'How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.... And that is what we are!' - 1 John 3:1
Some are fearful to approach God because they think he is distant and angry, but God is not like that at all. In fact he is very much the opposite. There is no limit to the mercy, kindness and love that he has for you.
Who Is God?
Jesus said, ‘this, then, is how you should pray: Our Father...’ (Matthew 6:9).
God, above all else is our father. My father and your father. Jesus taught the people how to pray to God through the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).
God is the creator of the universe and everything in it; he is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (ever-present) and omnipotent (all-powerful). Yet Jesus didn’t refer to God with any of these titles. Don’t get me wrong, God is all these things and more and it’s important to have a reverence and respect for God, but it’s incredibly telling that God, the creator of the universe, wants us to call him and see him as father. So don't ever be afraid or ashamed to approach God or call out to him. He is your father; after all, he did form you in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).
God is not distant
I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
God is always with you, whether you feel it or not; he is constantly watching over you. He didn’t just create you and then leave you to face the world on your own. God is relational, meaning He wants to be your closest companion, he wants you to talk to him throughout the day, not necessarily out loud but in your mind and spirit. God wants to be a part of your everyday life. He made you so that you could have a personal relationship with him through Jesus. So don’t ever be afraid to talk to God about your problems no matter how small you think they are, He cares for you and every aspect of your life, Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). God thinks about you constantly, ‘How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you. (Psalms 139:17-18).
‘the Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit’ (Psalms 34:18).
God, Our Father, wants to be your closest friend
I have called you friends (John 15:15).
You may find it hard to believe but Almighty God wants to be your closest friend. God is someone that will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). God knows everything about you, what’s happened to you and what’s happening in your life right now. There is no one in the world that knows you more than God. He knows when you sit down and rise up, he knows your thoughts from afar and is familiar with all your ways (Psalms 139:2-3). Think about it for a moment, it’s quite amazing that the creator of the world and everything in it, the master of the universe, the all-powerful and ever-living God wants to be your close and most intimate friend. What an amazing privilege it is that God wants us to call him father and friend. God will be as close to you as you want to be with him, ‘come near to God and he will come near to you’ (James 4:8). He won’t force his way into your life, like any relationship, both parties must be willing to enter the friendship.
'Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me’ (Revelation 3:20).
Jesus is the way to a right relationship
I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me (John 14:6).
God sent his son Jesus into the world so that the world can be reconciled to God, the father. He did this to save humanity from the destructive nature of sin. You might argue you’re a good person and I wouldn’t disagree with you, most people are good but to be honest we’ve done bad things too. If you examine your life, like I have, can you truthfully say that you’ve never stolen, lied, hated, cheated or hurt someone? I could go on but I think you get the message. You might say these are minor infringements but to a perfectly holy and just God, these minor infringements still taint us, the scriptures say that ‘All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags’ (Isaiah 64:6). Regardless of what you’ve done, God absolutely still loves you and that love is perfect, beyond any idea of human love, it is unconditional. God’s love is also just and he cannot allow evil or wrongdoing to be over-looked, if he did he wouldn’t be a truly loving and just father. Here’s an example of what I mean:
Let’s imagine I go on a crime spree. I damage someone’s car and set it alight, I beat-up a random guy inflicting severe injuries and in a final act of rebellion I kill someone. I’m apprehended shortly after and hauled before a judge to be sentenced. Before the judge hands down the penalty for my crimes I make a request. I ask if the judge can overlook the lesser offences of damaging someone’s property and assault, and only be punished for the greater offence of killing.
What type of judge would over-look the minor offences? Not a very good, honest or truthful judge. A truly just judge is obligated by the value of real justice to punish me for all wrongdoing. Now if an earthly judge can’t over-look wrongdoing, how much more so a perfectly just God cannot overlook wrongdoing, who is incredibly more just than the most just judge on earth. God is absolutely just, it’s part of his character and so he has to judge. If God doesn’t judge, then evil ultimately wins.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:5-6).
If we’re all sinners what chance do we have? Well that’s why Jesus was sent to the earth (1 John 3:5); he lived a sinless life (1 Peter 2:22); truly the only perfect human being to have walked, or will ever walk the earth. He was sent to the earth for the specific mission to identify with humanity and to take up all their punishment by his death on the cross. When you put your faith in Jesus as Lord, Savior and friend, and accept his sacrifice for you on the cross, the entire penalty for your wrongdoing is effectively nailed to Jesus on the cross and you are made clean by Jesus’ sacrifice. He became your sin and so your sin has been taken care of by Jesus, ‘God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Everyone will face judgement once their life on earth is over and for someone who has put their trust and faith in Jesus, God will see them as not guilty because Jesus took on their penalty. That’s it, there is nothing you can add to that, it’s all been done by Jesus, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast’ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Can’t I just believe in God and not Jesus? The thing is, Jesus is God in human form so if you reject Jesus, you are effectively rejecting God. Jesus said ‘I and the father are one’ (John 10:30). God, speaking from the heavens, said in Matthew 17:5 ‘This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’
No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:23).
