Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Father (page 1 of 2)

Finding Peace

As I peek my head around the corner and look down to the end of the dark hallway I’m able to see what made the noise. From the bedroom emerges a little girl. She’s got a blanket in one hand and her favourite stuffy gripped tight to her body with the other. Her hair is dishevelled; a mess that only a sleeping toddler could make.

When she spots me, she shuffles down the hallway with purpose. Without making any eye contact, she presses her body up close against my leg while I finish brushing my teeth. She waits for me and doesn’t move.

Stacey has been out of town on a mom getaway-planning-shopping retreat for the past couple of nights. I’m not sure why this particular child is up at this particular point of the night, but I know we’re all a little zapped from the feeling of just not having mom around.

I finish brushing my teeth and begin the inquisition.

‘Why are you up? Are you scared? Did something happen? Do you need to use the toilet? Are you thirsty? Do you feel sick?’

No answer. No eye contact. Just pressing against me and hugging my leg. No words.

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A Simple Way to Please Your Father

There are few things that grieve the heart of a parent more than watching the children they love quarrel with each other. When your children are fighting, it doesn’t even really matter (in one sense) who is right and who is wrong. Just the fact that they are quarelling is enough to make the whole situation seem like a loss.

By way of contrast, there is very little that pleases the heart of a parent more than when their children agree with one another and even help one another. Honestly, even if our girls are just nice to each other, it thrills me.

And I know the same is true of God the Father’s heart:

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore. (Psalm 133.1-3)

The heart of our Father longs for his children to get along. And our hearts, like the hearts of little children, long to please our Father. So if we put these things together, we come up with a very simple, practical way for you to please your Father’s heart today.

Are you ready for it?

Be nice to other Christians.

Simple, right? Just be nice. Think nice thoughts about them. Speak nicely to them (including blog posts and comments). Do something nice for one of them. It will bless them, it will give you joy, and you know what? It will even please the heart of your Father who loves you both.

Quick Defence of the Trinity

The Holy TrinityIn his book, God’s Words, JI Packer recounts a time when he was provoked by a Jehovah’s Witness ‘heckler’ to defend the notion of the Trinity from the New Testament. Apparently the ‘heckler’ didn’t know who he was heckling.

Packer, in the moment, decided to follow a specific line of argumentation that is quick, and I believe, helpful. Even if it’s not an exhaustive defence, I believe it’s a faithful one that many could benefit from meditating on. Here it is:
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How Much Do You Love Your Saviour?

I love thinking about the God who saves, the miracle of salvation, and the unimaginable blessings that are ours in him. Reading things like this makes me love him more. Here D.A. Carson comments on ‘the riches of his glory’ (Eph 3.16; Phil 4.19) that are available to us in God because of Christ.

From Paul’s perspective, everything that is coming to us from God comes through Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus has won our pardon; he has reconciled us to God; he has canceled our sin; he has secured the gift of the Spirit for us; he has granted eternal life to us and promises the life of the consummation; he has made us children of the new covenant; his righteousness has been accounted as ours; he has risen from the dead, and all of God’s sovereignty is mediated through him and directed to our good and to God’s glory. This is the Son whom God sent to redeem us. In God’s all-wise plan and all-powerful action, all these blessing have been won by his [S]on’s odious death and triumphant resurrection. All the blessings God has for us are tied up with the work of Christ.  (A Call to Spiritual Reformation, 189).

How awesome is our Saviour?

Letting My Love Serve Me

This week I’m taking something of a ‘working vacation’ at the family cottage. Last night as I was doing the dishes I was thinking back over the day that was. I got thinking about each of my children and how much I love them. Each of them owns my heart in a very unique way. Each of them has a smile, a laugh, a facial expression, some moment of pure joy on their face that is forever etched on my memory.

There is simply no love quite like a father for his children. There is nothing that makes me feel better than knowing my children are safe, protected, and provided for. And there is nothing that strikes terror into the core of my being like the thought of my children suffering. The thought of any one of my precious girls in pain or sadness makes me instantly recoil emotionally. I get a sick feeling in my gut and I’m instantly overcome with the awareness that I would do anything—anything—to end their suffering and to make them happy again.

I thought about that and I was overwhelmed by awareness of this love that owns me and moves me without me even being consciously aware of it most days.

And then I thought about the heavenly Father and his love. Filled with infinitely more love for his Son—a perfect love for a perfect Son—he willingly chose to ‘give’ him for a world of sinners. He gave him, knowing that he would be mocked, belittled, shamed, abused, scorned, rejected, beaten, stripped naked, and killed: publicly displayed as one bearing the curse of God. That’s a love I know nothing of.

But the love is greater still. Ponder these words, of the Son to the Father:

“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.” (Mark 14.36)

My love for my children, being nothing like the heavenly Father’s love, would have been moved to give in, to compromise. But the Father of Jesus has bigger, greater love; his love for Jesus’s glory and for my good is too great to be moved. He was willing to deny his True Son’s request for the good of his soon-to-be adopted sons & daughters. The love of the Father was planned and determined.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief…. (Isaiah 53.10)

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,” declares the Lord of hosts. [I will] strike the shepherd….” (Zechariah 13.7; [cf. Mark 14.27])

His love is not just a love that would allow his Son to be sacrificed; his love is a love that would willingly crush his Son. He gave his Son, knowing that he himself would have to give full vent to his holy wrath against his Son on the cross. The Father who loves the Son, crushed the son… for me.

