Recovering the Heart of the Gospel -- RevisedJuly 10, 2023
Read John 14:18-23 and Romans 8:14-18.
What is life really about? Is it no more than a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing; a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage of life and then is heard no more? Everyone in every culture knows that it has something to do with relationships. From a horizontal perspective down here under the sun, the most enjoyable and the most significant things are real, loving, quality relationships and the most painful thing is a broken relationship.
Recovering the heart of the gospel means knowing both propositionally and personally that the good news does not start at the cross of Jesus or with the gifts of the Spirit, but with the Father who so loved the world that He gave us His Son in His Spirit. The heart of the gospel is not that man can have his soul saved, or his body healed, and his church revived, but that he can glorify the Father and enjoy Him forever. The Christian gospel is essentially a Father movement whereby the forgiveness of sins and the regenerating work of the Spirit give us confident, continuous access to the Father as forever sons in His Family! Man was created to live in conscious, continuous, relationship, companionship, fellowship, and partnership with the Heavenly Father. When that relationship is rejected or neglected, life is nothing but a tangled mess of loose ends without any meaningful connections or pattern. Trying to make sense of life without this Father/Son dynamic is frustrating, futile and fatal.
God is called "Father" 15 times in the Old Testament and 245 times in the New Testament. One hundred of these references are found in John's gospel and the name is used 51 times in John. 13-17! Both Fatherhood and Sonship are manifest and modeled by Jesus.
Of all the names and titles of God, none is more precious, promising and currently politically incorrect, as is the term “Father.” Radical feminist want to replace the Heavenly Father with the Earth Mother. Many Bible printing companies are now producing gender inclusive translations that refuse to acknowledge God as Father and the Sons of God as His only children. We are told that the concepts of a Father God, of fatherhood, and all fathers in general have had its day, and that we must get away from patriarchal societies and back to matriarchal ones.
There is a “Father-shaped” vacuum in the heart of us all. I believe that this is God-arranged. God has so fixed us that we can’t ever find all that we are looking for and need in a human father. Because of this we must come to understand that God in Heaven has so programmed life that until we come into a personal relationship with Him as our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, we will forever be searching for a human father or father-figure to meet needs that only God can meet.
J.I. Packer asks, "What is a Christian? The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father. “Father” is the Christian name for God."
Scottish pastor and professor, and one of the key leaders for many years in the charismatic renewal, Tom Smail, was on target in his assessment of the charismatic renewal when he said, “If I were to diagnose and prescribe for its present ills in a single sentence, I would say that it needs to know the Father. The Father is forgotten today in pretty much the same way the Holy Spirit was twenty years ago.”
All mankind is located in one of three types of attitudes toward Father God. (1) A rebelling prodigal son in the far country away from Father, family and home; (2) A striving religious orphan in a religious house trying to merit Father God or some god’s favor; (3) Living as an abiding, secure, loved, spiritual son in the Family of Faith with Father and Sons.
What you believe about your relationship with Father God will determine how you perceive yourself, which in turn will determine what you receive and how much you achieve in the kingdom of God.
I. Living in the Default Mode of an Orphan Spirit
John 14:18, “"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
Since that earth-shattering moment in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve believed the devil’s lie that they were being denied their rights to a better life, and chose to act on the devil’s promise of a new and better perspective, they lost all their spiritual sight and no longer could see or sense that God was their Father. Instead of running to Him and walking with Him in the cool of the Garden, they ran from Him and hid in fear of Him. They had become prodigal sons who preferred the far country of rebellion against the Father, as to loving, relating and living with Him as sons. They became the first spiritual orphans and everyone born since then comes from the baby factory in the default mode of an orphan – with God as their Creator, but not their Father. Experiencing the miracle called the new birth or spiritual regeneration, is required to bring us from orphans to sons in Father’s Family. But, alas the remains of the old life, the old man, called the flesh, still challenge us to operate out of the old default mode of spiritual orphans.
