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Monday, June 21, 2010

The Love of the Father

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (I John 3:1, NIV)

God gave us earthly fathers to emulate just a fraction of our heavenly Father's love and care for us. Maybe your father was faithful to this model, and maybe he wasn't. What's most important is that we learn to fix our eyes on the One who created us and who can love us, as we were meant to be loved.

Let's take a look at God's love for us as demonstrated in the parable of the prodigal son found in Luke 15. I would argue that this account is actually about the father more than it is about either of the two sons. Jesus shared this story because He wanted us to know what His Father is like. It richly portrays the love that our heavenly Father has towards us.

Christ wants us to know how God the Father feels when one of His children deliberately goes his or her own way, lives as if He doesn't exist or takes all of the blessings from the hand of the Father and then totally ignores Him. This is why Jesus tells us a story about two lost sons; one who was lost in the far country and the other who was lost at home.

The younger son deliberately and premeditatedly left home, while the father waited for him. In order to comprehend the depth of the father's sorrow here, you must understand that in Middle Eastern culture it would be unthinkable for a son to come to his father and ask for part of his estate. He basically would be saying, "Father, I wish you were dead. Hurry up and die so I can get my hands on your money."

Jesus impresses upon us how incredible, how indescribable, how inexhaustible the love and patience of God are. Even though the father is suffering in agony over the son's rebellion and rejection, he lets him go. The father could have tried to stop the boy, but he didn't. He could have sent a servant to follow the boy and report back to him, but he didn't.

But at last the son comes to his senses and returns home. The father could have told him, "You stupid, foolish boy. You caused me all this worry and pain. Now you're just slinking back to me when you're out of money and desperate." Or he could have said, "You thought you were going to be a big shot in the big city - now look at you. If you want my forgiveness, you need to prove you really mean it." But that's not what happened because it is not representative of how our heavenly Father relates to us.

The Bible says that the father "ran to his son" (v. 20). You say, "Well, isn't that sweet? Isn't that wonderful?" But there's an even deeper meaning here. In Middle Eastern culture, particularly in the days of Jesus, men never ran. In that culture, running is considered degradation.

Can you see the cross here? Remember how the Father humiliated Himself in the Son as He hung on the cross in order to provide forgiveness for sins?

What does the Father in heaven do when a sinner repents of their sin and says, "Lord, forgive me?" He embraces them and grants them forgiveness, and He puts His own robe on them. He gives them the assurance that they are a part of His family forever, and there is a celebration in heaven at the news (v. 10). Then when we join Him in eternity, He will wipe every tear from our eyes (Rev. 7:17), just as the father did for the Prodigal Son.

You - or someone you know - may be in the far country and away from God. In this state, you feel anxious and alone - maybe even fearful. I want to remind you this Father's Day that your heavenly Father is waiting for you and ready to receive you with open arms. All you need to do is surrender to Him, leave the wandering behind and come home.

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