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A Father’s Love

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘A Father’s Love’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 3/8/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here:

God the Father

The Christian church is in the midst of a relationship crisis. We see God as a strict disciplinarian. We see Him as someone who is passively involved in our lives: seeking to intervene only when we’ve exhausted all other options. We think of God as someone who is, at best, vaguely interested in what we have to say. But that is not who God wants to be to us.

God is our Father. There is a reason He calls Himself Dad. The word “father” has a certain connotation that we forget when we talk to God. “Father” implies intimacy and unconditional love; and these are characteristics that God always wants us to think of when He comes to mind.

The word “father” (Hebrew ab: Strong’s #1) occurs 1,061 times throughout the Old Testament. In most of those occurrences, the word refers to a biological father: a progenitor. It also refers to God as the Creator of His people. In the Old Testament, “father” is a formal title. When Jacob and Esau approached their father Isaac for a blessing, there is an air of formality (Gen 27).

Under the New Testament, the way we relate to God changes. We are encouraged to, “…come boldly to the throne of grace” (Heb 4:16). We have God’s ear in a way the people of Israel did not.

In the New Testament context, we see the emergence of a new word for Father: Abba. The first occurrence of the word is in Luke’s gospel. Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, engaged in intimate prayer with God. He is at a place of utmost need, knowing that He will die on the Cross. And in that moment, out of that place of intimacy, we see Jesus cry out for His Father:

“Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” – Mk 14:36

Abba as an Aramaic word that is less formal than “father.” The most direct translation in English would be, “Daddy.” Jesus is crying out in His most intimate time of need – not for a distant Father – but for His loving Daddy.

Our task is to be like Jesus. We should refer to God the same way Jesus refers to God. We should think of God in the same way Jesus thinks of God. Jesus knew that when He needed Him most, God was there; and so should we.

We were redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ so that we could enjoy a loving, intimate relationship with our Daddy:

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received          the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” – Rom 8:15

We were not rescued from our sin so that we might fear God as we fear a distant, authoritarian figure. We were redeemed from the pit of despair so that we might know that Daddy God loves us. No parent adopts a child unless he wants to love that child as his own. God would not adopt us and then allow us to suffer. He has taken us under the shadow of His wing so that we might enjoy utmost intimacy with Him!

You can trust God. Do you remember how you trusted your daddy when you were a child? Do you remember how when you gripped his hand, you felt like nothing in the world could ever hurt you? God wants us to trust Him in exactly the same way!

Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it. – Lk 18:17

Daddy’s don’t have a responsibility to explain everything to their kids; and even if they did, the children probably wouldn’t understand. But Daddy’s do have a responsibility to provide for, and protect, their family at every turn.

We cannot move forward in our relationship with God unless we trust Him completely. But once that trust is established, we can move forward with boldness:

And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” – Gal 4:6

What Does “Daddy” Mean to You?

The words “father” and “daddy” mean something slightly different to every single one of us. When you think of the word “father,” what do you think? My guess is that your earthly father is the first person to pop into your mind. If he wasn’t around, maybe another adult male role model is the first person you consider.

One thing we must realize is that our earthly fathers were (or are) all imperfect. I have a phenomenal father. For several years when my brother and I were growing up, my dad stayed home to take care of us during the day. He taught me how to play basketball, and how to lift weights. He taught me what it means to be a man, and how to selflessly love the people around me. He taught me how to work hard, and put other people ahead of myself.

But I realize that my childhood was unique. Not everyone had a father like me.

The sad truth is that we are facing a fatherhood crisis in our nation. Twenty-four million children in the United States live in father-absent homes. That’s one out of every three children in our country. Nine in ten American parents agree that fatherhood is a “crisis” in this nation.[1]

Too many men are not willing to be good fathers. They are not willing to love their children like they deserve to be loved. This is nothing to brush off as a small problem that will resolve itself.

The role our fathers are willing to play in our childhood has a direct impact on our education and development. Researchers have found that increased father-child contact was associated with better social, emotional and academic functioning. Children with more involved fathers also experienced fewer behavioral problems and scored higher on reading achievement tests.[2]

Fathers are also the primary figures who give us our moral compass, and keep us out of trouble. Youths in father-absent households have significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families.[3] Everything our dads do matters, but many of our fathers have not demonstrated they’re willing to do enough.

He’s Not Like Him

Because we know that our earthly fathers were imperfect, we assume that God is just like them; and that’s where a serious problem takes root. Our knowledge that our dads didn’t do everything right can translate into a flawed perception of God.

