This sermon is part of the sermon series "The Gift of the Son". See series.
This sermon is part of “The Gift of the Son” sermon series. See the whole series here.
We're looking at Isaiah 9—at names for this child to be born, this son to be given, who will reveal to us something about who God is. Today's name, the third in Isaiah's list of four names, will strike a deep chord in all of our hearts. I say that not because I'm confident that the sermon will be moving, but because the theme itself can't help but move us. It's the theme of fatherhood, and that third title is this: "Everlasting Father."
Some of us have wonderful memories of our childhood and our fathers. I'd put myself in this category. But for others, perhaps the majority, fatherhood is a painful thought. Your dad wasn't very good to you, and you live with the scars from that: the hurt, the wounds, the damage.
Still, for others, it wasn't that your dad was bad or good—he was just gone. He was absent, either physically or, perhaps worse, emotionally. For a few of you, your dad wasn't a part of your life because of death, and you may have struggled with the feeling of having been purposely abandoned, even though you know it wasn't your fault. Speaking to the theme of fatherhood will indeed strike a deep chord in your heart, but it won't make a pleasant sound—perhaps it will make a painful one.
And yet here is the good news of the gospel: Jesus Christ helps us know God as our Father, not just our Father, but our everlasting Father, One who will never leave nor forsake us, One who is always there for us, One who has us in the palm of his hand for ever and ever.
In fact, it is the distinctive privilege and distinctive mark of a Christian to know God as everlasting Father. This is at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. You know God as Father. You don't grope in the dark looking for some higher spiritual power or chase after some false and fickle deity. No, because of Jesus, this child to be born, this son to be given, you confess that "there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live" (1 Cor. 8:6).
Aren't we all God's children?
But before we look at how Jesus reveals to us God as the everlasting Father, we need to address a question that may already be surfacing in some of your minds. It sounds something like this: Isn't God the Father of us all? Aren't we all God's children?
Well, it is true that God is the creator and sustainer of us all and so has a kind of fatherly relationship with his creation, including each and every human being. But the fact is that the Bible doesn't talk about God as Father by virtue of his being our creator—only because he has become our redeemer. God's fatherhood depends upon relationship with him.
But here's the deal. Because of the Fall, and because of our sin, none of us comes into the world with a relationship with God—or, at least, not a good one. Instead, the Bible says that apart from Christ, we are alienated from God, not children of God. In fact, the Bible insists we are children of wrath.
(Read Ephesians 2:1-3)
The universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man are not very biblical ideas. God is the creator and sustainer and judge of humanity. But the Bible wants us to understand that he is not the Father of everyone. He only becomes our Father when we stand in a unique relationship to him.
Sometimes my kids will slip up or, for fun, call me by my first name: "Todd," they'll say. Of course, they do it in jest, not with disrespect. But I'm always eager to correct them just the same. "Why is it such a big deal to call you by your first name?" they will ask me. "Well, it's not," I say in response. "It's just that you don't want me to start treating you as though you only know me as Todd. You want me, you need me, to be dad or father, not Todd. Friends call me Todd. But I wouldn't die for most of my friends. I'd die for you. So you call me dad or father."
We only know God as Father Through Jesus Christ, his one-of-a-kind Son
None of us has a right, by virtue of birth, to call God our Father. Only one person has that right: Jesus Christ. In fact, only through Jesus do we learn to call God "Father"; only through Jesus can we call God our Father. You can't have the fatherhood of God without embracing the Son-ship of Jesus.
Sometimes people ask whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God. It is tempting, for all sorts of reasons, to answer "yes." But, sadly, it's impossible to do so. If you deny the Son-ship of Jesus, you lose the fatherhood of God. You can't have the one without the other.
(Read Matthew 11:25-27)
You will notice in Paul's letters that he often uses the expression "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." It's a way of declaring that we only know God as Father through Jesus Christ his Son. The phrase answers the question, "Who is God?" And the answer the Bible, and Paul, gives is this: God is the one Jesus calls Father.
Jesus is, the Bible says, God's "firstborn" (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 1:5). He is also God's "one and only" Son (monogenēs, John 1:18). This means that Jesus is uniquely God's Son—and God is uniquely Jesus' Father. They enjoy a unique, one-of-a-kind relationship of Father-and-Son that none of us have or ever will have.
