This sermon is number 6 in a series of 6
The Father Heart Of God - Part 6
"Abiding In Abba's Love"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2015 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Well, good evening everyone. Thank you to Gordon and to the praise group. Thank you for your thank you, and for your kind words, for having been here and having had the privilege of ministering to you this week - and I do mean that: it has been a privilege, not just to be with you dear folk in fellowship, but to have the joy of studying God's word. The preacher always is the better recipient of blessing, I believe, labouring in the truth and then delivering it - hopefully in the power of the Holy Spirit, and knowing the blessing. I have seen lives that are being changed before my very eyes. It's all God's doing, and it's wonderful to see it and we give Him all the praise and all the glory - for it's only God can do anything worthwhile, isn't that right? We have been seeing it, and we praise God for it and rejoice. I rejoice with you, those of you who have been able to embrace this great truth of 'The Father Heart of God'. We're not finished tonight, tonight is the crescendo, I believe, and I'm excited about what God is going to do. But thank you for being here, some of you have been here every night - I have to be here every night, but you don't, and I do appreciate that. So thank you for coming. Some of you, it's your first night tonight - where were you? No, I don't mean that! We're glad to see you, and if you can avail yourself of the resources and catch up, I believe you will be blessed.
We're turning in our Bibles tonight to Jude - that's the little book before the last book, the book of Revelation - so Jude, it's only one chapter so it shouldn't be hard to find the chapter. The verses we're going to read, verses 20 and 21. Now, when you get that portion, let's pray and ask God to speak to us. Would you do that? Those of you who have been here during the week, we have been praying before we come to the Scriptures and asking God to speak to our individual hearts - would you do that just now? Say: 'Lord, speak to me, reveal Yourself to me, show me more of the depths of Your love for me. Teach me not only how to receive it, but how to have a greater capacity to receive more of Your love, and how to share it with others, that others might see Your love in me'. So let's come and open our hearts, and become attuned to what the Spirit has to say to us tonight.
We bow our knee before the Father, of whom every family in heaven and earth is named. We worship at Your feet tonight Father, Abba Father. As we approach You with fear and reverence - recognising that You are holy, holy, holy, God - we thank You that we have this depth of intimacy that we can call You our Father. Lord, I pray just now that every single one of the people gathered here - those who have been with us during the journey of the week, those for whom it is their first time here - that everyone would get a glimpse into Father's heart tonight, and would learn how to abide in Abba's love. So we wait upon You, Lord, we pray for Your light and Your love to flood into this place, into our minds and our hearts, and to dispel all the darkness - put out all the darkness - out of this room, out of the atmosphere, out of our lives, that we will be filled with Your light, Your truth, and with Your love. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
So we've been looking these nights at 'The Father Heart of God', transforming truths from Abba's heart to yours. We started off on Sunday evening - and I might test you to see if you can remember the subjects, some of you look as if you're panicking now! Sunday evening was that the Father's heart 'Beats With The Rhythm Of Grace'. Monday night was that this truth is 'What Our Aching Hearts Long For And Need'. Tuesday night we looked at 'Father Flaws', and how our earthly fathers can affect how we view God in heaven, and the connotation of the very term 'father'. Then Wednesday evening we looked at 'Mother Wounds', and how in the heart of Father God - who is a Father - there is love stronger than any mother, even with a mother's touch, and we looked at several scriptures for that. Then last evening - can you help me out, what did we look at last evening? Yes, 'Elder Brother Disease' - we looked at this other son in the parable of the prodigal that we have been in several evenings. Tonight we're looking at 'Abiding In Abba's Love'. You see, it would be very easy for us to get a sort of momentary glimpse - or, it's more than that, it should be a seismic revelation - of the love that's in Father's heart, but where do we go from here?
So let's look at this from verses 20 and 21 of Jude, just as a starting place: "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God", and that's the phrase I want to emphasise tonight, "keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life".
