Seeing God as a Perfect Father

2017 Messages

While teaching through “The Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:9–15, Adam Tarnow explains that what we think about God influences our relationship with God. He teaches us that we all have a view of God that is clouded, Jesus wants to clear up our clouded view of God, and when our view of God is cleared up, it changes everything. God is not merely a reflection of our earthly father, He is the absolute perfection of our earthly father. God is like nobody we have ever met, and for that reason, we should respond by thanking him, worshiping him, and telling others about Him.

Adam TarnowFeb 19, 2017Matthew 6:9-15; John 10:11-13; Matthew 6:9; Matthew 6:9-13; Matthew 6:9-13; 1 John 3:1

All right, Dallas. How are we doing this morning? My name is Adam Tarnow. I'm excited to be here with you guys. Todd was going to be here this morning, but he thinks he might meet his grandbaby today, so you get me. If you're a visitor and you're like, "Oh, you promised me a tall guy who was great," and you leave today and didn't get that, then you have to promise you'll come back next week, but if you leave today and you like today, then just imagine what it will be like next week when the real guy is here. No matter what, you have to come back next week. That'll be a little agreement.

To set up where we're going to go this morning, in my opening illustration I want to do a little "poll the audience." How many of you guys in here by show of hands are pet owners? Man, Watermark has a lot of pets. Now let's divide the room further. How many of you are dog owners? This is a dog church. All right. How many of you are cat owners? Wow! A very boisterous group this morning. You're still raising your hand. I like that.

Well, I'm going to probably offend both groups during this first illustration, so I just want to let you know that. The worst mistake my wife and I ever made… We got a cat. We've been married 13 years. This was early on in our marriage. We didn't have kids yet, and for some reasons I don't want to get into, we decided it would be a good idea to get a cat. So we piled in the car. We drove downtown, SPCA, downtown Dallas. We went there on a Saturday afternoon.

There were a bunch of people, and there was this big case that had a lot of these kittens in it. We were looking at all of the kittens, and there was this gray one that was awake in the middle of the day, which should have been a clue. I thought he looked at me in a really special way, and my heart kind of leapt. I said, "I think that's the one, baby." She was like, "Yeah." So we got this little gray cat. We paid our $80 and signed our papers and became parents. We named him Pedro, and we took Pedro home.

We were smitten with Pedro for the first couple of weeks. I mean, we just couldn't stop talking about him. We couldn't stop thinking about him. He got all of our attention. We were not on social media at that time in our lives, but if we were, I guarantee we would have been that couple that would have created the Instagram account for this cat. You know, "Pedro's Picks" it probably would have been called.

Or we would have been that couple that would have written the Christmas letter from Pedro's perspective. Some of you are in this audience. You do that, and you need to stop. That's just free advice. Just write it from your perspective, okay? We would have been that couple. We were in love. We couldn't stop thinking about him. I was writing little songs to him in my mind. Then something happened, and I don't know how else to describe it other than a demon from the pit of hell overtook our sweet little Pedro. He went from this cute little cuddly kitten… He started to grow up, and he became the meanest cat God had ever created. He would just attack.

This was a normal occurrence a couple of times a week. This is how he would wake my wife up in the morning. He would climb up on her, look her right in the face, and punch her in the face. Then he would look at me and be like, "What are you going to do, big boy?" I did nothing, because I was scared to death of this cat. This sweet little thing turned into this mean thing, and he would attack, and there was blood. It was just not nice. He turned into this devil cat thing.

That was bad, but what made it really worse is that he stopped using the litter box. You cat people who were so enthusiastic, that's your number-one selling point with cats. Like, "Why did you get a cat?" "You don't have to take them on a walk." I was like, "This cat needs to go on a walk, because he's not using the litter box around here." So now not only is there blood all over our apartment; it stinks too. We had this real problem with this cat.

We thought this cat was going to bring companionship and fun and be something we could love together, and we thought it was going to bring all this joy into our lives, but we have this problem. The vet has convinced us that Pedro needs a special food, so we bought that lie, and we're buying all this special food for it. We're talking to our friends, going, "I don't know what's going to happen. We love this cat. We don't want to get rid of this cat. What do we do?"

