Monday, 31 August 2015

The Father In Whom We Hope

Devotional studies on the nature of God the Father from the Gospel of John.

This morning's entire reading can be found here.
But I will not accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.
John 5:45
Two things to say here:

  1. They will (and we will) have to give an account to God of our lives. He is the highest authority and the one to whom we'll answer.
  2. We are to set our hopes on him. I will hope in him. Jesus says to the Pharisees 'you've set your hopes (for rescue and national revival) on Moses' The reason that's a problem is becaise the Father is the only one we should hope in for those things. He is our deliverer and the one who will rescue us.
Father. Yours is the name above every name, yours is the will I seek and the on I choose today to set me hope in. You alone can rescue.

The Father Affirms

Devotional studies on the nature of God the Father from the Gospel of John.

Scripture

This morning's entire reading can be found here.
But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.
John 5:36
Observation

As I begin reflecting on this verse I'm reminded again how wildly different the revelation of God as seen in Jesus is from anything else in world religion. In Jesus we see a God who is a Father. This is really good news for us. Let's walk through this verse together and look at what it teaches us about the Father:
'For the works that the Father has given me...'
The Father has given the Son works to do and these works were different to the works John (the Baptist) did, they were specific and unique to Jesus. There was also a clear intention behind them. The works were designed to announce, to all who'd hear it, that Jesus was sent by the Father. The Father empowered and gave the Son authority to do the very things he called him to do. More than that:
'...and the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me,'
The Father didn't just send the Son and then step back leaving him on his own to try and convince people that he was the Son of God. No, the Father sent Jesus and also stood alongside him so to speak, testifying about him through the things Jesus did.

Application

The Father 'pays for what he orders' (as I've heard it said elsewhere). He doesn't tell us to do something and then not give us the tools for the job. The Father is generous in his provision. He fights for his people, defends them and justifies them. He doesn't leave a person alone when he calls them to do something. He gives us what we need in order to do what he calls us to do; and he does call us to do things, just as he did for Jesus.

We can confidently affirm the following about the Father from this verse:
  • The Father enables us, provides for us and isn't afraid to affirm us in public.
I include the word 'us' in the above sentence even though the verse in question has to do with Jesus. I can do this confidently because the Father never acts 'out of character' and so since Christians are adopted children of God, how he behaves toward the Son reveals how he behave toward all sons and daughters.

This ought to effect the way I approach the things I'm nervous about. The Father is my Father and my Father gives me all the strength and confidence and equipment I need to do what he puts in front of me. The apostle Paul said it well when he wrote:

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

Prayer

Thank you Father. You affirm me in public. In front of people, you stand by me saying 'this is my son, whom I love' and you provide me promising to give me all that I need. I want to live differently today in light of that truth. Please help me to remember this truth and live like it's true today. Amen.

Friday, 28 August 2015

The Father Who Honours the Son

Devotional studies on the nature of God the Father from the Gospel of John.

Scripture

This morning's entire reading can be found here.
The Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son, that all may honour the Son, just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him.
John 5:22
Observation

The Father is mentioned three times in this short verse and each one contains some glorious truth about who he is and what he's like.

First of all. Think  for a moment about how arrogant Jesus must have sounded when he first spoke these words: ...that all may honour the Son... whoever does not honour the Son, does not honour the Father... when he mentions 'the Son' he's talking about himself. Here is Jesus, a poor, wandering (often homeless), preacher from Galilee declaring that unless people honour him they're not really honouring the Father. How can a mere man make a statement like this? Rather, I should ask, how could a man with the character of Jesus make a statement like this? We're all familiar with mad men, or foolish men or deluded men making such claims but Jesus doesn't fit into any of those descriptions. From the record of Jesus' character revealed in the New Testament he was far from cruel, arrogant or deluded by visions of self-grandeur. Yet here he is making an outrageous claim to grandeur. Whatever are we to make of that?

I'll leave that question hanging for the day, for you to consider. Let's move on to consider the nature of the Father revealed in these words:

Jesus' words reveal a Father who:
  • Is generous - 'has given all judgement to the Son'.
  • Wants the Son to be prized and appreciated - 'that all may honour the Son'.
  • Entrusts his Son with genuine responsibility - 'has given all judgement to the Son'.
  • Desires to share his honour with his Son - whoever does not honour the Son...'.
  • Sends the Son; there is a difference of roles within the Trinity being shown here - 'has given...'.
The Father, then, is not controlling and cruel. He has relinquished, given up his right to or his role in, pronouncing decisive judgement over people. He has instead entrusted this to his son. Why? Is it because he can't do it as well as Jesus can? No, not likely. Is it because his judgement wouldn't be as accurate as Jesus'? No. 

Jesus gives us the reason for it when he says that the Father wants the object of his delight (the Son) to also be the object of other's delight and the way the Father goes about it (we're told in these verses) is by making the Son the judge who judges over all the Earth.

Application

I often think of judges and judging as being a negative thing but God doesn't. The reason I do is probably due to both our society's 'anything goes' attitude and also the inaccurate and impurely motivated judgements I'm too familiar with making. I judge others out of bad heart a lot of the time. But true righteous judgement isn't a bad thing, in fact it's very good.

Imagine being a Jew living in the first century AD. As a people they're occupied by a foreign military, forced to pay extortionate taxes and have vivid memories of recent cruelty inflicted against their countryman and family members. For them judgement means the end of all this. Judgement means justice. It means cruelty gets punished and fairness gets established.

This beautiful and praiseworthy role (of being the one to bring about justice) the Father has given over to his Son. One day the world will marvel and delight in the good judgement of the Son of God. When this happens Jesus will be all anyone will talk about and in the celebration of it all we'll perhaps remember this verse and marvel: the Father could have had all this honour and merrymaking directed at himself, but he's given it to his Son. What a Father is he! The Father seeks his pleasure in his Son. How good, how glorious, how lovely is he!