In his last, precious, instructive, loving interaction with his disciples, Jesus explained to them how He came to restore the relationship with the Father. He had spent approximately 33 years on earth demonstrating the true nature of God the Father. He is about to finish the work necessary for their restoration to take place. He tells them in John 14 that He is going to the Father to prepare them a place in the Father so they can have the relationship He has with the Father.
Dudley Hall, in commenting on the response of four of the disciples to Jesus’ explanation said, “They didn’t really understand what he was saying. Like the rest of mankind, they were orphans and could not see what the Son was telling them. They still had Adam’s eyes and were peering from behind a bush trying to keep the fig leaves in place. Peter couldn’t conceive of where Jesus was going. Thomas contended that contrary to Jesus’ statement, he didn’t know where or how to get there. Phillip asserted that if they could just have a visitation like Moses or Isaiah they would be satisfied. Judas was baffled by the very thought of Jesus being real to them but not to the world. These all reflect similar perspectives we have.”
What are the hallmarks of an orphan spirit?
1. Inability to have lasting relationships
2. Hatred of authority, general distrust for leaders
3. General lack of direction for your life
4. Inability to make key, strategic decisions
5. Drawing near, then backing away from intimacy
6. A sense that they’re just going to reject you anyway
7. A gnawing sense of failure, never quite good enough
8. An inexplicable drive to succeed, win, prove yourself
9. No home, No inheritance, No name
10. Fight for everything
Are you as a Christian operating more in the old default mode of an orphan spirit or in the new birth instilled spirit of Sonship? Test yourself by answering honestly the following questions:
Christians functioning with an Orphan spirit have no sense of identity, thus they never feel at home in Father’s House, thus they must pretend to be someone they are not in order to be accepted.
Christians functioning with the Spirit of Sonship have an assurance of true identity, a sense of belonging, and know that they can be themselves.
An Orphan Spirit causes the Christian to view themselves as having worth based on their productivity. A Spirit of Sonship causes the Christian to view their worth as being based on their paternity.
An Orphan Spirit causes the Christian to live primarily by rules and the love of law – (Luke 15:25-32) A Spirit of Sonship causes the Christian to live by relationship and the law of love – Gals 5:6,14
An Orphan Spirit causes the Christian to feel like a common laborer rather than co-owner in the Family Business of Almighty and Sons. Work is done out of fear for what their future might be if they don’t earn their way. The attitude of an orphan spirited Christian is don’t trust anyone; look out for number one; fight your own battles; and believe that God only helps those who help themselves!
A Spirit of Sonship knows they are co-owners and work from a position of settled identity, purposed destiny, and eternal security -- and not for it. (John 13:3-4)
An Orphan Spirit thinks since I don’t have an inheritance I must run, run over, push, climb the ladder to success, and claw and grab for everything I can get. No one but me can meet my needs.
The Spirit of Sonship thinks because I am a Son I am an heir of Father and a joint-heir with His Son. Because I have an inheritance I can work relaxed and not try to get all I can, can all I get and set on the lid and poison all the rest. I know that I am not here to make a good living to make a God-filled life!
II. Replacing the Defective Mindset with the Sonship Spirit
The orphan spirit cannot be cast out, reformed or rehabilitated; it must be replaced with the disposition of the Spirit of Sonship. A Son can never know He is a Son by focusing upon or trying hard to be a Son. Our identification doesn't come from investigation of ourselves but from the revelation by the Holy Spirit who affirms and confirms our relationship with Father God! Spiritual Fatherhood is always defined by Christ and revealed by the Spirit. So how does the believer replace the defective mindset of an orphan spirit with that of a sonship mindset? May I suggest from the Scriptures three major things:(1) Believing the Word of the Son of God; (2) Bearing with the Witness of the Spirit of God; (3) Basking in the Wonder of Having God as Our Father:
A. Believing the Word of the Son of God
John 14:18-20, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (19) Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. (20) In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
There are four life-transforming promises in these three verses:
(1) Living with a “Now” Presence of the Father – “I will come to you” – This means that all New Testament believers can live conscious of the presence of Jesus and the Father. Jesus is saying that there is no longer a need for a physical building called The Temple because the Temple will Now be the disciples both corporate and individual. Like Adam in the Garden and Jesus on earth, we can live in the daily experience of His presence and work in the power of His released life in us so that our fleshly orphan natures do not drive or dictate the terms by which we live.
