The Most Amazing Father Ever

What Does It Mean To Know God As Your Loving Father?

Ross Sawyers
Jun 18, 2023    44m
Join us as we celebrate Father's Day and explore a topic that can be difficult for many. People experience a longing to have a father that shows them love and kindness. When you surrender your life to Jesus, you get to know God as your loving Father. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.


Holidays Men Parenting 

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Ross Sawyers: Well, I don't think anybody commented on Garrett's socks. I don't know if, you know who Garrett is, but he was the dad right down here, and his socks were about 48 different colors, number one, daddy, and his kids were on them. I think that was like a highlight of the day for me so far, and I didn't want to miss out on highlighting the socks.

Ross Sawyers: The last several weeks at least, I've been on sabbatical. We're grateful for a church that gives us that opportunity to refresh, and we were incredibly grateful for that. I asked when I got back this week, what are things that we've seen God do around here? And I just love the way God moves and works, I love that on the move, and God continues to be on the move through 121. So thank you for being a faithful part of that.

Ross Sawyers: We started a food truck ministry this last Friday. So if you love food trucks, ask about that, maybe you can get involved that way. We have a lot going on in prisons right now through our messages, both Spanish and English being piped into different prisons. And there's especially a great response to Arnaldo and what's going on on the Spanish videos and so forth going out, so we love that.

Ross Sawyers: One of the things that I always look forward to is who our new staff will be when I get back from somewhere, and sometimes I'm not sure. I just walk in the hall and say, are you on staff? You know, but we have hired two new people. Yehuda's our new neighborhood minister. Michelle Bass starts in our life group world. And we have five interns for the summer working with our students and kids and just love what God's already been doing in the lives of our students and our and our kids. That's just starting to touch on what God's doing. So we love it, love what He's doing.

Ross Sawyers: For Lisa and myself on our sabbatical, one of the things that God continues to show me, and I think is so crucial for us as a church is how critical space is space to just be alone with God, space to be with our spouses, space to be with our kids, space to be with extended family. We had space with a church we served in Florida 20-something years ago, space to be with people we served in the first church where I served probably 30 years ago and just loved that time with people. It's just good to be able to spend time with God and not have to rush off somewhere or to be thinking what that next thing is. And we can create that space, by the way, not just when somebody is on a sabbatical, it's just we prioritize that kind of space, so it's a good refresher for us. One of the observations I made, we went to three different churches while we were gone. One was a small Reformed Presbyterian Church, I think there might have been 75 people at most in the building, we went there on Mother's Day. We went to a Bible church, and then we went to a borderline, probably Pentecostal, but not quite, but highly energized. And here's what my observation did, I just loved the small Reformed Presbyterian Church. And I still have the notebook we received for the service that day of all the different liturgical readings and so forth, and I enjoyed that for the day, and I kept it because God really ministered to me through one phrase in it. But in this small 75-person Reformed Presbyterian Church, there was a vibrancy for the Lord, there was a joy among the people they came ready to worship, they sang loud and they sang with zeal. Those hymns that we sang in that small little church and the Bible church we went to, I don't know that there was a person without a Bible in their lap, a pen, and a notebook, and taking notes on the expositional preaching that was going on. It was three hymns and organ special, and then we dug into the word. And you know what we noticed? There was a joy and a vibrancy and a zeal for the Lord among those people and the Pentecostal vibe, which wasn't Pentecostal, but it just kind of, you know, it was like the time you step onto the grass, everything was up. I mean, it was upbeat from the time we walked in, the music was up, the announcements were up, the preaching never dialed down, the response was up, and we were up when we walked out. And you know what? There was a vibrancy and a joy and a fervency among them for God. And I love that God works in all kinds of spaces, all kinds of forms, as long as it's true to his word, God is alive and well, and he's on the move. We don't always see it in today's culture, but he is.

