For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:14-19)
I want to share with you from a great book I read called, Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves. It has some application to the book of Daniel as it relates to spiritual warfare in that it helps us grasp the true biblical identity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One of Satan’s main strategies is to get us to think wrongly about who God is even as he did with Adam and Eve. Reeves’ main point is summed up below and though he concludes with this point, I want to begin with it as well.
“What is your Christian life like, what is the shape of your gospel, your faith? In the end it will all depend on what you think God is like. Who God is drives everything. So what is the human problem? Is it merely that we have strayed from a moral code? Or is it something worse: that we have strayed from Him? What is salvation? Is it merely that we are brought back as law-abiding citizens? Or is it something better: that we are brought back as beloved children? What is the Christian life about? Mere behavior? Or something deeper: Enjoying God? And then there’s what our churches are like, our marriages, our relationships, our mission: all are molded in the deepest way by what we think of God.” P. 129
One of the main weapons of spiritual warfare is the belt of truth and part of that truth is seeing and thus knowing and experiencing the other-centered love of the Father toward the Son (me/us in the Son – Eph. 1:6) and the Son’s (and my/our) response of love back to the Father so that we are delivered from self-centeredness. For example, the best way to love our children is to demonstrate love by loving our spouse so they can see other-centered love rather than only receiving love from us as parents which could spoil them. Likewise as we see the other-centered love of the Father for the Son and His love back to the Father in and through the Spirit we can learn and share other-centered love with God and mankind which is the Great Commandment. (Matt. 22:37-39) So as this relates to the theme of spiritual warfare; we must come to see the fountainhead of sin as the opposite of other-centered love that is always flowing from the Father and the Son and see that self-centeredness is the very opposite of the Trinity. So to break the power of self-centeredness we need to more clearly see the outgoing love among the Trinity. Or we must see more clearly the Father loving the Son and the Son responding to the Father in love by loving Him and loving us out of His love for the Father.
However, since the Fall, natural love (versus supernatural love that comes from God to us and then through us to others) always stops ultimately at the point of self-interest. Most of our love songs, love stories and platitudes about love (What the world needs now, is love, etc.) are based on a very misguided assumption that mankind loves unconditionally and sacrificially. Watch little children or read or watch the news and we are reminded continually that mankind is basically selfish. No, what the world needs now, is the other-centered love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit coming to us and going out from us to others.
So the Trinity is the absolute true identity of the one true God which includes the divinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In contrast, Islam, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormonism, etc., honor Jesus but not as divine. Judaism also denies the Trinity.
Yet, a monotheistic God is by definition narcissistic. Love involves an “I/Thou relationship.” If there is only one being and he loves, he is by definition loving himself. Since the Fall, man is born into that kind of narcissistic self-love. I think it was John Milton who used the metaphor of Eve seeing herself in the reflection of the pond and then began to love her beauty, love herself.
“Although the doctrine of the Trinity is not explicitly found in the Old Testament, several passages suggest or even imply that God exists as more than one person.” (See Dr. Wayne Grudem for an in-depth teaching on the Trinity at http://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/trinity-wayne-grudem). For example, we see the Trinity in Genesis 1-2: “Let Us make man in Our image”; and “male and female He created them” – i.e., unity in diversity like the Trinity. And also the Shema (the Hebrew word for “hear”) in Deuteronomy 6:4 speaks of the Trinity. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” The Hebrew word for “one” is “echad” which actually means oneness as Adam and Eve were one flesh (Gen. 2:24) and the “one” (echad) cluster of grapes (Numbers 13:23) was many grapes in one cluster. In Psalm 45:6-7 we see two separate persons Who are called “God” and in the New Testament, the author of Hebrews quotes this passage and applies it to Christ. (Heb. 1:8) There are other relational images of God in the Old Testament; He is called both the Father and Husband of the Jewish people. “You are our Father; you O Lord are our Father.” (Isaiah 63:16; also see Ex. 4:22; Isaiah 1:2; Jer. 31:9; Hosea 11:1; Deuteronomy 1:31; Psalm 103:13; Deuteronomy 32:6; Malachi 1:6) “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the Lord of hosts.” (Isa. 54:5) And we see the Trinity clearly in the New Testament: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” (2 Cor. 13:14)
Michael Reeves concludes his introduction by saying that understanding God as Trinity is the vital oxygen of Christian life and joy, for in the Trinity we see the God Who continually loves His Son by the Spirit and loves all who are in His Son with the same love. “I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23)
Chapter 1 – What was God doing before creation?
