Thursday, September 10, 2009

Practical Theology for Women - Pt 4

Our Sovereign, Wise Father

One of the great things about reading through Wendy’s section on God the Father in chapters 6-8 was trying to answer the question, ‘What does it matter?'. [1] I thought of this question as I watched Wendy apply the different aspects of the Bible’s teaching on God the Father. Her key application seems to be trust. But it got me thinking: Does it matter that God is Father? Is it just a kind of quirky thing about God? Or does it really make a difference?

It was a useful question because it made me really think about something I always take for granted about God: that he is Father. In one sense, it is good that I take it for granted because that is how we meet God in Jesus. We trust in Jesus and know God as our Father: Jesus’ introduces us to his Father and tells us that he is now our Father (John 14:6-10). It is one of the differences between Christians and non-Christians and their view of God. Only Christians can call God ‘Father’, because only Christians are ‘in Christ’ by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14-17).

So, it makes an enormous difference to know God as ‘Father’. It isn’t an optional extra but is tied to our salvation. We don’t pick and choose the bits about God that are difficult and discard them, but when we know Jesus he shows us God, and we learn from him.

And, as Wendy points out, one of the important things that we learn about God our Father is that he is good, and not likely earthly fathers (Luke 11:11-13). Our fathers in the here and now may or may not try their best, may or may not be clueless and may or may not be kind. But God our Father is the true father and is good. Substantially, reliably generous and good to his children. So we have to shape our view of God the Father based on who Jesus shows him to be, not on our own or others experiences. It’s another way of trusting Jesus: saying ‘yes’ to what he tells us about God and not going our own way. There might be a million reasons to deny it, but following Jesus means doing and thinking things his way even when we can think of a much better way.

And all this means that we can, as Wendy says, trust God …

Rest in his rule of our lives. (pages 68, 81)

Be sure of his good intentions for our lives. (page 75)

Wait patiently for him to work. (page 73)

Have the confidence to let him be in charge of our lives rather than trying to manipulate people or circumstances. (pages 73-75)

Live lives which might not be our ‘ideal’ because God is in control of them and he is good. (page 75)

Praying for our needs, knowing that God loves to give us good gifts (rather than trying to pray the ‘right’ way or keep God happy with us so he’ll provide for us). (chapter 13)

And accepting difficult things from his hand, not because we like suffering but because he is in control and whether we suffer so that he can discipline us or for another reason, knowing that he is not ‘wasting’ our suffering: God is shaping us into Jesus’ image. (chapter 8)
What does it mean that God is Father? It means that knowing Jesus means that we really do know God: we can only call God ‘Father’ from the depths of our souls if he has brought us to him by the Spirit. And knowing God as Father means knowing that God is undeniably good and will do good for us — just look at us, his enemies now rescued and adopted into his family. God is good in a way that amazes and reassures.

Some random questions:

  • Do any of the implications of God being Father (listed above) convict or comfort you? Did you think of any others that you might like to think about more?

  • What thing/s might you do to start to change your thinking or behaviour in this area, or what might you do to remind yourself of these truths? Comment please if you have great ideas or even if you have ideas that have not worked! We’d love to hear them.

  • How do you understand God’s discipline? What might that look like in our lives? What problems do we face in our response to discipline and how might we avoid them?

  • What other Scripture would help to build up our understanding of God the Father?

  • [1] Don’t worry — I haven’t forgotten chapters 4-5; we’ll come back to them at the end. But by all means comment on them now if you can’t wait till then!)

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