Growing up, I didn’t really think about whether or not there was a God. Matters of faith weren’t really an issue for me, mostly because I didn’t care. Generally I figured, like so many North Americans, that if there were a God like the one I thought Christians worshipped, he was a jerk who wanted to steal all my fun. I didn’t really know though. And I didn’t know if I could even know.
Like so many, I had bought into the spiritual wisdom of the world—that God (if he exists at all) is unknowable. Despite the protest of those who would say otherwise, you can’t really know him. You can’t know what he’s like, what he cares about or what he expects from us.
And because you can’t know, you don’t really have to worry.
But, again, like so many, I didn’t have an important category: that of revelation. I mean, what if this God who I couldn’t be sure existed, did something wild like told us about himself? And what if we could know about his character and his plans for the world? Wouldn’t that be something?
The good news, of course, is he has done exactly this. And he has done it in the Bible—the 66 books that make up the Old and New Testaments. In this book, we have an actual knowledge of God—and essential to that knowledge is knowing him as Father. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:
What the Bible, and especially the New Testament, offers us is an actual knowledge of God. We are to know him as our Father. “No man,” says Christ, “cometh unto the Father, but by me.” So I can know God, not as someone who is far away in the distance, of whom I am frightened, a tyrannical someone who is set against me, but I can turn to him and trust him as my Father. “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption,” says the apostle Paul, “whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). In other words, we realize that God loves us with an everlasting love, that he is so concerned about us that the very hairs of our head are all numbered, and that nothing can happen to us apart from God and outside his will.[1. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Let Your Hearts Not Be Troubled]
This is such good news for us. God wants us to know him. He wants us to know him, in Christ, as our loving heavenly Father… And yet, it’s so easy to forget this, isn’t it? It’s so easy to revert to some other idea about God than what he says about himself.
I was reminded of this when I was trying to comfort my oldest daughter after work recently. Emily texted and let me know that Abigail was distraught because she was sure I was going to be mad that her bicycle’s inner tubes needed to be replaced. She remembered that I had cautioned her against riding her bike with flat tires (as it would risk damaging the rims), but my caution grew in her mind to a fear that I would be angry. She forgot who I am.
“Do I normally get mad about things like this?” I asked her.
“No,” she sniffled.
“That’s right. Although I’m not perfect, I try to be a reasonable person,” I said. “So you don’t need to be upset about this, and you don’t need to be afraid I’ll be angry. Even if you’d been riding on your bike with flat tires, I wouldn’t have been mad. Disappointed, maybe, but not angry.”
And then it started to click. Simply by acknowledging the fact that she knows I’m not someone who acts that way, she was able to see her feelings for what they were—real, but not based in reality.
And this is why we need to be reminded, again and again, of the character of God. This is why we need to continually fight the inclination to not read the Bible. Because even as we are prone to forget the character of our friends and family when fear takes control, we are even more prone to do this with God. We can so easily forget that he is our Father. That he, as Lloyd-Jones put it, “loves us with an everlasting love, that he is so concerned about us that the very hairs of our head are all numbered, and that nothing can happen to us apart from God and outside his will.”
That is the Father we have. That is the Father we can know—the Father who wants us to know him and really know him, through the everlasting love with which he loves us in Jesus Christ. So let’s take every opportunity to know him more.