We started Journey Church almost seven years ago with the purpose of being a church where people can discover the real Jesus, because we think when people discover the real Jesus they find him irresistible. And we think when people discover the real Jesus they discover real life – real purpose- real meaning in life.
The reason we want you to discover the real Jesus is because when you discover what He is like, then you also discover what God is like. One time one of Jesus’ followers, a man named Philip, asked Jesus to show us the Father – will you show us God the Father? And Jesus says, 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
9 Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? John 14 NLT
Jesus came to show us what God is like, because the truth is that there are many wrong perceptions out there about what God is like. There are many blurred images or distorted images of God. Jesus came to teach us what God is like… He came to show us God as God wants us to see him. And so today and for the next four weeks we are going to be looking at God as God wants to be seen.
And it’s an extremely important subject. If there is a God – what is he like? Is he worth following?
And I know for some – if you describe yourself as an agnostic – meaning you aren’t sure about the existence of God – you need to back up a couple of steps – your first question needs to be – is it likely that there is a God?
Is it more likely that this world we see and study was designed by a creator, or is it more likely that everything we see and everything we can’t see – like love – is a product of time and chance, as particles crash meaninglessly into one another over ions.
I believe those are your only two options. Either there is a creator or it’s an accident. And further – I have come to the conclusion that it requires far more faith to believe that the statistical impossibility of a creator-less universe.
If you come to the conclusion that it’s possible, and likely, that there is a creator, then you have become a theist.
The second question you would then ask is – if there is a God, what kind of God is He like? Does he or she or it, desire to be known at all? Or were we just set in motion and now we are on our own?
And so I think then you will have to research the world religions to see how they view God.
So beginning today we are going to look at scripture to see if we can discover what it tells us about how God desires for us to relate to Him. How he wants us to see Him.
And it’s a very important question. So let me start by asking you a question.
What image comes to mind when I say the word, Firefighter?
How about when I say the word Fighter pilot?
What image comes to mind when I say God? When you think about God, what does he look like to you? What is God doing in your depiction if him? Is he standing? Sitting? Moving or stationary?
Is he looking at you? What expression is on his face? What about his hands? Are the clenched in a fist? Are his arms crossed or on his hips? Is he pleased? Is he powerful, or does he look like a kind old grandpa? Is he strong, weak?
What is God like to us? How we see God plays a powerful role in how we respond to him.
A.W. Tozer, one of this countries greatest Christian thinkers and writers, begins his book The knowledge of the Holy by stating that, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
What we think about God is one of the most important things about us. Why? Because no one can rise above their view of God.
So will you do me a favor? Will you give yourself permission today and these following weeks to have your image of God adjusted according to Scripture?
Now when it comes to knowing what God is like there are a few ways we can do it. One way would be to study the attributes of God – the characteristics that make God unique and wonderful. And so if we were going to go that route we would be using words like “Omnipotent” meaning all-powerful. We would be using words like Omni-presence – meaning all present. Omniscient – all knowing and all wise. We would be talking alot about the word omni – God is all loving, all good, all wise, all forgiving.
And if, by the way, you are interested in studying these attributes of God then I’d say the best book I could recommend to you would be the book I’ve already referenced, The Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer. Concise but power packed. You can really never go wrong reading books by great authors like Tozer. I try to read the Pursuit of God by Tozer every year. It helps that his books are often very tiny. Less than 100 pages…
So you might go the route of reading about the attributes. Now the only thing you have to be careful about when you study the attributes of God is that they have a tendency to elevate God so much and highlight his differences between us so much that – if we aren’t careful it makes God feel so very far away from us.
I have a hymnal on my desk and from time to time I like to sing a song or two during my study time and so, for instance, there is a hymn about the attributes of God – and it goes, Immortal, Invisible God only wise. In light inaccessible hid from our eyes.