God Is Love
… God is Love … (1 John 4:8)
God is Love. Notice that is doesn’t say God loves. Although he does love, God is described as being the source of all love; the scriptures specify, he is love. It is not just one of his attributes, it is who God is. In other words he is the epitome of all love, the embodiment of love beyond what our finite minds and hearts can understand. God’s love is unconditional, which means he loves us no matter what, it is vastly different from human love, which is mostly based on feelings, God’s love transcends feelings and so he loves us, not because we do good things and please him, rather he loves us because that’s who he is.
For we do not have a high priest (Jesus) who is unable to emphasize with our weaknesses… (Hebrews 4:15).
You might be thinking 'how can God understand what I am going through, he is God, what does he know about the struggles human beings face on earth?' That is why God sent his son Jesus into this world, so that he can relate with us; Jesus is God in human form (John 10:30). This is where God, the father, from a Christian perspective, is totally different when compared to other religions and faith groups. The main figures of other faith groups and religions are detached and distant. However, God the father came down to earth and initiated the relationship with humanity. A good way to put it is, all other faith groups and religions are humanity’s attempt to reach God; Jesus is God’s attempt to reach humanity. This is where true Christianity is so unique and stands out from all other faith groups and religions.
God, through Jesus, experienced the same hardships and situations that any of us go through. Here are some examples of where Jesus experienced real human emotion.
Frustration/Anger - When Jesus turned the tables in the temple (Matthew 21:12-13).
Injustice - Unlawfully arrested and false allegations made against Jesus (Mark 14:43; 55-59).
Abandonment - When Jesus was arrested the disciples left him (Matthew 26:56).
Doubt - On the cross, when Jesus called out to his father ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46).
Physical & verbal abuse - When the soldiers mocked and beat Jesus (Matthew 27:27-31).
Broken Promises - When Peter vowed to stand with Jesus, instead he denied him (Matthew 26:33-35 & 26:69-75).
Rejection - When Jesus was rejected in his home town of Nazareth (Luke 4:28-30). Throughout his ministry he was rejected by the chief priests, the Pharisees, religious leaders, and the people. Even his own family (Mark 3:21 & John 7:5).
Despair & Depression - When Jesus sweat great drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:44).
Overwhelmed - When Jesus asked his father to take the cup of suffering from him (Luke 22:42).
Sadness - When Lazarus died, Jesus cried (John 11:35).
Tested/Tempted - When Jesus was tested/tempted in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11).
Betrayal - When Judas betrayed Jesus (Luke 22:1-6).
Grief, Anguish & Distress - When Jesus takes some of the disciples to pray in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-38).
Weak/defeated - The cross is carried by Simon from Cyrene, after Jesus stumbles carrying the cross (Matthew 27:32).
Ridiculed - The religious leaders and many others, ridiculed Jesus when he hung on the cross (Matthew 27:39-42).
Persecution - The crucifixion of Jesus (Luke 23:26-43).
God understands and knows exactly how you feel when you‘ve been hurt by someone; when you’re going through pain or dealing with anxiety and depression, he’s been there. He can relate to whatever you are dealing with not only because he understands but also because he is deeply concerned and cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles… (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
No Greater Love
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Although Jesus was sent to earth for a specific mission, he still had a choice to accept that mission or to walk away from it. He was tested and tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11), who tried to stop him from fulfilling Gods plan but Jesus resisted the devils schemes.
Jesus had the option of an easy road; he could have lived a pain free life, void of hardship, torture and unimaginable heartbreak – can’t imagine what it would be like to bear the sin of all humanity. Jesus could have walked away from being mocked and humiliated, and instead live a life of prosperity and kingship on earth as offered by the devil. However, Jesus chose the difficult way. Why? Jesus chose the difficult way because; firstly, he had a close relationship with God the father, Jesus knew what God wanted him to do and he wanted to do the fathers will. Although it was difficult, even asking the father to take away the suffering (Luke 22:42), Jesus trusted the father to fulfil the ultimate plan in his life. Secondly, Jesus chose the difficult way because he loves us dearly. He couldn’t bear to spend life, both now and in eternity, without us. He was thinking of you, me and everyone else every painful second toward the cross.
