I wish to explain to you what was basic to me in my fourteen years as a Catholic Priest searching to know how I could be right with God. In those years I greatly longed for a deep joy and personal security that can only be found in God Himself.
First the Lord’s mercy I discovered what was true Christian faith. I had been ordained as a Catholic priest in 1963, and after a year in Rome I was sent to the island of Trinidad in the West Indies. It was in 1972, after serious accident in which I nearly died, that I began seriously reading the Bible to see how one is right before the all Holy God. Some days I would read Ephesians Chapters one and two, ten to twenty times. I saw in those two chapters the concept; it “in Christ” was stated forty two times. Most of all I understood that salvation is in Christ. Thus being made acceptable to God is in Christ, “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” However for some years I struggled hard between the oft-repeated phrases of being “in Christ” and the Catholic teaching, that I knew so well, that salvation is in the human heart by receiving the Sacraments of the Church. Then I struggled with Ephesians 2:1 and the fact that I wasspiritually “dead in trespasses and sins.” This fact of recognizing that I was spiritually dead was essential, as no one can understand the good news of the Gospel without it. Finally by the grace of God alone, the testimony voiced by the Apostle Paul became my own heart’s cry, “that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
However in those years of search my deep desire was not just to be right with God, but also to know intimately the love and the protection of the Abba Father as portrayed in Scripture in Romans 8:14-17, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
I could believe that God loved others, but I saw no reason why He should turn one thought of love or kindness towards me. I dared not cast myself upon Him. Then I came to realize that no one who believes in such intimate love of God as Abba Father and puts his trust in that love is ever deceived. The fact that I desired deeply to turn my affections on the Abba Father showed me that the heart of the Abba Father was first set upon me! It was then like a bright light that things began to make sense. The meaning of love is that He loves us first, and then we respond to His love. Such love draws us into a living relationship of contentment and deep security. When God is seen in Scripture as the Abba Father, acting love, we respond to His love. This is living faith. To love God is to obey Him. He commands us to rest and delight in His love. This was by far the most significant part of my conversion, and I wish to explain it to you today.
The greatest joy we have in this world is our awareness of everlasting life and our living that life. It is our privilege to taste fellowship with God Himself, and to take great comfort in it, as Scripture states, “if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” Experiencing fellowship with God is that for which Jesus Christ prayed on the night before He died. We are encouragingly reminded by the Lord that this profound fellowship is the essence of our Christian walk. Thus, we are told, “because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’”
The word “Father,” speaking of His heavenly Father, was on the lips of the Lord one hundred and seventy times. As Christ Jesus has revealed Him, He is distinctively the Father, the Abba Father. The Lord in His agony in the garden prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” The Apostle Paul uses the same term teaching us how to intimately commune with the Father. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” All Christ’s prayers were addressed to the Father, with the exception of His prayer on the cross when He quoted Psalm 22. The Father is the great fountain and spring of all gracious fruits of His love. This is that which Christ came to reveal, namely, God as the Father to you; even in the loving, endearing term “Abba Father.”
We are instructed emphatically in Scripture that “God is love.” We know that God in this statement is taken personally for the Father because following verse distinguishes Him from His only begotten Son whom He sent into the world. Consequently the Word of God proclaims “The Father is love.” Not only is He graciously tender and compassionate as proclaimed in the Old Testament, but also He eminently portrayed to us as love. Thus, His Word continues, “He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Distinctively, the Father loved us. The love of the Father is, in fact, declared to be before the foundation of the world. As stated in Ephesians 1:4-7, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Christ Jesus to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
Our beloved Savior Himself told us, “I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loveth you.” The Father Himself loves each one of us in particular, therefore we must resolve to hold communion with Him in His love, and never be in doubt or troubled about it.
Christians walk sometimes with troubled hearts concerning the thoughts of the Father towards them. They are convinced of the Lord Jesus Christ and His love; their difficulty lies what to think regarding the Father’s love. Christians ought rather to see the Father as the very fountain from which all other kindnesses flow. This love of the Father is the axis on which all the great changes and blessings of believers revolve. Thus, the Apostle says, “We ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” The whole source of the recovery was from the love of the Father. When the kindness and love of the Father appeared, then changes resulted! To utterly convince us of His love, the Father compared Himself to all that is loving and tender in the world. He is portrayed as a father, a mother, a shepherd, even as a hen caring for her chicks. Thus, for example, He promises, “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.” This is love of the Father peculiarly intended for you, His own, and in which He holds communion with you. Now, to experience communion with the Father in love, two things are required of us. Firstly, that we receive it and rejoice in it. Secondly, that we attempt to make suitable returns to Him.
Fellowship consists in giving and receiving; until the love of the Father is received, we have no experiential communion with Him. How then is this love of the Father to be received, so that we can hold fellowship with him? We receive it by faith. God has so fully and eminently revealed His love, that we may receive that love through faith. “Ye believe in God,” Christ declared, namely, you believe in the Father. And what is to be believed first of all in Him? It is His love, because He is “love.”
It is by and through Christ we have an access to the Father, and we are able to see the love that He peculiarly has for us. As the Lord Jesus Christ clearly told us, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Thus, by Christ and by faith through Christ we are brought to realize and appreciate the love of the Father. Accordingly we can be certain of the Fathers’ love, and there in His love we repose and rest. Thus the first thing required of us is to be fully persuaded that God personally loves us. Thus, He commands us, “My son, give me thine heart.” When we see the Father in His gift of love, then we rest on and delight in Him, and have communion with Him in love. This love is heartfelt fondness, a sense of His presence and a deep contentment with Him. As long as the Father is looked upon in any other way than acting in love towards us, our souls can remain spiritually lukewarm. To love God is to obey Him, and He commands us to rest and delight in His love.
To rest in the Father’s love, believers of old, such as John Owen, dwelt on and relished the prophecy of Zephaniah, “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing.” Both rest and delight are here assigned to God in His love. First rest as the Father is fully satisfied in His love for us. The Father rests on account of His own love so full and in every way complete and absolute; He rests in His own love. He will not remove His love; He will not seek any further for other persons to love; His love has been from everlasting. As He also proclaims, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.”
Then to continue with the prophecy from Zephaniah it is proclaimed, “he will rejoice over thee with joy.” This expresses the delight that He has in His love, denoting His inward affection of the mind and joy of heart. To have joy of heart is the highest expression of delight in love. All of this is exceeding wonderful to comprehend nonetheless it is even expressed more precisely. The Word of the Lord continues, “he will joy over thee with singing.” This denotes not the inward affection alone, but also an outward demonstration of it. An outward demonstration of delight is when men leap for joy when overcome with some enjoyable surprise. Therefore, the Father is said to, “joy over thee with singing.” To rejoice with singing and praise even in an outward demonstrative way, reveals the greatest delight and contentment possible. This is why believers of old were so realistic in looking for the manifestation of the Father’s love in the details of their lives. This they called the providence of God. Knowing that the Father’s love is expressed in external happenings of our lives they remembered the providences of God’s love over the years of their lives. By constant review of the providences of God’s love as manifested in their lives, they sucked as it were, fresh sweetness out of them. They were motivated by such as Psalm 77:11-12 where it is stated, “I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.” They looked at what the Father had done in their lives in order to know more of His love. We truly benefit from a regular remembrance of what the Father has done in the context of our daily lives. We must dwell upon them in our thoughts, and must talk of them, reminding ourselves and others of the great providences that the Father wrought in our lives. This remembrance of Father’s care of us is a powerful antidote against having any doubts about His love. For He is the Lord God and changes not! As He began so He will finish His work and show more and more evidences of His loving kindness. If we would but sit down and make note what the God’s providence has done for us in manifestations of His faithfulness and love we would joyfully praise Him in the words of the Apostle, “Eye hath not see, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.”
(1 Corinthians 2:9) Is it not true that few of God’s people really search out and enjoy what the Spirit has revealed in the Word about the love of our Abba Father? If we were more occupied with our Father’s love than with our poverty, His divine bounties than our failings, what a different it would make to how we live each day.