That hymn is theologically great. And it should help us understand who God is. But to me it even sounds like God is behind an impenetrable fortress. It feels like I am assaulting a fortress when I sing that song. “Bring forth the trebuchet” Forward!
So a different way to study how God wants us to see him is to look at the ways that he describes himself. The roles that God plucks from everyday life to help us understand what he is like.
And when we do that we see that He is called our Father. Our Shepherd. A savior. Our King. Our comforter. These are words that God uses about himself to help us understand what He is like.
These images that God uses to describe himself are more relational terms. And so they include all of the attributes of God, but are presented to us in terminology that makes him accessible to us.
What’s the danger here? Well the danger is that it lowers God too much. Makes him too much like us.
And so what we have is this incredible tension in the Bible of trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. God is incomprehensible to us. Our brains can’t possibly fit him in it. And yet we are told to seek him and find him – that he is knowable.
So what is required is some degree of humility here. For us to realize that any image of God that we use is a flawed image. There is no perfect image on earth. And perhaps that is none more true then when we talk about God being our father.
God is our father. And right away we have to speak with humility and with a degree of understanding that – he is our father but he is not like my father.
Because none of us have a perfect father, right? Your father wasn’t perfect. Even if you have a great father, he wasn’t perfect. And within this room we will run the gamut of father’s right? We have some people who think their father was great. Others who had fathers who hurt them.
So when we say that God is our father, the first thing we have to remind ourselves is that he is our Father but not like our father. Much better than the father we had.
And so if you had a father who was not good to you, today I’m counting on you to tap into that imagination of yours and think about the father you wished you had. And even then, let’s see how that imaginary father compares to our father in Heaven.
It’s important that we have a proper understanding of what it means that God is our Father, because it is, apparently, God’s preferred image. It’s what he prefers us to call him.
One day Jesus was hanging out with his disciples and they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. And what did Jesus say?
9 Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be thy name…
Jesus informs his disciples that God prefers to be called our Father. This is the image of our Father in Heaven.
Okay – so if God is our father, then how old are we in this image? Are we as old as we are now? I’d say it’s probably best to imagine ourselves as, say, toddlers. Your relationship with God sure has a different feel if we think of ourselves as toddlers.
Why? Because – when you are a little child you naturally, readily, trust your father. You trust that he will be there for you.
Yesterday we were setting up chairs here in the gym and one of our small groups showed up to help us set up the chairs and they had a bunch of their kids running around the gym and playing. And all of a sudden I heard this shrieking little girl.
And so I turn and she is on the ground and holding her ankle and so I went over to her and said, are you okay, darling? And she looked at me like, “Who are you and why are you wasting my time! You aren’t my father. And I look up and here comes dad and suddenly the crying stopped. Everything’s good. My dad’s here.
In Matthew 18, Jesus tells his disciples that, unless you become like a little child, you will never make it in the Kingdom of Heaven. Well what does that mean? If you can’t learn to trust God like a toddler ought to be able to trust a good father, then you are going to find little that is good about the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Kingdom of Heaven is filled with people who trust God like a toddler ought to be able to trust her dad. There is a humility of a child – that recognizes how much it depends and needs to be taken care of…
So when we pray to our father in heaven, that’s an image of a strong father tenderly holding a small child in his arms.
So – work with me here on this image – if we imagine ourselves as a small child and God as the Father who is with us, leading us, directing us, protecting us, providing for us – then what do we have to dread?
Since God is our father, we dread nothing. This is the big idea this morning. Since God is our father, we dread nothing.
My father was a police officer in the town I grew up in just north of NYC. And one of the things my dad did was show up at our school to talk to classes about staying away from drugs. And he had this briefcase with him and he would open it up and he’d say, “Now kids, this is Cocaine” Or Now this is a stamp with LSD on it – if anyone ever asks you if you want to lick a mickey mouse stamp you say no – otherwise you could be tripping for years, man!