We spent a lot of time this week in the parable of the prodigal son, which I would like to retitle and designate 'The Parable of Abba's Heart' - because, as we've seen, it's not about the prodigal, and it's not even about the two sons, even though there is more than one son in the parable; it's about the father, it's about the Father's heart that is shown in Jesus as He goes and touches the untouchable, and does the unthinkable and expresses the love of God to sinners. But the prodigal parable is not about the beginning of a relationship with God - and though we sometimes, preachers, use it in a Gospel and evangelistic context (and I'm not against that, I do it myself) - essentially the parable is more about restoring a relationship that should already be there. Both sons were self-centred. One was self-centred concerning the pleasures of the flesh, the other was self-centred in his performance relationship with his father, but he was engaging in the sins of the spirit as we saw last night. But essentially both sons used their father for what they could get out of him - it's important that we notice this.
They used their father, rather than valuing intimacy with him, valuing him for who he really was. The prodigal valued him for his inheritance, and I said a few nights ago that when he came and asked his father for what was going to befall him, he was essentially saying: 'Dad, I wish you were dead, six foot under, so that I could get my hands on your money' - how must that have made father feel? He just wanted what was coming to him, his inheritance. But the elder brother wasn't that different in that he was serving and slaving for his father in the field in order to earn wages and gain reward, gain his father's favour. Now there is a great danger that we as Christians, if we have the conversion new birth experience, that we are in Father's house - just like both these sons - and we know some of the benefits of sonship, but we are rather selfish in the way in which we relate to God.
Let me give you an example: for some Christians, it's all about salvation, everything revolves around being saved and knowing you're going to heaven, and having the assurance of sins forgiven. Now that's not wrong, that's a great blessing and benefit of the Gospel of course. Then there are other Christians, and there is a great emphasis on spiritual gifts and spiritual experiences - and, again, that is not essentially wrong. Scripture teaches us to desire earnestly the best gifts of the Spirit and, as we saw the other night, the Bible is full of spiritual experiences. Whilst none of us live a daily routine of spiritual phenomena, this Christian life is a journey of experiencing God in a personal way - and that is all there. But there is a danger that we look to get things from God, whether it's getting out of hell and going to heaven, whether it's getting the slate clean and all our sins purged, whether it's spiritual giftedness and all sorts of supernatural abilities - we can do all of that, desire all of that at the expense of actually valuing God for who He is, and pursuing spiritual intimacy with Him.
You see, if you only relate to God in a superficial way, you will either end up like the young son in the far country seeking other satisfactions, or you will become a religious formalist that is completely detached from the reality of who God is and what He wants to do. I have to say that I believe that's one of the reasons why there is spiritual famine in the church in general here in the Western world - because we pursue God for what we can get out of Him, rather than pursuing Him for who He is, valuing intimacy with Him as our Heavenly Father. I also believe it's the reason why sexual sin is at an all-time high within the Kingdom of God. I know I've touched on this on several evenings, and I haven't gone into it in much detail. Figures and all sorts of statistics are floating around, but one indicates that upwards of 50% of men within church circles struggle with sexual sin and sexual addictions. The prodigal teaches us that if we don't value our intimacy with God as Father, we will end up seeking other substitutes, and we will end up going way far from God into a far country, and eventually wallowing in the pigpen joined to something other than God.
Other people don't go down the immoral route as such, but they try to find meaning in power, in possessions, in position, in other people, places, or performance - just like the elder brother. It doesn't really matter. As we saw last evening, the answer and solution for both these sons was the same. Their empty hearts needed to discover their Heavenly Father, and appreciate the love that he had for them. That's what you need tonight. Whether you're trying to find satisfaction in religion or in the world, your emptiness, the aching void in your heart, will only be filled by the revelation of the Father Heart of God and appreciating who He really is. You see, who He really is as Father will move you to the place when you will discover who you truly are. There is a great crisis of identity in the world, even in the church - we don't know who we are, and we don't know how to behave, and it seems that we can't behave right. But when you realise who your Heavenly Father really is, you will discover who you are truly, and also how you should be living.
Can I just say: this is the way to holiness, this is the path to sanctification - not 'trying to be holy'. If you're one of these Christians that's trying your best, and struggling and striving, and you have a drivenness, but you are not abiding in Father's love, this is the reason why you're always falling flat on your face. You cannot achieve holiness by trying. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that holiness should not be taught separate from intimacy with God. That's a very strong statement, but I believe it is true. For years from pulpits right throughout our churches - whatever particular denominational persuasion it is, that doesn't matter whatsoever - holiness has been preached, different strains, different understandings of it, and many people have had burdens upon them: 'I need to do better, I need to live cleaner, I need to stop doing this and start doing that' - and they cannot do it! The pharisaical religious spirit is putting burdens upon people that cannot be borne, and those that are teaching them - including myself on occasion - can't even shift them with our little fingers, that's what Jesus said of the Pharisees. We put burdens on people, but we can't deal with them.
