Special Note: Beginning today, on my blog, I share what Donna and I have been doing this past week at Sagrada Comunidad Familia, an incredible ministry to over 700 orphans in Lima, Peru. Follow along with the story and enter the world of rich grace on my blog: http://thephilfiles.com. In such a context, I can't help but talk about the Holy Spirit this week in the context of being adopted by a loving Father into a family we could never earn or deserve.
"Did you hear that? He said it just as plain as day!"
"Yep, I heard him," I replied, "he said 'da-da'! I could hear it as clear as could be!"
The young man is my son. He was carrying a foster baby he dearly loves — one he has know from this child's first days when he was born five weeks premature.
We weren't sure if the little guy had connected the syllables with my son who tenderly held him, but it brought smiles to all of us, and ultimately to the little guy himself! Zach beamed at the thought of being "da-da" to this precious little boy.
Interestingly, a week earlier I had described how we pray to God to someone from the other side of the planet. She had not grown up believing in God or even know that there was God. We talked about a baby's first words for mother and father. She smiled and said that in her language, they used the terms, "da-da" and "maw-maw."
Even though her language is very different from English, these first syllables of a baby are not. Amazingly, babies tend to vocalize using similar sounds and syllables before they learn the languages in which they are raised. So those first baby words for mother and father are very similar from language to language. This has been true for ages.
When Jesus came to earth, he taught and did many daring things. Yet one of the most daring is the way he prayed to God. He openly called God, "Father." In fact, his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane right before his death helps us understand the exact word he used for "father" when he prayed:
"Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will" (Mark 14:36 TNIV).
Jesus used these first syllables of a baby addressing his father — "ab-ba" — to define his relationship with God. He then taught us to pray to God and think of God as "our Father in heaven." He often referred to God as "your Father" in his teaching and called us God's children.
In a world where the very name of God was so revered that they forgot how to pronounce it because they didn't want to be irreverent, Jesus' practice is shocking and amazing. Shocking because he uses the concept of Abba — words of intimacy, familiarity, and dependence. Amazing because he changes the way we view God forever — God longs for intimacy with us, he wants us to be his family, and he wants us to recognize our deep dependence upon him.
As we read the New Testament, we realize two things make this incredible blessing possible: Jesus' sacrifice and the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus sends to us. We don't approach God in fear, but in appreciative intimacy, familiarity, and dependence. The apostle Paul describes it this way:
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, "Abba, Father." For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God's children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory (Romans 8:15-17 NLT).
Yet as I saw my son's face light up when the precious one in his arms shouted out, "da-da!" I experienced more of a spiritual lightning strike than all my language and theological training could ever teach me.
That little guy in my son's arms is really me.
Those arms that tenderly hug me are not really my son's arms, but God.
And because of the Spirit of God within me, I cry out "Abba" to the Creator of the universe and he smiles and calls me by name, and then gives me his tender hug of welcome, protection, and love.
The Holy God, the eternal King of Ages, the only true and Living God, is my Abba!
These questions are for your thought, but I'd also love to get your feedback in the Facebook comment section!
God's name is so often misused and used in vain, that I believe it is hard for us to appreciate the radical truth of Jesus calling God "Abba." So how would you explain this incredible gift to someone who doesn't grasp its significance?
Occasionally, I will look at the big wide West Texas sky at sunset and remind myself, "My Abba painted this for me today!" What are some other ways you can remind yourself of the majesty of God to better appreciate his desire for intimacy with you?