The following is an excerpt from Steve Gaines’ new study, Pray Like This. Order your copy or see a free sample today at Lifeway.com/PrayLikeThis. You can also pick up a copy at your local Lifeway Store!
The Loving Father
See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children –
and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that we don’t know him.
Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed.
We know that when he appears, we will be like him because we will see him as he is.
1 John 3:1-2
When Jesus told His first followers to address God as Father, it must have come as a shock. It wasn’t the first shocking thing He had said to them, for this Model Prayer comes in the context of Jesus’ great Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus had warmed up the crowd with controversial statements about what it really means to be called blessed and with the assertion that thinking badly of people is the same as killing them. But the introduction of the word Father took the sermon to another level.
Judaism strongly held to the established belief that God was absolutely unapproachable. Was He to be loved? Certainly. Respected? Absolutely. Feared? Without question. This was the culture that wouldn’t even speak the revealed name of God, and when people had to write it in Scripture, they did so with great honor and respect. Some traditions say scribes broke the pens they had used to write the name of God after they had finished.
Enter Jesus, this strange rabbi who had no fear of or regard for the religious leaders of the time and who spoke with unmatched authority. There He was on a hillside talking about the revered God of Israel with an air of unmistakable familiarity. And that’s just what God was going for.
God’s purpose wasn’t to be disrespected or approached casually—far from it. It was that God wanted to be in a relationship with His people that wasn’t marked by fear but by love, not by apprehension but by an appreciation of His great grace and compassion. He wanted to be their dad.
That’s where the love of God takes us. John described it like this: “See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children” (1 John 3:1). God’s great love doesn’t make us His servants. It doesn’t make us the people He puts up with. God’s great love makes us His sons and daughters. Father is the Christian name for God.
A real father cares. He protects. He encourages. He advises. But above all, a real father loves. Always and without condition. A real father waits on the porch to welcome home his children, regardless of where they’ve been or what they’ve done. A real father is proud of his children and takes no greater pleasure than giving them what they need.
God has such an intense desire for fatherhood that He’s willing, day in and day out, to adopt spiritual orphans from the world into his family. Father isn’t a universal term for God, for not every human being is a child of God. God’s family has only one natural child, and that’s Jesus Christ. Everyone else comes into the family by adoption. God has brought us into His house, never to be put out in the cold again. That’s what a real father does.