Dr. J.I. Packer, who recently was taken from this world into the presence of Jesus at 93-years-old, will be remembered as one of the most influential theologians of the past 100 years. His most well-known and beloved contribution to the church is the book, Knowing God. If you haven’t read it, this would be a great time.
“You sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.”
Consequently, my ambition as a disciple of Jesus isn’t just to know the right answers to theological questions. It is to know the God whom the answers unveil— the God who has revealed himself in the most intimate term possible as Abba. [This post goes into more detail about the significance of this Aramaic word.]
Here is the application: when I begin to know God as Father, I’ll begin to rest.
- I’ll be able to rest in his sovereign care.
- I’ll rest in his wisdom, power, and purposes.
- I’ll rest in my weakness, limited abilities, and shortsightedness.
These promises of rest, peace, and hope are not for humanity in general but for those who live “under the blood.” This is a crucial piece to the puzzle. In Ephesians 1:4-10, the apostle Paul writes,
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace, 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
To be “in the family of God” is to be adopted in love by God, an act that highlights the glory of God’s grace in Jesus. When I receive the benefits of the redemption wrought by Jesus for my soul, I am no longer an orphan but a son. I’m not condemned but justified. I’m not nameless but am the beloved of the Father, an object of his eternal affection.
As I begin to grasp my identity as a child of God, I am able to see that my children, the church family, and all the extended members of our families are living in the midst of our Father’s overarching redemptive story for history. Indeed, history is his story. It may feel like my life is about me when it ultimately is about him — it is “to the praise of his glory.”
As an adopted son, my job is not to play the role of sovereign God but of the dependent child, putting my small toddler hand of faith into his big, strong, wise, loving hand and take the next step, knowing that his grip on me is much stronger than mine is on him.
That is what the cross teaches me. In John 10, Jesus as the Good Shepherd said that those for whom he would lay down his life would never be let go.
We are never alone. Never hopeless or helpless. Why?
Because we are his.
But let’s not leave it at the cognitive level. We need to meditate — or think deeply — on these things. Here is a 7-part devotional exercise that you may want to consider:
- Think on the Abba-ness of God for you right now. Close your eyes and breath deeply.
- Confess your childness and dependency.
- Embrace and celebrate his sovereignty, wisdom, and love that has been confirmed to you in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus for your sins.
- Pray for rest as one being embraced and held with the tender-strong arms of your Abba.
- Ask him to reveal the source of your fears and anxieties and give them over to Jesus.
- Read and dwell on Psalm 23. “1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
- Put your dependent hand into his hand by faith and take the next step hand in hand.