Friday, 16 October 2015

The Father Who Bruises the Son

Scripture

Today's full reading is John 18:1-14
Jesus commanded Peter, 'put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?'
John 18:11
Observation

Jesus is clear. What's happening to him is from the Father.

He rebukes Peter on that basis: 'this has come to me from the Father.' Jesus trusts his Father and desires to do what the Father sent him to do. His rebuke of Peter is a question that sounds a little like 'do you know better than my Father?!'

Jesus is incredulous. The Father is in charge of all things and is over all things. The Father has given his Son this 'cup' and now the Son must drink it.

The cup he mentions is the same cup he was agonising over in the Garden of Gethsemane. The cup is the wrath of the Father, the cross and the abandonment Jesus will experience by his Father. Having already asked for 'another way' Jesus is now convinced that this is the only way. It is certainly the way his Father wants him to travel. Having prayed that prayer and arrived at his conclusion, Jesus is ready.

Peter on the other hand hasn't been on this emotional journey and arrived at the same conclusion. Peter is only concerned with protecting Jesus and getting him enthroned in place of the Romans.

Let's consider the Father mentioned here.

We begin by reminding ourselves that everything else we've seen about him until this point is still true. At this moment it's extremely important for us to keep that in our minds.

With that in place it's clear that this moment, this cup, is not something the Father has issued to his Son easily. This is difficult and costly for both of them, and true as that is - Jesus still drank it, the Father still gave it.

Here we see a God who willingly and without coercion gives up his Son to death. See the Father who allows his Son to drink poison in order that we all may be reconciled to him. This is the final nail in the coffin of the austere, strict and malicious Father God of our nightmares.

This act by the Father was on that broke his heart. This act of braking his Son, broke him. A Father like the one Jesus has been describing to us throughout this series certainly couldn't have been left unaffected by these events.

Prayer

Father Thank you. Thank you for the glorious truth contained here. Thank you for your commitment to me and to us. You're a good good father and I am thrilled to belong to you. I gladly bow my knee to you today, gladly trust you knowing that you would not ask me to do anything you've not been through yourself. You're a Father who identifies with us in our pain. Thank you.

The Father: An Overview

Scripture

Today's reading is the whole of Jesus' prayer in John 17. Since the Father is mentioned throughout the prayer we're not going to focus on one specific verse but instead provide a birds eye overview of some of the themes Jesus draws out. Take some time now to read the chapter, making some observations of your own and then come back and go through it with me.

Observation

Verse 1 - Knowing the Father is eternal life.  This is something that is so exciting it demands a whole extra blog. You can read that blog here if you want to.

Verse 5 - The Father and the Son were together in glory (majesty and splendour) before the world began.

Verse 6 - The Father gave the Son his disciples. He gave the Son those people who are right now believing in him and following him. It can therefore be said that the disciples or believers belonged to the Father since you can't give something you don't have.

Verse 8 - The Father sent the Son. Jesus wasn't acting just out of his own good idea.

Verse 9 - Jesus saw himself as a steward of the things and people that the Father had given to him.

Verse 10 - The Father shares everything with the Son.

Verse 11 - The Father is holy. Holy means pure, untouchable, unapproachable and reserved entirely for God. We also see here that the Father and the Son are one.

Verse 17 - The Father is able to sanctify, that is he is able to make holy. The Father's word is truth.

Verse 21 - The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father.

Verse 24 - The Father has given the Son glory. The Father loved the Son before the world began.

Finally we can observe from verse 25 that the Father is righteous and that the Father is unknown by the world. The world does not know him. For all its ideas about God they fall a long way short of truthfully speaking about the Father and for all its knowledge about God they do not know the Father.

To conclude this devotional series on the Father let's put in front of us all of the descriptions of the Father from the titles of our daily entries:


  • The Forgotten Father
  • The Father of Grace & Truth
  • The Father's Side
  • The Father Hasn't Walked Out On Us
  • The Father and the Son
  • The Father At Work
  • The One the Son is Tethered To
  • The Father Who Raises the Dead
  • The Father Who Honours the Son
  • The Father Who Provides Bread From Heaven
  • The Father Who Gives Eternal Life
  • The Father Who Draws People to the Son
  • The Alive and Life Giving Father
  • The Father Who Seeks His Son's Glory
  • The Father Who Glorifies the Son
  • The Father Who Knows Me
  • The Reason the Father Loves the Son
  • The Father Who Won't Let Go
  • The Father Who Hears the Son
  • The Father Who Honours Us
  • The Father to Trust Unto Death
  • The Slave God
  • The Father, Son & Spirit
  • The Father Death Leads U To
  • The Father is Greater than the Son
  • The Gardening Father
  • The Father to Be Known
We haven't 'made up' any of these. These are all insights from the mouth of Jesus. I trust Jesus. Jesus died on Good Friday and was raised to life on Easter Sunday and is in charge of all things. Jesus can be trusted to speak truthfully about God. He is my primary basis for speaking about the Father. He is my authority for saying anything at all about God. 