Our friends who I thought loved us gave us some advice. I know a lot more now than I knew then, but their advice was, "I bet Pedro is lonely." What I know now is this, guys. I just don't know if there is a problem in the world where the solution is ever "Get more cats." Our friends loved us and they said, "Get another cat," so we got in the car and drove around and found another little kitten. He was cute and he was orange, and now we had Pedro and Hector. Pedro and Hector were our little cats.

It probably was animal cruelty bringing Hector into that situation, because Pedro took all of his meanness and devilness and went after Hector. Poor Hector. After like three or four weeks, he just lost the will to live. He started to develop all of these health issues and skin conditions and all this kind of stuff. Long story short, we don't have cats anymore. We don't have any pets anymore. In fact, I have two boys. If you ask them, "Hey, will you ever get a pet?" they know the answer is "No." The Tarnows are done with pets.

What I think about when I think about pets is pain and misery and blood and a lot of money and frustration. I don't think companionship and fun and a way to teach my kids. I have a lot of different ways I can teach my kids. I don't need animals to help me with that. My experience with those pets has really impacted my relationship with all pets, really with all animals. I'm not even a fan of the zoo, because it kind of reminds me of that pain and that season in my life.

My interaction and my experience has impacted my relationship with animals. Now some of you guys have a very similar story, but it's the opposite. You've had good experience with pets and good experience with animals, so what you think about when you think about pets is fun and companionship and somebody to love and care for, and it adds a lot of joy into your life, and you have something different.

We all do this. What we think about stuff informs and influences our relationship with it. Sometimes we do this with restaurants. If you've been to a certain restaurant or you've read about a restaurant or a friend has told you about a restaurant, what you think about when you think about that restaurant is good, so that influences your relationship with that restaurant. You'll go to that restaurant, and you'll go there multiple times.

Or the opposite could happen. Your experience at that one restaurant or something that your friends said… When you think about that restaurant it's not good, so you don't go there. We do this with animals. We do it with restaurants. Sometimes we do this with people. When you learn that certain people graduated from Texas A&M, you just start backing away slowly. You just run. That's mean, and you need to stop that.

So we do this. We do it with animals. We do it with restaurants. We do it sometimes where people graduate from schools. A lot of that is very inconsequential, just kind of silly in our lives, but there's another area in our lives where every single one of us does something like that, that what we think about when we think about this determines our relationship with it. That area that is not just inconsequential, actually has a lot of weight to it, and is really, really important for all of us is with God.

I certainly don't know everybody in the room here this morning, and I don't know all of your stories, but I do know every single one of us thinks about God, and I do know that what we think about God is a big deal, because what we think about God is going to determine our relationship that we do or do not have with this God. What comes to our minds when we think about God is of infinite importance, because God created the world and us humans to be in a relationship with him.

He didn't just create this world and us to let us go and try to figure it out. One of the major narratives of Scripture, from Genesis all the way through Revelation, is about this God who created us because he loves us, and we have fractured this relationship with him because of our sin, and now God knows us and loves us and wants to be in a relationship with us, sent his Son Jesus to die for us.

We were created to be in a relationship with God, so if we think wrongly about him, it will negatively impact and influence our relationship with him. There's a quote that many of you guys probably have heard before. American author, pastor, and theologian A.W. Tozer said, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." The reason that is not an overstatement is because of what we've just been saying.

A.W. Tozer knows what we all kind of know. What you think about is going to determine the relationship you have with him. Those of us in the room this morning, if we think wrongly about God, we are at risk of wasting our entire lives relating to God in the wrong way. So this is a big deal, and this is what I want us to do this morning. We're going to go through and unpack what pops into our minds when we think about God.

As we go through this, there are going to be three movements this morning. The first one we're going to realize is that all of us have a view of God that is clouded. We have different images that pop into our minds that are clouded, so we're going to talk about some of those clouded views of God many of us have. Then we're going to move on and see that Jesus wanted that image that pops into our minds when we think about God…

He doesn't want it to be clouded; he wants it to be clear. In fact, he used one word more than any other word to describe God, so we're going to look at what that word is and the implications of that. Then we'll end seeing that when our view of God is not clouded, when it becomes clear, it changes everything. So that's what we're going to do. Let's start off at this first movement of this idea that our views of God are sometimes clouded.