Ross Sawyers: If you'd turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 6, I want to divert today from the Book of Acts and we'll pick up next week, and we'll actually finish off the Book of Acts this summer. We've spent a bit of time working our way through it, and we're going to take larger chunks. We'll finish it off and we'll go back there this coming Sunday. Today, what I want us to think about is what we just sang in that last song about a good, good father. And I want us to think about today, on this Father's Day, I know this day holds a number of emotions for people depending on what your experience is, and what my experience is. And today, what I'd like to fixate on, though, is the most amazing Father ever. And I'd like us really just to talk about God today as our Father and I think as dads and granddads and anybody else, that the greatest thing we can do today is to lean into the Father who is the perfect and good Father.

Ross Sawyers: Now, one of the convictions that I had on my sabbatical is, at least for a while, I wasn't willing to commit to it for the long haul because I don't know how I'll do, but I'm going to quit making fun of other colleges besides A&M. That is my testimony before you, my convictions for today. I don't know if it'll change this week, but at least today, I'm going to give it a shot. And I want to start with the University of Oklahoma girls’ softball team. A number of you probably saw this interview on ESPN and some of you probably did not, I've watched it multiple times, and I haven't tired of it yet. So even if you've seen it, I hope you're energized by it today. And I think they set our hearts well on God, our Father, today. So let's take a look at these OU girls being interviewed by an ESPN reporter.

(Video Plays)

Ross Sawyers: I'm not sure the reporter knew what to ask next. I also did note in my mind, that I haven't ever heard a reporter ask a group of guys, hey, how do you keep your joy? So it was interesting even the way he framed the question with them, and I love how God orchestrated that. Wouldn't you love to be living the way that the last young lady described, an eternity of joy? This is not our home, and because this is not our home, we can live freely, we can risk, we can adventure, we can get out there, this isn't our home, we long for something greater. And at 22 or 20 years old, however old that young lady is, what a depth of getting it. An eternity of joy with our Father in heaven, our Father who will actually reestablish and bring the new heavens and the new earth to where we are, and he'll be among us as a Father. The eternity of joy, the last young lady that spoke, she was baptized last year in 2022 by two of her teammates. And that's what we're loving around 121 is when someone comes to Christ, you lead them to Jesus and then you baptize them, and then you teach them, and you disciple them and you bring them along. And what a gift and a privilege to be a part of leading people towards that joy, that's an eternal joy in the kingdom and it's something we long for.

Ross Sawyers: So let's think about just for a few minutes, the most amazing Father ever, the Father those young ladies were describing for us, who's worth living for far more than anything else on this earth. And we want to think like they're thinking, eyes up. By the way, they won the national championship, and not only do they have hearts for Jesus, but those are some stud girls. I watched that game, it was an amazing game in watching them play.

Ross Sawyers: But today there are three books that I've been mentored by recently and in the past, and I want to mention them again, they've been helpful to me in formulating thoughts for today. One is, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey, and it just gives a perspective. We look through Western eyes because we're in the West, it makes sense that we would look that way. And so it's helpful that from the land of the Bible, and where Jesus was, that we have insights from Middle Eastern eyes into the scriptures. And my son has been reading that book, and I jumped in it with him, and so this actually gave me the impetus for today. And then Timothy Keller's book, The Prodigal God has been helpful. And, you know, on my sabbatical, I started this in the last message before I left, but a book by Randy Alcorn called Heaven is influencing me heavily right now in my thinking. It's been really rich and scripturally anchored into what we're looking toward.

Ross Sawyers: But I want us to start in Matthew 6:9 and think about God this way. And Jesus is teaching a group of people, and He's telling them this is the way to pray. In verse 9 of chapter 6 in Matthew, he says, “Pray, then, in this way, ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name." Now he starts with that phrase, Our Father, and that's where I want us to camp, our Father. And we tend to be, since the 1950s or so in the US, we've tended to be more of an individualistic culture, less of a communal kind of culture. And Jesus is teaching them in a way here that this is our Father, this faith is going to be something that's a family-oriented faith, that we have a Father. And he says, our Father, the Old Testament of the Bible, is written originally in the language Hebrew. The New Testament was originally written in a language, it's Greek. Scattered throughout, though, are some Aramaic words and phrases. That was more the common language of the Hebrew people in that day, there was a classical kind of Hebrew they spoke, and then Aramaic was more that common, everyday language that they would speak. It would be like writing a formal English paper, there's a particular kind of way that you would write that you make sure that it's grammatically correct. And then there's the way we talk, you know, day to day, and we don't always talk the same way. Perhaps we should, but we don't talk the same way that we write a formal paper, so maybe think of it like that.

