For the next couple of days, I want to dig a little deeper into the character of God. This little series of posts was motivated by the comments many of you made in regards to Sunday’s message on the First Commandment. One of the difficulties we have in loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength is a thing called “transference” or, imposing the characteristics of one relationship onto our view of God.
One common way that this happens is when we think of God as Father. Using the term “Father” for God can bring up a number of difficulties, especially if one had a poor relationship with one’s father. We tend to transfer the criticism, rejection, or abandonment of our earthly fathers onto God and think that He will treat us in the same way. This is simply not the case! God gives definition to the word “father,” meaning He is the standard to which all fathers are held. The failings of our earthly fathers (even the best of them!) reflect their inadequacies as human beings rather than God’s displeasure in us.
It would be impossible to examine every dynamic of how God is different than our dads, so I wont even try. Instead, I will let the Bible and the Holy Spirit speak about what God is like so that we can better align our perceptions with the Truth.
I think the best place to start when talking about the Father Heart of God is with God’s self-revelation to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7.
“And [the Lord] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished…'”
This is among the first of God’s self-revelations in the Bible. It is the “groundwork” so to speak, the base upon which the rest of the Bible sits. And how does God choose to reveal Himself to Moses (remember that in God’s initial meeting with Moses He made it very clear that “I will be who I will be,”)? He chooses to reveal Himself as compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.
That is who God is.
God is compassionate. He loves you, He really does. In fact, He has an overwhelming amount of affection for you. So much so that He set into motion a plan of redemption that would cost Him everything because the thought of living without you was so unbearable to Him. He is a passionate God and Jealous for your affection. He is a giver and a lover, He always offers that to you. God’s affection is not based on your performance either. You don’t have to work hard to win His approval. He is already for You. You can’t do anything to make Him love you more and you certainly cannot do anything that will make Him love you less. He loved us, and set about redeeming us, while we were still sinners! How much more can we rest in His love now that we have been washed clean by the work of Jesus on the cross?
God is gracious. Not only is God quick to love, He is quick to forgive and to give the benefit of the doubt. God really does not delight in punishment – He delights in mercy. God is not a Father who will hold your failings over your head for the rest of your life. He will not beat you down because of your sins. He will correct them, lovingly, but as soon as you confess your sins and start walking out repentance you are restored to right relationship with Him. He will never bring that stuff up again. If you ever find yourself in a place where your sins are constantly running through your mind, even though you have confessed and are repenting of them, it isn’t God doing that, it is the enemy. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” 1 John 1:9. Also, “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One,” 1 John 2:1. You see, when we sin, Jesus actually comes to our defense and pleads our case with the Father – if you are a Christian, you have the best defense attorney there is. Not only does Jesus sympathize with our weakness, He takes steps to ensure that the Father’s conduct towards you is gracious and full of mercy. This is the very thing that God is eager to do and to be.
God is slow to anger. God’s temper doesn’t flare up at the slightest insult or immaturity. Some people have grown up in constant fear of their father’s temper and the specter of abuse – that is not pleasing to God and it is not how He does things. God is slow to anger which means that when something goes wrong and you aren’t in right relationship with one another, He will seek you out and try to reconcile with you. He will share with you His feelings, trusting that you don’t really want to hurt Him, but that you did so not knowing what you were doing. Jesus is the exact representation of the Father’s heart when He cries out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” Luke 23:34. Jesus says this in the midst of being crucified – His very intentional murder by the chief priests and Roman authorities. What Jesus meant was, “Father, they don’t have any idea who I really am. If they did they wouldn’t be doing this!” Even in His dying moments, Jesus was willing to extend grace and mercy. And that is how God wants to relate with you. He wants to do everything possible so that you can have a mutually loving and affectionate relationship with one another…
I am going to bring this commentary to a close for today, but I look forward to exploring this more with you all tomorrow. Please feel free to comment in the section below and let me know what you are thinking.