You see, the secret to holiness - if it is a secret, and it's not, it's an open revelation in Scripture - is intimacy with Heavenly Father. Because, you see, it's impossible to get holiness any other way. When you preach holiness without intimacy, all it does is condemn people and weigh them down. It is wholeness that leads to holiness: knowing who our Heavenly Father is, our identity in Him as sons and daughters in the Kingdom, we then know how to behave because of who we are related to. This is right throughout the New Testament: what you believe affects the way you behave. What you do does not determine who you are - that's the religious performance spirit - what you do does not determine who you are, who you are determines what you do. So when you understand who Father is, you know who you are, and then you know how you ought to behave. Are you with me?
So, do you know who your Heavenly Father is, and do you know who you are? Or are you still struggling and striving to try to be what you think you ought to be, and what God expects of you, but there is a shortfall of intimacy with God? Do you remember in Matthew chapter 4, where Jesus was tempted, led into the wilderness by the Spirit and tested by Satan? Satan came to Jesus and he said: 'If You are the Son of God turn these stones into bread' - do you remember that? What a lot of people don't realise is that Satan is a serpent, and his subtlety is great. He dropped a word, a very important word, in that temptation. He called Jesus the 'Son of God', and he's quite happy to do that - that's something he knew he wouldn't get away with diluting with Jesus, he's standing before the Son of God, he knows exactly who He is - but there is one very significant word that he dropped. Do you know that word is? Well, go back a chapter to Matthew chapter 3, and what happens there? It is the baptism of Jesus. John the Baptist says: 'I need to be baptised by You', and Jesus said, 'No, to fulfil all righteousness, you baptise Me'. Jesus is baptised of John the Baptist, and what happens? It says the heavens cleaved, the dove or semblance of a dove comes down as the Holy Spirit anoints Jesus, and there is a voice that comes from the Excellent Glory - and what does it declare? 'This is My Beloved Son'. Satan dropped the designation 'Beloved'. Now, why is that significant? It's significant because it is keeping ourselves in the love of God that will make you holy and enable you to resist temptation. It's relationship, it's knowing that you are beloved of God.
So, do you keep yourself in the love of God? In fact, Paul, when he came in Romans - after spending 11 chapters expounding the wonder of the Gospel and how we ought to take it to the ends of the world - he says in chapter 12 verse 1: 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice', and you know the rest of those two verses. But the whole point is: because of everything that God has done for you in love, all of these blessings, your response ought to be just surrendering everything. As we sang last evening at the close of the meeting: 'Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all'. You see, when we get a true revelation of the love that is in the Father heart of God, we will then be able to hate sin - only then - because then sin will become a threat to our intimacy with Heavenly Father, and we don't want to lose that. That can only happen when we know who He is, the love that is in His heart, our identity as sons and daughters in Him. Can I tell you: that is who we already are. If you have repented of your sins, believed the Gospel, you already are a child of God. John 1:12: 'To as many as received Him', that's Jesus Christ, 'to them He gave the', power or the authority, 'the right to be called the sons', the children, 'of God, even to as many as believed on His name'.
You see, we are striving to be someone, aren't we? To be a better Christian, to earn God's favour - it's that performance-based relationship we talked about last night, the elder brother disease - when we've already got it! If we would just stand under the open heaven, as Jesus stood that day at His baptism, and realise that in Christ we are accepted in the Beloved, and we are beloved sons and daughters of God. Amen?
Now, let's see tonight what we already have as we seek to abide in Abba's heart. There are two things I want to share with you, two very simple things. The first is the truth of adoption. If you're going to abide in Father's love, you've got to understand the truth of adoption in Scripture. Now there are two ways to have a child, generally speaking: naturally and through adoption. Now, naturally you get what you get, isn't that right? There's not much choice there, boy or girl, well, really - unless you're going to go down the scientific route, it's frightening with engineering today - but generally you can't choose a boy or girl; you can't choose their personality type, whether they are extrovert or introvert; you can't choose blonde hair and blue eyes, or dark hair and brown eyes. What you get is what you get in natural birth, but in adoption you see what you're getting - do you understand? When you adopt a child you get a full history of the child's background, family, lineage, warts and all - it's all in the open. The Bible teaches us that when we become Christians, we discover that we have been adopted by God the Father as His children. Listen: the Father knows who you are, He knows everything about you.