No matter how overwhelming my love for my children may be, it doesn’t hold a candle to my heavenly Father’s love, in scope, in purpose, in depth, in power, or in steadfastness.

I want to make it my prayer that whenever I think of my love for my children, I would let that love serve me by pointing me to the true love of the true Father who, in the gospel, has loved and who continues to love with a greater love than eternity will allow me to explore. Human love serves its best and noblest purpose when it doesn’t end with us, but points us to the one who is love, and who has shown us love in his Son, Jesus.

… but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5.8)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3.1)

The Heavenly Father

There was a time in my Christian life when I thought little of the Trinity. I knew the concept, but contemplated the unity of the three persons and the uniqueness of the three persons very little. In retrospect, I can hardly believe how foolish that was, and how much of the sheer awesomeness of God I was missing out on. Over the next few days I just want to reflect on some things I’ve learned and come to delight in about the three members of the Holy Trinity.

It is only appropriate to begin with the Father.

I remember taking a course not too long ago with Bruce Ware (author of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Through that course the Spirit really opened my eyes to the glory of God the Father. I think too often in Christian circles we can think of the Father as aloof or angry. Or sometimes we take him for granted. The false reasoning goes like this: ‘We’ve always had him. But the Spirit is so New Covenant! And Jesus is just like us… we can identify easier with him.’

How mistaken and how tragic!

It is ironic that in our rush to make much of Jesus, we forget that his mission was to bring us to the Father. He taught us to pray in his name to the Father. At the end, he will hand over all things to the Father. Jesus makes much of the Father — so why would we who want to make much of Jesus make little of what he made much of? If we truly want to honour Jesus, we must honour the Father.

It is too easy to forget that it was a display of the Father’s love that sent Christ into the world for us (John 3:16). It is too easy to overlook the fact that the Father has planned our salvation from eternity past, that all of what he accomplishes in us might be to the praise of his (the Father’s!) glory (Eph 1.3-14; Eph 3.20-21). It is the Father’s wise plan which has been brought to bear for our salvation. It was his love that was set on us. It was his Son who was crushed for us. It is his Spirit who indwells us now, bearing with us, sustaining us until the end.

All that to say, I’ve grown to love the Father as a unique member of the Triune Godhead. He is the Initiator, the Planner, the one who hears our prayers, and the Sovereign One who gives direction to the Son and the Spirit for the accomplishment of my salvation.

Here are a few other thoughts I’ve had on the Father over the last couple years:

I know that I will spend the rest of eternity contemplating, exploring, and delighting in the Triune God — but I pray that however much time God gives me here on earth would be spent on getting a head start now.

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** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

My Identity as God’s Child

** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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A father's hands

One of the grounding realities to all of life is identity. Who am I? Where have I come from? What is my value? Am I loved? What is my purpose? As I look back on my life to this point I realize that much of the reason why I have been so easily swayed in my affections is because I haven’t fully grasped and applied truth to these basic questions of identity.

As I reflect on the significant seasons of growth and change in my life I see a consistent pattern: these were always times when I was beginning to connect the dots between the gospel that has saved me and my current identity. In other words, the most life-changing seasons have been those times when I realized that the gospel was not just God’s means of giving me a ticket to heaven on some future day, but rather, the gospel is God’s means of grace to me now. In the gospel I find every comfort and every assurance of God’s love for me. In the gospel I find my identity, my value, my purpose.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of how God’s True Son was killed in order that we might become adopted sons & daughters, indwelt by the very same Spirit who was in Jesus. The same Spirit who was in Jesus, moving him to pray, filling him with compassion, giving him direction, comforting him through the weakness of his humanity, reminding him of his mission, empowering his miraculous works — that same Spirit is in me. He’s in every Christian, every son and daughter of God.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4.4-6)

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…. (Romans 8.14-17)

I’m not alone, I don’t think, in coming to see just how important the doctrine of adoption is and how essentially it is bound up with the gospel. JI Packer was once asked to sum up the gospel in three words. Here was his response:

“… My proposal would be adoption through propitiation, and I do not expect ever to meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that.” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God [Downers Grove, IL: 1993], 214)

Here’s the thing: while, like any Calvinist, I see that the gospel is about God making much of God and acting for his righteousness’ sake, I have now come to see that his righteousness (shown in the propitiation accomplished by Jesus (Rom 3.23-26) means a lavish display of fatherly love towards his adopted sons & daughters. His covenantal promises through all generations to be our God, and to have us as his people, is bound up in adoption — dwelling with us, in us, in our midst, as a father with his children:

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor 6.16-18)

If God is so committed to loving me and being with me (for his own righteousness’ sake!) that he is willing to bear all his wrath on his True Son to adopt me and have me conformed to his image (Rom 8.29), then I have a meaningful identity: I am a child of the King. I have a purpose: to reflect my Father. I have value: I have been purchased with the blood of Jesus. And I am loved (Gal 2.20; John 3.16; John 15.13; 1 John 3.16; Rom 5.8). I thank God that I can never undo that, no matter how much I mess up. No matter how much I fail, no matter how much other people value me or don’t, I know who I am in Christ. I am a son of God.

I have learned that the gospel takes care of the big questions of my identity. That gives great freedom to live with joy, hope, and expectation of God doing great things in me and through me… because he is my Father and I am his son. I pray that however many years I have left would be one continual season of growth in living in light of the reality that God has made me his child.

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