The Love of a Father

I didn’t mean to think of Him like that. I didn’t realize how lacking my view of God was, how off-course it was.

Growing up, I had – unconsciously – always thought of God as more of a wishy-washy Someone who “asked” to be “let into” my heart, and who only intervened in human problems when we asked Him to.

But that’s different now. I have come to a deeper understanding of the grandeur and big-ness of God—the One who created the world with a word and who sustains it day after day, molecule by tiny atom, without ever becoming tired or changing His mind or dropping the ball, so to speak.

The “Sunday School God” ideas I remember have given way to an all-knowing, unstoppable God. But at the same time, I wonder…maybe there are some things from Sunday School I shouldn’t forget.

Strong Views

I am truly, honestly, deeply grateful for reformed theology. In the last few years as I have come to (slowly) understand more of these doctrines, it has grown in me a trust in God’s ability over a reliance on my own lack of ability. I have found assurance that He is able to do the work in me that I can’t produce on my own, and I have found rest in doctrines that are well-supported biblically. Salvation is through His work and not mine. There is great peace in that.

But I have also learned to be careful. In swinging from one extreme (wishy-washy Sunday School God) to the other side (sovereign, all-powerful God), I have to remember to follow Biblical truth and not just doctrines organized by man—however Scripturally supported they are. I have to remember that “[s]uch is the human tendency to overcorrect,” as one historian noted.

Reformed theology can have a somewhat negative reputation. Absolute sovereignty, if referenced out of proportion to other doctrines, begins to sound like a power-crazy king who rules without tenderness or any concern for others. We hear phrases (and sermons) like “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” and remind ourselves constantly of the total depravity of man.

All of which are true, but they aren’t the whole story.

The God Who is Love

As we come back from that wishy-washy stance, we must not run to the other extreme and camp there. While we base our trust and faith on His sovereign power and our complete fallenness, we can’t forget about the Shepherd who searches tirelessly for the 100th lamb and rejoices when He finds it. Or the Father who goes running (ignoring concerns for His own dignity) to welcome back the son who had scorned His love and guidance.

We forget what the Bible calls Him: Our Father. The God who zapped the sun, moon, and stars into existence and decrees right from wrong reached into human history and adopted us. As His own.

Our Father is nothing like Greek gods dispensing punishment at will, or the manmade gods the Israelites fell for. The God who has adopted us as His children is love. Not has love, or is loving, but describes Himself as love personified. He is love itself. It’s the only characteristic He describes Himself with in noun form. He is holy, holy, holy—but never calls Himself “holiness.” He is just, but never describes Himself as “justice.” But He. Is. Love.

Find the Middle Ground

Total depravity of man? Yes. Made in the glorious image of God? Also yes. Saved and dearly loved adopted child? Yes, yes, yes. We don’t have to pick just one of these for our identities—they’re all true.

We are human, and we’ve got to remember that. In declaring our beliefs to the world or to our own hearts, may we remember that “All Scripture is breathed out by God,” not just the parts of it that match our debate points.

When we think of Him as a wishy-washy, high-in-the-sky cosmic bellhop, in our mind’s eye we strip Him of the power and sovereignty and grandeur and bigness that have always been His and always will be (whether or not we acknowledge it). But then, in reclaiming that grandeur, we must not forget the love of a Father. That love is not a weakness, but a strength, a love that stands firm even when forget about it, ignore it, scorn it, or just plain don’t understand it.

Rest in This

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us,” A.W. Tozer said. Those beliefs affect more than we realize, and are too foundational to be trusted to influence by culture or church culture or what we “feel” is true.

We know that what He plans is always what happens—nothing gets in His way.

“‘I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”’” (Daniel 4:34-35).

We know that He loves and cares for us.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

So we rest in that. We rest in His power, His knowing-everything-ness, and His eternal plan that will never be defeated. And we rest in His love and care for us—as sure as the sun He causes to rise every morning and the moon that stands guard each night.

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