You see, some of us don't know who we are. Some of you don't appreciate that you're unique, one-of-a-kind. I mean, this never ceases to amaze me: you think of the 7, nearly 8, billion people on the face of the globe this evening. Out of all the billions of humanity, there is not two that are identical - even identical twins are not identical. Isn't that remarkable? You are special, in this myriad of human faces you are unique, and God has made you the way you are. He has formed you the way you are, you are not a mistake. You may have grown up not liking yourself, or wishing that you could change this or that, but you need to hear what God says about you - not what pop culture, or the glossy women's magazines, say about you and what weight you should be and what height you should be and what complexion you should be. Listen to what God your Father says: 'For You created my inmost being', says the psalmist, 'You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days were ordained for me, written in Your book, before one of them came to be. How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God, how vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of the sand'. Amen!
God knows your full history. He knows the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are no surprises, He knows everything - and yet He loves you, and He made you. Maybe this is a bridge too far for some of you, but I have to say this: He likes you, He likes you! Now I'm not saying He likes everything you do, and I'm not saying He necessarily loves your lifestyle or some of the choices you've made, or the personality that you may have become through some of those lifestyle choices - but I want you to understand this evening that the miracle of this message that we preach that is the Gospel of God's grace, is that knowing you the way you really are, and knowing me the way I really am, He wants us! He wants you as His child! Not only does He want you in His family, the Bible teaches that He has actively pursued you!
We saw the other evening how, when we sin - particularly as Christians - we tend to run away from God, and we become fearful of Him; when we can run to Him, like the prodigal, walk toward Him for forgiveness. But we saw from the prodigal that God was running to the prodigal! We run away from God, God runs towards us! John 6:44: 'No one can come to Me', Jesus said, 'unless the Father who sent Me draws him' - that's amazing, isn't it? God knows everything about you, even the stuff you have forgotten and you're ignorant of, and yet He wants you. He wants you as His child, and He pursues you. He desires that we should know who we are, and He also desires that we should know what we have in the family.
Could you turn with me tonight Romans chapter 8, we're going to spend a wee bit of time there. I have a lot to say to you tonight - am I allowed to take a wee bit extra tonight? I know that's pushing it, because I can go on a bit in normal terms - there was no response there, which is a wee bit disconcerting! Can I go on a wee bit longer, is that alright? You're hardly going to say no, are you? I hope not. Romans 8:15, these are marvellous verses: 'For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father'. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together'.
Now, to be adopted in Bible times could give you, potentially, a number of problems. Often for children who were adopted, sometimes out of slavery into families, there was a long adjustment period for them - you can understand that. Here would be a child with the mindset of a slave, and come into this home and only have related to a master as a slave, and don't know what it is to relate as a son or daughter to a father. Imagine no longer being forced to do things against your will, things that you used to do on a regular basis. You can imagine the adjustment, and the time that it took. Also, moving from the poverty of a slave to knowing the blessing of being in the family - and some slaves that were adopted still had this mentality of poverty and slavery; not enjoying, in other words, what was actually theirs with their father. We can be like that, we can still have the mindset of a slave, we can still have the poverty of a slave. I want to ask you tonight: what is it that keeps you back from moving in and living in your inheritance as a son or a daughter of God?
Look at verse 17 of Romans 8: 'If children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ' - that is profound. Do you remember in the prodigal son, it says that a certain man had two sons, and the younger son came to him and asked father to divide his livelihood - and it was divided, the inheritance was divided between the two sons, they were joint heirs if you like. Imagine, would you, four children in a family, and the last remaining parent dies. All the possessions, property, is split equally between the four in the family - you can imagine the solicitor sitting behind the desk with the will before him, and he says to them: 'You are all joint heirs'. You know what that means, don't you? What one gets, they all get equally. Now you look at this verse, verse 17: we are joint heirs with Jesus. What does that mean? To be joint heirs with Jesus? Listen: this means that God makes no difference between you and Jesus! He makes no difference between His adopted sons and daughters and His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ the Lord of Glory. That means that whatever is Jesus' becomes yours, whatever destiny is Jesus' becomes your destiny, whatever inheritance is given to the Son of God becomes your inheritance. You are a joint heir of God in Jesus Christ - that blows my mind! You are in the will with Jesus, whatever He gets you get!