Ross Sawyers: What is the significance then here when I say that? The word Abba, in Matthew 6:9, is an Aramaic word, not a Greek word. So the bulk of the New Testament is written in Greek, but there's some Aramaic, this is one place where it's Aramaic in that common language, Abba. Why does that matter? Well, according to Kenneth Bailey, if you think about Judaism in the Old Testament, there was a language for Judaism, it was the Hebrew language. When you think about Islam today, Arabic, it's more of the sacred language for it. When Jesus says Abba and introduces this way to pray to God, and he says, Our Father, Abba, he's using the common everyday language. In essence, he's saying in Christianity there is no sacred language, which means that the scriptures can be translated, it opens the door for the scriptures to be translated in the heart language of people. So that every person, every tongue, tribe, and nation has access to God as Father, our Father, so the word Abba is significant in thinking of it that way.

Ross Sawyers: And I love thinking about that because so much of our Vision 2025, in establishing worship where there is none, is being a part of the Scriptures being translated in languages where it doesn't exist yet. So today we can open the scriptures and you and I can read them in our heart language, but there are people groups all over the world that don't have access to God's word in their language. And we're a part of that, of that happening across the world right now so that they can. And Jesus opens that door saying Abba, Abba, our Father.

Ross Sawyers: There are three other times in the New Testament that we see this word. In Mark chapter 14, verse 36, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, it's the night before he goes to the cross and he is fervently praying to God. And he was saying in verse 36, "Abba! Father!" "Abba! Father!" And he's saying it in Aramaic and in Greek, the word Father is in Greek, the word Abba is in Aramaic. He's saying both, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” So we come to Abba, to God, our Father, in those most desperate times in our lives, that's where Jesus is coming from. So it gives an idea of who God the Father is, he's one that we come to when we're in our hardest and most difficult moments. He's a Father who will be there and he'll meet us in that place.

Ross Sawyers: In Romans chapter 8 verse 15, it says, "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” In Aramaic and Greek, in the common language of the Hebrew people and the common language of the day, the Greek language. Abba Father, we're no longer slaves to sin. Now we're slaves to God, we're sons of his, we've been adopted, that's who we are now, no longer slaves but sons.

Ross Sawyers: And then Galatians chapter 4, verse 6, "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Our Father, our Father. The word Abba was used in two ways, it could be used to address someone of rank, and so as a term of respect. It was also a very personal term, so it was very relational. So it was both relational, experientially, and it was a term of respect. Well, he uses the word, Abba. Up until this point, God is not referred to in a title as the Father. When you read through the Old Testament, there are metaphors, there are images about God being like a Father, but there is not a direct address to God as Father. So when Jesus is teaching them our Father, this would be groundbreaking for them in their ears. They would be accustomed to what Pam read when she talked earlier about Deuteronomy 6, they would recite prayers and say, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!" Or they would refer to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but they did not refer to him as Father. Now Jesus comes and he's introducing to them, you can have access to God, and he can be your Father, our Father. One who we can come to, one who adopts and chooses us as sons and as daughters.

Ross Sawyers: Now, what would be the best way for us to define a Father? If Jesus says, our Father, then how do we define him? Our tendency is to define God as Father in the way we experienced a father, that's where we tend to go emotionally, and mentally, we think this is what my father was like, and we transfer that to what God our Father is like. That would not be a proper way to figure out who God is as Father. We would want to go and see what Jesus said about God as Father and let that tell us who he is. We're talking about the most amazing Father ever.

