God May Not Be Your Father (or the gospel is only good news if . . .)

My college professor used to repeat this line, “The facts are our friends.”

Out of the dozens of notebooks I filled during those four years, that phrase remains embedded in the fabric of my thinking. Especially valuable in a world rampant with lies.

The air we breathe is part oxygen, part nitrogen, and part delusion. Like helium, this delusion leads us to believe we can fly to heaven with our own wings, rise on the currents of our own empowerment, and soar on our own strength.

Jesus Christ popped that balloon at every opportunity. He didn’t come to coddle us, to nurture our self-esteem, or to show us that what we needed was within us all along. He came to confront us with the truth. He, too, believed the facts are our friends, even when we find those facts distressing.

The crowds in ancient Israel would not have described Jesus as a “nice guy.” His entire focus while He walked among us was doing the work of His Father and our opinion of that work didn’t sway Him in any way.

As He preached the good news that He came to free us, He also delivered the bad news, for many, that He came to deliver us from our deception, out of darkness, out of half-truths and false matrices, into His glaring, Holy, pure truth light.

The apostle John captured an uncomfortably direct moment (John 8:31-59) that resembles a twist on the famous Star Wars scene where Darth Vader reveals to Luke “I am your father.” Jesus revealed to the gathered crowd the truth, the hard truth, that we are NOT all children of God.

That’s right. God may not be your father.

We’re all God’s creation.  We’re all loved. But the only way into God’s family is through Jesus Christ. God becomes our Father when we repent of our sins and receive the grace and forgiveness provided through Jesus’ death on the cross.

Jesus didn’t mess around with this concept. He had a crowd of people gathered around, hanging on His every word, ready to hear a message. If most of us were in this situation, we’d be excited about the prospect of sharing the good news with an eager horde of needy souls. We’d seek God’s strength and ask Him what message they needed most to hear. We’d search for just the right words.

If we heard God whisper, “Tell them they are not my children,” I suspect most of us, would stumble at delivering this particular truth. We’d check with God a second and third time.  Some of us might try to sugar coat, tailor, or alter it, just a little. We might even let our courage fail and outright refuse to tell it straight.

Not Jesus. Because Jesus isn’t a nice guy, He is His Father’s Son. Jesus had no identity crisis. He knew where He came from and where He was going.

Jesus is love, truth, and obedience. The truth isn’t always “nice.” So, His conversation with the soul-hungry, needy, seeking crowd went like this:

“I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

“They answered him, “Abraham is our father.”

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.”

They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.”

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” John 8:37-47

Tough stuff, right? Jesus’ words were so inflammatory, the crowd picked up stones and hurled them at Him. He didn’t just annoy them, they wanted Him to shut up – permanently. They wanted Him dead for speaking truth into their lies.

That’s the Jesus we follow. He created us. He loves us. He sees our incredible, insatiable hunger for a perfect Father. He knows we’re lost children seeking a home. He desires to welcome us into His family, but He won’t lie to us. He’s not afraid of us. He doesn’t need us to like Him, and He won’t soft-sell what must happen for us to be adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High God.

The truth is that there is only One way to the Perfect Father and it is through Jesus Christ. He is the Door, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.

It isn’t a “nice” message. I’m sorry if it torpedo’s anyone’s ship of lies. But, ultimately, I’m not.

It’s the truth we need in order to live forever as part of the family we all seek with every fiber of our broken souls. We can find the Father we crave by following Jesus Christ. That’s the good news, for those who choose to hear.

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