These blessings of relishing day by day the Fathers’ presence providence protection and provision for us are all are based on the value of Christ’s sacrifice for His people. The abiding worth of that sacrifice is as immeasurable as the personal excellence Jesus Christ Himself. The nature and amount of those blessings are given to us on the basis of Christ’s finished work, which the Scriptures describe as the divine bounties already bestowed on us not just we will enjoy forever in heaven Take first Father’s grace. Not only are we told of the “riches of his grace” in Ephesians 1:7 and of the “exceeding riches of His grace” in Ephesians 2:7 but also we read that the Father’s grace has “abounded unto many,” and that we receive “abundance of grace.” Yes indeed the Father’s grace is super abundant. When the only begotten Son became flesh and dwelt among us it was as the Lord who was “full of grace and truth.” Because we have been made joint heirs with Him it is written, “And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.”
Take again the Father’s love. There has been neither reserve nor restraint in the outflow of His love to us. He so love the world as to give His only begotten Son, “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Love unmeasured fills our lives with its ever active providence and care truly it is love super abundant. Our present theme is inexhaustible. Our Lord came here that His people, “might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” There are things which the angels “desire to look into” yet they have been made known to us. What an encouragement what is our inheritance as explained in Ephesians 1:8-9 “Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will.” The Father has blessed us with the divine revelation of the mystery of His will. That reveals His concern and grace for us while concealed from a great a part of the world. For this we are indebted to Christ, who, having been in the bosom of the Father from eternity, came to declare the Father’s will to us. His love for our redemption was planned in and from Himself, and not for any thing in us. The making known the mystery of His will to us, is the Gospel of our salvation.
But it is one thing to know intellectually the love of our Abba Father it is quite another, by faith, to make this part in our daily lives. It is one thing know our salvation it is another to relish its power and personally to speak of it day by day.
Coming to faith in Jesus Christ is initiated by the Father’s love Who draws each individual to His Son. Salvation is accomplished by His grace alone. It is His free gift through faith alone. Coming to Jesus Christ is having eternal life now, and this life will be fully glorified in heaven. In witnessing if we talk about how to get to heaven, we change the focus from the Father’s love to man’s fulfillment. Rather than talking about getting to heaven, we should emphasize the fact that daily we experience eternal life. As the Lord Himself proclaimed, “this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” The actual words of Scripture should be on our hearts and on our tongues day by day. Whether we are in the supermarket or at the hairdresser or on the telephone we talk about the everlasting life that we enjoy and the love we experience in love of our Abba Father. And it that context we tell that we meet that they need to believe on the Lord Jesus and to know everlasting life in the love of the Father. And it that context we tell those that talk to, that they are commanded to “believe on the Lord Jesus.” The Lord put the command to believe in a nutshell when He said, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent” (John 6:29). Likewise, the Apostle Paul and Silas declared, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).
The central importance of faith was given by the Lord in the words, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47). In a word, the Lord summarized the situation, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). The Lord Christ Jesus states clearly the reason for this, “He that believeth on Him [Christ] is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:18-19).
The Apostle Paul’s summary of the Gospel is an example of the exact meaning of salvation. “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” The Lord Jesus Christ was personally All Holy; yet as the substitute for the believer’s sin, He rendered Himself legally responsible to the wrath of God. The purpose of Christ’s faithfulness in all that He did, culminating in His death on the cross, was that His righteousness might be credited to the believer. God legally constituted Christ to be “sin for us.” He was “made sin” because the sins of all of His people were transferred to Him. In like manner, God’s reckons to the believer Christ’s righteousness. Quite clearly, salvation is a judicial and gracious act of God whereby a believing sinner has legal right standing in Christ Jesus.
When full credit is given to the Father’s love and grace and when His powerful written Word is used in witnessing, He saves the sinner; and gives a manifestation of His loving kindness. This is the culminating aspect of our relishing love of our Abba Father in salvation. The God of all grace has called us be partakers His eternal love. How ungracious it would be for us not to relish and bathe in His love day by day. How can we give explanation our silence if we do not speak of His love daily? As constantly we dwell on the love of our Abba Father may that very love motivate and inspire us look for more and more opportunities to share His Gospel of grace as part and parcel of our lives, “to the praise of the glory of His grace.”
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