Ross Sawyers: Now, what's characteristic of him and who is he? In Luke 15, Jesus tells a story, actually, there are three stories that are actually recorded in Luke 15. And it's important to note who he is telling the story to, it says there are tax collectors and sinners that are gathered around him. And tax collectors were not looked upon favorably, and sinners, were just a broad category of people who don't have it right, irreligious people. But irreligious people were drawn to Jesus. That's a good question for us to ask today. Are irreligious people drawn to us? Do people who have no interest in our faith? Are they drawn to us? See irreligious, sacrilegious, sexually immoral people, were drawn to Jesus, that's part of who he's talking to. He was also talking to the Pharisees and scribes, The Pharisees knew what part of God's word they had, they understood it, they knew it, and they tried to live it, they are the religious people.

Ross Sawyers: And Jesus tells a story to the irreligious and to the religious. He tells a story to those who are wild off the rails, more interested in self-discovery, and determining their own identity to use today's terminology. They were all about self-improvement, about themselves, and figuring it out how they wanted to do it and leave me alone while I figure it out. And he was also talking to the religious, the morals, the ones who were following all the morals as they understood them, the ones who had been faithful and attending the synagogues at the time. It would be people today who faithfully attend church, do the serving, and we're keeping all the morals. He's talking to both irreligious and religious.

Ross Sawyers: And he has in this story a younger brother, and an older brother, and then a father, and here's where we learn how Jesus describes our father. The younger brother, some are familiar with the story, some not as familiar. But the younger brother decides he doesn't like it where he is with his father, and he work he's doing on the land. He wants to go out on his own, he wants to self-discover, he wants to figure things out. He wants to live as wild and loose as he can and see if that's the way to go. And he asked his father for his inheritance early. He doesn't have any money, he wants all this freedom, so, hey, Dad, will you give me now what I would get when you die? Which, in essence, what he's saying to his dad is, I wish you were already dead. In that day, the older son would receive two-thirds of the inheritance, the younger son would receive one-third. The land was critical to that day and what people had, so really what the younger son was asking, he was asking the father to sell off a third of his land and give him that money so he can have his inheritance and go do his own deal. And stunningly, the father did it. And the son goes off, and he kind of tries his own thing and it doesn't go well. He squanders everything, loses his friends, ends up working in a pig kind of thing and trying to get food there, and so forth. And then he just decides, and you got to give the guy credit, he started figuring out, I'm going to make my way back home. And I can just at least go in as a hired person, I don't have the status of a son because I've shamed and dishonored my father and the family, but he makes his way back.

Ross Sawyers: And here we have the descriptor of our Father, the dad sees him and goes running towards him, lifts his robe, and goes running, which was not cool for an elderly dad in that day, but he lost all dignity, and he just ran towards his son. He didn't even give his son a chance to do his rehearsed speech. And he gave him his best coat, and by giving him his best coat what he was saying is, I'm restoring you back to the family. And the fattened calf, they brought out that kind of thing just for celebrations. This young man disgraced his father, and yet his Father has a grace that is a stunning grace towards his son, he brings him in. The irreligious tax collectors and sinners would have heard that story and identified with that younger brother. And what good news for them, that there is this compassionate, gracious Father who will come running towards them. No wonder they were drawn to Jesus, they were met with compassion, kindness, grace, a love which would say never experienced before.

Ross Sawyers: But those who know the story, you know, there is an older brother. And the older brother hears all the celebrating going on and he's trying to figure out what's happening, and he starts asking and he learns his younger brother has come home. And rather than be excited about the younger brother that's home now, and you know why he wasn't excited because if the younger brother is restored when the dad dies, we're already down to two-thirds of the land, now it's going to get redivided again, and he's going to get a whole lot less from his dad. And the scripture says that he's angry and the father pleads with him. The father is pleading with his religious son to understand, you've been here with me all along. But he said, yeah, but I've done this and I've done that, I did everything you told me to do. I've been obedient, I've done everything, and you've never even thrown a party for me. And the father says, you know what? Your brother was lost and now he's found, and the story ends. The older brother identified with the Pharisees and the Scribes, and those religious people would have understood that Jesus was talking about them. But what's interesting about the story and this father, is that both the younger brother and the older brother are the same, one wild, irreligious, out of control, do whatever, the other, religious, moral, keeps the rules, and obey. All they wanted was what they could get out of their father. Neither son was interested in the father just for the father.