(2) Living with a “New Perspective of the Father – “you will see Me” -- Now because the gospel opens our eyes, we can again see spiritual reality. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (ESV). We are told in these verses that the gospel reveals the true nature of God. He is Spirit and Father. The Holy Spirit will open our eyes to perceive what sin has blinded us from so we can receive the Spirit of adoption as sons who do not run in cowering, cringing fear of God, the Judge, but run towards God, our Father, in confident, kinship love.
(3) Living with a “Never-ending” Persuasion – “you will live also”— The same life he demonstrated on earth will be transferred to his own believers. They will know what it means to live with open eyes seeing true, truth and ultimate reality again. Because they know whom they have believed and are conscious of being sons of the Father, they will be conscious of Father’s unconditional love and will want to display his glory to all creation.
(4) Living in the “Noblest” of Positions – “You will know”-- They will know that they are caught up in the perichoresis or the Circle Dance of the Trinity – intertwined, indwelt, interacting, in a never-ending love relationship! This knowledge is beyond the reasons of the mind and the emotions of the soul. It is that spiritual knowledge that cannot be explained but is more real than thought. We are now getting an education for eternity when we will know as we are known. How are we known by God? He knows us in spirit. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 2 Corinthians 5:16 (ESV)
B. Bearing with the Witness of the Spirit of God
Galatians 4:6, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
In Galatians 4:5 we are told that Father God sent the Son that we might have the status of sonship. Then in verse 6, Father God sent the Spirit that we might know the experience of sonship. The confirmation of sonship is the indwelling Holy Spirit. Beloved, if we didn't have the Spirit, we would have absolutely no guarantee that we were the sons of God, subjectively. Here we have that most beautiful statement, "God sent the Spirit into your hearts."
Notice that God the Father has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father”! Then in Romans 8:15 we are told, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" So who is doing the crying the Holy Spirit or us? The answer is both. The Holy Spirit prompts and inspires the cry. He puts the cry into the heart and mouth of the believer. It is his cry because he suggests it, approves of it, and trains us to it. We would never have cried thus if he had not first taught us the way. As a mother teaches her child to speak, so he puts this cry of "Abba, Father" into our mouths; yea, it is he who forms in our hearts the desire after Father God and keeps it there. He is the Spirit of adoption, and the author of adoption's special and significant cry.
Let’s explore this word “Abba” by considering it in a two-fold manner:
First, Abba is a Spirit-Generated word which is spoken by the Sons of God who Treasure their Father so Fervently for Adopting them Personally and Permanently!
Abba is the cry of praise that describes the way that we approach God as Father, in the access that the Spirit provides. Our right to address God as Abba comes from His Son and is given to us as adopted sons by the Spirit. The phrase “cry out” is from the Greek word krazo which refers to a loud cry or shout. This intensity means that deep emotion is expressed and experienced.
The combined use of the Aramaic, “Abba,” and the Greek, “Father,” are terms of endearment and intimacy that means something like "dear Father", "Daddy" or "Papa." Remember that in the Roman Empire of the first century, adopted sons enjoyed the same privileges as natural-born sons. So, instead of cowering in slave-like fear, all sons and daughters by the new birth can confidently, boldly (and yet humbly) approach God in an intimate way, reverentially calling Him Abba, Father. Hallelujah!