Jesus in John, chapter 10, was teaching, and he was using an illustration to teach. He was calling himself the Good Shepherd. He was saying he was a shepherd and his followers were the sheep, talking about that God was a shepherd and his followers were sheep. He was using this illustration in John 10 and saying that if a sheep does not recognize the shepherd's voice, then the sheep will not follow that shepherd, which is an illustration that those in the first century would have been tracking with.

Shepherds and sheep…that was very common in their agrarian culture and where they were. Jesus was using something very common to them. He was illustrating this point that sometimes our views are clouded by saying, "Hey, if you don't recognize the shepherd's voice, then the sheep will not follow that shepherd," and saying the same thing is true when it comes to our relationship with God.

If you don't recognize the Good Shepherd's voice, then you're not going to follow him, meaning if you don't recognize that voice, if something cognitively does not register with you, if you're not thinking rightly about the Shepherd, then you're not going to follow him, because all of us have this tendency to have some clouded views of God.

There are probably hundreds of different images that pop into our minds when we think about God. I just want to talk about six of them really quickly. We'll go through these. Some of these you may relate with more than others. Some of you may relate with all of them, some of you just a few of them, but let's go through this and look at some of these images that maybe pop into our minds that are a little bit clouded.

The first one is what I like to call the "Star Wars God." Here's what I mean by the "Star Wars God." When you think of God, you think of God as being like the Force in Star Wars, just this nameless power that's out there. Nothing personal, but you know there's a good and an evil, and as you go through life you want to try to relate to this Force in the right way. You want to try to be on the good side of the Force and not on the evil side of the Force.

You don't view God as personal, as somebody you can have a relationship with. He's just out there. He created the world and is just letting us all figure it out, and you just hope you'll end up on the good side of the Force. For some of us, that's the image. That's what comes into our minds. That's what we think about when we think about God. We think about him like the Force.

Here's another one. This is the one I struggle with a lot. It's called the "Scoreboard God." What you think about when you think about God is you imagine that God is this drill sergeant or this scorekeeper. He's up in heaven right now and has a clipboard and a big ol' stack of paper and a pencil that's forever sharp, and he is watching you. He's watching everything you do. Everything you do, he's recording it. Every good action he's writing down. Every time you're selfless he writes that down.

Every time you do something kind for somebody else, he writes all that down, but then he's watching all of the bad stuff you're doing. Every action, every attitude, every thought, every place you go that you shouldn't go, everything you look at that you shouldn't look at, everything you do that you know is not God's best…he's writing all of those down. He can't wait for you to die, because he wants to meet you up there and show you the score and that you lost. You did more bad stuff than you did good stuff, and he cannot wait to tell you the score of the game, and the score is you are losing.

If that's what we think about when we think about God, that he's this cosmic, divine scorekeeper up there, that means our relationship with him is trying to get more marks on the good side. We're trying to earn our way into not being on the bad side of that equation, trying to make sure we win the game. We're spending all of this time and energy trying to behave our way into heaven. That's the "Scorekeeper God." That's what a lot of us think about.

Here's another one that pops into our minds. I like to call it the "Chipotle God." What we love about Chipotle is you get to make your burrito or your tacos or your salad or your burrito bowl exactly the way you want to make it, just what you want. If you go in there for lunch one day this week and you're like, "Hey, I want a burrito bowl," you can go, "I want a burrito bowl," and if you want white rice, you get white rice. If you want to pretend you're healthy and get brown rice, then get the brown rice.

Do you want to get beans on there? Get beans on there. If those fajita vegetables look like they haven't been sitting there all day, then you might get those. You get to put everything you want in there, so you get this burrito bowl that, at the end, when you pay for it and go sit down, is a perfect reflection of you and your tastes and everything you want and nothing you don't want. We do that exact same thing with God.

We live in this consumer culture, where everybody is here to serve us, so we just think, "Hey, maybe God is that way too. Here's what I think about when I think about God. I think about him making a burrito bowl, and I think I want some mercy in there, and I want some sovereignty in there, and I want him to be powerful.

I want him to hear my prayers. I want him to answer my prayers quickly. I don't want any judgment in there. I don't want any wild thoughts on sin or anything like that. I just want him to be exactly what it is I want him to be." What we end up doing is thinking about God that is really just a reflection of us, which is not God at all. So some of us think about God as "Chipotle God."

