Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Forgotten Father

"Now when all the people were baptised, and when Jesus also had been baptised and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'"
Luke 3:21-22
All of us are the son or daughter of some father but very few of us have ever heard words from our fathers like Jesus hears here at his baptism.

This is a problem.

Jesus' coming and revealing God to us is the crowning moment of human history. It is the moment the Earth had been waiting for, the moment that creation up until that point had been holding its breath in anticipation of. At that moment, when the Son of God walked upon the Earth we saw more clearly than any previous generation had ever done that God the creator, ruler, author and sustainer was originally and eternally, Father.

According to Doug Wilson (no relation to Andrew I'm afraid) 'The Father is the forgotten member of the Trinity.' We talk about having a 'personal relationship' with Jesus and are familiar with being filled with the Holy Spirit but whoever heard an altar call to come and 'know the Father'?

There's a lot we're missing out on in our Christian lives if we don't learn to love and appreciate God as Father; and depending on our experience of Fathers that may be a difficult and unappealing idea in the first place. Having said that, all of us have a father hunger within us. All of us have an immaterial invisible ache that longs to be fathered, but not by just any father - we long for the true Father.

For the next 5 weeks we want to invite you to join us on a journey of discovery. I want us together to explore through the pages of John's gospel exactly what God the Father is like. I want those of us who are Christians to discover just how good and affirming our Father is and I want those of us who aren't Christians to learn what the person of God is like. I want us to hear those words the Father spoke over Jesus; spoken over us as well.

To draw out the richness of John's gospel and to help us become transformed by it, each day we'll publish a scripture for you to read, a verse to focus on and some observations to go along with it. We'll use the method of Bible reading I've always found helpful, explained by the acronym S.O.A.P.

S - scripture
O - observation
A - application
P - prayer

I'd like to encourage you to read the text for yourself, jot down your own observations and applications, and then read our blogs or watch our videos to hopefully get a little more out of it for yourself.

The daily readings and verses for the first week are:

Day 1: John 1:1-17
Day 2: John 1:17-24
Day 3: John 2:13-25
Day 4: John 3:31-35
Day 5: John 5:1-17

We're praying that all of us discover God the Father as he actually is: generous, loving, life-giving and good. I'm hoping that we'll find our father hunger satisfied, maybe for the first time, not by a counterfeit god or an imitation father but but by the true and living eternal God.

Here goes.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Father is Greater than the Son

Scripture

Today's full Bible reading is John 14:1-14
'For the Father is greater than I.'
John 14:28
Observation

Yesterday we looked at the destination of the Son, today we're considering the relationship of the Father and the Son.

The greater Father.

This seems like a strange phrase to hear Jesus say. Is Jesus saying that the Father is 'better' as in 'more godlike'? Is he saying that the Father is stronger or more powerful?

Whatever Jesus means it must be held consistently with everything else he's said about the Father up until now:
'obey me and the Father will honour you' - John 12:26
'I and the Father are one.' - John 10:30
'Before Abraham was, I am.' - John 8:58
All this leads me to rule out interpretations and explanations of our verse that might end up with a Jesus who is less than God. Therefore he is not saying 'The Father's the real deal, I'm just his mouthpiece, nothing more than a vessel of his will.' He can't be saying that having also said the above statements about himself and the Father.

What Jesus is doing instead is pointing to the inner workings of the relationship between him and his Father. He is giving us some insight into the Godhead. There is total equality in God, each person is God, there is one God. But, within the Godhead of Father, Son & Spirit there is also deference and submission. 'The Father is greater than I' means 'I'm submitted to him and his authority'.

This appears to me as a strange concept since a lot of the things Jesus has said up until now has implied the opposite:
'The Father has given all things into my hands' - John 3:35
'My Father glorifies me.' - John 8:54
As much as the Son defers to the Father and submits to him there is also a clear delight in and deference to the Son by the Father. The Father has given the Son authority, rule and dominion over the earth. It is as though the Father has said 'I won't do anything on Earth without your permission,' or even just 'you're in charge here.' and in response Jesus says 'I'll only do what I see my Father doing, or what I know my Father would have me do.'

This is mind-stretchingly beautiful. The Father is a Father secure enough in his greatness and happy enough in his Son that he want to give his Son as much authority and freedom as possible. How does the Son respond to such a Father?
'The Father is greater than I.'
Who wouldn't want to surrender to a Father like that?

Application

It's that question that leads nicely into our application today. Who wouldn't want to surrender to a Father like that? The answer that comes to my mind is: 'I don't'. What I mean is that although I see the trustworthiness of the Father and although I can understand why the Son wants to submit to him, my rebellious self still would rather seek self-glory and self-reliance than the Father's plan. Acknowledging this is perhaps the first step along the way. Having acknowledged the goodness of the Father and the rebelliousness of my nature I am better able to pray and build an honest relationship with him.

Prayer

I love you Father, I am yours. Today I choose to trust you and submit to you. When I don't want to obey you and  when my passions run wild help me to remember the Son who submits to the Father and help me to also bring my will under your rule. You are a Father who cares and who knows best. I trust you today. Amen.

