Things That Are Above

Gospel Thinking for Gospel Living

We Want to Be with Our Father

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Fatherlessness

We all want to be with our fathers. Biologically speaking, there is an inborn desire in each of us for the approval, love, and support of our earthly fathers. The various effects of either a father’s presence or absence in his child’s life corroborate this fact, as does the fact that a majority of even abused children describe their fathers positively. We all long for a father figure in our lives.

But as of 2009, 31.5% of all children living in the United States live apart from their father. In my own youth group, most of the kids live without a father. Some of them have suffered physical and/or emotional abuse at the hands of their fathers. All of the youth, both those with and those without their father in their lives, long for a father’s approval, love, and support just like you and I do.

How can we best minister to the fatherless in an increasingly fatherless society? 

My Joy as a Father

God has blessed me with a baby girl named Hadassah Joy who adores me, and I’m so grateful to him for her and for the joy she brings my wife, Abi, and me. All the time I see just how much Hadassah wants my approval, love, and support. She has learned how to do a lot of things the past couple of weeks, and when she demonstrates her new skills of waving and shaking her head either yes or no, she is so proud of herself when I say, “Good job, baby! You’re so smart!” She smiles and shows her dimples when I shower her with approval. If Hadassah is sitting down when I praise her, she sits up as high as she can and laughs through her nose while nodding yes.

I also see how Hadassah longs for my love and support. On the mornings that I get her up out of bed, she reaches for me to pick her up as I near her crib. When I give her a kiss, she giggles and squeals. When she cries, she wants me to hold her in my arms and pet her hair (or, more likely, feed her a bottle!).

This morning, I saw Hadassah’s desire to be with her dad in a whole new way. Abi, Hadassah, and I were eating breakfast before I left for Calvary. I finished before Hadassah did, and it was time for me to go. Although she was loving the “bites” Abigail was feeding her of scrambled eggs and biscuits, after I kissed her goodbye and was heading out the door, she started bawling. I looked back in before closing the door and she was looking back at me because she wanted to be with her father; she didn’t want me to leave her. (Of course, it then took me a lot longer to leave because I didn’t want her to be sad when I left!)

I can’t imagine life without Hadassah. I can’t imagine not being a father any more than I can imagine not being a husband, not being a preacher, or not being a Christian. My heart is burdened for my own youth who are in such desperate need for a father figure. My age limits me pretty much to an older brother figure at best for the kids in my youth group, but even when I’m old enough to be kids’ parents, the best way I can minister to the fatherless around me is by pointing them to the Father who is in heaven.

God’s Trinitarian “Family”

To defend this statement requires careful Trinitarian writing. John in his Gospel makes it clear that Jesus, God the Son, and God the Father are one God and yet distinct from one another. Jesus is the “Word” who “became flesh and dwelt among us,” whose “glory” is the “glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). As the Word, Jesus “was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (1:1-2). Jesus is “the only God, who is at the Father’s side” who “has made him known” (1:18). Jesus and the Father are one God, but they are distinct Persons (to use Nicene language). Therefore, Jesus can say in one breath,

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (10:27-30)

Jesus is both distinct from the Father in his person and one with the Father in his essence. Although Jesus is our older brother (Rom. 8:29), he can therefore say to his disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans” (John 14:18). Although Jesus is distinct from God the Father, “he is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), and “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:19). “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). “God [the Father] has chosen to dwell amongst his people in a yet more personal way, in the Word-became-flesh [God the Son]” (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 127).

We, of course, live after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. He is no longer physically present among us as he was among his disciples. We, along with his original disciples, are the recipients of the promise he made them concerning how we will experience God’s Triune presence in between Jesus’ first and second comings.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. … If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:16-18, 23)

In these verses, Jesus promises his disciples that after his ascension, they will receive the indwelling presence of the Triune God. The Holy Spirit who dwelt among them before the ascension will dwell in them after the ascension (v. 18). Jesus also promised that he and God the Father would also indwell believers (v. 23). Christians have the indwelling presence of the entire Trinity.

Becoming a Member of God’s Family

God the Father is the best father you or I could ever present to anyone. Jesus Christ is the best “big brother” you or I could ever present to anyone. He embodies the saying, “Like father, like son.” And all of us, father or no father, family or no family, need God as our Father and Christ as our Brother. God is a Father to the fatherless; he is “the helper of the fatherless” who “upholds” them (Pss. 10:14; 146:9). God is the Father who always “disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Heb. 12:10). And Jesus Christ, God incarnate, is coming back for us God’s children. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:27-28).

Is God your Father? Do you want to be with him for eternity? You can become his child right now by faith that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross saves you from your sin (John 1:12-13). Because my heart breaks not only for the physical fatherlessness of many of Calvary’s youth but also for the spiritual fatherlessness of so many of them, it is my prayer for them that they would reach repentance before the Lord comes back (2 Pet. 3:9) and thus become children of God. But my prayer is also that of John’s at the end of Revelation. I want to be with my Father. I want him to come back in the Person of Jesus Christ from heaven even more than Hadassah wants me to come home from work. I hope you can and will join me in the simple prayer, that honest heart’s cry: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

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