God is your father.
The Bible reveals that the Head of the God Family begets spiritual children through the power of His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14-16). When the Holy Spirit joins with the spirit in man, real spirit life is impregnated. God is therefore a literal Father.
However, as young people with whom God’s Spirit is working—even though it isn’t dwelling in you in the above sense—God is still your Father. Several statements from Jesus Christ’s ministry prove that. His disciples were in a similar situation. God’s Spirit was working with them, but it wasn’t dwelling in them yet (this would happen on Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2). Still, on more than a dozen occasions throughout the Gospels, Jesus Christ—when talking to the disciples—called God “your Father.”
John 20:17 is a poignant example. The exchange here is between Jesus, just after His resurrection, and Mary Magdalene: “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”
God is your Father. Let’s see some of these occasions where Jesus Christ called God “your Father.” This, along with a few other verses, give us an incredibly vivid picture of God as a perfect Father!
It is a challenge as a young person to make God real to you. And it is vital that we make this particular aspect of God—His fatherly nature—real.
In his seminal work Mystery of the Ages, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote: “Many people say, ‘God just doesn’t seem real to me.’ God is a great mystery to them. Their own human fathers don’t seem like a mystery. They seem real. In this chapter I hope we will help make God as real to you as your own human father.”
Family is a God-plane relationship—meaning the human version merely acts out what the real version is like. Family teaches us about the real, ultimate Father. Human fathers are just playing a role in that sense.
Imagine a stage production about a famous person who is alive today. If I played that person on the stage, you would get an idea of what he was like based on my performance. Now, some people might know the man I’m portraying, and they might say, Hey, that’s nothing like him. But if you didn’t know that man, you would have no idea how accurate my performance was. And every time you thought of that individual, you might only think of my rendition.
This is happening in families all over the world today! Every man who has begotten children is playing that role; he represents the office and function that God the Father literally fills. And, if you don’t know God, you might assume God is just like that human dad. In some ways, that rendition may be a close representation of what God is like. In other ways, and in some homes, it might be way off.
Some of Jesus’s disciples were young fathers. To help them understand God better as Father, He asked: “Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:9-11).
God—your Father—wants to give us good gifts, just like those disciples with evil human nature wanted to do for their children.
What kind of Father do you think God is? If you do not (or did not) really have a good father, it is harder to answer that question. But that is not an excuse to have a poor relationship with God, as we will see—many righteous men were not doomed to a poor relationship with their heavenly Father because of a poor human example in their lives.
It is good, however, to acknowledge what the deficits may be so that we are not seeing God in a dysfunctional image.
Hebrews 12:9-10 read: “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.”
Though physical fathers are a type of the ultimate Father, there is expected to be some disconnect between human fathers and God the Father. Add to that the fact that today we may have even more of a disconnect—more problems comparing God to a father—because of the severe dysfunction in our society. Malachi 4:5-6 tells us a man of God would have to come in the end time and turn the hearts of the fathers to children. That indicates a crisis in fatherhood!
Jesus said: You wouldn’t give a snake to your kid if they asked for a fish. But in this extreme age in history, men without natural affection (2 Timothy 3:3) are figuratively doing just that!
We cannot judge God’s fatherly nature by imperfect human standards. We have to get to know Him—whether we have (or had) a great physical father, whether we have a poor example of a father, or even if we have no father!
“A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land” (Psalm 68:5-6).
God is father of the fatherless! That reminds me of a shirt I saw recently: “I’m not the stepfather; I’m the father who stepped up.” God “steps up” in a similar way to those of His children who lack a human type in their lives.
A similar idea is found in Mark 10—concerning some who have to even forsake their physical fathers in order to obey God: “And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” (verses 29-30).
Christ said, giving up things in this life not only brings eternal life later, it brings blessings in this life 100-fold! Some have had to forsake their physical family members as listed in verse 29: brothers, sisters, father, mother, wife or children. God promises to make up for that more than 100 times over with what He lists in verse 30: brothers, sisters, mothers and children. Notice, Christ didn’t list fathers. That suggests that God sees to this personally, and He may do so by putting a human male in that place in your life. But the point is that He is at least 100 times better than any human father.
We get to know people in conversation. We have God’s Word in print through the Scriptures. Let us not create God in a dysfunctional image, but rather let us read what He reveals about Himself. Some of these verses are the ones where Christ called God “your Father” to His disciples.
In Mystery of the Ages, Mr. Armstrong writes: “God does reveal Himself to us in the Bible, if we will just understand it, so that He will seem real to us.”
Just because the Bible reveals that there is this all-powerful Being who knows everything, who can read your mind and who can father children, that does not of itself presuppose that this Being is automatically kind and merciful and helpful. What if that kind of all-powerful Being were mean or spiteful? Thankfully, the Bible reveals God is benevolent and merciful—concerned about others. Thankfully, He is not just a Father in the sense of begetting children but a Father in the sense of caring for those children—at least as a father should.
In Luke 6:36, Christ charges us: “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”
God is merciful, and we must be merciful just like our Father.