The Father Death Leads Us To

Scripture

Today's full reading is John 14:1-14
If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going away to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
John 14:28
Observation

We're going to spend a couple of days on this one verse noting two different things about the Father. The first has to do with the destination Jesus believes he going to and the second about the nature of the relationship between the Father and the Son.

Jesus' Destination

Instantly I'm struck by Jesus' thoughts about the Father. He's talking about his death, he's talking about dying and yet he doesn't say 'I'm going to better place' (like a sentimental Englishman). Instead he says 'I'm going to the Father.'

Jesus is enthusiastic not about dying, nor about 'being at peace', nor about 'going to a better place'. He's enthusiastic and optimistic about going to be with the Father.

For Jesus dying is but a doorway to the Father. It's unpleasant and in his case it's going to be excruciatingly painful (literally ex-crux - 'from the cross') but it's the person of his Father that he's most mindful about being with. He's not looking forward to the pain of the cross but he is looking past that to the reality and pleasure of being with his Father.

This is what the Father is like then. He is one whose company is to be desired. Jesus said 'if you love me... you'd rejoice.' Rejoice!? He wanted his disciples to celebrate. He wanted them to be glad. They were to celebrate not that he's dying but that he's going to be with his Father.

In all likelihood when the disciple first heard Jesus say this all they probably heard was 'I'm going away' - but what filled Jesus' mind wasn't the leaving but the arriving, arriving in his Father's presence once again.

Application

This is what death is for the Christian. Death is going to be with our Father. It isn't just going to a 'better place' nor even is to just go and be with 'God'. Rather it is our 'Father' who is the object of death's destination. The person, the presence, the intimacy, the reality of our Father.

Thinking about death like this comforts me when I consider those I've known who've died, especially those who've died in Christ. It also gives me comfort when thinking about my own death. It helps me to believe that death isn't the end, a full stop after the final chapter of my life. Death is what leads me to be with the one I love and who loves me and who created all things out of the overflow of his love.

All this also reinforces to me the importance of changing the way I think about God. If I believe that God is a mean, strict and cold 'man in the sky' then death has nothing for me to look forward to. But he isn't like that. He is a Father that the Son was enthusiastic about going to be with.

Prayer

Father I'm comforted and encouraged by your Son's attitude to death. It helps me dispel some of my own doubts about death and fear of death. Thank you that the people I love aren't lost, that they aren't even just 'at peace'. Thank you that those I love are with you, in your company seeing you face to face. I love you. Amen.

God The Father, Son & Spirit

Devotional studies on God the Father from John's gospel

Scripture

Today's full reading comes from John 14:1-31.
The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
John 14:10
Today's reading reveals something pretty heady about God;  get ready...

In this verse and in the one previous to it Jesus is replying to his disciple Philip's request that they might see the Father, 'show us the Father' Philip pleads. Jesus is trying to help Philip see that he (Jesus) is the Father made manifest, that he's not only the Father's representative but is one with him in thought and deed.

In that sense, Jesus is different from an ambassador and speaking to him is different from speaking to an ambassador. Ambassador's speak on behalf of another person or country. They are given authority to act on behalf of and as a representative of their sending party. So far so good, so far so similar to Jesus. But Jesus claims a different level of familiarity with the one he's representing.

Jesus claims to not only do the things that come from above, he claims that he is 'one' with the Father. Having done that Jesus goes further still and says that he is in the Father (ie he exists within the Father's essence). Then, even more shockingly, he claims that God the Father, Yahweh, the Creator is also in him.
The Son is in the Father
but also
The Father is in the Son
Jesus is not saying, as Eastern thinkers have done, that everything is god; that we are gods. He is not even saying 'we are gods & God is in us'. What he is saying is:
I am in God and God is in me.
This, said in response to Philip's question, has to do with Jesus' identity and therefore (by implication) the Father's identity.

Application

This morning, sitting where I am outdoors on a sunny day, I lift my head to take in my surroundings and I'm struck by the beauty and majesty of the created world. Then as I take in the blue sphere above me and as I consider the vast, and as yet unexplored, universe beyond it I have to catch myself and stop a train a thought that develops. Tempted as I am to stop and soak it in and consider it to be awesome and marvellous, I mustn't. Creation is a signpost that points beyond itself to the creative & powerful mind of the Father. The difference is comparable to the majesty of a lego city being placed alongside the intricacies and complexities of a real city, one with all the organisms that live there. God is far greater than anything he has made.

And then I have stop myself once again.

The God who made this universe is, in essence, a Father. The Father is in the Son and if I can conceive who and what Jesus is then I can conceive who and what the Father is. Therefore creation may help me to marvel, but the Son enables me to relate.

The Father-in-the-Son and the Son-in-the-Father makes me both marvel and relate and finally it makes me, stop. It makes me put down my pen and relax. I can rest in the confident loving arms of my Father.