Now that also includes suffering in verse 17, and we've got to be prepared for that. I said the other evening as we looked at 'Father Flaws', that very probably you think of yourself as your father on earth thought of you. What your father pronounced over you, his attitude toward you, that may be reflected in your own self-image. But when you take this into this realm of our Heavenly Father, what does our Heavenly Father think of us? What does He say of us? What does He pronounce over our lives? Well, it's in His will: what He thinks of His Son, what He gives to His Son, what He's going to do for His Son! If you turn - not now but at a later time - to Ephesians chapter 1, you will see another sphere of the doctrine of adoption. We read there that we have been raised with Jesus Christ, we have ascended with Jesus Christ, we are seated with Jesus Christ, and we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus - wow!
Now I know where I am tonight, but that makes me want to dance - I could do a dance up here! The truth, the truth of what it means to be a joint heir with Jesus! Some of you here tonight have been listening to what the enemy says about you, what your parents and other authority figures have said over you, and what you have agreed in self pronouncements over yourself - and you're not hearing what God your Father says about you! You are an heir of God, and a joint heir with Jesus Christ the Son of God! Are you getting excited about this? I tell you: adoption in the New Covenant is even greater than that - do you know why? Because you could be an adopted child in the legal sense in our society or in biblical times, but even today, and you could have the same legal status as a biological son or daughter - but you could never ever be flesh and blood, biologically related to your adopted parents. Correct? But we read in Peter's Epistle that as children of God we become partakers of the divine nature - wow! We become biologically related to God - now it's not biological, but it's spiritual. We get God's life, we get God's likeness - look at verse 16 of Romans 8: 'The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God'. Oh boy, that is wonderful! Do you know what your adoption means as a child of God? Are you living in your inheritance? Or are you living with the mindset of a slave, still under some legalistic system? Are you living as a spiritual pauper, not tapping into the wonderful inheritance of your Father's house that is all yours? Whatever belongs to Jesus is now yours, and you can share it with Him!
Do you know that in a slave house in Bible times, a slave would have called their master 'Pater'? It's a stricter sterner word for 'father'. Do you see if that slave was adopted and put into the family of his master? He would no longer call his master 'Pater', he would call his master, his father, 'Abba'. God longs for you to call Him 'Abba'.
We've looked at adoption, that's intrinsic to abiding in the love of God. Now finally I want us to look at 'Abba', this word, this designation, this name that God wants you to call Him. Can I ask you: do you call Him 'Abba'? Do you call God 'Abba Father'? Do you know Him as 'Abba'? James Montgomery Boice in his footnote in his commentary on the book of Galatians has a reference to an essay that was written, an academic essay, in 1965 by J. Jeremias, and it's entitled 'Abba' in a larger work, a larger volume, called 'The Central Message of the New Testament'. So there is this essay entitled 'Abba' in a great work called 'The Central Message of the New Testament' - and I believe that the name 'Abba' is the central theme of what Jesus Christ came to do. He came to reveal the heart of the Father towards lost sinners, and He wants us to know Him as 'Abba'.
Turn with me quickly to Galatians chapter 4. We've seen the word 'Abba' in Romans 8, the name 'Abba', but come now to Galatians chapter 4 verse 4: 'But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons' - look at this verse - 'And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!'. Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ'. You're meant to call God 'Abba, Father'.