Ross Sawyers: One of the things Timothy Keller says, I think it's really good, "Is that there's always a sin underneath the sin." So what's underneath the skin of these two brothers? They've both placed themselves above God as savior, but they're trying to bring salvation in two different ways. And sometimes it's much harder for the self-righteous religious person to see that what they've been doing is to just try to earn and get something from God and it's not for God himself. Whereas the wild, irreligious, out-of-control, that person can often more easily see this isn't working. But what's available to both is the grace and compassion and mercy of a Father, for the irreligious and the religious, but both of them are in desperate need of the grace of God, which comes through Jesus Christ crucified and risen. Our Father, Jesus tells us what he's like, compassionate, loving, gracious, generous, a provider, and kind. He's the most amazing Father ever.

Ross Sawyers: Randy Alcorn tells a story in his book Heaven. He talks about, he actually quotes another book, another story, and a king was out in a forest one day and he found a blind, destitute orphan boy. And he took that boy, and he brought him back to his palace, and he adopted that boy as his own son. And he gave him all the things, all the benefits of being a part of the kingdom that he had. He had the best food and the best clothes, and he was walking around in the best gardens and had the best music, he had the best of everything. When he was 20 years old, they found a surgeon who was able to do surgery on his blind eyes, and for the first time, he could see. He could actually see the king and everything that he'd been given by the king. He had heard about the king, he experienced things about the king, but he never saw the king, and then he saw him.

Ross Sawyers: In some ways, that's how God is as our Father today, isn't it? We haven't seen him, and we don't see him. But one day in the new heavens and the new earth, we will, we'll see him just as he is. Our eyes will be open, and we'll see the one who's the source of everything good that we have. Oh, he's a good, good Father, perfect in all his ways. But the reality is we have seen him in a number of ways because God makes himself known in creation, and God makes himself known in his word, and God makes himself known in Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: So what do we do with this Father that Jesus has described for us that is our Father? We believe him for what he said. And the scripture says, if you believe Jesus, then you're believing God. So when we think about Jesus, we're thinking about God the Father, and when we receive Jesus, we're receiving God as our Father, and he's not our Father until we receive what Jesus did for us on the cross. Jesus there, died for us. Why is God the most amazing father ever? Well, one is he did the most amazing, substitutionary sacrificial act ever, in the sacrifice of his own son. So that you and I can be freed up from guilt and shame and condemnation, sin, judgment, hell, that's an amazing Father. As many as receive him, to them he gave the right to become children of God to those who believe Him, and to those who are called in His name. Only by receiving Jesus does God become our Father. He's the creator of all, not the Father of all. He's our father for those who are in Christ.

Ross Sawyers: One of the gifts that Lisa and I had together because we had so much time together, we had multiple opportunities to get into conversations with people about Jesus. And I have to, for me, the way I'm wired, I have to train and learn and really work at how to have those conversations with people and to really think through what someone's thinking, and how to dialog with them. For Lisa, it just comes out of her and her relationship with Christ, it's just a treat to watch. But we just had multiple times where we were able to communicate Jesus with someone, we spent three hours on a plane with a Scientologist, and just to hear her talk and interact with the guy and just bring the gospel into that conversation with that man. And he was, you know, he'd been just as good at trying to converting us to Scientology as we were trying to get him to see Jesus. And I love those conversations, and he knew his stuff, I can respect that. But the only way that God will be our Father is to believe and receive Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: And then the Scripture says that we honor God by honoring Jesus and that we love God when we love Jesus. When people talk about believing God but don't have Jesus in the mix, that doesn't square up with Scripture, because the only way that we can love God as Father is to love Jesus, to honor Jesus, to know Jesus, to follow Jesus, and to enjoy Jesus, when we enjoy him, we're enjoying God our Father. Do you find a joy and a delight in God as your Father?