But my journey doesn't end there. 'What about the Holy Spirit?' I wonder 'surely he ought to figure too in this 'me in him and him in me...' description of God'. God isn't only Father and Son but Father, Son & Spirit. Glance back at the scripture in front of you and it seems that Jesus is tracking our train of thought. Two verses after the one we're focusing on, having explained part of the mystery of the Godhead Jesus helps his listeners to grasp even more:
'I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.' 
The Holy Spirit, the Helper, is described here as 'he'. He is sent by the Father at the request of the Son. He dwells/lives with us and will be 'in' us. In these verses both the Son & the Spirit are said to be 'in' us. The Son is in the Father and the Spirit comes from the Father.

Trying to wrap my mind around all this is hard for me. That's where historic diagrams of the Trinity come in handy:


God is one but three persons who each exist 'in' the other without being dissolved into a non-distinct blend of bland monotheism. 

This is the nature of God and then Jesus 'drops a bombshell' when he says that: he (v20), the Spirit (v17) and the Father (v23) will be in us. The scandalous truth is that in some profound and mysterious way the triune God lives in me, lives in you.

Jesus effectively says of God 'we will makes our home with and in them.'

God is committed to us. He is with us, in us, for us, at home in us, loving us, leading us, teaching us.

This isn't because of intellect and learning or moral perfection. This is because of grace, because of Christ and because of the Father's unrelenting love toward us.

The Father covers us with his love. He surrounds us, lives in us - and us in him.

Prayer

Father such thoughts are almost too much for me to take in. Help me to enjoy the reality that these words are pointing to. Help me to know you, delight in you and enjoy relationship with you. Fill me with your Spirit, help me to love your Son and cause me to trust you for everything I need today. Amen.

The Father Known Through The Son

No one comes to the Father except through the Son. If you had known me you would have known the Father as well.
John 14:6
Again we see the unity of person and mind of the Father and the Son.

The Father is inaccessible except by coming through and with and by the Son. Why?

  • Righteousness - the Son is the righteous one.
  • Relationship - the Father isn't after people who keep his rules and thus enter his presence. He is looking for worshippers and faith. He wants people who will trust him.
Similar to the second half of this verse, is this statement Jesus makes elsewhere: 'if you've seen me you've seen the Father' 

Again an outrageous statement to make for a cerpenter's son. If that's all he is. But he isn't just Joseph's boy.

The Father and the Son are on. Whatever the Son is like, the Father is too:
  • Willing
  • Sacrificial
  • Servanthearted
  • Bold
  • Generous
  • Working for Restoration 
  • Committed 
This is what the Father is as well. In Chapter 14 Jesus mentions the Father 21 times in a range of different ways. Where religious people and Christians included talk about God, Jesus speaks about the Father.

This is my God, the servant king, the sacrifical Father, the generous dad, This is who I sit before, live before and talk to. Father 21 times in one discourse, 21 times in one conversation.

Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father, Father. 

The Father's House

In my Father's house are many rooms... I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself.
John 14:2

We are being invited to be with the Father. Just as the Son loves the Father and the Father the Son we are being offered the same access to intimacy and friendship as that.

Jesus is returning to his Father but promises to take us with him, which is what he sees as the highest good he could do us.

The Father owns a house. The house has rooms currently unused as places of residence. The Father is happy for us to go and live in one of these rooms. I don't get the impression that Jesus is acting against his Father's wishes when he says this. Jesus sees us living with him and his Father, something he sees as a desirable good: 'You'll want this, this is the culmination of 3 years on the road with me.'

The Father is relational. We relate to him by being with the Son and where the Son is. God the Father is expecting us to live with him, he allows it which means he wants it.

This is the Father. This is our final destination, not heaven but home with the Father.

The Slave God

Devotional studies on the Father from the gospel of John.

Scripture:

This morning's full reading is from John 13:1-19 and can be found here:

The verses we're focusing on are:
Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father... During supper... Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.
John 13:1-3
Observation:

I love this chapter. I'm gonna' put it out there - this is one of my personal favourite moments in the life of Jesus. Listen to the words Jesus says here and allow the rich implications of it drip like honey onto your lap... (too far with the enthusiasm?). Still, there is some great treasure to be mined here. The image of Jesus with a slave's towel around his waist seems just about as shocking today as it would have done then. The saviour of the world, the creator of the world, God - dressed as a slave?

God is the God who slaves over us and slaves after us. Incredible.

Verse 1 - Jesus knew that where he was going wasn't just death, or even 'heaven' but to the Father. From Jesus' perspective this is how he saw things. For Jesus, to live meant to trust the Father and to discern his plan. Discerning that his plan meant to suffer didn't seem to put him off since he understood that even in that suffering he would still have the Father with him. Plus, to die was to go and be with the Father - permanently, and that was Jesus' greatest delight.

Reality for Jesus was defined around his Father.

The overarching emphasis of life and the underlying theme of life, has to do not with some mystical far off and remote 'God' but rather with the Father. The Father is a wildly different God to the ones invented by religion,

Verse 3 - The Father gave all things into his hands.

