Let me paint a picture for you that most parents will be able to relate to. Your child is 5 years old and comes home with an art project he created in school. If you are being honest, you would have to admit that you have no idea what this is a picture of. Rather than admitting your ignorance, you take a stab at it. “What is it, Jimmy? Is it a hideous blob monster?” Jimmy responds, “No mommy, it’s a picture of you mommy!” In fairness to you, the picture is not a great likeness. You have hair, and your eyes are basically the same size, unlike the portrait you are holding.
No matter how bad that art project was, where did the hideous blob monster/mom picture end up? You took a magnet and put it on your refrigerator.
You wanted your child to know that you were proud of him or her.
I didn’t realize how much this was in our fabric as a family until recently. This last year, we moved from San Diego to Glendale, Arizona. In July. It was 115 degrees the day we moved in. Why would any sane person make that move? Let me give you one reason.
My daughter drew this when she was 5. Funny, when I remember her at 5 she had a nose. And both of her arms were roughly the same size.
I’m assuming that my daughter is on the left because I didn’t have orange hair. I’m on the right and I only have four strands of hair total. Plus my face doesn’t connect.
This next piece of art is a poem. How excited do you think my wife was when this made it onto the bulletin board at my daughter’s school.
“So Mrs. Hawkins, how much do you nap exactly?”
After filing through these boxes, my wife and I made an obvious observation. None of these pictures are any good. There isn’t a single piece of art that will end up in a museum. Clearly, they are better than the pictures your kids drew, but they ain’t all that great. But they each ended up on our refrigerator. Why? It wasn’t the quality of the picture that got them up there.
It was the relationship.
It was the love we had for our kids. We delighted in them.
I believe that there are many people who need to develop a new understanding of God. So many people see him as an angry deity. He’s sitting up in heaven waiting for you to make a mistake. I need you to understand that God is not staring down at you tapping his foot. He’s not disappointed in you. God loves you so much that your picture is on his refrigerator.
Look with me at Romans 8. Romans 8 is considered by many scholars and theologians as the most important passage of scripture in the entire bible. A group of theologians were asked this question, “If you were stuck on a deserted island and only had one chapter of the Bible, what would you pick?” More theologians picked Romans 8 than any other passage which leads me to one clear observation. Theologians are weird. Who asks “What bible verse would you want on a desert island?” In this foundational passage in the Bible, notice how we are referred to by God.
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children Romans 8:15,16.
God doesn’t view us as slaves. We aren’t minions ordered around by a dictatorial deity. God calls us sons and daughters. We are his children. One word in this passage jumps out at me more than any other. Adopted. Years ago, my wife and I were in Haiti and noticed a beautiful little girl, and we had this thought. Of all the children here, this one seems most like a Hawkins. It took us four years to complete the process, but we finally brought our daughter Daphlie home to be a part of our forever family.
We are God’s kids. His sons and daughters. His adopted.
That’s what we are called. So what do we call him? Paul calls our Heavenly Father a name. It’s actually more of a nickname. It’s Abba.
There is some disagreement about what that word means. There are theologians (you know the ones who dream about being on a desert island with a bible chapter) that believe that Abba refers to an intimacy between a father and a son. It’s how Jesus refers to his Father when he is in the garden about to face the cross. Conservative theologians agree it’s a term of intimacy, but other commentators take it to the next level.
Abba sounds like the kind of phrase a baby would use when talking to a father.
I recently became a grandparent. Did I mention that? I’m desperately trying to get my granddaughter to call me by name. I could not be more in her face. “Papa. Papa. Say Papa.” I’m pretty sure she’s saying my name. My daughter will tell you that what she is really saying is “pup pup,” which is what she says to the dog, but I disagree. Abba sounds like the kind of intimate word a child would use for her father.
I’m not sure the word Abba is quite that intimate, but Paul is pretty clear when he talks about the kind of relationship we have with God. We are not slaves or stepchildren. He calls us his kids. We are adopted and beloved. Why is that important? Because God wants you to know that he wants an intimate relationship with you.
God wants to be that loving father figure you always wanted.
For some people, seeing God as a loving Heavenly Dad is easy. My wife, for one. It seemed like her dad was always there with a hug and a cup of cocoa. But for others, making that connection is not so easy. Your relationship with your dad wasn’t great. He was angry. He was exacting. Critical. Perhaps you are like me. Your dad was an alcoholic. Or maybe a rage-aholic.
This last Sunday, I began a new job as the transitional pastor at Covenant Grove Church in Modesto. What a thrill that was. This church is legendary in its friendliness! I felt like I was home from day one. I haven’t given a message in 6 months, so I wanted to make sure I chose one that represents my heart, and this was it.
My hope is that my new friends will begin to see our God in a new way. My prayer is the same for you. That you will see him as a loving father.
He delights in you.
He doesn’t love you because you can produce great art. He doesn’t love you because you are more talented than everyone around you. God’s delight in you isn’t based on your bank account or your level of fitness or how high you’ve climbed in your company. He loves you because you are his child, his adopted.