Saturday, April 25, 2009

Calling God "Daddy"- Part 1

The last time my family and I were in the States I was able to preach at a number of churches. The message that I spoke was "What Uganda Has Taught Me", which is a bit unusual for a missionary to speak on. After all, haven't I been sent to Uganda to teach others? Well, I guess that is partly true, but I am not afraid to readily admit that Uganda has taught me FAR more than I have had to offer myself. It is in this place (New Hope Uganda) and in this community of believers that I have learned family, fatherhood, manhood, and a much greater vision and understanding of the Gospel of Jesus. One of the greatest truths to radically penetrate my heart has been the doctrine of adoption and all that is held out for us in relationship to our Daddy God. Yes, Daddy God, I know that is a bit "personal" for a reference to God, at least by most people's standards. Yet it was here that I first began comfortably referring to God as Daddy.

I can remember the first time I heard someone call God "Daddy". I was at Bible College and my good friend Drew Kelly prayed and addressed God as "Daddy". I was stunned. "Did he just say THAT". I thought he was weird (after all, God is too big and mighty to be called Daddy), yet deep down I knew that I longed for that kind of freedom in my relationship with my heavenly Father. I just didn't understand that that was what the Gospel truly frees me to do. I have found that is true of most Christians. When I was preaching in those churches about what Uganda has taught me, I focused on the doctrine of adoption. I asked the congregations how many of them have ever called God "Daddy". Do you think it was the majority of people? Of course not. In fact, in a crowd of around 200, I found that if 10 people raised their hands that was pretty good. It was typically around 5. Why?

For most of us it is much easier to relate to God as King and Master (which He is!), yet often I think we are naive as to just why that is. I think it comes back to our reductionist Gospel and the way we have been "taught" to read the storyline. Our emphasis on justification alone tends to bend us that way. For example, when we read Genesis 1-3 we naturally read it through the lens of God as King, though that term is not there. If you read commentaries on creation in Genesis, God is pictured as a King issuing forth his commands. My favorite kids' Bible (The Big Picture Story Bible put out by Crossway) does an amazing job of presenting the consistent development of the theme of God's rule, God's people, God's king and God's place throughout the Old Testament, and the grounding for the Kingship of God is of course in Genesis 1-3. Yet why do we naturally read it through the lens of Kingship when the motif of God's Fatherhood is just as clearly unfolded there?

Why do we naturally read the text this way? Well, part of the reason is that God IS KING over the world, there is no question of that, so it is quite a natural reading of the text to see God as the King and us as his subjects, those who will be shown to break his commands and therefore come under his judgment. This is the clearest way we present the Gospel looking back on the OT to introduce the concept of sin and our need of a Savior for violating our Just King God's commands. But remember, our reductionist Gospel simply emphasizes our need for JUSTIFICATION and presents the Gospel only in that context. What is lost?

Here is what is lost- the reality that God is the true Father of all of humanity (see Acts 17:28-29 as well as Luke 3:38 where Adam is called the son of God) and at creation our amazing and loving and perfect Father provided us with everything we need (identity, security, provision and protection) all found in Himself and in the security of the garden. At the fall we rebelled against our Father (and King) and began life "outside the family". But the Father was not done with His children. He had a plan that was set from eternity to send the PERFECT and UNIQUE Son of God to die for our sins and to undo what was done at the fall, and to bring His children back into His family through adopting us back (wouldn't that make a great kid's Bible!).

You can then read through the entire OT and see how God unfolds the fact that He is Israel's Father (as well as King), all culminating in Jesus' coming (the true King) who came to reveal the Father (read John 14) and how to be in relationship with the Father. Because we don't tend to read the storyline this way, we naturally lose what it means at salvation to be brought into the family of God (a HUGE NT theme) and to be able to call God "Father" and even "Daddy" (more on this later) through our spiritual adoption by God.

That is why most of us simply assume that we have been "born again" into the family of God and never think much about what it means that God is truly our Father. We have little foundation for walking in relationship with this true and perfect Father as the one who IS our identity, security, provision and protection. Eph. 3:14 says that it is in God that every family (or literally every fatherhood) in heaven and on earth is NAMED, yet we have very little understanding of what Paul is talking about here because we don't understand the storyline in terms of family. We also so often fail to grasp just what is held out to us in relationship with this amazing God and Father.

May we as God's people begin to be confronted by who God has revealed Himself to be and who we truly are IN Him as His children and as the bride of our Lord Jesus. And wouldn't it be awesome to find a kids' Bible that traced the themes of Kingship and Fatherhood throughout the Bible as well. Who knows, maybe someday...

(the pic is of me, Isaiah and my "son" John around a growing Jackfruit- which is the most unique fruit in the world! I chose this pic simply because it pictures the natural intimacy of my sons and I. They don't hesitate to call me "Papa")


Tremonisha said...

I just finished reading this blog after listening to a sermon called
When God Says, "Not Now" by Piper. I appreciate your point Uncle Keith because I was able to connect what Piper was saying about God being a wise Father to your point about God being an intimate Father. God's intimate loving Knowledge=God's wisdom in his timing. The idea of God being an intimate Father makes it easier to grapple with unanswered prayer. I can't totally articulate the connections between this blog and Piper's sermon but it really helped me process my thoughts :)



Anonymous said...

I think that if more people saw God as Daddy, and Abba Father as Jesus called him; we would have a lot of empowered Spirit-aware Christians who truly knew the power of their Daddy and they would move in confidence.

I really like how you search out and seek out in your blogs. It's good.

I think people often just get fire insurance and treat God as Lord over the Universe company and not Daddy and Lord over their lives. -Dave (