I watched a business coaching video this morning entitled: the 'right sort of delegation.'

The 'right' way of releasing people to achieve their full potential and their company's full potential, it said, was not to give people tasks and jobs but to give them authority. Releasing people into areas of responsibility empowers them and creates leaders rather than followers.

To say that the father 'delegated' the work of redemption to the Son isn't right but it is true to say that the Father empowers and releases the Son in what he sends the Son to do. The Father, we learn here, gave Jesus authority over everything, you can't get more empowering than that!

The Father trusted Jesus and told him so.

Jesus knew (verse 3) that the Father had blessed him, knew that everything had been given to him, and knowing it - he acted on it. It was not just the authority but the knowledge of the authority that enabled Jesus to act courageously. Knowing that his destiny was to be with his Father and knowing that his Father had empowered him and trusted him meant that he could reach down, pick up a towel and serve.

Knowing all this meant that he could identify with and so dignify even those in slavery.

Application

Seeing our identity in our Father enables us to serve and it enables us to associate with people we might not otherwise want to. Knowing how the Father feels toward us, frees us from other people's expectations of us. The Father's love toward us gives us confidence and courage. How will that influence you today and your decision making today?

Do you see in this text the Father who Fathers you?

Prayer

Father. Thank you. Thank you that you are one who empowers and releases us into what you made us for. Thank you that your Son came to serve and wasn't afraid even to be associated with slaves. I want to know you like he does. I want to have such confidence in your fatherly affection toward me and my place of security before you that I am willing and able to serve and even suffer indignity for you. Amen.

The Father Whose Commands Are Life

For I have not spoken on my own authority but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment - what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say therefore, I say as the Father had told me.
John 12:49
Commandment. What is the commandment come from the Father? It seems that it could be - 'what to say and what to speak' - meaning that it includes all of Jesus' teaching. This is the commandment of the Father, here meaning not a solitary command but an overall theme. That theme may well be 'listen to me and obey me.' since that seems to come out more clearly as an overall message.

The commandment could be what Jesus i referring to that will judge people. Whatever he's meaning by this idea he reveals here a Father who commissions and sends and who is clear as to purpose and intent. We see God empowers with authority and therefore gives what is needed for a task.

The Father isn't a micro manager but he is clear and specific even to the point of telling Jesus what to say.

He isn't a silent or passive Father. He releases his Son (and by implication, us) to do what he's called us to do.

He is also inviting people to eternal life. His commandment is eternal life. His commandment/instruction is what leads to and is eternal life. He isn't interested in rule keeping for the sake of it. He is interested in people walking in and knowing and enjoying eternal (which means full blooded and forever) life as his children.

This is God. He is a dad who tells his children good things, commands them things that result in a more whole, complete and passionate existence. A dad whose very command is that we listen to and obey his Son, aware that his Son has the model and example we need.

He is a proud and affectionate Father. Several times this theme has occurrred. The theme of 'listen to him' from the Father. The Father wants us to discover and enjoy life but he really wants us to obey his Son. To be as thrilled with the Son as he is. This is the will of the good Father. He is not slow in making me see how much his Son means to him. This is the sort of dad he is.

Seeing how good his Son is he tells all near him 'listen to him. He will do you you good. He is where you'll find life - listen to him!'

The Father To Trust Unto Death

Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.
John 12:27

In this moment here, it isn't so much the Father we can learn about but the Son. The Son is submitted to the Father and believes that the very reason he's come to this hour is to do exactly what he sees coming like a freight train down the tracks, Jesus hears the rumble on the tracks.

He wants to do his Father's will.

He trusts his God and Father enough that he will go to the cross out of obedience and a desire to see his Father glorified.

By observing the faithful obedience of the Son, we can see just how deserving of trust the Father is. Even when his will is painful and hard Jesus knows he can trust him. Jesus knows that he is a good Father. Everything else I've seen about the Father is still true of him in this moment. Jesus knows this, and so trusts him even as he heads toward the cross.

But I see also the Father's delight in the Son. Heaven isn't silent when Jesus prays. 'I will glorify it.' Comes the Father's reply in John 11.

It is the Father's seal of approval on the Son. 'What you're doing and saying, is on course.'

Jesus says that this voice wasn't for his sake but for the people's but what it tells us about the Father is that he can't and won't stay silent around his Son. The Father is not only trust worthy, he is forthcoming with his praise. He loves outwardly.

C.S. Lewis said this: Praise is inward health made audible.

The Father is an outward focused Father who praises his Son often. This praise is more than an expression of his delight in his Son it is the outward display of his inner health and goodness.

The Father Who Honours Us

'If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.'
John 12:26
There it is again. The Father's delight in the Son and desire to bless anyone in close proximity to the Son. Again I'm struck by Jesus; if he isn't God then he is utterly wicked or insane. He is convinced that he is the centre of God's attention and affection. It is that belief that seems to drive him most of all. It's that conviction that will ultimately lead him to the cross.