God showed the ultimate expression of love, for it was while we were still sinners that Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8). While Jesus was on the cross he showed incredible love and mercy for the very people that crucified him, he prayed ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34).
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).
We’ve all Made Mistakes
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
You’re probably thinking ‘I’ve made too many mistakes; God doesn’t want anything to do with me.’ Well let me tell you, you don’t know how wrong you are! Besides Jesus, everyone that has ever lived on earth has made mistakes. That includes the people written about in scripture. The Bible is full of imperfect people yet God still used them and had a relationship with them. From the Old Testament, to name a few; Abraham, Moses, Samson, King David all made mistakes. Yes, God was displeased with what they did but he still loved them and didn’t abandon them. From the New Testament, Jesus’ disciples all failed him at some point. The head disciple, Peter, denying he knew Jesus to save his own skin (Luke 22:54-62). Yet God still used Peter and the other disciples to fulfil his purpose. One of the most infamous characters of the New Testament was Saul of Tarsus, also known as Paul. He was a violent and aggressive persecutor of the early church, sending Christians to prison and calling for their deaths. Yet God changed his heart (Acts 9:1-19) and used Paul to spread the Gospel throughout the known world at that time. Paul ended up writing half of the New Testament. These examples in the scriptures are to show us that God can and will use anyone regardless of what they’ve done or what they’ve been through. No one is beyond transformation from a life that is the complete opposite of a relationship with God.
‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9).
A Father’s Love
Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
The story of the Prodigal also known as the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-24) shows the depth of God’s love. The son demands his inherence, this was an insult to the father and culturally unacceptable, it’s like saying to the father ‘I wish you were dead’. Surprisingly the father grants his request when he had every right to kick him out of his home and punish him. The rebellious son goes off and squanders his wealth in wild living and loses everything. He comes to his senses and, and filled with remorse, heads back home to beg, to be accepted back as a slave. The father looks out on the horizon and sees his son, and although the story doesn’t say this, I’m sure he did this every day. Recognizing his figure and saunter, the father, filled with compassion, ran to him, hugged and kissed him. He ran to the son that rejected him. The son attempts to apologize but the father cut’s him short, he sees his repentance and knows he’s sorry by his act of returning to the father, seeking his care and love. The father does something even more amazing, he asks his servants to bring the best robe and put it on him; to put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. You see, the best robe would have been the fathers own robe, restoring his identity as son, wrapped in the fathers love. The ring would have been a signet ring with the family seal meaning he represented the family once again and had equal authority in the family business. The sandals differentiated between a slave and a child, household salves typically didn’t ware sandals. The father, by his actions, is re-instating his son as an heir. He then asks for the fatted calf that was being prepared for a momentous occasion and the father didn’t hesitate to use it for his sons return, he saw it as his son coming back to life from the dead, and a great feast and celebration was had.
What an amazing act of mercy, love and forgiveness by the father. If we’re honest we’ve all been the prodigal at some point in our lives, we may not have gone as far as what the prodigal son did in this story but at some point we’ve rebelled against God in our own way. This isn’t just a nice story about a father and his wayward child. When Jesus told this parable, he was speaking about God, the father. You see, the father in this story is God; and the prodigal child is you, it’s me, it’s every man and woman. No matter how far you’ve gone away from God, we can always come back. He’s there, waiting for us to return but you’ve got to make the first step and turn your heart toward him; and in the millisecond you do that, he comes running to you. This is the unfathomable, unconditional love of our heavenly father.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1).
God came from a place of perfection, peace and joy. A place free of trouble, pain, and suffering. When God came down to earth, he stepped into our vulnerability and fragility. The way God came down to earth makes a huge declaration. He had every right to be surround by privilege and power, having come from a place of perfection and abundance, yet God self-sacrificed like no one ever has, he gave up everything so he can identify with you and to show you how much he loves you and wants to have a relationship with you.
God’s love is different from the love we can ever give. Think of the deepest ocean trench, which is but a shallow pond to God. Think of the length of the deepest cave to the top of the world, which is but an inch to God, or how about as far as the east is from the west which has no end to God. There's a story that sums up God’s love for each one of us. It's not in scripture but it has a ring of truth about it.
You and Jesus are alone, you soon realize that you are the only two people in the world. You take this opportunity to ask Jesus a question. ‘Jesus, besides yourself, I seem to be the only other person in the world, how much do you love me?’ Jesus looks at you with compassion and replies ‘this much’. Then he stretches out his arms and gives his life.
If you were the only person in the world, God still would have sent his only son Jesus to give his life just for you! That’s how much God loves you; you are his precious child and don’t ever forget it!