Regeneration gives us the nature of sons and adoption gives us the privilege of sons. Adoption as sons is one word in the Greek, made up of two parts: (huios, which means son and tithemi, which means to place) literally it means "to place one as a son". The word thus speaks of adoption or being placed in a position and rights as one’s own child. It means to formally and legally declare that someone who is not one’s own child is henceforth to be treated and cared for as one’s own child, including complete rights of inheritance.
“Abba, Father!" How tender the relation! How intense the affection! What power it imparts to prayer! What may you not ask, and what can God refuse, with "Abba, Father" breathing in lowliness and love from your lips? Remember, it is an inalienable, unchangeable relation.
Second, Abba is a Gethsemane word which is spoken by the Son of God who Trusts His Father so Fully that He Obeys Him Completely!
Mark 14:36, “And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
When the Holy Spirit inspires us to cry Abba, He is reminding us that Abba Father is the one who wills obedience to the cross to achieve His redemptive purpose for His children. The Holy Spirit is inspiring us to remember the cross and to obey the Father in a similar sacrificial way.
The location at which we say Abba to God always has something of Gethsemane about it. It is the place where the son comes home to the security of his father’s love and knows that he can trust it and all the provisions that it will make for him. But it is also the place where he is called and enabled for a new and costly obedience, where the way ahead is going to have in it something of death and of glory, until at last there is a final death and glory and the son is home at last!
Shared Sonship Means Shared Suffering!
We are joint-heirs with Christ (Roms 8:17). We will have what He had, sufferings and glory or glory through sufferings. This is what it means to be able to cry, “Abba Father.”
Abba Father falls from the lips of God’s SPECIAL people, but we are not His Sheltered people. We will experience tribulations. We can’t expect to be “carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease while others have fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas.” Some trials, such as sickness, accidents, disappointments, and even incidents that seem to be nothing but utter tragedies, come upon us simply because we are human and are still living in a fallen world. Other tribulations are an essential part of God’s training for reigning preparatory school for King’s Kids. God is intent upon training and preparing His Kids to reign with Him forever, and not in protecting them from troubles and pampering them with a lot of toys and things! He ruthlessly perfects those whom He royally elects!
We are told in the book of Acts that the early church was taught that suffering was a required course for King's Kids in Training for Reigning. We read in Acts 14:22, "strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."
In Philippians 1:29, we are informed that suffering for Jesus is a gift that comes with the package of faith: "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,"
The Apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:12-13, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation."
In reaction to the fiery trial of tribulation, pressure, and suffering that you're undergoing, King Jesus says in essence, "Don't be surprised. Don't be self-pitying. Don't be self-accusing, i.e., what did I do to deserve this kind of suffering?"
Although the devil may initiate the affliction with the intent of destroying our bodies and deranging our minds and disgracing our character, God has designed it to develop our maturity.
C. Basking in the Wonder of Having God as Our Father!
Galatians 4:6, “And because you are sons” or as a consequence of your being adopted into the family of God, and being regarded as his sons. It follows as a part of his purpose of adoption that his children shall have the spirit of the Lord Jesus whereby we have the desire and the dynamic to called God, our dear Father, our Papa, our Daddy.
The phrase the “Spirit of his Son” has the idea that as the Lord Jesus was enabled to approach God with the language of endearment and love, so do we. He, being the true and exalted Son of God, had the Spirit appropriate to such a relation; we being adopted, and made like him, have the same Spirit. By the Spirit we are enabled to approach God as his children, and use the reverent, tender, and affectionate language of a child addressing a father. It is that language we Christians use when we have evidence of adoption; the expression of the warm, and elevated, and glowing emotions which we have when we can approach God as our God, and address him as our Father.
Our address is a cry, “Abba, Father.” In ancient times slaves were never permitted to use the title of Abba in addressing the master of the family to which they belonged. Thus the language which Christians are here in Gals 4 represented as using is the language of freemen, of sons, not slaves or orphans. From our born again nature and our son-placed name, we are fixed to glorify Father by enjoying Him forever beginning now. (I am indebted to Dudley Hall for these ideas.)