But let's focus on the Father. Apart from saying (again) that he's devoted to his Son and loves to publicly show his affection, what can I say?

The Father honours all who are obeying Jesus. He's a Father who loves pouring out blessing and reward.

Honour. Son servants will be honoured we're told. God the Father is an affectionate, happy to praise, warm-hearted Father. What does it mean to be honoured by him? To be honoured is to be treated with the highest respect, to be shown to the best seats, to be praised and treated with dignity. To be honoured is to be treated as one who has value. This is how the Father behaves toward Son servants.

Or is the force of the statement different from that? Is it more 'it won't go unnoticed and unrewarded if you serve the Son'? As in: 'if you serve me the Father won't forget it.' Is that it? In this instance we have a Father who doesn't overlook or forget us and what we do. He is a Father who can be trusted to deliver and remember. We haven't got to remind him.

It's probably a combination of both senses. He both treats us with honour and won't forget our service. But what honour can we expect? Jesus doesn't say. He does say in the verses before that he's here to drive a wedge between us and the world. Which means that whatever else he's alluding to, he isn't promising a comfortable and easy life.

Service to the Son, the kind that gets the attention of the Father, is also what separates us from the world.

But the Father honours us. To be honoured in the eternal place of God's residence, to be honoured in heaven and in the life to come is better than to be honoured on Earth in the here and now. No matter how many people speak well of us, show us respect and treat us with dignity and worth, it all amounts to nothing compared to being honoured by the Father.

Serve Jesus, obey him, follow him and be honoured by the Father.

Anyone who would treat my two boys is a friend of mine and Jesus is saying the same thing about God.

The Father who Hears the Son

Devotional studies in the character of the Father from the gospel of John.

Scripture

This morning's full Bible reading can be found here.
Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe you sent me.'
John 11:41
Observation

I love listening in on Jesus' prayer life. When he talks to his Father you can sense the familiarity and intimacy that exists between them and yet also the authority Jesus has in prayer, it's majestic.

At Lazarus' tomb, we can learn a lot about Jesus' relationship with the Father, and also learn something about what the Father is like as well.
'Father I thank you.'
Jesus begins by lifting his head, a physical act that focuses his mind and makes it clear to all onlookers that he's praying.

He then begins by addressing his Father. Up until now he has been talking about God using the word 'God' to discuss him. As he prays suddenly it's 'Father' - Abba. He speaks with tenderness and familiarity to God.
'Thank you.' 
Jesus begins with gratitude. It isn't for the sake of maintaining an appearance of piety that he does this or because he knows it's 'appropriate' but because he's got his eyes open to God's work in the world. Saying 'thank you' can only happen as you look around and notice the things you've got to be thankful for. A mouth that says 'thank you' reveals a heart that's free from bitterness and selfish self-righteousness.

What is he thankful for?

Jesus is thankful - that God has heard him. This means both that God was aware of his plea but also that God granted it. God granted his request to glorify his Son. This is a recurring theme. It is becoming almost too repetitious to mention. The Father is motivated by the idea of drawing positive attention to his Son. Time and again this is the case:
The Father loves the Son
The Father listens to the Son
The Father grants the Son's requests.
Paul says in the letter to the Colossians that it is 'Christ in you, the hope of glory.' and to the Corinthians 'In Christ you have become the righteousness of God.'

This is how it is that Jesus can affirm as he does several times in John's gospel 'whatever you ask in my name, you will receive' the emphasis falling on the 'in my name'.

He knew that his Father loved him and knew that his Father would hear him when he prayed. It was this double knowledge that gave him confidence and boldness when he prayed.

Application

I see it so clearly. I'm convinced of it. Jesus, far from being my only hope, is the greatest hope. He is the apple of the Father's eye. The Father delights in him, and since I'm in him - the Father delights in me too.

When we pray we can pray with the same level of confidence and gratitude knowing that our Father hears us and welcomes us when we come on the basis of his Son.

Prayer

Thank you Father. Thank you for all that you do for me. Thank you for all that you're going to do for me and thank you that you hear me when I pray. You listen to me, you grant my requests and you welcome me to keep coming and asking you for various things. I come in the name of Jesus and for his sake and for his glory I ask everything I ask. Amen.

The Father Who Won't Let Go

Devotional studies on the Father from John's gospel

Scripture

Today's full Bible reading can be found here:
'No one will ever snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me, is more powerful than all, and no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one.'
John 10:29-30 
Observation

There is a lot of devotional wealth to be mined in these verses and there is a lot that can be said about the Father.

First. In this passage we're given the assurance from Jesus that the Father is more powerful than all the forces that would try to snatch his sheep away. There is the reassurance that those under Jesus' care will not be lost.

Jesus says 'no one can snatch them from my hand' and then 'no one can snatch them from my Father's hand'. Well, which is it? The answer comes - 'I and the Father are one.' Jesus and the Father are of one mind and heart in this regard. The sheep in his care will remain in his care. Case closed, matter settled.