Let me finish by quoting again from Doug Wilson's masterful book 'Father Hunger' where he lists the attributes of God's generosity seen in John's gospel:
The most obvious feature of the Father is his generosity. He is generous with his glory (1:14), with tasks (5:18), with his protection (10:28-32), with his home (14:1-2), and with his joy (16:23-24). The Father gives (3:34-36). The Father gives his Son (3:16; 18:11); the Father gives his Spirit (14:16-17); the Father gives himself (14:22-24).
He then goes on to say that God is seeking worshippers who will become like he is, and what is he:
He is generous with everything. Is there anything he has that he has held back? And what should we- tangible fathers- be like? The question is terribly hard to answer, but not because it is difficult to understand.
I hope that these devotional studies have been of benefit to you. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Jez


P.S. For more devotional studies on the Father you're welcome to visit my own blog site www.jezfield.blogspot.co.uk or come back tomorrow for a final (bonus edition) post.




The Father Who Is Eternal Life

Scripture

Today's Bible verse is:
'Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to all those you have given to him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.'
John 17:1
Observation

'This is eternal life' Jesus says, and surely whatever follows next must get our full attention.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.
Eternal life, that is never ending, full blooded, never giving up, never running out, enhanced life in HD, that sort of life comes from and is found in knowing the Father and the Son. Not just knowing about them, not occasionally firing off a prayer to them when we're in need but knowing them. God is a person after all.

This sort of knowledge is less like knowing a recipe or knowing a map and more like knowing my wife. I know her but I'm also always getting to know her. My knowing of her deepens as our intimacy increases. Although I would say that I know her quite well now, I also know that I will never reach the point of saying 'I know enough about her now - she is fully known.'

How much more is that true about God the Father? God is infinitely more exciting and mysterious, perplexing and familiar majestic and nearby.

Application

Jesus says that this is eternal life. Eternal life is not something that happens when I die, it is something that 'happens' (or begins) the moment I begin a relationship with the Father. 'When I met her I felt as though my life had finally begun' is a sentiment often expressed by someone in love, it's just that that sentiment finds its fullest expression and fulfilment in knowing the Father.

When we enter into a relationship with him it is as though Shakespeare's words become true of our lives: all that's past is preface.

Everything that went before is merely the beginning and introduction of what can happen now.

So how do we come to know the Father? First of all we admit. We admit that we've been living a life of worshiping other gods. By that I mean we admit that we've been searching for meaning and fulfilment in everything and anything other than God, the Father who made us and loves us. Second of all we turn away from that life. We're sorry for our idolatry. Thirdly we ask him to forgive us. We believe that Jesus' death on the cross was the payment and punishment that our idolatry deserved. We reach out to Jesus and take hold of him, trusting his sacrifice for our acquittal. Fourthly we begin. We begin a life of knowing him, we ask him to teach us, lead us, and fill us with his Spirit.

Admit. Turn. Ask. Begin. Simples.

Prayer

Thank you Father for the eternal life that is mine in Christ. Thank you that by repenting of my old way of life I entered into a new life of knowing you. Thank you that that life is eternal. Please help me to know you all the more. Amen.

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Father Who Loves Me

Scripture:

Today's Bible reading is John 16:25-33
The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father. 
Observation

I don't know if you've had this experience before, there's every chance that I'm just a little odd, but as I sit here writing this my heart is beating fast at the truth contained in these words. I feel as though an answer to a question I've wondered about for some time has at last arrived.

It's a question Amy and I were discussing together recently: 'since the Father loves the Son so much (and it's clear from John's gospel that he loves him a lot), does he actually love me or is it only the bits of his Son he sees in me that he likes?' Does he love me for me or does he just tolerate me because the Son softens his heart towards me?

Does God know me and love me for me?

It's a valid question.

There are several ways of answering that question but in my opinion none of them are quite as definitive as this one from the mouth of Jesus.

