One of the questions that I have long enjoyed asking people is what comes to their mind first when they think of God.
He shows Himself to be many things to us. Both in and out of Scripture (but NEVER in contradiction to Scripture). But I have found that many people see Him in many different ways that all line up with who He has said He is. The bible shows us various aspects of God. He's our protector. Or Savior. Our Comforter. Our Lord. Our King. Our Deliverer. Our perfect older brother, Jesus. The list goes on. But how do you see Him primarily? I would even invite you to ponder the question before you continue reading this.
For the majority of my life following, or stumbling, after Jesus I have seen God primarily as my King. I love the picture that we have of Jesus in Scripture, as He is now. Powerful, the commander of the armies of Heaven, sovereign, mighty. The King who is strong and commanding. Far to often I feel like people forget that Jesus rose from the grave in power and now sits on the White Throne of Heaven. We act like who He emptied Himself to be for 33 years is who He is still is. It's why in high school I secretly though I would have been able to take Him, had He ever shown up at youth group.
In high school I tried to do whatever I could to train with guys who were better and stronger than me. I was an alright wrestler, but I knew some guys who were truly great. And just being around those guys, in the gym with them, made me want to be better than I was. Maybe that's just the little brother in me. And I saw Jesus as strong and wanted to be stronger, because I wanted to be more like Him. And He is King. That means what He says goes. He gave orders and I followed. I enjoyed following. It was an honor to be commissioned by so great a King. Maybe seeing Him that way was why I decided to move to Ireland and work at a church for at least a year over dinner one night, and didn't really look back. Or why I agreed to spend three and a half months preaching across northern India on less than three weeks notice. I didn't even have time to get my shots. He was the King. And that overshadowed anything else that He was to me.
When I though of God, I though of the Throne. And I believe that much good has come from that. But something has begun to shift in my heart over the past few years. I see him no less as my King, He will always be my King. And He will always be yours as well, either your protecting King or conquering King. But King none the less.
I still see God as my King, but He is no longer a King first.
When Jesus told us to pray. He told us that we are to call out to God, the creator of all thing, the source of all power on the earth and in the entirely of the cosmos. Jesus told us to approach the one who's very presence would cause us to fall down in sheer terror, the One who said that to see Him with sinful eyes would kill us, and Jesus told us call Him Abba*. For when Jesus came, He came not only to save us. He came to do that. But He came to do so much more. When Jesus came to bring those the Father had given Him there was more than a clean slate and a second chance on the line. Jesus was telling His disciples, and us through the preserved Word, that because of Him we now we adopted into the family of God.
For Jesus did not come to bring us back to the place we had fallen from in Eden. He came to take us higher up than that, He came to give us much more than we had ever lost. For in the garden man was given the honor of being a steward of all that God had on earth. But as in Tolkien's work, The Return Of The King, the steward is only in a place of power until the King comes. Jesus made us coheirs with Him. He even spoke to the church though John the Beloved saying that to those who overcome, they will sit on His throne with Him. Just as He overcame and sat down on His, our, Father's throne. God had made Adam and Eve in His image, and Jesus was telling us that now God was to remake us in His family.
Jesus was telling His disciples that the sovereign plan of God, the plan that has always been, was that He would be One who is intimate with us. Not simply One who is served by us. God would become our good, loving Father. And through this we have the type of access to God that only could be given to one who is His child. His beloved. As Timothy Keller once put it, "The only person who dares wake up a king at 3:00 AM for a glass of water is his child. We have that kind of access." Though I still see God as King. I have learned that the King's child can speak to him differently than anyone else.
I had long had a damn good theology of the Fatherhood of God. I had even preached sermons on the topic that would have even made a Presbyterian say 'amen'. But, I have come to see the beauty of God as my Father. Through sleepless night and streams of tears. Through the types of pain that only a Father can be present in, I have come to call Him Abba. Doing this has changed everything. Even in prayer, I address them all to Abba. Father has come to seem to formal. The Holy Spirit has allowed my heart to believe something that my head had long knew.
Even with my own father. I don't call him father when speaking to him, I only call him that when speaking about him. I don't even call him dad. I call him pops. I can call him that because that word is weighted with intimacy. It's been watered with my tears and his. It has echoed though arguments and prevailed though seasons of anger and bitterness. It is a word that cuts to the heart of who he is in a way that only a son (or daughter) can understand. I can call him pops, and you can't.
And in this same way, Jesus called the Father Abba. But unlike me, He invites us to call Him the same. Jesus tells us that there is a word that is for the family. A word that is weighted. A name that is forged in the fire of life done together. A name that speaks less to the relation we have been with God and more to the relationship we have been brought into with God. Jesus called us to an intimacy with Abba.
So no matter what comes to mind first when you think of God. I invite you to call Him Abba. And I pray that you will know Him in that way.
*There is much debate today about Abba being equal to saying daddy. This is not true as there would have been no 1st Century equivalent to the word daddy in the english language. But it would have been the term of affection that would have shown an intimacy and trust. In looking into this I have read that even today in the Jewish communities in NYC you can hear a small child call out 'Abba' to their father the same way many of us have called out 'Daddy' to our own fathers while we were small children.