Others of us think about God as what I like to call the "Siri God." We like Siri because she's there. Our relationship with Siri is she is there to solve our problems, is she not? When we have a deficit of information, Siri is there. When we need to know something, Siri is there. She is there every time we're facing a decision or we need some information. It's good to know that she's right there in our pocket and is willing to help us when we are in need.

Here's one thing I know is true for all of us with Siri. I don't know anybody who's trying to actually build a relationship with Siri. I've never asked somebody if they want to go out on a Friday night and they'll be like, "You know what? I'm hanging at home tonight. Siri and I are going to watch Netflix. We're going to watch some movies. Siri and I got in conflict earlier this week. We need to resolve that." No, nobody is trying to build a relationship with Siri.

A lot of us view God that way. "Hey, it's nice to know that he's there when I have a problem. When I need help with a career decision, with a financial decision, with my marriage, with my kids, or in some of my interpersonal relationships, it's great to know I can go to God and that he'll help me. He's like this traffic cop in the sky who's always there, but other than that there's no relationship I'm trying to build. He's there to serve me when I need him."

Here's the other thing that's true for most of us in having Siri in our lives. I think a lot of us are a little disappointed in her. We wish she would listen better, understand us more, give us information faster. I think the same thing is true for a lot of us with God. We wish God would answer our prayers faster. We wish he was clearer. So we have this thing we think of, this image, the "Siri God."

The second-to-last one is "Grandpa God." What some of us think about when we think about God is he's just like Grandpa. He's kind. He's fun. He has some great stories to share. He always has a Werther's for the children. He has some good skills. He can whittle, make a coffee maker out of a tree, or something like that, but for a lot of us, if we're honest, Grandpa is a little behind the times.

If I'm facing some complex decisions I need to make that are things we face here in 2017 in Dallas, Texas, I'll seek advice from a lot of people, but I don't know if Grandpa really gets what's going on today. I don't know if he's the one who can really speak into this career choice I'm trying to make or this relationship decision I'm trying to make right now.

I like celebrating his birthday and I like being around him on the holidays. I like being with him. It's fun, but I don't really pursue a relationship with him. A lot of us feel like God is ancient, he's old, but he doesn't have good information. He's a little behind the times.

The last one is the "President God." Regardless if you're in the room today and you like the president or you don't like the president, here's one thing that's probably true. Not many of us think the president is going to be the one to help us solve some of our personal decisions or problems we're facing.

My wife and I have been married 13 years. We've had a lot of conflict over 13 years. We have never once in 13 years, as we're trying to resolve our conflict, gotten to an impasse where we just said, "You know what? Let's just call the president. Let's see if W is busy right now. I don't know. Let's see what Barack is doing. Let's see if Donald can help us right now." No, we don't do that. It's not because I don't think he cares. It's because I know he's busy. He's solving other problems. He's slaying other dragons right now.

He doesn't need to worry about little old us in Dallas, Texas, and our marital conflict or the things we're going through in our Community Group or what we're going through with our kids right now. He is trying to tackle other major issues right now. He's busy. That's why I'm not trying to get the president to help me solve my problems. A lot of us do that exact same thing with God.

He's big, he's massive, and he's dealing with much bigger things. He doesn't care about what's going on in my little world. Those are just six things that maybe pop into our minds that are what we think about when we think about God. There may be slivers of truth in some of those, but none of those images are the exact representation or the right image of what God wants us to think about when we think about him.

So let's go on to the second movement of this, because Jesus wants it to be clear. There's a word, as I have alluded to, that he used more than any other when he was describing the first person of the Trinity. When he was describing God, there was a word Jesus used over 165 times in the Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament.

If you read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and read the words of Jesus, there was a word he used over and over and over again, and he used this word because he wants us to think rightly about who God is. He knows if we think rightly about him we will follow him well, but if we think wrongly, we'll spend our life wasted, following after this God who really isn't God at all. It's just some figment of our imagination or some wrong view of him that we have.