Prayer

Thank you Father that you are good. Thank you that you are life giving, that you share your glory with your Son. Thank you that you are the God of justice and will one day right every wrong. Today I choose to bow my knee to you, to trust you with my life. I know you can be trusted, now help me to do just that today. Amen. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The Father Who Raises the Dead

Devotional studies on the Father from John's Gospel

Scripture

This morning's full reading can be found here.
'For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.'
John 5:21 
Observation

As an example of the sort of 'marvelling' Jesus is referring to in verse 20 he makes this statement:
The Father raises the dead.
That's sort of thing our Father does and will do.

Jesus is either referring to the examples in the Old Testament of people being brought back to life, or he is speaking in general characteristic terms as in - 'he's the sort of God who's willing and able to raise the dead.' Or else Jesus is speaking with the resurrection (both his and the final one) in view. Either way the statement can be trusted. God the Father raises people up from the dead, back to new life. Actually, I like the way Jesus puts it - 'the Father raises the dead and gives them life.' The Father isn't just a wonder worker who causes corpses to walk around like something out of a zombie film. No, the Father has power over the grave but also a willingness to give life.

The way he puts it makes it clear that life is a gift given by a good God, a loving Father.

Application

I often behave like I'm entitled to good health and a long life but verses like this one remind me that life is all a free gift of grace. I didn't ask to be born, I did nothing to deserve life and I have nothing in myself that means I'll carry on living tomorrow. I have no way of knowing that I'll wake up again in the morning; how cheery. This all has the effect of making me both grateful for my life and also sobered about my own limitations.

We are like mobile phones disconnected from a power supply. Our life is running down every day. We live on borrowed life from the source of life himself. God is life and has life in himself. He is the sole possessor of life, everything else borrows from him.

Allow this to shape the way you approach your day today. Don't be afraid of staring your own mortality in the eye reminding yourself as you do that up until now you've been in the hands of the life giving Father and tomorrow you'll go on being in his hands. It's his goodness that gives us confidence for tomorrow.

Let's ask him to help us appreciate and enjoy the life he's given us, receiving it as a gift and not as our due.

Prayer

Thank you Father. Thank you that nothing impossible for you, that you can bring the dead back to life; but thank you as well for the life you have given me today. Thank you that my life is in your hands and that I derive the meaning for my life from you as well. Help me to receive with gratitude all that you've done for me and continue to do for me today.



Monday, 3 August 2015

The One the Son is Tethered To

Devotional studies in John's gospel

Scripture

This morning's full reading in which the Father is mentioned several times can be found here: John 5:19-47

The context is picking up from the issues raised in the previous verses. Since Jesus speaks as one who has authority over the Sabbath, the question is raised - where does his authority come from? To which Jesus answers with the following:
v19 'truthfully I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and show him all that he himself is doing.'
Observation

These are remarkable words that reveal a lot about who the Father is and what the Father is doing. I'm struck by a couple of key ideas here:

Firstly it's clear that the Son is tethered to the Father. By that I mean that he is a servant of his who lives to 'do his bidding' (to put it crudely). It isn't only that the Son doesn't do anything except what the Father reveals to him, it is that he can't; 'the Son can do nothing of his own accord.'

For Jesus to be the Son he must be perfectly consistent. For him to act in a way that is uncharacteristic of God would mean that he had temporarily ceased to be the Son. His identity and his behaviour are therefore intrinsically linked.

Secondly Jesus acts in the way that he does because this is what God the Father is like. The traffic flows this way: The Father is -> the Son acts.

It isn't that Jesus was a nice & kind person who tried to teach us and show us God. It is that the Father is kind and generous and so Jesus imitated him.

When I look at Jesus I see the behaviour traits of the Father. The Son eats with sinners because the Father does. The Son loves the lost because the Father does. To work out his life's mission Jesus didn't only read the scriptures and pray, he watched to see what the Father was doing - and he did the same. Since God is love, Jesus' life was characterised by love.

Thirdly we notice that the Father shows the Son everything he does. The Father isn't a dad who's poor at communicating or silent. Since the Son's 'job' is to behave and act in a way that reveals the Father, the Father isn't restrictive about what he shares with his Son. He isn't remote and mysterious, requiring obedience but slow in giving instructions. The Father communicates clearly and lovingly.

This is our heavenly Father. This is what God is like. Regardless of what we feel God is like, this is God - and it's soul-satisfyingly glorious. I can see why Hebrews says: 'whoever would draw near to God must first believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.' To not believe that God rewards is to not believe in the right God. The Bible's God, the real God, is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is God and all other imitations are idolatrous.

Application

It can be hard sometimes to believe this about God. Our circumstances, the state of the world and unanswered prayer can make it hard for us to affirm and enjoy the goodness of the Father. It's important at times like this that we cling to the authoritative revelation of God in Jesus Christ. We have to allow our experience to play second fiddle to the Bible when it comes to our thinking about God.

At times like this we have to, perhaps through gritted teeth, in humility and (no doubt) a fair amount of pain affirm the goodness of the Father. We have to ask for him to reveal his love to us in fresh ways and ask that since he is a communicative and kind Father that he would speak to us and show us kindness. Prayer may not remove our affliction but it can transform our experience of it.

Prayer

Father, thank you for how you revealed yourself to us in Jesus. Thank you that I'm not left having to guess what you're like, you've made it obvious in Jesus. Thank you that you're a sacrificial, kind, good and generous Father. Help me today to know your goodness and kindness to me in fresh ways. I need you. Without you I have nothing. Amen.