Now I don’t know if he was really carrying drugs around. In this day and age we’d say no way, but that was like the mid-70’s. So who knows, right? What I do remember and it’s something I will never forget – was during the question and answer time one of the kids asked my dad, aren’t you afraid that someone is going to rob you of all those drugs?
Now my dad was 6’5” and 290 pounds, I never in my life ever thought anyone would mess with him, but what I remember was that although my dad was wearing just a blue sports coat and slacks, he said, well, I’m not exactly worried, and he pulled his jacket back and he was wearing this gun – it looked like a .44 Magnum but to very kid in the room it felt It was just like Dirty Harry, this over-sized ridiculous gun.
And my dad and I weren’t very close, but at that moment I just wanted to stand up and say, Yea! Anyone want to mess with my dad? I don’t think so – anyone feel lucky punk? Do you?
Since God is our Father – we have nothing to dread. Hey Devil, you want to mess with me? You feeling lucky punk?
Now check this out, that feeling? There is this cool section in the bible that I think comes closest to that kind of feeling and it’s written by a guy named Paul who asks… If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
I’m telling you, this is the Apostle Paul’s Dirty Harry moment. And if there was ever a more worthy moment for a dramatic pause. If God is your father – who can be against you? I’m waiting for an answer… Paul gets after it though in this Romans 8 passage….
33 Who dares accuse us…?
34 Who then will condemn us? No one!
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?
death, life, angels, demons, our fears, our worries – not even the powers of hell.
39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If God is my father, I dread nothing. Nothing can come against me.
Well, easy for you to say Phil, would you be saying that if you were living in Syria or Iraq or anywhere else where people are persecuting and killing Christians? Well, actually, there was this time when Jesus addressed that very issue…
Luke 12:4 “Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that.
God is my Father I dread no one. He is unshakable – all powerful. Nothing can touch the real me – I’m already safe and I’m already living my eternal life with Him in his kingdom of heaven.
Which means that I don’t even have to dread death itself. God’s my father. I don’t dread death. To live is great – to live is Jesus and to die? Gain. (Phil 1:21)
This might be another of Paul’s Dirty Harry moments… 1 Corinthians 15:55, Paul asks death a question. Paul kind of taunts Death….
55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Death has no more victory over us, the children of God. Jesus went to the grave and tore down all it’s banners. No more sting. No more victory.
57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is my father, I dread nothing. I don’t even dread death.
And if I don’t dread death, I certainly don’t need to dread little things, like a depleted bank account. Or clothes that are a little worn out.
I don’t dread any circumstances. I don’t need to turn to worry as though it would help. My Father knows what I need and will provide it from his riches.
Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?
Let me ask you – how many birds are you worth? How many sparrows? What’s the answer? If there were a hostage tradeoff and the sparrows took you hostage, how many sparrows could they get for you? Lots, right? Are you worth your weight in sparrows?
It’s ridiculous, and I mean to be. You are worth a lot of birds, man. And guess what, God notices and feeds the birds. He will take care of you too. He’s your father. You are his little child. He will feed you and take care of you.
Well I don’t have much. Good for you. How much do you need? A shirt and some pants. You have any underwear? Well, that’s a bonus. What is there to dread, exactly?
He will tend to your needs because that’s what a good father does. Because he is compassionate. Not only is God strong and tough, he is also compassionate.
Luke 6:36 – You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.
Well I’m not compassionate – that’s not me. Well for goodness sake don’t brag about that! Our father is compassionate – he shows mercy to people – even people who actively oppose him.
Matthew 5:45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
Which means I don’t need to dread God – he is loving and compassionate and slow to anger and abounding in love.
Jesus wants us to see God how God wants to be seen – and Jesus shows us a picture of God as a father who is passionate about you, AND he is compassionate toward you. Since God is our Father we have nothing to dread.
Is this the kind of Father you imagine God would be?
What image comes to mind when you think of God as our Father?
Can you imagine yourself being this close to the almighty God?