Let’s explore five facets of what a daily experience of Abba Father enjoyment might look like:
1. Enjoying the Unhindered Relationship of Sonship in the Father -- Adam had enjoyed the unhindered presence of God before sin intruded. The wonder of having God as our Father is the privilege to live and realize His manifest presence in an unhindered and unbreakable relationship.
Jesus promised His disciples in the Upper Room that he would not leave them as orphans, but would send one just like him without a body to make real to them the same relationship he had with the Father (John 14:18-20). They would know perceive, experience personally and consciously that Jesus is in the Father, they were in Jesus, and Jesus was in them. This was an amazing promise. It was as radical a thought as had ever been in their minds. Jesus was saying in essence that they could have the same sense of intimacy with the Father as He had.
Abba Father – This Provides Intimacy (a sense of Father’s Presence.
Our fellowship is with the Father" (I John 1:3). The word for "fellowship" (koinonia) is rendered "communication" in Philemon 6, "communion" in II Cor. 13:14, "distribution" in II Cor. 9:13, and "contribution" in Rom. 15:26, and comes from the word "koinonos", which means one who shares something with another, hence we read of those who were "partners" with Simon (Luke 5:10). Fellowship with the Father means mutual communication, for we bless Him with our grateful praise, and He blesses us with His gracious provision; mutual distribution, for He gives to us the blessing of His love, that we may love others with the love of His blessing; mutual contribution, for He makes us partakers of His holiness, that we may by our holiness prove we are partakers of His nature. We are partakers in all His business, and He is a partner in all ours, so there is fellowship, fellow-help, fellow-feeling, fellow-work, fellow-purpose, fellow-company, and fellow-care.
2. Experiencing the Unmerited Favor of Fellowship with the Father -- Adam and Eve enjoyed the presence and pleasure of the Father without doing anything to merit it. And Father obviously enjoyed fellowshipping with them. Dudley Hall, “It is difficult to believe that God enjoys us. When I get up in the morning and look into the mirror, I can’t imagine anyone delighting in me. When I think of all the selfish things I have done, I can only imagine others being repulsed. To believe that the Father actually looks forward to being with me is a stretch. I have been programmed by the orphan’s perspective. I can only hope God will tolerate me. If I could actually believe God the Father was anxiously waiting for me to wake up and visit with him, I wonder would that make me eager to get up"
Abba Father – This Provides Identity (a sense of Father’s Pleasure);
There are two principal words translated "sons," or "children," in the New Testament, namely, "huios" and "teknon." The former is always used in an adoptive sense, and refers to the dignity of sonship, and the latter expresses kinship, a descendant, and denotes nature. "Huios" is used in Rom. 8:14,19; Gal. 3:26; 4:6; Heb. 12:5,6,7,8; and "teknon" in I John 2:12; Rom. 8:16,17,21; I John 3:1,2,10. As the child owes its being to its parents, so being begotten from above by the Spirit we possess the nature of God, and that nature is love.
Spirit-realized sonship will embrace the Father's heart and enjoy Father's love, and be stunned and stay amazed and wonder how he could love me a former sinner, condemn and unclean.
3. Employed in the Undertaking of Partnership with the Father -- Adam knew his purpose, but because he got out of alignment with Father, he missed his assignment and messed up all his offspring. Adam was to enjoy the Father and partner with him in developing creation. In short, he was to glorify God—make his nature known in the earth. The last Adam, Jesus came to do the will of the Father and having done it perfectly, he revealed it in his “high-priestly prayer:” “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do…I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.”John 17:4,6a (ESV)
Guess what? This is our purpose as well! When we believe we are sons of God destined to make Father’s name known in the earth, we can rise to the occasion and make a difference during our time here. There are mysteries to be solved and treasures to be discovered in this creation. The sons of God will enjoy working with the Father in fulfilling his purpose for creation no matter where they are assigned. If we aren’t living to glorify him, it doesn’t really matter what we do vocationally. In fact, if we are living to glorify him it really doesn’t matter very much what we do.