Ross Sawyers: Here's the best thing I think today for dads, granddads, your spiritual mentor to someone, the spiritual child. I think the best thing we could do today is dad's, is to conform to the one who's the most amazing father ever, and to be the best son that we could possibly be in Christ. One of the things I've probably yearned for and idolized is, that I would love to just be a great dad, a great husband, a great pastor, and I just know I'm not. But God reminded me one morning, that he is a great dad, and a great husband, and a great pastor, and I don't have to be. He's the one that's perfect. The best thing I can do is relax into him, fold into him, and let him be a good, good Father through me. In our sons and our grandsons, we'll see the goodness of God. And as the writer of Deuteronomy says, it will be for their survival, for their good, and their survival.

Ross Sawyers: I want to end this with Grace Lyons. She was one of those young ladies in the softball, you might not have seen this part, but she wrote a letter to softball. I want you to hear her describe that letter.

Grace Lyons: Dear softball, I fell in love with you when I was a little girl, always carrying around my glove, throwing tennis balls off the wall, and hitting with my dad in the park. I played with the boys when there was no softball, and then finally switched over once recruiting started, and that's when it started to get serious. I hungered for competition and strived for excellence. But for a while, you were something that my hands had such a tight grip on. My identity was tied so tightly to a game, and that leads to failure almost all of the time, and I rode the roller coaster of emotions. Then I met Jesus, I learned I have a loving Father who died for my sins and has a plan for my life, a plan to give me a hope and a future. My perspective changed when I realized you were just something I did, not who I was. Jesus tells me who I am, and I wanted to bring this light into the softball world and play the game differently. I was so blessed to have the opportunity to attend the best university in the country and play for the best program imaginable. Yes, winning a few national championships and winning some personal honors is amazing and I will never take that for granted, but it is so much greater than what goes on on that dirt. First, I have met some of my best friends and my future husband at OU. Praise the Lord. But even more so, the Lord has given me a platform to shine a light that the world tries to dim. The expectation is to idolize you, and the promise is that true joy comes from reaching a goal that you have put all of your effort into. Yes, we as Christians are expected to work hard at all that we do for Christ, but the real victory has already been won on the cross, Jesus dying for my sins, and saving me. Because of this, I have an eternal hope that allows me to play your game free, with the fullness of joy that comes only from the Lord. With this mindset, I have played the most joyful softball in the last five years. What's crazy is that this joy doesn't come after big wins, home runs, championships, etcetera, because all of those things will fade away, I am filled with a steadfast joy when I see one of my teammates decide to get baptized and become a sister in Christ. I will never forget worshiping with my teammates and singing the song Nobody in centerfield after winning the second national championship. God is so awesome. My prayer when I started college was that I could be a vessel that the Lord uses in His kingdom to bring others to know Him. And as I leave college softball, I pray that others can know how loved they are by the creator of the world, and that Jesus can use you in mighty ways, you just need to be willing and obedient. I'll end with one of my favorite verses, Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Sincerely, Grace Lyons.

Ross Sawyers: A letter to softball could just as easily be a letter to work, a letter to family, a letter to play, fill in the blank. Where do we find our primary identity? And she was telling softball, you're not my identity. You're something I do, but you're not my identity. my identity lies in my Father who lovingly gave his life for me. Today, you can know that we have a perfect father who looks at his children and says, you're accepted, you're valued, and you're loved today. Now come on and follow me.

Ross Sawyers: Could we just recite the Lord's Prayer together and then move from there to a quiet spot? I think it's a beautiful picture of our Father in community, and we have it on the screen. So if we could, let that be our prayer, and then a little bit of quiet space before him. “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051