You could pick from 165 passages. I'm just going to pick one today. If you have your Bibles, let's look at Matthew, chapter 6, one of the most famous sections of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord's Prayer, as Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray. This is one of the many passages that Jesus uses this word. Let's look in chapter 6, verse 9. "This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…'"

That's the word he used over 160 times: Father. He doesn't want us to think of God as a force. He doesn't want us to think about God like the president. He doesn't want us to think about God as some figment of our imagination or some representation of us. He doesn't want us to think about God as a grandpa. What he wants us to think about when we think about God is a father.

He goes on in chapter 7 and shares some more stories about who this Father is. He doesn't just say he's a father. He says he's a good father and that he only knows how to give good gifts to his children. That's the word that is used over and over and over again as you read the Gospels. You see Jesus calling God our Father, our good Father.

In a room this size, I would imagine there are a couple of different reactions to that. Some of you may have a reaction similar to what I had a couple of months ago. I was preparing for a message very similar to this that I was sharing with the single adult ministry here, the Gather event that was happening here last summer. I was preparing for this and looking over this passage, and for the first time in almost 20 years of following Jesus, this idea of God being a father, a good father in heaven, just wasn't doing it for me. It felt cliché. It felt overused.

I kept sitting there and thinking about it. I was like, "Why is this not carrying the power right now? Why is this not like 'That's amazing that he's not like any of those other things; he's like our Father'? Why is it that that just seems to be falling flat right now as I think about this?" I thought about it, and the reason was that song that is so popular. You know the song. "Good Good Father." It says that God is a good, good Father, and I think it says it 165 times in the song, and I think there were about 165 sermons in a row that we ended with that song.

So I sat there and I was like, "What am I going to do? I feel like this song has robbed this amazing truth of its power." I was talking to one of the guys on my team, Daniel Crawford, a gifted musician. I was like, "Daniel, we have to do something, because this song has taken away something from this amazing truth." He's listening, and I was like, "Here's what I think we need to do. I think we need to break up with the song." He kind of looked at me and was like, "Can you do that? Can you break up with worship songs?"

I was like, "I don't know if you can break up with worship songs, but we're breaking up with this one. You're a musician, and I want you to write a breakup song." I was his boss and he said, "Okay." He went and wrote a breakup song. I listened to it, and I was like, "That's amazing. I want you to record a music video for that song now." He said, "You're my boss. I'll do whatever you say." So he recorded a music video. I have it. Do you want to see it? Do you want to break up with this song? Do you want to watch this video? All right, let's watch this.


Daniel Crawford: Okay, it's not you; it's me. I just feel like we've been growing apart, like two different paths. I love you, but I'm not in love with you.

I've heard a thousand sermons that close out with your rhymes
And I heard KLOVE play you a hundred eighty times
So I'm asking, pretty please,
And I don't think I'm alone

You're a good, good chorus
It's true you are, it's true you are, it's true you are
But I need a break from you
No offense
I'm just saying, I'm just saying

Oh, I knew it was over when Tomlin bought the rights
The songs he rerecords, they go platinum almost overnight
So I pray the fame won't go to your head

And you'll be all right
You're a good, good chorus
It's true you are, it's true you are, it's true you are
But I need a break from you
No offense
I'm just saying, I'm just saying

No more cycles of repetition
'Cause today our relationship ends
Though I hope we can always stay friends
Still you're a good, good chorus

It's true you are, it's true you are, it's true you are
But I need a break from you
No offense
I'm just saying, I'm just saying.

[End of video]

That's pretty awesome. There are some behind-the-scenes DVD extras for that video. When Daniel was out there right across the street, spinning around like Chris Martin from Coldplay, what he didn't know is that there were chiggers feasting on his legs. That brother couldn't sleep for three nights. It was such divine judgment, because Tomlin knows that God of angel armies, and he came after Daniel for doing that.

We're obviously being silly with that. Here's the deal. I don't ever want this truth to become a cliché. This idea that God is our Father and a good one is not just a memorable lyric from some song that we listen to during a season of our lives. There's a profound truth that Jesus was trying to communicate with us, because he wants us to think rightly about God. What's hanging in the balance here is not a song that we may get tired of. What's hanging in the balance here is the very direction of our lives.

If you're in the room and this idea of God as a father kind of wells up in you a little bit of snarkiness, like it did for me last summer, let's just remind ourselves this isn't a catchy lyric. These are the words of Jesus describing the first person of the Trinity. You can't pray this prayer to a force or to the president or to Grandpa. You can only pray this to a father. Look at how it moves on here.