Abba Father – This Provides Responsibility (a sense of Father’s Purpose and Partnership)
4. Expecting to be Underwritten by the Ownership of Everything by the Father -- Adam had plenty of food on every tree in the garden. When we are in sub-mission to his co-mission, we will never lack provision because what he orders he pays for. We are not dependant on the Federal Reserve or the Federal Government. Our Father is rich in house and lands and he holds all the wealth of the world in his hands. When we are conscious of his abundant provision, we are liberated from worry and fear and can work with confidence.
Abba Father – This Provides Sufficiency ( a sense of Father’s Provision)
5. Encircled by the Undefeatableness of the Companionship of the Father – Adam had the angels surrounding the Garden of Eden. We in Father’s hand and no one can snatch us from it.
On numerous occasions in Jesus’ earthly life, people tried to kill him. He was able to simply walk away. In his words, “My hour is not yet or my time has not come.” The Father was in charge of the events of his life. Regardless of how powerful and wicked the Roman government was, or how bitter and evil the Jewish leaders had become; no one could touch him until his hour had come. Likewise, we are invulnerable and indispensable until our assignment is done. We are not walking the tight rope of survival wondering if accidents or terrorists, or demons and antichrists are going to prevail. We are in the hands of The Father. When he determines our assignment is done, he will decide how we leave from this world. His promise is sure. Jesus has prepared a place in the Father for us and we can enjoy it now. When death comes we will still enjoy the consciousness of the Father that we are getting accustomed to now.
Abba Father – This Provides Security ( a sense of Father’s Protection)
One final question, are you operating from an “orphan spirit” even though you have been born anew and reconciled to Father God by the Holy Spirit? Are you still living as a stranger instead of a son, alienated instead of reconciled, as an outsider looking in, or as an illegal alien who is still trying to win favorable sonship status.
It is time to repent of Your Orphan’s Mindset that has Deprived You of all the Provisions of Father’s Heart and House!
It is time to receive the Father’s Embrace and Restoration to the House of Grace!
Remember when you first came from the far country of sin, how a father’s embrace awaited you. You need a fresh homecoming.
Remember when you first came from the far country, how at the Father’s house you received life for your deadness, direction for your lostness, strength for your weakness, healing for your sickness, clothing for your nakedness, love for your happiness, and sonship authority for your usefulness in the family firm of almighty and Sons!
Receive afresh the Spirit of Sonship of adoption and believe that you’re a son in Father's House and that He alone is the source of your True Identity, Eternal Security, Real Intimacy, Divine Destiny and Spirit-filled Joy.
Spirit-realized sonship will result in a fullness that embraces the cross in order to defeat death and bring forth life. Spirit-realized sonship brings breakthrough as it declares the word of the Cross and the glory of Christ; it confronts demonic powers in the power of the Blood of the Lamb and in the spirit of prayer and extends the kingdom of the Father so that he is glorified in all things.
Will you pray with me:
“Abba Father, empower us to recover the heart of the gospel –the Father/Son/ and sons dynamic/ in and by the Spirit so that we can live in the spirit of sonship and not with an orphan’s mentality.
Holy Spirit, give us ears to hear your cry of Father/sons intimacy in our hearts. Empower us with a realized, sonship “anointing” that will embrace the Father's heart and enjoy Father's love; that will enable and ensure that Father's will is done, and enlarges Father's kingdom so that it comes more fully and brings many sons to glory!
Abba Father, empower us to recover the heart of the gospel so that we intimately, personally, gladly, freely, and confidently, cry in every location and situation, “Abba Father, NOT MY WILL, BUT THINE BE DONE!”