Now no one ever addressed God directly as 'My Father' in Bible times. The reason being: it was construed as disrespectful. Yes, God was often understood as the Father of the nation, and maybe even the Father of the faith, but no one would ever have dreamt of considering Him personally as 'My Father'. We believe that Jesus always used this form when addressing God in prayer, to the absolute amazement of the disciples. We've only one reference of Jesus using it in the Gospels, and that was in Matthew chapter 14 in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he cried: 'Abba Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will' - that's the only time we see it mentioned in the Gospels. These other two mentions are in Paul's writings in Galatians and Romans - but in the Gospels the word for 'Father' in the Greek is 'Pater', but of course Jesus and His disciples and His contemporaries didn't speak Greek, they spoke Aramaic. So we believe that whenever we find the word in the Greek New Testament 'Pater' for 'Father', behind it was the use of 'Abba' in the spoken Aramaic. The only exception to that is when Jesus was hanging on the cross, and He cried: 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani', 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'. So Jesus used this Aramaic term 'Abba' of Heavenly Father in prayer, and He also encouraged His disciples to use this form of address for God, and they did. Now this was amazing to the disciples, utterly shocking and obnoxious to the Jews - it was utterly unseemly, and too intimate. It was overfamiliarity at its worst: that Jesus should address the holy God of heaven as 'Abba'.
Now let me give you a bit of the derivation of this Aramaic word. I don't want to confuse you, but this is important. 'Abba' is the male of the equivalent 'Imma', which is derived from Aramaic baby-speak. When a little tote was starting to learn to speak, they would say 'Ab-ba', 'Im-ma' - just the way in English, 'Da-da', 'Ma-ma', is spoken by little babes. This is where this is coming from. Jesus is calling the all-holy God of heaven 'Abba'. Now please don't misunderstand me, and please don't misconstrue or misquote what I'm saying here. We need a reverential approach to God, and in the Lord's prayer there is balance: 'Our Father who art in heaven' - there is the intimacy 'Our Father', but there is also the reverence and the godly fear. There is the basis on which we come to God our Father, sonship; but there is also the reverencing of His holiness - our Father is the holy, holy God of heaven. He is not an overindulgent grandfather figure, He is a true Father. Sometimes, as we see in Scripture, He has to discipline us - that's how He shows His love towards His sons and daughters. But nevertheless, even though we want to reverence God, even though we want to show respect and godly fear, we must never dilute the revolutionary intimacy of what it is to come and say: 'Abba Father'. Look at the Lord's prayer, He is 'Abba' first, 'Abba Father' first.
Now this is the picture, OK? Please get it. This is the picture: a little Jewish home where there is a little Jewish boy, and Daddy is out all day working at a building site or something like that, or out as a Shepherd with the sheep. He comes back after his shift and opens the door, and little Benjamin comes running up the hallway and throws his arms around his neck, and cries: 'Abba! Abba! Abba!'. God's word says that that is what is meant to rise up in your heart towards your Father in Heaven, that's the relationship that you're meant to have to God: this childlike awe and affection that a toddler has for his Daddy. We ought to experience that towards Father in heaven. Now I'm not suggesting - and there are some people that get this truth, and they run away with it in such a way that it becomes utterly disrespectful and inappropriate - yet there is a religious spirit that will say: 'What you're saying now is irreverent, it's overfamiliarity, it's too much!'. Well, if you're going down that line, you have never seen into the heart of Father God. Never.
John White says: 'Such a carnal sort of dignity must go, and the humble trust be added. When you know Him as 'Abba' your faith will be simpler, clearer, your prayers at once reverence, intimate, informed'. I'll level with you here tonight: there are three things over the last six or seven years that have utterly revolutionised my Christian life. One has been the truth of the Person, the baptism, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. A second is the truth of grace, and not only how we can receive grace from God, unmerited favour, but how that allows us to show grace to others even though we don't agree with them - and so, if we don't have a performance-based relationship with God, others don't need to perform to earn our favour. But the third truth is the truth of Abba Father, and I'll never forget the day that that revelation dawned on me. I have grown up in a Christian home, I've been converted from a child, and I knew God is my Father of sorts - but never as my 'Abba'. I can remember sitting back on my easy chair in my study - and I don't know how long I did it, but I just cried from my heart like a baby: 'Abba, Abba, Abba!'. Do you know what that is? Some of you have explored the father flaws that have been in your life, the wounds and the damage that has been done - do you know you've got such a Father in heaven, such an Abba in heaven? Do you know you're adopted into the family? You don't need to stand afar off from God, but you can come boldly into His presence. You're not only a servant, and you're certainly not a slave, you're a friend of God and you're a child of God - and you can come into His immediate presence and call Him 'Abba'.