"This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.'" There's a need. We need something from you, Lord. Give it to us daily. "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

You can't pray that to a grandpa God. You can only pray that to a perfect and good heavenly Father. So if you're in the room and that kind of sounds cliché, I hope that helps remind us this is anything but a cliché. These are the words of Jesus given to us that are so important for what we think about when we think about God.

I also know there's probably another reaction to that in this room. For some of you, when you think about God as a father, that is anything but good news to you. The reason it's anything but good news to you is your earthly father has really hurt you. For some of you, your story is you're sitting in here and you're like, "Hey, Adam, any other word than father would be great. I would much rather think about God as the president or a scoreboard God or a Star Wars God or grandpa God. Any of those sound better than Father, because you don't know what my dad did to me."

If that's you, if you're in here and that's your story and that idea of a father is anything but comforting… That doesn't bring up good images for you; that brings up hurtful and painful images for you. If that's your story, I want to tell you I'm sorry. I am so sorry that your earthly father did not steward that opportunity to be all that God intended for him to be in your life, that he abused you or abused that relationship or treated you in a way that you did not deserve to be treated.

I also want to provide a sense of comfort to us in this. When we say that God is our perfect Father, what we are not saying… What Jesus is not saying is that God is just like your dad but a little bit better. Jesus is not saying he's like your dad but just a little nicer or like your dad but a little calmer or like your dad but he makes a few better decisions. Our perfect Father is not just a reflection of our earthly dads. He's the perfection of our earthly dads.

All of us in the room… It doesn't matter where you fall on that spectrum. It doesn't matter if you came in here and you feel like you have the dad of the year or if your dad is in jail right now because of what he did to you, where you are on that spectrum. Both of those dads and everybody in between that spectrum all fall woefully short of who our Father in heaven is. He's not a reflection of our earthly dads. He is the perfection of our earthly dads. He's like nobody we have ever met.

What comes into our minds is of infinite importance, and sometimes it gets clouded. Jesus wanted it to be clear to us. He wanted us to know that when we're calling on this Father, we're calling on somebody who has a name that is holy. "…hallowed be your name.." It is holy and unlike the name of anybody else. "…your kingdom come…" He wants us to know we're talking to a Father who is powerful, who has a kingdom that has started and will never, ever, ever end.

"…your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Jesus wants us to know that when we're praying to this Father, it's his will that's done, and his will is always perfect and always good. He wants us to know that this Father sustains us. "Give us [today] our daily bread." He sustains us every single day. "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." He forgives us of our debts. He enables us to go and have that opportunity and ability to forgive others. "And lead us not into temptation but delivers us from the evil one," as he lovingly leads us. Jesus wants us to know that he is like nobody we have ever met.

So our views are clouded. Jesus wants it to be clear. When we start to have some clarity, when we start to think rightly about who this God is and our Father, it changes everything. Everything changes. One of his followers, John, said it this way in 1 John 3:1. Somebody whose view of God changed being around Jesus. Here's what he says.

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we…" His followers, people who by faith believe Jesus died for their sins. "…should be called children of God!" He was pretty fired up writing that truth. That got him excited. "And that is what we are!" He repeats it. "Hey, I just want to let you know. Because he is the Father and we've been forgiven through Jesus, we are now his children. It changes everything. The way we view ourselves, the way we view the world…everything changes."

"And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us…" The reason the world looks at those of us who are followers of Jesus a little differently. "…is that it did not know him." What they think about when they think about God is not what we think about when we think about God, so it's like we're talking about two completely different people. It changes everything.

God is not this impersonal force that's out there; he's your Father. God is not this drill sergeant, this scorekeeper, who's sitting up there going, "You lose, you lose, you lose." He's going, "Listen. I know what the score is because of your sin, and I'm telling you, Jesus won on your behalf. He died for you." He wants us to know this. He's not just this reflection of us. He's perfect.

He's not just there when we have a problem, like maybe we think of this traffic cop or like Siri. He is there all the time. He never leaves us. He never forsakes us. He's not irrelevant. He is the source of wisdom and knowledge. You can't understand the world and yourself unless you know him. He's not disinterested like the president. He hears you, he cares, and he intervenes. It changes everything when we understand that he is our Father in heaven.