Romans 8:15 says: “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.” It is not a “bondage” situation, but rather a daddy situation! It’s not being bound in chains, but it is rather like laying on his bosom as children can with their daddies.
The phrase “your Father” is sometimes rendered “thy Father.” That is an even more intimate idea. In modern English, we use “your” whether we are talking to one person about something he or she possesses, or whether we are talking to a group of people and something they possess.
In Old English, if I were talking to a class and said, “Here is a message from your principal,” that would mean I was speaking to the entire class. But if I said that to one student in the class, I would say, “Here is a message from thy principal.” In both cases, I refer to the same man—and today we would use the word “your” for either instance. So consider this verse in Matthew, when Christ says: “But thou [singular], when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly,” (Matthew 6:6). Verse 18 says the same about fasting.
Christ uses an intimate word for intimate time spent. “Thy Father” wants to reward you openly—in front of many—for your one-on-one time.
In verse 26, Christ resumes the collective “your”: “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” Then notice verses 31-33: “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Your Father knows your needs and takes care of you better than He does the birds of His creation. (A companion passage for these verses in Matthew 6 can be found in Luke 12:30-32.)
Matthew 10:29-31 explains this idea further: “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” You are more valuable to your Father than many sparrows!
Another passage that elaborates more on God’s fatherly nature can be found in the Old Testament. Psalm 103:13 reads: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” The word for pitieth means to love, or to behold with the tenderest affection or compassion. It is often translated “to show mercy” or “to have compassion.”
God does that to us just like a father does—or should do—to his children. In God’s case, verse 11 says, His mercy is as great toward us as the heaven’s height above Earth!
Verse 10 reveals another component: “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” God doesn’t punish us to “get back” at us or to “get even” with us. God will punish us, or chasten us, to help us solve a problem because He loves us. It is not because He holds a grudge.
Notice that in verse 9: “He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.”
The New Living Translation renders it: “He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever.” Even if we do make Him angry, He doesn’t hold on to it. God doesn’t hold a grudge and keep digging at us. God doesn’t nag us. God doesn’t “guilt” us into action or manipulate us.
Verse 12 says: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”
He removes our sins—as far as east is from west—not just from Himself and His mind, but He removes them ”from us.” He is helping us overcome—to solve the problem!
Any good dad wants to fix things in his children’s lives. We crave this from our fathers. As Meg Meeker writes in Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: “When confronted by any problem, any challenge, any mess that we can’t get ourselves out of, we want someone who has answers, someone who can offer support, someone who can offer a helping hand and who knows what to do.”
Consider how you talk to your Father in prayer. You don’t have to talk Him into things. You don’t have to make deals with Him (as if we have anything to offer Him that He doesn’t already have). You don’t have to try to win back His favor with good behavior (what is called penance).
Talk to Him just as a child would talk frankly, yet respectfully, to a human father. There is an account in Mr. Armstrong’s Autobiography where he relates the first time his wife was anointed. A man of God talked to God in a way Mr. Armstrong had never heard: “[H]e uttered a quiet, positive, very earnest and believing prayer which was utterly different from any prayer I had ever heard. This man actually dared to talk directly to God, and to tell God what He had promised to do! He quoted the promises of God to heal. He applied them to my wife. He literally held God to what he had promised! It was not because we, as mortal humans, deserved what he asked, but through the merits of Jesus Christ, and according to God’s great mercy. He merely claimed God’s promise to heal. … ‘You have promised,’ he said to God, ‘and you have given us the right to hold you to your promise to heal by the power of your mighty Holy Spirit. I hold you to that promise! We expect to have the answer!’ Never had I heard anyone talk like that to God!”
Is that much different from a child asking a human dad for something he promised the child? Is that any different from that child reminding him?
God must be a real Being to us. Our relationship must be a real relationship, and our conversations must be real conversations.
This does not just apply to the formal prayer we would utter at the beginning of the day, for example. God wants us to be “instant in prayer” and to “pray without ceasing” (Romans 12:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Your Father wants you to know that He is available any time. You have all His contact information and can reach Him whenever you need or want.
Imagine if you were with a person all day. You might not talk to him every minute of the day, but you would occasionally comment to him throughout the day. That is the kind of relationship your Father wants with you! He wants to be with you all day—not just confined to some period of time in the morning when you are on your knees. Talk to Him throughout the day—verbally or in silent prayer. Comment on things to Him as if He is right there with you—because that is where He wants to be!
Notice one more passage where Jesus calls God “your Father” in Matthew 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
Consider the last half of that verse! Your Father is perfect.
Think of everything a father can and should provide his children—a sense of worth, time, protection and boundaries, strength and stability, will and resolve, wisdom and solutions, and unconditional love—and your Heavenly Father provides all those perfectly.
If you have a decent father, make God as real to you as your human father. Forge a relationship that exceeds even that physical relationship.
If you have a dysfunctional or absent father, take that to your Daddy in heaven! He will help you forge an entirely new relationship. He might put a physical father figure in your life to help. But God is not limited to His relationship with you only working if there is a physical type. Why? Because God is the genuine article. Your Father in heaven is the real thing!