Now, I have plenty of questions about this - especially in light of friends I've known who've walked away from God. Friends who it seems were 'snatched' from God's hands. What about them, I wonder?

Questions like this are important but cannot easily be answered in a general Bible study like this, especially since in the Bible passage we're looking at it's not a question that is asked. The truth announced by Jesus here is that 'no one can be snatched' from his hand.

How we examine the lives and faith of others must not contradict that statement of his. Besides I've been a Christian long enough to know that 'the end has not yet been written.' I often say to people 'God is good and by his grace, life is long' - who knows what will happen in the future. Besides that, answers to these questions are found most commonly through prayer and reflection. For this morning's devotion let us draw out from the text the truth about the Father revealed in these words:
  • The Father gives 'sheep' to the Son.
  • The Father is more powerful and greater than all.
  • The Father won't let go of those in his hand.
He is a rescuing, generous, strong, active, protective Father. We also learn from Jesus that:
  • Jesus and the Father are one.
Is that 'of one mind' or 'of one being'? The doctrine of God as Trinity is a tricky one to understand but the answer to those questions is found by looking at what happened next in the Bible passage: 'they picked up stones to kill him.' Whatever Jesus meant, his audience clearly understood him to be assuming a place of privilege that had up until now only been reserved for God. They heard the apparent blasphemy in what he was saying; the claim to divinity. Whether of one substance or mind, Jesus is claiming a harmony with God the Father that no human being has ever had before.

Application

The Father is saving, loving, protecting and preserving the people he loves. We were once straying like sheep but now have returned to the shepherd and overseer of our souls. 

The Father is my shepherd and the reason Jesus behaves so 'shepherdly' toward us is because he is 'one' with the Father.

Prayer

Thank you Father. Thank you that keep us safe in your care, that you love me and have shown me great kindness. Today I choose to trust you and look to you as the one who is able to answer all of my deepest questions. Please help me to understand many of the big questions I can't work out on my own. Amen.

The Reason the Father Loves the Son

Devotional studies on God the Father from John's gospel

Scripture

Today's full Bible reading can be found here.
'For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. This is the charge I have received from my Father.'
John 10:17
Jesus says the words 'For this reason...' when describing why it is that the Father loves the Son. I'll be honest, these words jar in my mind. 'For this reason?' It sounds initially like Jesus is saying 'this is the reason he loves me.' which sounds like a love based on a job Jesus does. This is out of step with everything else Jesus has said about his father up until this point. So it can't mean what I might initially think it means. In which case, what does it mean?

The thrust of the sentiment Jesus is conveying is more like: 'this is what my Father loves about me...' or maybe even 'the reason for my Father's love is because of how I trust him even to the point of laying my life down.'

The Father loves the Son and one of the main reasons for this love is because of the Son's complete and utter trust in the Father. He is willing to obey him even when that obedience costs him his life. Who wouldn't say 'I love that about you?' to someone who does that?

This is astonishing. The Son here shows a trust and obedience that means (in his case) death by crucifixion. Speaking, as he is here, a short time before his death, the Son clearly shows a single minded awareness of and compliance with his destiny.

He lays his life down because he loves the sheep, certainly; but also and most remarkably of all, he does it because he trusts his Father. Jesus was fully God, but he was also fully man. As a man he would quite likely have received his destiny to die simply from reading about it in the scrolls. He would have read Isaiah 53 and concluded 'that's me, that's what I shall do and shall have done to me.'

Wonderful Jesus. Is it any wonder the Father is made up with delight over him? The Father loves the Son... and so do I!

Application

The Son is glorious but the Father is utterly trustworthy. Jesus read about his destiny in the scrolls and didn't deviate from it even though it would likely have been hard to do so. What is there in your life that you know the Father wants you to do? What habits is he asking you to give up? What people is telling you to love that you don't want to?

Jesus trusted him because he is trustworthy. He hasn't changed. You can still trust him today.

Prayer

Father thank you for Jesus. Jesus thank you for the obedience to your Father's plan you demonstrated. Holy Spirit please help me to trust my Father in the same way that Jesus did. I love you Father, I need you. I trust you. Amen.

The Father Who Knows Me

Devotional studies on the Father from John's gospel.

Scripture

This morning's full reading can be found here.
'I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay my life down for the sheep.'
John 10:14
Observation

Jesus speaks these words immediately after explaining that 'bad shepherds' (hired hands) run for the hills at the first sign of trouble. He, the Good Shepherd, (in contrast to the hired hands) knows his own and his own know him.

The contrast draws out the meaning of exactly what this 'knowledge' is.

When you truly know someone you can't just up & leave them at the first hint of trouble. The knowledge that Jesus is talking about here is an intimate familiarity with someone. It involves commitment and belonging. In the Bible 'knowing' is a euphemism for having sex with them:
'Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain,'
Genesis 1:4
Jesus's knowledge of us isn't sexual of course but the euphemism helps all the same. Jesus knows (read: is committed to and joined with) his people and us to him - our fates are one and the same. Jesus knows me and I know him. In other words - he has looked into the depths of my soul and into the whites of my eyes and said 'I'm never giving up' and he has said to me in effect: ask me any question you like.