Let me just wrap this up with one last story and tie all this together. This is something that happened in our family a couple of years ago. As I mentioned, I have two kids. I have a kindergartner and a second grader. The second grader is 8 years old. The kindergartner is 6 years old. When the oldest, Jake, was 4, there was something that happened one summer. We were driving. We had borrowed a bunch of books from the Richardson Public Library. We live up in Richardson.

The books were due, and we were driving on a Sunday afternoon to go back to the library to return these books. I remember Jackie was driving the van, I was in the passenger seat, and the boys were in the back seat. We pull up right in front of the library. I was going to use the book drop that was there outside. So we pull up, and she parks, and I reach back in the van to grab all of the books we needed to return.

My oldest at that time, the 4-year-old, looked like he had one of the books near his mouth. He took it and gave it to me, and I didn't think much of it. I gathered the books and went and dropped them in the book drop. We got back in the car and drove home. About 15 to 20 minutes later, we're about ready to sit down to have dinner. I remember the boys were sitting down. Jackie and I were still up in the kitchen. Before I sat down my phone rang. I answered the phone, said "Hello," and it was a woman who worked for the Richardson Public Library. She said, "Mr. Tarnow?"


"I have a question."


"Did you just return Marvel Superhero Squad: The Trouble with Thor?"

"Probably. I don't know exactly, but probably. Why? Is there something wrong with it?"

She goes, "Yeah. I was inspecting this book. It was just returned. I was inspecting it, going to put it back in circulation, and this book is damaged. It looks like somebody took a bite out of it." I was having that vision, that flashback of Jake taking that book from what looked like near his mouth, and I was like, "Oh yeah." She goes, "And it's still wet." I was like, "Yeah, I'm sorry about that."

She said, "Listen. This book is now damaged. I can't put it back in circulation, so something needs to be done. You guys are no longer in good standing. You can't use the library until this is taken care of." I said, "Great. How much is the book?" She said, "$19." I was like, "Man, I am in the wrong business. I need to sell books to the Richardson Public Library, because that is a lot of money for a kid's book." I said, "All right."

I had a choice to make. She said, "Hey, somebody has to pay this debt for those privileges to be reinstated. Otherwise, you're not in good standing with us anymore." I had a decision to make. I could have in that moment looked at my 4-year-old and said, "Okay, so you're saying somebody owes you. There's a debt that needs to be paid. Well, I know the one who did that. I know this is now a consequence of his decision. So you're saying we're not in good standing until somebody pays it? Yeah, okay. Well, hold on. Hey, Jake, phone is for you."

I could have done that, but I didn't, because he was 4 and he didn't have a job. He still doesn't have a job, but I love him. I knew he was stuck. He had done something and gotten himself in a situation that he did not have the power to get out of. He couldn't go earn the money. He had no way, no skills, really, as a 4-year-old to go earn any money. He had no way to get out of that situation. He was stuck, and because I, his father, love him, I said, "Okay, I'll pay that on his behalf."

I said, "Can I pay that right now?" She said, "Sure," and I went and got my debit card out and paid for it. Then she said, "Would you like the book?" and I said, "Oh yeah, I want the book." So a couple of weeks later, Jackie goes and gets the book, and here it is. This is Superhero Squad: The Trouble with Thor. I got the book, and I was like, "Let me see this damage." I was looking on the cover, and I saw some bite marks on the cover.

Then I'm going through here, and I see somebody colored all over it, which I know was not my kid. Then I get to the back and I'm like, "Oh, yeah." My child ate that. You can see there's water damage. It was wet. She looked at it. It was disgusting that that woman had to see all that. So now I own the book, and my son has a right relationship with the Richardson Public Library. He can go and enjoy that library.

Let's just dream here for a second. Let's imagine. Jake technically has some choices to make of what to do with the fact I've paid that on his behalf. The decision he makes is largely going to be based on what pops into his mind when he thinks about me, his dad. Now that I've paid that on his behalf, if he thinks, "Oh my gosh! My dad is not going to ever let me forget that he paid that on my behalf. He's going to remind me over and over and over again. 'I paid that $19. I paid that $19. I paid that $19…'"

If that's what Jake thinks about when he thinks about me, then what he's going to do when Jackie and Joshua go back to the library is he's going to go, "No, no, no. I can't go, because I need to pay Dad back. He reminds me all the time that I owe him $19, and until I can someway earn $19, I'm not going back to that library. I know that technically, legally, I can go back because my dad paid it, but I'm not, because I feel so guilty that I need to pay him back."