When we come to God and ask him for things 'in the name of Jesus' that means we're asking on the basis of who Jesus is; it's on his reputation and authority that we stake our claims and requests.

What we're not doing (as Jesus points out here) is asking the Son to ask the Father as though he's in the next room. We don't hand our requests to the Son and then wait nervously in the corridor for the Father's answer. Jesus says that explicitly: 'I won't ask him on your behalf' but rather, he says 'the Father loves you.'

It may be temping to skip onto the next phrase from Jesus mouth 'because you love me' and have it sour the statement 'the Father loves you' but before we do, allow this to sink in - the Father loves you. Jesus says so, explicitly.

You. The personal pronoun, you. The you mentioned here are the disciples he's speaking to, so do we have permission from the text to apply that 'you' to well, me? Let's hold that question for now.

We can come to the Father (in Jesus' name) and ask knowing that he loves us, individually.

God the Father lavishes us with his love and kindness and generosity; based on what? Based on the fact that we share a common love: 'because you love me' he says.

Understood like this the phrase that could sound like a reluctant condition to the Father's love ie 'only because you love me', starts to taste a little less bitter and a lot more sweet. It isn't 'I love you - BUT - only because you love him!' but rather 'I love you because you have turned away from loving the things that stop me from knowing you and have come to love the object of my affection as well.' It is this phrase (the 'because you love' the Son phrase) that gives me permission to claim the first part of Jesus' statement for myself: The Father loves you. This makes it true not only of Jesus' original hearers but of me as well since I also love the Son as they did (and this answers the question above that we put on hold).

Application

The Father loves me. The Father loves you. We don't pass our prayers onto the Son who reads them to his Father. We can come in, we can have an audience with him. Why? On what basis can we be so bold? Because he loves us. He loves us. The good and pleasant things we receive in this world do not come to us neutrally. They come from a Father who is good and who does good and who loves us. You are loved.

This also means that the bad and unpleasant stuff in life doesn't come to us as punishment or as evidence of God's disdain toward us. These things come but they do not change the truth of Jesus' words one bit. He loves you.

Prayer

Thank you that you love me Father. Thank you that you are always inclined to bless me, to shower me with goodness, to lavish me with your kindnesses. Thank you Father that I can stand before you, or sit or kneel (or sleep!) and know that you love ME. Me. Little old, smelly old, flawed ME. Yippee. 

Friday, 9 October 2015

The Father to be known


Scripture
Today's reading is John 16:1-15.
Our verse for the day is verse 3:
And these they will do because they have not known the Father nor me.
John 16:3
Observation

The reason, Jesus says, that people (and indeed do) persecute disciple of his is that they do not know the Father. We might have been tempted to say it was because of other things: pride, jealousy, the devil or even a whole manner of things. For Jesus however it's simple: they don't know the Father. They think they're pleasing God, but they don't even know him. Serving God is one thing but knowing him is what really matters. Because you can't actually serve him and do his will until or unless you know him.

Know the Father. When you know him, you'll behave differently. It is knowing the Father and not simply knowing God that counts. Sin comes from not knowing the Father. Prejudice comes from not knowing the Father. Jealousy comes from not knowing the Father.

The Father Is Generous

Scripture

Today's Bible reading is John 15:1-17

'All that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.'
John 15:15
The Son brings us into his confidence. He tells us, or at least he told them who later passed it on to us, all that he heard or hears from his Father.

About the Father we learn that he is a speaking Father who taught and instructed his Son clearly.

The Son is not treated like a servant but a friend. He is told about his Father's business. His Father hasn't kept him in the dark. This then is how the Trinity behaves. God speaks and share with his own. Those who might be outsiders he brings in. Servants become friends and Sons who are invited into and share ownership of the family business. Then, following on from this specific mention of the Father is the next time he's mentioned:

Whatever we ask the Father in Jesus' name. he gives to us.

We've been brought into friendship with Christ so that we bear fruit, lasting fruit and receive from the Father. We receive by being able to ask in the Son's name, authority, authrship and confidence. We're able to ask in the Son's name because he's revealed his 'business' to us and made us friends. We're able to be in the right task in our asking that means the Father will approve our requests.

The Father is generous. God is generous. I am a recipient of his Generosity.

The Father To Obey

Scripture

Today's reading is John 15:1-17.
'If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, just as I have kept the commandments of my Father and abide in his love.'
John 15:10
Observation

'I love you!' we might declare to God, or sing in a song,
'Then keep my commandments, do as I say.' He'd perhaps say back to us.