This is wonderful but it doesn't stop there.

Jesus then reveals that the committed knowing, faithfulness and intimacy that he has with those he loves; he also has with the Father:
'...just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.'
Amazing.

We are brought into the relationship Jesus has with the Father. The model Jesus uses for how he interacts with and knows his people is the relationship he has with the Father.

For as the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, in that way the Son loves the church

Application

This is what the Father is like, imaged and presented to me in the form of Jesus' sacrificial generous knowing of myself.

The Father loves with a deep, committed, familiar love. He loves without regard for his own well-being. He loves by laying down his life. He loves by not giving up or leaving when trouble comes. What a good God we have. How wonderful it is to be loved by him!

Prayer

Father I am lost for words when it comes to expressing how grateful I am for you and your love. My brain cannot fully understand how rich and deep your love is. Thank you that in the way Jesus behaves toward me I see a picture of what you're like. Please help me to know you more and to love you more today. Amen.

The Father Who Glorifies the Son

'The Father glorifies me,' John 8:54
There is it again. So certain is Jesus that he repeats it often. Here the emphasis is on the fact that Jesus doesn't need to seek his glory/honour/fame by pleasing people but by pleasing his Father. It is this that enables Jesus to speak robustly to the Jews in this story, even Jews who've come to believe in him. Jesus doesn't panda to or tickle the ears of, new believers. No, he speaks the truth even if the truth isn't going to be popular.

He does this because his Father glorifies him. That's how Jesus does and says what he does. The Father glorifies the Son, the Son lives to please the Father.

The Father Who Seeks His Son's Glory

'I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it and he is the judge.' John 8:50
God the Father, honoured by the Son, seeks the glory of his Son. This gives us a big insight into what motivates all of the Father's instructions to the Son. He wants the Son to be glorified and receive honour and glory. He doesn't only 'want' it, he is actively seeking it out. He is going after it. He loves his Son and wants others to as well. He is like a proud parent always putting his Son first and Son's honour first. This desire of the Father motivates all he does.

I am a son. I am a son in the Son. We are children of that very same Father. This is his inclination toward me. As I seek him and honour him, he seeks the honour of his Son in the people of his Son.

The Alive & Life Giving Father

Devotional Studies on the Father from the gospel of John

Scripture

For this morning's full text, click here.
As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.
John 6:57
Observation

What can we observe about the Father from this short verse? Well, it seems to me that the word 'live' appearing three times offers us a clue. Jesus is trying to emphasise something about The Father. The Father he tells us is living, alive, and also the giver of life.

The first thing Jesus says about the Father is that he is 'the living Father'. God is the living one. The Father is alive. He is the living one. That means that he's not dead. He is active and involved and he is the source of life in all its liveliness. He provides life.

Jesus says 'I live because of the Father'. Our second point to be made then is that the Father sustains the Son. He is the reason that the Son exists.

Such is the nature of God the Father. He is living but also life giving, to such an extent that Jesus could say 'the only reason I live is because of him.' This is more than saying 'he's my reason to live' or, as we sometimes use the expression, 'I live for it...' Jesus is speaking literally:
'I have life in my veins and breath in my lungs because of God the Father. He puts it there and ensures it stays there.'
God is the living Father, and the life giving Father.

Application

This is our Father. Do you see it? Do you see the life giving, alive and empowering Father? Come to him and have life in his name. When you get near this Father, when you receive his Son Life is the inevitable consequence. He is liked an overflowing fountain that if you get too close to you get drenched. The Father oozes life and as Christians we come to him and receive life in his name and with his permission.
Praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead.
Prayer

Thank you Father. What can I say? I'm in awe of you and I realise that so many of my thoughts about you aren't accurate. Often I think of you as stingy and cruel or if not those things, then far off and distant. It's not true, I see that. Thank you that you give me life, both kinds of life; temporal and earthly but also full and eternal. 

The Father Who Draws People To the Son

Devotional studies in the Father from John's Gospel

Scripture

For this morning's full text click here
Jesus answered them, 'Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.'
John 6:43
Observation

In this Bible verse we learn that the Father is both the gatekeeper of the Son and also the one who initiates salvation. What I mean is this:

  • God the Father draws people to the Son ('No one can come... unless the Father... draws him') and is therefore out and about in people's lives bringing individuals to the Son.
  • The very fact that there is a salvation on offer at all is a result of God the Father sending the Son ('The Father who sent me...').

We have this strange double-idea in salvation. The Father draws people (and no one who comes to Christ comes unless the Father draws him), but also elsewhere Jesus says 'I have come to seek and save the lost' (Luke 19:10).

Jesus is looking for those that the Father is drawing to the Son. He is looking to see where the Father is working. There is a sense in which the Father and the Son are labouring together, each doing a distinct role. They are a partnership and team.

It is this relationship that we're invited into.

So, we have seen:
  1. It's the Father's desire that all who look to the Son for life are saved.
  2. No one who comes, comes unless the Father draws him.
  3. Jesus only ever does the will of the One who sent him.
  4. Jesus is seeking and saving the lost. 
The next verse says this:
'Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.'
John 6:44
Once God the Father speaks to people they're drawn to Jesus. It's as though this is the inevitable outcome of being spoken to or taught by the Father.

Application

The Father speaks and says 'See my Son!' or he speaks in such a way that we find ourselves lacking in satisfaction until we get to Jesus.

The Father who made all things could tell us any number of mysteries and perform any amount of wonders but his priority is to tell us about the Son. He wants us to learn from, be near to and be around the Son.

Do you see what the Father sees in the Son?

The Father always gives us what we need most of all and for him step one of a thousand mile journey must always begin with the Son. All other steps besides this one are missteps that will need to be repeated.

This Bible verse also gives me confidence and comfort. It gives me confidence that evangelism (the act of sharing the gospel) isn't a fruitless endeavour since the Father wants people to come to him. It gives me comfort because I'm reminded that the reason I came to the Son and became a Christian was, in the first instance, because the Father willed it. The Father chose me, he chose you and he's choosing those we live around, desiring that all of them and us see the Son as he does.

Prayer

Thank you Father. Thank you for choosing me, for bringing me to the Son. Thank you that you found me and having found me you didn't punish me; instead you punished Jesus in order that I might be free and forgiven and have life in his name. I love you Father and am so grateful for your calling of me.

The Father Gives Eternal Life

Devotional Studies on the Father form the Gospel of John

Scripture

For this morning's full text click here
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out... For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.
John 6:37 & 40
Observation

The Father gives to the Son and gives him people and those people receive life in Jesus' name. Again we see both the Father's generosity and his desire for people to have eternal life. But we also see how the Father's highest delight is in the Son. Jesus says: 'Look on the Son', 'believe in the Son,' & 'given to me [the Son]'.

We learn that Jesus will not & does not lose any people whom the Father gives to him. Salvation and eternal life are not just found in Jesus, they are secured in him as well. Jesus' grip on those the Father gives him is secure and permanent.

Application

This morning allow your minds eye to see the God who is Father. See the Father who is giving you rescue and new life, secure and true. See the Father who wants you to find rescue in Jesus. He wants for you to be safe and secure. He wants you to come to eternal life and not to lose it.

This is what he's like. He's a rescuing and protecting Father. In the words of an old hymn:
'let me no more my comfort draw, from my frail hold of thee.
In this alone rejoice with awe, thy mighty grasp of me.' 
Where is your confidence this morning? Is it in yourself to remain in Christ and so be saved by your own will and effort, or is it in him and his ability to keep hold of you? God doesn't lose any who come to him for rescue, he's not about to start now.

Prayer

Father this is really good news. You're a good Father,  but I can also see that you're a safe Father. You are strong and able to protect me and look after me. Help me today to trust you and celebrate the fact that you've not only saved me in the present tense but that you'll save me in the final sense. You will keep me safe all the way. Thank you.

The Father Who Provides Bread From Heaven

Devotional studies in the gospel of John

Scripture

For this morning's full text click here.
Jesus said to them 'truly, truly I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
John 6:32
Observation

Jesus taught his followers a model for their prayers by giving them what has become known as the Lord's Prayer. That prayer begins with the words: Our Father in heaven... and goes on to request that God give us today out bread for the day.

God is the provider of all things. He gives us life and breath and clothing and food. Jesus points to this reality when he says 'it was not Moses who gave you bread in the wilderness but my Father'.

In the Old Testament, in Moses' day it was bread from the Father, in the form of physical food during the time of wilderness wandering (Ex. 16). Now, in this scene in John's gospel, it is the true bread from heaven, the Bread of Life himself that the Father has given . The Father gives the gift of his son to us freely and gladly. He gives his son as a way of providing bread for the entire human race.

Application

Today the daily bread I need most of all is Jesus. He is the one who satisfies my soul ('as with fat and rich food' Psalm 63) and it is he whom the Father has provided for me; for us.

This is what our Father is like. The Father of all life is generous, so generous in fact that he provided for all when he sent his son into the world.

In calling himself 'bread' Jesus is of course talking in metaphor, we aren't literally going to eat his skin and bones. He is talking symbolically but he is speaking about a very physical and tangible reality. Our soul's hunger can and is satisfied by him and him alone.

Have you ever experienced him filling your soul's deepest need? The Son is here by his Spirit to comfort, strengthen, forgive and enrich. He is here to give our soul's the feeling of being full to bursting. If you've never experienced him like that before, stop and ask him to do so today.

Prayer

Thank you Father. 

Thank you for every good thing in my life. Everything I have comes from you and is a gift given by you, the best of all and most satisfying of all gifts, is the gift of your Son. Please help me to seek my satisfaction in him today. So often I turn to other things to meet my deepest needs, but I know it's you that I need most of all. Please help me. Amen.