[b]Our New Testament Privilege[/b]
[i]by Zac Poonen[/i]
In Mathew 6:9 Jesus taught us to pray Our Father who art in heaven. The Israelites could never call God their Father. That title was introduced for the first time by Jesus. It was the title that Jesus Himself used constantly in His own communication with His heavenly Father. We don't realise what a privilege it is to call God our Father.
In the Old Testament, God taught the Jews His unapproachable holiness by putting a veil in the temple, behind which was the most holy place, where He dwelt. Into this place no man could enter, except the high priest once a year. If you had gone to those Jews 2500 years ago and told them that one day, God was going to open a way for anyone to enter His presence freely, they would have considered it impossible.
Yet this is the privilege that is offered us today under the new covenant. The veil has now been rent so that we have freedom of access right into the Father's presence; and we can call Him "Father." We've got to read the Old Testament if we want to appreciate our new covenant privileges sufficiently.
It's wonderful to see the father-heart of God in the parable of the prodigal son. The son comes back after having wasted his father's property and ruined his father's name. As soon as the father sees him, he runs to embrace him. There we see a picture of God the Father. It's the only place in the Bible where God is pictured as running - and it is to embrace a repentant sinner (Lk. 15:20)!
That was how Jesus portrayed God to the people. He wanted to eradicate from their minds the wrong concepts of God that the teachings of the scribes and the Pharisees had given them.
After the resurrection, when Mary Magdalene met Jesus outside the tomb, Jesus said to her, "I ascend to My Father and your Father" (Jn. 20:17). Through the death and resurrection of Christ, His disciples had come into a relationship with God that had never existed before. They could now call God their own Father. As a child can sit on his father's lap, man could now be just as intimate with God. Many have the wrong idea that God the Father is a very strict Person and that it is only Jesus Who loves them. This is a Satanic distortion of the truth. It was the love of the Father that sent Jesus to save us from our sins. Jesus told His disciples, "The Father Himself loves you" (Jn. 16:27). He also told them that if their Heavenly Father fed the birds and clothed the flowers, He would certainly take care of them. There was no need for them to be anxious then, for their Heavenly Father knew all their needs (Matt. 6:26-34).
He also told them that if earthly fathers knew how to give good gifts to their children, their heavenly Father would certainly give good things to His children too (Matt. 7:11).
You may say that all this is very elementary. Yet many times when we come to God in prayer we don't really believe that God is going to grant us our request, because we are not sure of His tender, loving, fatherly care for us. Thus we limit God by our unbelief. Do you really believe that when you pray, you are speaking to a loving Father Who delights to hear you and Who cares for you?
Some may have the feeling that God will hear them only if they are mature saints. How is it with an earthly father? If he has a number of children, does he listen to his 20-year- old son more than to his 3-year-old daughter? Does he tell his little daughter, "You are too young to talk to me. I can't listen to you?" Certainly not. In fact, the father is more likely to listen to his youngest child than to His older children. It's even so with God.
He says, "All shall know Me (as Father), from the least (youngest) to the greatest (oldest)" (Heb. 8:11). Notice that the youngest are mentioned first! Even if you were born again but yesterday, you can come to God boldly saying, "O God, You are my Father, I am Your child, and therefore I have a right to talk to You." That's the way Jesus encouraged His disciples to go to God in prayer.
Every time we pray, we must approach God as a Father who loves and cares, and who is interested in us. Only thus can faith be generated; and without faith it is no use praying at all. God is a good God. He delights to give good gifts to His children. The Bible says in Psalm 84:11, "No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." In Psalm 37:4 it says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." These promises in the Old Testament are endorsed and confirmed and amplified by Jesus in the New Testament along with many more promises.
This is the foundation for our faith - the conscious acknowledgement of God as our loving Father.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon