Few things devastate a nation like failed fathering. Statistics show emotional and societal damage caused by failed fathering. For example, in the USA over 90% of prisoners are males; 95% of those on death row hated their fathers.
Unfortunately, not only prisoners, but many people don’t know their fathers or have failed relationships with them. This is all around us. We know it only too well.
The danger of a distorted image
What we may fail to see is that this failed fathering creates a distorted image of Father God in our hearts. Bearing a distorted image of God unwittingly blocks us from discovering our true image. It also distorts how we try to live.
We are created in God’s image, to bear it, not just reflect it. The image of God we bear (or carry) deep in our hearts is everything in our spiritual life. It determines how we seek Him, act towards others, and how we respond to what He allows in our lives.
For example, if I fear that the Father is a hard judge towards me, I will not only stay away from Him, I will become a hard judge towards others. We become like the Image of God we carry!
Jesus kept spiritual eyes constantly upon the Father’s heart for Him and us. All that He did flowed out of that ongoing faith connection. That’s why it’s important to keep our hearts rightly set on a true image of God.
Consider the powerful influence of these three image-shapers:
1. Adams nature in us still tries to hide from God in guilt, fear of punishment, and shame over our sinful ‘nakedness’.
2. Our birth fathers and mothers might have created powerful, but false impressions of what God the Father is like by being distant, uncaring, over-bearing, unaffectionate, abusive, threatening, harsh in discipline, angry in punishment and sinful.
3. Our spiritual fathers, such as pastors and teachers, may have planted wrong images of the Father by being unloving, judgmental, easily offended, stern and strict. In a word: different from Jesus. Not so much by their words, as by their ways.
These distorted images don’t reveal the Father’s heart of love but instead, resemble the enemy’s ‘dark heart’. We must cast down these false images by first forgiving those who sowed distorted images in us, then by renouncing the lies that were planted and confessing the truth in their place.
The image formed by family
Our fathers and mothers are god-like to us when we are little. They teach us right from wrong and exercise complete power over us. This can contribute to a distorted image of Father God, if their ways don’t match up with the Lord’s.
Earthly fathers should create a solid foundation of love, affection and proper discipline to mould children properly. Lack of this foundation causes a void, often a hurting wound which the enemy takes advantage of. Thus the ‘father wound’- a pervasive, deadly and societal curse – emerges. Small wonder we need so much restoration!
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Yahweh comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse. Malachi 4:5-6.
Clarifying our image of the Father
We call God our Father, but miss the point of intimacy. Typically, we relate to Him as the great high God who is distant and mysterious in nature until the living faith through Christ is birthed in us. Remember, Jesus came to reveal Him as “Abba”-Daddy. Just knowing this truth in our head doesn’t guarantee it rules in our heart, but at least let us get a clear picture in our mind.
Our Father’s incredible grace was first seen in the Old Testament when He revealed the glorious nature of His grace-filled being to Moses.
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Exodus 34:6.
God’s grace is so great that He doesn’t even hold our sins against us. He still hates our sins, but He loves us. That’s why, even though He works to bring us to repentance, He maintains a spirit of reconciliation towards us in His great heart (2 Corinthians 5:19).
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God put His love on full display
God affirmed His Love for Jesus through public displays of affection in three instances: at Jesus’s baptism, the transfiguration on the mount, and before the cross. Amazingly, the Father has the same love for all believers who are in Christ by faith.
God desires to affirm and express His love to you. He loves no one more or less than you. He doesn’t play favourites and loves you just as much as he loves Jesus. If this doesn’t move your heart, pray for fresh grace to be amazed by this revelation from Jesus.
I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me (John 17:23)
Let Jesus reveal the Father to you
Jesus’s life and death were intended to reveal the Father.
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” John 14:8-10
Simply told, the Father is just like Jesus. God’s word requires us in faith to cast down every image of the Father we may have been given that doesn’t match up with Jesus.
I and the Father are one (John 10:30)
If this is who God is to you, then knowing and believing it gives you joy, peace, and love during every moment of your life in which you touch this living reality in faith. Active-believing-faith powerfully puts us in touch with reality. Not living in such faith is living a bad dream, from which one day we will be awakened.
Why not awaken now?
Start each day intentionally checking whether your heart really believes the following five liberating truths about God the Father. Your Father is always:
1) Loving you (John 17:23)
2) Forgiving you (Hebrews 4:16)
3) Saving you (Jeremiah 33.3)
4) Planning for you (Jeremiah 29:11)
5) Redeeming you (Romans 8:28)
In your head you may accept these truths. But if deep in your heart, you have a problem really believing them, then start attaching your faith to His scriptures. Jesus said our most important work is believing the truth about God. This doesn’t happen without “working out” with the scriptures and prayer!
The way of restoration
We can have our hearts restored to a state of deeply trusting our Father. For this to happen we need to recognise when we are serving a lesser image of God: feeling unworthy, anxious or driven to perform.
Pray to see the distorted images in you, then forgive those who planted them. Pray for Jesus to fully reveal the Father to you, repent and renounce all unbelief and confess the truth of His perfect love. Finally, give thanks to the Father for his endless love and grace.
Father, I confess that I have let the enemy and my own life experiences build up false images about You that have kept me from running to You. But, from now on I will fight to believe in the truth about You that Jesus is revealing to me. I will fight to run to You when I am tempted or in need. I will seek Your grace even in my places of deepest disgrace. Let Your perfect love cast out all of my fears!
Don’t make Father do all the running – learn to run to Him!
By Steve E,
Christ & Co.