Sometimes when we think of who God is, we define Him by all types of feelings, baggage, and impressions that we bring along into the interpretation.
What we often don’t do, is look to the place where He tells us who He is…
In Matthew 6, Jesus is redefining for His Jewish listeners who God is and what it really means to live a life in light of that.
They no longer need to think of the law as a cold set of rules to follow, but a lifestyle to live by.
They no longer should perform as actors in a play to gain the attention of fellow men, but should be earnest in their affection towards God.
They no longer should regard God as distant, but as intimately close, because He is their heavenly Father.
As Jesus clarifies things for them, His statements are difficult to accept.
I can imagine His listeners, “…to even LOOK at a woman lustfully is to commit adultery in my heart? How am I supposed to keep this law?…”
It’s statements like these which let us know that God is not interested in our actions only, but in the deep motives of our hearts; and it’s statements like these which show us that the law itself is impossible to obey, and we are in desperate need of a rescuer.
God is interested in more than just our blind adherence to His rules, He is interested in our hearts.
As Jesus shows us in Matthew 6:9, God is not a distant usurper of power and might, but an intimately close Father, who has laid out a way of life that we are to follow so that much is made of Him and so that we can find our joy in who He is.
Before Jesus begins to explain to His listeners how to pray, He warns them of how not to pray.
His warnings explain to them that attention seeking prayers are foolish and that prayers that are purely transactional in nature are sinful. Our prayers do not force God to respond to what we want. Our prayers are petitions made in a right relationship with our heavenly Father, because He loves to engage in that relationship with us.
John Calvin said this; “when prayer is offered with earnest feeling, the tongue does not go before the heart”. What he meant was that when we come to God in relationship and pray earnestly, the pleas of our heart are going out long before we utter the words; and our God is a knower of hearts and minds and what we feel matters to Him, this is why He knows what you need far before you pray it.
When Jesus unpacks for His hearers that they should be engaging in a relationship with their heavenly Father, this would have been a new thought to them. The ancient Israelites would have known of the idea of the Fatherhood of God, but not of this truth of God being my Father and I His child. In fact, one new testament scholar who has done research on the prayers of the ancient Israelite people, concluded that there is absolutely no evidence in ancient Jewish literature where God is addressed personally as Father, not until the 10th century AD, not until Christ has come and firmly defined the relationship between us and God.
God is our heavenly Father, and prayer, when done rightly, is an intimately personal activity with an infinitely personal God.
Father can be a loaded word and often brings all kinds of thoughts into our mind.
For some of us, we had great Fathers. We can remember the times our Dad spent with us playing and wrestling, reading the Bible with us or maybe our favorite story, loving on us and cuddling with us, the times He spent showing us what it means to be a grown-up, teaching us new things, or the times he held us and made everything better.
But for some of us, the idea of ‘father’ is something totally different. For some of us, our Father let us down, he crushed us, abused us, damaged us, maybe He left you broken and has never made an attempt to help heal you or to help pick up the pieces.
When you think of Father, you may think of that, and therein you struggle greatly to wrap your mind around this idea of God as your Father. In fact, you may not even want to.
Our fathers can lift us up like nobody else and our fathers can crush us like nobody else.
Whether our Father does things right, or does things wrong, he isn’t perfect; but because of Jesus Christ, you have a Father who is.
You have a perfect Father who saw your sin and separation and alienation from Him and who didn’t leave you where you were or abandon you, but who made the ultimate effort to rescue you and bring you back to Him.
You have a Father who is more powerful, more righteous, more just, and more merciful, than anything you can imagine – and He calls you His child.
Because of Christ, it is now possible for us to be adopted into the family of God, to call God Father, and to be His.
When we begin to follow Christ, all the privileges and rights of being a child of God become ours; the grace, the mercy, the inheritance, the access, it is ours because of Jesus.
Paul says in Romans 8:15, “…you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” and in 1 John 3:1 John exclaims, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
There is no greater way to identify yourself in this world than to be called a child of God.
We must see that our Earthly fathers aren’t perfect, but our heavenly Father – is.
If your early father hurt you, its precisely this perfection of your heavenly Father that you need to focus on, because your perfect heavenly Father paid the ultimate price to rescue you, because of Jesus’ death, you are now free step into the healing presence your heavenly Father – the one who has redeemed you and the only one who can make you whole.
“Prayer is like crawling up into your Father’s lap, and whispering in His ear.” – John Calvin
I have two beautiful children, and although they are mine, they really don’t share a lot in common.
My boy is calm and collected, reserved and tends to shy away from attention. He’s smart, a thinker, quietly surveying what is around him, taking it in and attempting to understand it. He is never vying for the spotlight or making an attempt at having everyone focus their attention on him.
My girl is quite different. She is extremely loud, extremely active, and highly over dramatic. She loves to be the center of attention and seems to feel quite comfortable doing so. She loves to hear herself talk.
Not much in common these two, except that they are mine, I love them, and they both love for me to see what they do.
For my boy; he plays football and rugby, and when he comes in from practice or a game, he unpacks for me all the big hits, amazing plays, and wonderful things that he has done.
He wants so badly for me to see what he’s done, because I matter to him, because I’m his Father.
For my little girl; every picture she colors, every misshapen, strange, object she constructs with her Legos, she has to bring to me for me to see, “Daddy, Look!” she says, “Look what I did”.
She, too, wants so badly for me to see what she’s done, because I matter to her, because I’m her Father.
There is nothing like your Father’s attention, there is nothing like having your Father look at what you are doing, sweep you up in his arms, look you right in the face, and tell you that you are His and that He loves you.
It’s this that Jesus wants us to see in Matthew 6; when we trust in Jesus, God becomes our heavenly Father and we His children.
When we worship Him, we do so because He matters to us – because He is our Father.
Our God; the creator and sustainer of the universe, the maker of all things, the Lord God Almighty, the Most High God, the one who tells the ocean “Go this far and stop…”, the one owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the one who walks in the storehouses of the rain and snow, the one who commands the morning and causes the dawn to know its place, the one for whom the angels sing ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ unceasingly in worship, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, has extended to us the offering of grace through Jesus, and through Jesus He has adopted us and called himself our Father.
This relationship informs all that we do, all that we are.
It changes EVERYTHING.