Or if he thought I was just going to lord it over him and constantly remind him and shame him, just be like, "Hey, are you going to that library? You know you're going to that library because of me. You know the only reason you can do that is because of me. You remember I paid that $19 for you. Remember I paid that for you…" If that's what it was, then he may go to the library, but he may feel so guilty and so ashamed that he walks through that library and sees everybody else having fun, but he doesn't trust himself, because, "No, no, no. I can't do that. I can't be trusted."

Or what if what he thought about me is that I was just basically going, "Hey, do you know who you are, Jake? You're a destroyer. You can't be trusted with anything. You haven't just eaten books. You destroy all of your stuff, because that's what you are. You're a little destroyer who cannot be trusted with anything."

If that's what popped into his mind when he thought about me, then, yeah, he may go to the library, and he may walk in there and go, "You know what I am? I'm a destroyer, so guess what?" And he just starts walking through there, knocking books off the shelf, eating all of them, chucking them around, knocking kids out by throwing books around, because he's going, "I'm just being who I am. My dad says I'm a destroyer and I can't be trusted with anything. I'm just doing what he says."

Or if what he thought about me is he said, "My dad loves me and cares for me, and he paid that gladly on my behalf so I could be restored," then what Jake should do is go to the library, enjoy the library, take books out, treat them well, and tell everybody how amazing his daddy is. Guys, in that illustration we are Jake. Every single one of us has done something that has put us in the exact same situation Jake was in that Sunday afternoon.

Every single one of us has an action, an attitude, a thought, there's something we've looked at, there's a place we've gone, there's something we've done, something we've said, something we thought about doing that is contrary to God's best. It's not what God wanted in our life. The Bible calls that sin. That sin has severed our relationship with God.

Like the decision Jake made to eat that book severed his relationship with the library, our sin has severed our relationship with God, and just like my helpless 4-year-old, every single one of us is helpless because of our sin. Just like my 4-year-old had no way to get out of that situation, every single one of us… There's nothing we could do to make up for the sins we have committed. We are stuck.

But our God is good and perfect, and he loves us. He is our Father and doesn't want to see us stuck. He doesn't want to see that relationship with us severed. He loves us so much he sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins as payment for our sins, and now, Scripture tells us, we are reconciled with him, so much so that he calls us his children.

The only appropriate response is not to walk around feeling guilty or ashamed and going, "I can't enjoy anything in life," or walk around feeling like, "Oh, I'm a sinner. I always do the wrong thing. I always say the wrong thing. I always go to those bad places. That's just who I am." That's not the appropriate response. The only appropriate response for what our Father has done on our behalf with Jesus Christ is to go around and thank him and worship him and tell everybody how great our Father is. That's the only response.

What comes into your mind when you think about God? He is not like Siri. He's not like the Force. He's not this scorekeeper. He's not some reflection of you. He's not like your grandpa. He's not like your president. He's not like your mom. He's not like your dad. He's not like your spouse. He's not like your coach. He's not like your teachers.

He's not like your coworkers. He's not like your Community Group. He's not like Todd. He's not like JP. He is like nobody you have ever met. He is good and perfect, and he has showed us that by sending us Jesus. Let's pray. Let's pray that we will be people who will go around and tell everybody we can about this amazing Father we have.

Lord, we thank you for Jesus. We thank you, God, for what he taught us about you. We thank you that he provided us a way to be in relationship with you. We thank you, God, that we are forgiven because of his work on the cross and that we can call you our Father and that you call us your children. It's scandalous. It makes no sense. It doesn't add up. It's not fair. It's just true. So we just say "Thank you."

My friends who are in here today, Lord, who don't know you as their Father, I pray you will open their eyes. I pray they will come to see that you love them, so much so that you sent Jesus to die for them. My friends in the room who love you and know you as their Father, I pray that you will use them and that they will proclaim to the world how amazing and good and perfect you are. That's what we ask. We ask this in the precious name of Jesus, amen.