This is why we also often find Jesus calling God "my father." Take just one example: "Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven" (Matt. 10:32-33).
We only relate to God as Father through adoption
Clearly, then, Jesus enjoys a unique relationship with God. But here's the truly beautiful thing. Because of what Jesus has done for us—in his life, death, and resurrection, in his sacrifice and suffering for us—he enables us to enter into this same relationship with God as our Father: indeed, our everlasting Father.
He opens the way to us through adoption. We only know God as Father because of Jesus Christ his Son, and because he sends his Spirit into our hearts to enfold us into the family of God as children of the heavenly Father.
Some of you will know that, within the adoption community, a wonderful phrase is used to talk about the hope that adoptive families provide for orphaned children. Many orphans will be passed from family to family, sometimes three, four, or more times—which is very difficult for the child, leaving them with a profound sense of insecurity and uncertainty about their place in the world and their value in the world.
Adoptive families now talk about the forever family for these children. The bond of adoption, while not the same as the bond of blood and biology, is nevertheless just as permanent.
Did you know that God has a forever family, of which he is everlasting Father? And that when you become a part of God the Father's forever family, nothing will ever change that? The adoption is always final; the bond is secure.
God the Father never changes his mind; he never decides to stop being your heavenly Father. The One who has secured your adoption through his sacrifice, Jesus Christ, always lives to intercede for us and thus guarantees the bond will endure forever. So too the Spirit who has been sent to formalize the adoption in our lives has been given: not temporarily, but permanently, forever and ever.
Our adoption is guaranteed for all eternity; we are, by faith in Jesus, part of God's forever family. God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, becomes our everlasting Father who says to his children—to you, me, and anyone who will look to him with the faith of a child—these timeless words: I will never leave you nor forsake you. You are mine, part of my forever family. I've got you, forever.
Jesus teaches us to pray: 'Our Father!'
To know God as your everlasting Father is a privilege beyond description! I love the way 1 John puts it, with the right sense of wonder and amazement: "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (3:1). What a privilege, what a gift, what a grace!
When you know God as Father, not simply as a cosmic force, it changes the way you address God; it changes the way you pray. You learn to look to the Father in prayer with a childlike boldness. This is how Jesus taught us to pray: with childlike boldness to our everlasting Father.
(Read Matthew 7:7-11)
But we also learn to approach God in prayer with vulnerable dependence: that is, when we find ourselves in a difficult spot—pain, fear, doubt, hardship—we learn to cry out to God with the words "Abba, Father!"
Often, when difficulty comes into the life of a Christian, they can feel like God is farther away, less available, or less intimate. But don't miss the example of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prays in this way: "Abba, Father … everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will" (Mark 14:36).
The Christian who lives with the intimate knowledge of God as Father learns to live out his or her faith in light of the knowledge of God as "Abba, Father!" We remember that "[t]he 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" (Rom. 8:15). We strive for childlike boldness and vulnerable dependence, because God has become our everlasting Father.
As a country, we are still reeling from many tragic events. But there are a few flashes of hope coming forth from the stories of tragedy. One is from a survivor of the 2015 San Bernardino shootings, 27-year-old Denise Peraza. Her life was spared, not because the shooters saw her and turned the other way, but because a valiant man named Shannon Johnson shielded her body with his own and saved her life. Listen to her recount the situation.
Wednesday morning at 10:55 A.M. we were seated next to each other at a table, joking about how we thought the large clock on the wall might be broken because time seemed to be moving so slowly. I would have never guessed that only five minutes later, we would be huddled next to each other under the same table, using a fallen chair as a shield from over 60 rounds of bullets being fired across the room. While I cannot recall every single second that played out that morning, I will always remember his left arm wrapped around me, holding me as close as possible next to him behind that chair. And amidst all the chaos, I'll always remember him saying these three words: "I got you."
Always, no matter what, remember these three words: "I got you." These are God's three words to you, not just in time of need, but all the time. He is your everlasting Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, who will never leave you nor forsake you. He says to you, "I got you, I got you, I got you."