For Jesus there is a close link between loving God and doing what he says. To obey someone shows that you trust them. Jesus wants us to do what he has done. He obeys his Father and so abides in his love.

Do I want to know God more? Do I want to rest in God? Do I want to rest in God? Do I want to experience his love in an ongoing never ending way? Then I must obey him. Obedience doesn't always come from a place of love, we obey for many different reasons. But love is not love if it doesn't look to obey and honour the object of its affection.


The Father who wants fruitfulness

Scripture

Today's full Bible reading comes from John 15:1-17.
By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
John 15:8
If we've learnt anything from this devotional study it's that the Father is always wanting to glorify the Son and the Son is always wanting to glorify the Father.

So when the Son says 'my Father is glorified when you bear much fruit' he's essentially saying 'bear as much fruit as possible.' and fruit (whatever it is) is clearly something good, something that I'd want.

Again we see the round about and constant Other affirming nature of the Godhead:

  • Glorify my Father by bearing fruit
  • Prove to be my disciples (thus glorifying the Son)
The Son says 'glorify him', the Father says 'glorify him!' each about the other.

This is good for us too for since God is Other-centred and outwardly life giving we benefit from him when he is glorified by and in us. As a result of the 'glorify-him no glorify-him!' nature of God we get to 'bear fruit'. But what exactly is 'fruit'? It's obviously a good thing, but other than that what can we say, what are we talking about? Let's look into the passage to find out.

Let's look at v12-15:
  • The first thing suggested from these verses it that it's obedience, but not just cold and plain obedience, it's obedience that's born out of intimacy and familiarity with God. So, stating it more clearly, part of the fruit is intimacy and friendship with God.
  • Also in our mind at this point, and not inconsistent with the above statement, it's the Fruit of the Spirit laid out by Paul in Galatians 5:22. It is character that is Godlike. We become more life giving, generous, warm hearted and joyful - that's fruit I'd be keen to produce!
  • Fruit also has something to do with answered prayer. The Father wants and will answer our prayers.


 

The Gardening Father

Scripture

Today's full Bible reading is John 15:1-17
'I am the true vine and my Father is the vine dresser.'
John 15:1
Observation

This is quite a clear 'here's what the Father's like' sort of verse. The Father is the 'vine dresser' or sometimes the translations say 'the gardener'.

He is as actively involved with his people as a vine dresser or gardener is with his plants. Daily a gardener waters, prunes and shapes his plants and depending on the season of the year he treats it differently. In winter the vine gets very little attentions from a gardener apart from perhaps some protection from the frost. In spring time there is weeding and shaping, in summer there is watering and gathering and in autumn there is preparing for winter.

As a vine dresser he knows the vine, knows its needs and is committed to the vine's wellbeing. The vine after all is Christ, not us; that is perhaps a useful idea and one for us to stay with for a while. I am/we are branches on the vine and get the attention and dedication of the vine dresser purely because I'm part of the vine and the gardener loves the vine.

Again we see how much the Father is committed to his Son and how my benefits come from being in the Son. Plead the Son therefore, have confidence in the Son. Dote on the Son, delight in the Son, have the love and affection of the Father toward the Son.

The Father tenderly prunes, shapes, harvest, waters and waits over the vine. Those are all words then that describe the character and personality of the Father, my Father.

Application

The vine dresser always acts in such a way to try and bring about more fruitfulness from the vine. The Father, by implication, will always work and act in our lives to try and bring about more fruitfulness for us. Fruitfulness of Christ-like character, fruitfulness of intimacy with the Father, fruitfulness of answered prayer and personal joy in God.

Given that that's his motive it allows me to surrender to his ways and submit myself to what he wants to do. But surrender in the Christian life isn't 'let go', surrender is 'go on abiding'. When I surrender to God and submit myself to his plans that doesn't mean that I 'coast' through life or that I simply shrug my shoulders and say 'whatever will be, will be'. Rather it looks like a practical and intentional pursuit of Jesus. I am promised the vine dresser's good will by virtue of 'abiding' in the vine and so I shall ensure that I, in as many ways and means, abide in the vine.

Prayer

Father. Thank you so much that you are committed to the careful working and pruning and shaping and trimming of my life, with the intention of bringing about more fruitfulness. Thank you that you give what I desire, fruitfulness, purpose and intimacy. Help me to surrender, not in the sense that I 'give up' but in the sense that I 'press in' to Jesus more and more. Amen.