What was God doing before creation? Reeves says that if the main identity of God is Creator then He would need a creation to rule in order to be Who He is. And since the universe is not eternal this identity of God does not work. Also if the main identity of God to us is as our Creator we might be grateful creatures even as subjects of a good king would be grateful subjects. Yet they would only know the king from a distance and not experience the familial love of the father. So the fundamental identity of God is as Father because He’s been a Father loving the Son from eternity past to eternity future. In John 17:24 Jesus says to the Father: “You loved Me before the creation of the world.”
The Father is a Fountainhead of love – “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) Here we see that the head of Christ is God the Father and even though the Father and the Son are equal, the Father is the One who sends and directs the Son; the Son never sends or directs the Father. Jesus said the world must learn that “I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” (John 14:31) So Reeves suggests we picture the love of the Father as the fountainhead of a waterfall cascading down on the Son and the Son cascading down on the husband and the husband’s love cascading down on the wife and family and so forth. And even as we as husbands did not earn the love of Jesus, our wives do not have to earn our love. They are downstream from the fountainhead of the Father’s love for Jesus and His love for us.
A fountain by definition must burst forth with life-giving water and flow out. God as Father has been doing that towards the Son for all eternity before He created the world and us. Thus He must give life, give love, to someone else to be Who He is. That is his most fundamental identity – Father. In fact the Bible says God is love; love is not just something He does but it is Who He is and if He did not love He would not be Father. And you cannot be a Father without a Child and in this case a Child who is perfectly loved by the Father always, all the time. And He delights in the Son as the Father says about Jesus in Isaiah 42:1: “My chosen One in Whom I delight.”
I have heard people speak of a human metaphor regarding the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and I will share it as it relates to Kristen (my wife) and me. As I love Kristen and Kristen loves me, we have a relationship. The relationship can be seen as the third part of our unity and diversity. Kristen is not the relationship and I am not the relationship because it is distinct from each of us individually but it is an entity in itself. It can even be defined as a good relationship, a deep relationship, or even a broken relationship but it still exists. Although this is by no means a comprehensive and theological understanding of the Holy Spirit, one way to think of Him can be seen as the relational part of God the Father loving the Son and the Son loving Father in response. The relationship between God the Father and God the Son is called the Holy Spirit (a Holy relationship if you will) and He is a Person in the case of the Trinity.
Richard of St. Victor said that if the Father loved the Son and the Son loved the Father so exclusively that they ignored everyone else that this would be very far from good news. But when the love between two persons is happy, healthy, and secure they rejoice to share it. So is the Father and Son’s love for each other from all eternity. They have delighted to share their love and joy with and through the Spirit. So the definition of love within the Trinity is sharing love. Like husband-and-wife they love each other so much they want to share that love with a child or children. “The (other-centered) love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5) it says the Holy Spirit is poured out on us and thus we want to share the love of God we receive with others.
So God the Father’s fundamental identity is a loving Father. He didn’t become a Father at some later point. A loving Father would not be so if he did not pour forth love on the Son. Likewise the Son would not be a Son without His Father. Thus Jesus has His very being from the Father even though He has always been; He is eternal. Since they are always together they always work together (John 5:19) but relationship precedes doing; being relational precedes doing work together. Even as Jesus’ fundamental definition is Son likewise as believers in Christ our fundamental identity is being sons receiving continual outgoing perfect love from Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Once we become His sons we are His sons forever and ever and in Christ we receive the same perfect outgoing love from the Father that He does. We will always be sons even when we are not fathers, husbands, or businessmen. “I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23; also see Ephesians 1:6; we are “accepted in the Beloved (Jesus).”) Reeves says, “Having such a God happily changes everything. And the reason this makes us happy is because we can know that regardless of what is happening in the world or in our life this perfectly loving Father is always loving me/us. Knowing this makes us absolutely secure, significant, and then we, like Jesus, can give love away freely without any fear of depriving ourselves of anything we want or need.”