There is a famous image from 1963 of John F. Kennedy at his desk during the Cuban missile crisis, some of you may have seen it. There were many dignitaries assembled in the Oval Office of the White House to discuss the crisis, but the photo of this meeting reveals that - while these leaders were in serious discussion - little John Jr, John Kennedy, he's playing under the president's desk at the president's feet. All the VIPs had to show credentials to enter the Oval Office in the midst of this potentially global crisis, but this was the president's son and he had a right to be there - and his father wanted him there. Why? Because of who he was. There was a picture in the press of the present-day President of United States, Barack Obama, and his youngest daughter hiding behind the sofa there - creeping into the oval office while the president works. Nobody else could do that only a child of the president. Listen: do you know who you are? You've heard this week about who Father is, but do you know that you are His child? Do you know you are adopted? Do you know the inheritance that you have?
The book of Romans, the book of Galatians, and the book of Ephesians talk about adoption - and all three of them connect it with the Spirit of God. You can't know the truths of adoption, or the Father heart of God, or your inheritance, without the Spirit. Right at the very beginning of creation it was a perfect creation, and Adam was the pinnacle of God's order - but even in perfection Adam recognised his need for intimacy. An intimacy that couldn't be found in creation or any of the animal kingdom, and it was when Adam recognised his need of intimacy that God met his need, and He gave him Eve. Over this week, have you recognised your need for intimacy with God as your Father? Have you recognised that perhaps you have been seeking other idolatrous intimacies elsewhere? Well, if you will recognise your need tonight, He will meet it. Whatever you don't have, if there is something not there and you need it to be there, ask God for it tonight and He will give it to you. 'If you, being evil', Jesus said, 'know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more' - how much more - 'will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit' - the Spirit of adoption that rises up, the spirit of God's Son that rises up within our hearts, and witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God - and it cries 'Abba!'. Then you will abide day-by-day in Father's love.
Just as we close this meeting and this week - what of your response? He is the Father, but are you His child? Maybe you're a Christian, but are you living as a child or as a slave? Can I first of all address those who would consider themselves Christians - and I would ask you: has God spoken to you again tonight of adoption, of intimacy with Abba Father, and you know that you haven't had that but you want that? You want to repent of any hardness or any difficulty, you want to bring wounds that have caused you to have a skewed view of Heavenly Father - you want those healed tonight, but you want to have a revelation of the love of God shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit tonight. While every head is bowed and eye is closed, would you acknowledge that as people have been doing every single night - would you acknowledge, by just raising your hand, your need of the love of Father's heart just now? God bless you. God bless. God bless. There are several hands going up - God bless you - around the building. Is there anyone else? God bless you. God bless. Anyone else?
Now, as I said, if you haven't got it, ask for it. In fact, it is there, it's what you already have - ask the Lord to remove whatever barriers there are. Bring to Him your sin: idolatrous things that have substituted for intimacy with Him - repent and renounce them. Renounce and revoke words that you have spoken over your own life that have been like curses, and words that others have spoken over you that have brought oppression over your life - because you have believed them and taken them into your identity. Ask the Lord Jesus to break the power of those, and to break the power of the enemy over your mind and over your heart. By faith embrace your identity as a child of God, and embrace your 'Abba' in heaven.
Do that now, those of you who are Christians, just in the quietness. While you're doing that - is there anyone here, and you've never taken that step of repentance and faith to become a Christian, to receive Christ as Saviour and Lord, and be able to be called 'a child of God'? Is there anyone here tonight, and you now know you're known by God, and loved by God, and Jesus died and showed God's love by taking your sin, and you want to know God as your Father? Is there anyone here tonight that will say 'I want to become a Christian'? Would you raise your hand just where you are in the presence of God - young or old, it doesn't matter, as long as you know what you're doing. Is there anyone who wants to say 'I will be a child of God, God will be my Father. I don't want the slavery of sin any more, I want to belong in God's family'. Just raise your hand, I will see it, and you can take it down again and we will help you in prayer.
Now, as has been announced, I'm available afterwards. Please do stay for a cup of tea, but if you want to speak with me - and I would emphasise, please, that it's needy folk that we really want to spend our time with. If you want to talk tonight, maybe you have been putting it off from other evenings, stay behind.
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen. Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, remain with us as we seek to keep ourselves in the love of God. Through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray, Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at Union Road Presbyterian Church in Magherafelt, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the sixth recording in his 'The Father Heart Of God' series, entitled "Abiding In Abba's Love" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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