Martin Luther, the sixteenth-century priest who initiated the Protestant Reformation, was initially afraid of God because he believed that the Lord was a holy but angry judge — which is what the legalism of his day taught him to believe. No matter how hard Martin tried to please this holy God, he failed, felt condemned by God, and experienced the guilt of his sin.
Some of us have the same battles — we are up against a god who is some sort of harsh, austere king that delights in punishing us. But that is not who God is. He is a loving Father, full of mercy and patience. Without a proper understanding of who he is, a life of intimate fellowship is impossible.
I love spending time with my grandson Levi. I enjoy just having him on my lap and being with him. He doesn’t have to do anything; I don’t need him to perform or sing to give me great joy. Similarly, the Lord is that kind of Father who delights in his family. He wants us to come into his presence because he loves us and desires to spend time with his children.
In Romans 8, Paul says, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (8:15-16). What an important passage! Paul tells us that the Spirit will bear witness to our spirit — our innermost being — that we are God’s children and he is our Father.
Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can experientially know that God loves us. We don’t have to be afraid. He is not merely the omnipotent creator and ruler of the universe. He is also Abba, Father, the most loving dad anyone could have as a parent.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.