationship to another. Some people bury themselves in their work in the hope that climbing to the top of the ladder will still the little voice within that says, “There must be something more.” In the end, some tortured souls take their own lives because they discovered that nothing in this life satisfies for very long. They end up saying, “I hate life.” Good news! Good news! In Jesus Christ we have discovered the greatest news of all - that our God is not some impersonal deity, not fate or chance or karma - not a God who’s so far off he doesn’t care. In Jesus Christ we’ve discovered the most important truth of the universe. Our God is a father. He loves you so much that he did something we would never think of doing. He gave his own Son to die for you. He loves you inconceivably because he did the inconceivable. He gave his Son for you, proving that he is a Father who truly loves his children. All that a good father is to his children God will be to his children when they approach him in prayer. The most profound prayer you will ever pray has only 3 words-"Our Heavenly Father.” Everything God has for us and that He is for us is wrapped in the word “Father.” When we come to Him in Jesus’ name, we are not coming to an angry God, but to a friendly Father. So don’t be afraid to talk to God. Your Father is waiting to hear from you. A Truth to Remember: In Jesus Christ we’ve discovered the most important truth of the universe. Our God is a Father. Going Deeper 1. What do you think of when you hear the word “father?” Are your mental images positive or negative? How does your experience with your earthly father impact your view of God as your Heavenly Father? 2. How have you experienced God’s “parental authority” in your life? How do you balance the concepts of intimacy and reverence that the word father implies? 3. Read Luke 15:11-32 slowly and thoughtfully. Put yourself in the prodigal son’s place. What made him want to leave home? What made him finally decide to come home? How do you think he felt as he prepared to meet his father? 4. Now put yourself in the father’s place. Think about the range of emotions he must have felt when his son asked for his share of the estate. How would you have responded in that situation? How did he feel during the long months or years his son was in the “far country?” Why didn’t he punish his son when he finally came home? Would you have been tougher than he was? 5. Read Psalm 103:13-18; Matthew 7:7-11; 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12; Hebrews 12:4-11. What do these passages teach us about the characteristics of a good father? 6. What does the term “father hunger” suggest to you? How is your own prayer life strengthened by seeing God as your Father? An Action Step Since God is your Father, He invites you to pour out your heart to Him. Write down 3 prayer requests that are on your heart right now. Write above them “Ask, Seek, Knock – Matthew 7:7-11.” Use this as a simple reminder to bring all your requests before your Heavenly Father.