"Now if we are children, then we are heirs of God" (Romans 8:27). "And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ." (Galatians 4:6-67).
Illustrated in a Jewish legend, we're told that the forty days before we're born, angels announce the name of our ordained mate in heaven. But there is something much grander. Our groom, Jesus, was ordained for us before the foundations of the world. When Yeshua gave an analogy from nature, "the tree that is known by its fruit," He was making the point that the kingdom is not a matter of appearance. A genuine child of the kingdom is different, "out of his or her heart will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38). However, what is this living water? It is the supernatural work that transforms our character, attitude, and demeanor. And out of these attributes flow forgiveness and our Love for one another. In fact, it is the power of the kingdom that's revealed in us.
First, Corinthians 4:20 is one of many scriptural truths that lay at the heart of the family of God. It states, "For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God's power." Assuredly, power is defined by such qualities as Godly action, temperament, Christ-like character, and self-control. To go further, additional mediations are found in this beautiful Jewish prayer Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam asher kidishanu b' mitz' votav v'tzivanu l'hit' ateif ba-tzitzit. Then from the English: "Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to wrap ourselves in the tzitzit," (fringes worn on the sides of the body, usually by Orthodox Jews).
When discussing the Father's Love, an introspective journey begins into the depths of our being. We find ourselves confronting our self. Is it a profound reality in our life? Or, is it only on the surface of our understanding? Well, perhaps in the time that it takes to imagine getting to that understanding, we might consider our conception of "Him." How do you see Him and His role in your life? Is it active or passive? Does He know you and your thoughts of the day? Or do you see Him distant? Just like the questions posed earlier, the answers to these questions can be complicated and deeply personal.
Perhaps like yourself, I've come to understand that if one were given the years of a Methuselah, the Father's Love could never plummet. It's like a vast ocean. While every day would be spent going deeper, His transforming power, along with our experience with it, creates either good thoughts and feelings of self or opinions of lowliness and insufficiency. You see, when the Father's Love is weak, emotions are created that are weak and false, and the enemy convinces us that we are unloved. Theologically and intellectually, we recognize it as falsehood, but one remains unconvinced of the Love of our Heavenly Father. Then a depressed state takes root in God's children, and they continue to feel unloved, lonely, and orphaned.
This topic cannot be overestimated because end-time pressures will deepen the strain in people's lives to higher degrees than ever before. Having a healthy concept of our heavenly Father, and knowing His Love, will be crucial. Recall, Paul's words to Timothy in chapter two, verse three, speaks about God's fading love in God's children and a substantial loss of power. Many will "have a form of godliness but deny its power." Many will become unkind and unforgiving, challenging, to say the least, and harsh to deal with. Being forewarned of these, let's guard ourselves, and let them not find their way into your lives. I asked myself these questions in writing this book: Have I grown critical and skeptical? Have I become cold and indifferent towards the family of God? Have I lost trust in people and leaders?
ARE YOU PRESSING
Paul states it flawlessly, "I press on towards the mark." Meaning, he is struggling to get somewhere new with God. He wants to obtain that relationship of saying these words, but he has the greatest desire to be like our Lord, Jesus. A man is revealed here that is always pressing on. His goal is always to please God, rather than getting to the point that he was just satisfied with knowing God.
Tragically, many of us cease at some point of satisfaction and knowledge. This wasn't the case with Paul. If we take the time to read his letters, you discover a man who reached points with Abba that was epic. YOU SEE, THE WORLD KNOWS ABOUT GOD AND HIS LOVE, BUT THE MAJORITY HAS NO RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. CERTAINLY, THIS CAN APPLY TO ALL AT VARYING DEGREES.
The truth is, hearing about God and saying we know him doesn't get us any closer to Him or make us more "whole." In fact, if you have received Jesus as your Messiah, you are whole. But the Pharisees knew much about God. The Torah unmistakably and carefully etched in history the activities of a Creator that revealed Himself personally. Yet, they knew Him, not when He came. You see, partial knowledge is only part-knowledge, and at what part has your adventure ceased?
For Paul, pressing on and through his trials wasn't always easy. He had to contend with his people that looked for opportunities to kill him. At the same time, he radically confronted Roman culture and its paganism. But pressing in was Paul's unique "life force." And make no mistake, everyone has a life force working and operating because they are pressing into something. Perhaps it is to make their family life better. They press for more money, which can be an obsession, and equally press in for advancement up the corporate ladder. People press in to move up the ministry ladder. God's people are pressing in during times of prayer also. On Sabbath, they are pressing in. As we offer the sacrifice of our praises and offerings, we are pressing in.
You see, pressing in simply means that if I expect God to do something, I presume that God is expecting me to do something also. We always come back to this life of faith that is forever moving like a river's current, and this principle of motion. Therefore, pressing in as Paul modeled for us is essential. Often though, we relax our efforts to press in, don't we? Often we don't know why. Then what causes such a cessation of pressing in? It can be precipitated by a religious spirit, a hardened heart, a spirit of hopelessness, or too much worldliness, and a spirit of materialism. We can have too much that comes too easily. Then we begin to feel self-sufficient. We can take for granted this wonderful gift of life. What is it for you? Paul was different.
Realizing in studying Paul’s life, pressing in for him came from the ethos that he absorbed on the Damascus road experience. And it is here that we find the root of it—how were you changed the moment you came into the family of God? Out of the intensity of our first encounter with faith and the God of Truth and Life, our individual ethos forms. Paul consistently seemed to reside in a particular place with God during the most challenging times. Again, this came from the unique ethos of which Paul absorbed, and it captivated him for the cause of Messiah wholly and eternally.
During this writing, I was brought back to the ethos that I received from my first encounter with the Lord. I considered how my life had changed and how it hooked my heart. Then I caught a glimpse of Paul's wonderful ethos and his fixation on his Messiah. I then wanted more! And this is what Paul does for us. Paul's further observation can be found in his writings; it seems that he always exemplified total dependency on our Father. At the same time, he often spoke of the help he needed from others. After all, he wrote I Corinthians 12, a classic chapter on interdependency.
Clearly, Paul understood that to build the kingdom of God required strong hands. Others need discerning eyes, while others have discerning ears to hear what the builder cannot. Fundamentally, Paul understood the harmony of each other and the importance of interlocking spiritual gifts and abilities. Paul had something special, though, and I believe it came from his relationship with his Abba Father. Perhaps his Jewish culture provides some insight.
PAUL KNEW THE
The life and religious life culture that Paul came from was deeply rooted in an understanding and reality of God the Father. Like any Jewish person coming to faith, Paul had to integrate Jesus, the second person of the God-Head, into his life and theology. Yet his understanding and relationship with the Father remained deep and abiding.
Similarly, we can also draw from our personal experience and state of our satisfaction, theology, or the kind of discipleship that we received in our life. Try to describe your concept of God the Father from the construct of your life. Perhaps it will be telling and revealing of some deficits that need to be rebuilt. Implicit in Paul's words come to an extraordinary picture, and much to discover in his relationship with the Father.
"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God, our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope" (2nd Thessalonians 2:16). Or these words, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3). In the interest of those who seek change, let's recall that in one glorious moment, the House of Our Father, that living organism that we work together to build up, was born two thousand years ago. Gloriously, she remains like a pregnant woman giving meaningful birth for all time. Any time a hungry soul knocks upon her door, life goes forth, and transformation miraculously occurs.