I’m a student of psychology. When professional therapists meet with clients, there is a concept they sometimes look for known as displacement: redirecting emotional responses from their real subject to someone else.[4]

If you have a terrible day at work because your boss has been driving you crazy, it might throw off the rest of your day. You might say some things to co-workers, from a place of anger, that you regret. You might find yourself with some serious road rage on your way home from work. You might even come home and kick your dog! Because you are constrained in your relationship with your boss, and unable to respond to him with the emotion you would like to, you act out your emotions on other people. That is displacement.

Many of us exhibit displacement in our relationship with God. All of us feel emotions that are less than perfect towards our earthly fathers. But instead of dealing with them, most often we redirect them towards God. We assume that He is imperfect because our earthly fathers were imperfect. In a best-case situation, we might take a few months off from church and blow off some steam. In a worst-case situation, we can end up incredibly angry at God, and assume He doesn’t love us anymore!

When we lose contact with our heavenly Father, every single aspect of our health, and our lives, is negatively impacted. The fatherhood statistics mentioned above have significant spiritual implications. When we lose contact with our Father, our cognitive development suffers. Our social and emotional health is also negatively affected, and our job performance suffers. When we don’t learn who He is, we miss out on a lifetime of blessing. We can even end up incarcerated: imprisoned by the lies of Satan.

Developmental psychologists have postulated that the most essential element for a baby’s cognitive development is the caregiver relationship. In order for constructive development to occur, we need constant interaction with a loving caregiver. If we miss out on that, every aspect of our growth will be negatively impacted.

The same rings true for our relationship with God. Some of us with imperfect fathers have grown up expecting God to be similarly imperfect. Because our earthly fathers didn’t have enough time for us, we expect God to treat us exactly the same way. As we allow the biases we have inherited from our earthly fathers to creep into our perception of God, we miss out on a loving caregiver relationship with Him. We don’t expect to hear from God. The truth, however, is that hearing from Him on a regular basis is what we need the most!

Our earthly fathers were imperfect men. Sometimes we attribute their mistakes to God, and assume He will fail in the same way. Sometimes we attribute our own mistakes as fathers, or parents, to God. But God is not a man:

God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? – Numb 23:19

God has already demonstrated, through the finished work of the Cross, that He desires intimate relationship with you. He wants to be your Daddy; and He means it!

The biggest mistake any of us can make is thinking God is a man. No matter who you are, and no matter what you’ve been through, God is still your Father. He still longs for the day when you will call out to Him: “Abba, Father!” He cherishes the moments when you see Him as Jesus does: not through a tinted lens of imperfection, but with the knowledge that God is the Perfect Father.

He Alone is Perfect

God truly is our Perfect Father. As we internalize and accept His perfection, we become more like Him:

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

– Matt 5:48

Like it or not, all of us become like our parents. We spend our youth chasing after ideals, and convincing ourselves that we will never end up like Mom and Dad. But all of us take on the attributes of the men and women who raise us.

The solution to the fatherhood crisis in the U.S. is not lamenting the fact that every father cannot be perfect. The breakthrough comes in learning how our Heavenly Father loves us, and learning to love our kids in exactly the same way.

All of us can experience breakthrough as we forgive our earthly fathers. Forgiveness eliminates any foothold the enemy can have in our lives. Satan would have us believe that God is a distant man who can never be perfect; but Jesus longs for us to know that God is our Perfect Father, who loves us unconditionally and without restraint!

Pray this prayer with me:

God, I recognize and accept that my earthly father was not perfect. In the Name of Jesus, I forgive him for anything he ever did that hurt me, or even anything that I didn’t appreciate. I forgive him for his inability to love me like I deserved to be loved. I refuse to live my life wishing that he had done better, and I ask that You would release me from any pain I feel because of my relationship with him.

Abba – Daddy – I accept Your perfect love! You took all my sin and nailed it to the Cross. You sent Your Only Son to die in my place, and separated all my imperfections from me. Help me to realize that You have only good things for me. You love me perfectly, in a way that my earthly father never could. I receive Your love in Jesus’ Name!

Now, be released. Go out and live your life in light of a proper, Biblical perspective of who God is as your Perfect Father!

– by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


[2] Source: Howard, K. S., Burke Lefever, J. E., Borkowski, J.G., & Whitman , T. L. (2006). Fathers’ influence in the lives of children with adolescent mothers. Journal of Family Psychology, 20, 468- 476.

[3] Source: Harper, Cynthia C. and Sara S. McLanahan. “Father Absence and Youth Incarceration.” Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397.

[4] Kring, Ann (2012-05-01). Abnormal Psychology, 12th Edition (Page 18). Wiley Higher Ed. Kindle Edition.

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