"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Opposite Father, Inverse Child

Your dad unbuckles you from your car seat, and he rushes you into the house to keep you from getting soaked in the rain. Later, he makes sure you clean up your room and are learning to be organized.  He encourages you to keep trying on your math homework and gives you hints, and so on - saving money, kindness to peers, demonstrating responsibility, communicating well.  Most importantly, He gives you the gospel, that you might be saved, and then urges to read the Word and to pray to the Lord, that you might grow and remove yourself from the coattails of your parents' faith.  Over the span of your childhood, his mission, like your mom's, is to raise you and train you such that you are able to function (as a believer, he hopes) in all spheres of life without constant, intense reliance upon him. 

Your heavenly Father, on the other hand, lovingly drew you to Himself when you despised Him and wanted nothing to do with Him (Rom. 3:11, 1 John 4:10).  Having secured your justification from sins through the blood of His Son, He did not cease His work in you, but continued with you and does so even to this day.  Here, though, begins a key difference between your earthly father and your heavenly Father.  If the similarities between earthly fathers and our heavenly Father are richly instructive to our understanding of God, so also are the differences. 

The difference here is that while our earthly fathers rightly seek to decrease our reliance upon them, God is actively working in His children to teach us more and more that we incessantly need Him.  We are not resting upon the laurels of our own presumed goodness, as man-made religion does, but we are renouncing it as naught but filthy rags, even as God does.  Christ said, "Apart from Me, you can do nothing," (John 15:5b) and we believe Him.  What constitutes foolishness to the world is life and growth and joy to us. 

Hear what Paul, that great and mature apostle, says about our reliance upon the Father:

  • Rom. 8:15 - "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!'"  The spirit within us leads us to cry, not, "I am able!", but "I need the Father who has adopted me!"
  • Col. 3:17 - "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father."  All that we do is to be done with a heart of proper thankfulness toward the Father.
  • Eph. 3:14-16 - "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man..."  Here Paul professes his humble prayer to the Father that His Spirit would strengthen the people of the Ephesian church.  On display, then, is Paul's reliance upon the Father, and the Ephesian church's reliance as well. 
  • Col. 1:29 - "For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me."  Paul labors, relying upon God's strength in him as he does so.
We see, then, just from these few examples, that the path to powerful and effective Christian living is only through God and His grace.  If we do not rely upon Him as we seek to work in righteousness, our hands are empty and our hearts are wayward. 

The temptation, though, is to consider that as we grow in our faith, we can contend with more on our own, apart from humble prayer or strengthening grace.  We see this at times with longtime Christians who judge that they can "handle" temptations which they could not in their younger days.  It is strange indeed to think that in the bud of one's Christian walk, "handling" temptation meant turning to the Father with urgency and fleeing temptation, while for the seasoned believer, it can come to mean demonstrating how one can entertain the temptation and remain (supposedly) unaffected by it.  So our nightstands become arrayed, rank and file, with spiritual books that may entertain on one hand, but play fast and loose with cherished spiritual truths on the other!  So also are our televisions allowed to show us things which should not be countenanced, because we think this is proof of our righteous integrity!  How came our hearts to be so beguiled?  Our years in the faith should prompt us only to turn to the Father with greater zeal and with greater urgency, as He leads us by His own righteous hand.  We mature by reliance upon the Father, and indeed we mature into reliance upon the Father.  There is no other way, my friend. 


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