Please review the points below and be prepared to share at your table some wrong images you’ve had of God as Father.
Larry Crabb in his book The Papa Prayer outlines below ten common images of the Father that are wrong. Then the teaching/exercise from Dr. Neil Anderson can help us renew our minds and be set free to trust, love, obey and enjoy Father God. (I have added some of my own thoughts to these teachings.)
TEN COMMON IMAGES OF GOD BY LARRY CRABB
1. Smiling Buddy – Immanence without transcendence – leads to wanting favors from a chum.
2. Backroom Watchmaker – Thus I become a functional deist. God wound up the world and left it to run on its own.
3. Preoccupied King – God is a busy CEO and only concerned about the big stuff- world evangelism, not my wife’s health
4. Vending Machine – Put in the prayer and get out your wish. No relationship.
5. Stern Patriarch – Transcendence without immanence. God is to obeyed, not loved and enjoyed.
6. Kindly Grandfather – “OK, you can have your candy before dinner but just one piece. Well, maybe two.”
7. Impersonal Force – God is more of a thing than a person and we are all cosmic orphans.
8. Cruel Tyrant – In the midst of incomprehensible suffering Satan pushes this view strongly.
9. Moral Crusader – God only deals with the big sins of the culture–abortion, racism, sexual sins, not the abusive Dad, etc.
10. Romantic Lover – Spiritual narcissism. God wants me to experience continual ecstasy with Him as “my” lover.
As you review the list below, focus on the particular hurts related to your father (or mother) and thus the potential lie you may believe about God the Father. Renounce these lies and meditate regularly on the corresponding truth from Scripture.
CORRECTING OUR WRONG IMAGE OF THE FATHER*
1. I renounce the lie that my Father God is distant and disinterested; I joyfully accept the truth that my Father God is kind and compassionate. (Ps. 139:1-18)
2. I renounce the lie that my Father God is insensitive and uncaring; I joyfully accept the truth that my Father God is kind and compassionate. (Ps. 103:8-14)
3. I renounce the lie that my Father God is stern and demanding; I joyfully accept the truth that my Father God is accepting and filled with joy and love. (Rom. 15:7; Zeph. 3:17)
4. I renounce the lie that my Father God is passive and cold; I joyfully accept the truth that my Father God is warm and affectionate. (Isa. 40:11; Hos. 11:3-4)
5. I renounce the lie that my Father God is absent and too busy for me; I joyfully accept the truth that my Father God is always with me and eager to be with me. (Heb. 13:5; Jer. 31:20; Ezek. 34:6)
6. I renounce the lie that my Father God is never satisfied with what I do and is impatient/angry; I joyfully accept the truth that my Father God is patient and slow to anger. (Ex. 34:6; 2 Pet. 3:9)
7. I renounce the lie that my Father God is mean, cruel or abusive; I joyfully accept the truth that my Father God is loving, gentle and protective of me. (Jer. 31:3; Isa. 42:3; Ps. 18:2)
8. I renounce the lie that my Father God is trying to take all the fun out of life; I joyfully accept the truth that my Father God wants to give me a full life. His will for me is good, perfect and acceptable for me. (Lam. 3:22-23; John 10:10; Rom. 12:1-2)
9. I renounce the lie that my Father God is controlling and unforgiving; I joyfully accept the truth that my Father God is full of mercy and grace and forgives me when I fall. (Heb. 4:15-16; Luke 15:11-24)
10. I renounce the lie that my Father God is nit-picking and perfectionistic; I joyfully accept the truth that my Father God is committed to my growth and lovingly disciplines and prunes me for my good and His glory. (Rom. 8:28-29; Heb. 12:5-11; John 15:1)
* Based on Freedom in Christ by Dr. Neil Anderson