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Description: The Fatherly Love of God
The Fatherly Love of God
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Would you turn to Ephesians 3:18 please? And Paul is praying that you, “May have power to comprehend
with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,” and of course he means of
God’s love. “That you may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and
length and height and depth of God’s love.” And it came home to me how we kind of destroy that and
dry it up by getting into all our mental concepts; how we try to explain to each other the details
of God’s – the breadth of God’s love and the depth of it and height.
And it just came home to me so clearly that the big thing is “God loves you!” “God loves you!” Not
all the complication of the atonement, and hell, and heaven, and sins, but, “God loves you!” God,
our dear Father, loves us, loves us. Has a warm affection for each one of us in this room. Has a
warm affection and an attitude to us that he wants us to be happy. Our Father loves us. He loves
us with a warm love. He doesn’t just have an attitude to us. He doesn’t just have a plan overall
for us and the universe, our Father, God, our God loves each one of us. Loves us, has an affection
for us, wants us to be happy today, wants us actually to enjoy ourselves today.
It’s crazy that we can see all these beautiful things around us, and we know fine well if one of us
here in this room gave us a fraction of all these trees, and these leaves, and the sunshine, and the
air that we breathe every second, we would just almost bow down to the person and we would say, “How
could you? How could you give us all these things? That’s so kind of you! This must have cost you
a bunch!” And yet that’s what he is doing for you today, and for me.
He’s giving us all these things because he loves us. And it came home to me that verse, “Perfect
love casts out fear.” And I thought, it would make all the difference to all our little fears. You
think of them. You think of all the little fears that tumble in upon you; all the little anxieties,
all the little fears about today, or tomorrow, or about next year, or the future. All those would
disappear if we really accepted that the one who owns everything has our life in his heart, and has
our health in his mind, and has our future planned, and intends us to be happy with himself forever,
and to live with him in joy and delight. That he really does feel that way towards us. And that
that is more important than everything else, and that that’s something warm and real and present
It isn’t just a concept. It isn’t just, “Well I don’t know what he’s thinking of me; and am I
pleasing him? And am I doing what he wants me to do? And am I trying to bring in the kingdom in
the right way? And am I doing my job right? And have I the right attitude to this person and that
person? And am I doing my Bible study right?” It’s not all of that. It’s our Father loves us with
a warm love and affection. And that’s why he’s given us all these things so that we would know,
that we would have no doubt that, of course he loves us. Of course he wants the best for us.
But I do think we roll over that our God of law so often. And we get preoccupied with, “Oh yes, but
he wants me to do this and avoid that sin, and do that good thing.” And we get all wrapped up in
the things that we think the God that we have in our mind, wants. And what he wants us to do is to
see, “Of how much more value are you than the sparrows? And yet, even two sparrows don’t fall to
the ground without me knowing, and you’re of far more value than many sparrows. And look at the
lilies of the field, they don’t toil, and they don’t reap, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not
arrayed like one of these. Of how much more value are you than the lilies, or than the birds?”
“Don’t have any anxiety about anything, but in everything let your request be made known to me, and
my peace will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” And that’s his whole heart.
I just thought again of Sarah, you remember, it’s just one — I think one of the funniest lines in
the Bible. And Sarah, yeah she laughed. She cried, “Could I have a child at this age?” And then
the angel says, “You laughed.” And she says, “No, no I didn’t laugh.” And then God says, “Oh but
you did laugh! You did laugh!” And it seems — I know it’s the wrong thing to say theologically,
but it seems so human. And of course, then you suddenly realize that that’s where our fathers got
there fatherliness. They got it from him, who is the Father.
So really often if we could think of some of the dearest things our own father said to us — and we
all have little moments that we can think of. Or our mothers, we all have little moments that we
remember. And if we could think of those, that’s our dear Father. That’s his heart for us; that’s
the heart that he has for us every moment of our lives.
And so the breadth of his love, and the depth of his love, and the height of his love, and the
length of his love is something infinite. And that’s why Paul puts it that way, “I pray that you’ll
have strength…” That’s the actual meaning of the Greek word, not that you’ll just be able, but that
you’ll have strength, that you’ll be strengthened in your spirit so that your able to overcome all
the kind of silly little petty soulish ideas you have of God, and you’ll have strength within
yourself to open up your heart and realize your Father loves you, he loves you. He has good plans
for you; he wants the best for you; not he wants you to be a goody-goody, or he wants you to be a
wonderful saint, but he wants you to be happy. He wants the best for you. He wants you to enjoy
what he enjoys. And that’s what his love is about.
I think so often I – there are so many things. That’s why, of course, you can guess, I typed them
out. And you can take – you need to take one of each page, but there’s so many: “As far as the East
is from the West, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” “As a father pities his
children, so the Lord pities those who fear him.” That our dear Father pities us with a warmth and
an affection. “For he knows our frame.” “He remembers that we are dust.” “He knows our weakness.”
I thought at times, especially when I’m close to — not death myself, but when I’m close to somebody
ill, dying, or close to the thinking that is connected with say, a Ewen [a person some knew] dying
or something like that, I’ve thought, “Maybe it’s scary out there;” that moment when you leave
earth, maybe it’s scary. And then I realize the odd time that I’ve been anywhere near it, he of
course removes all the scariness away. There is no scariness. And then I suddenly realized, “He
knows our frame.” He is not a horror movie. He is not going to put us out into a dark emptiness
where we’ll be scared. “He knows our frame.” “He remembers that we are dust.” He knows – he knows
inside our little heads what we feel and what we think. And he understands that. And he’ll make
sure that it’s easy; that it’s easy, and it’s a joyful thing.
“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his steadfast love endures forever.” And of course we
talked about that in that Psalm. It keeps on going, again, and again, and again, boring: “His
steadfast love endures forever.” But it’s so clear that he just put up, and put up, and put up. He
blessed the Israelites, then they turned against him. He forgave them and blessed them again. They
turned against him. “He…” It just went on.
So we know – so we can testify in our own lives; so we can testify how often he has just stayed with
us, and has tried again. So really we know it by experience, and we know it by his word that he is
committed to us. Our Father is committed to us. He has committed himself to us. If you say, “This
stupid God committed himself to us? You mean unconditionally; you mean whatever we do?” That’s
right. That’s right, he’s committed to us. Yes, you have the best of the bargain. Yes, you have.
He says, “I am with you always, even until the end of the world.” So his love is beyond anything
that we understand.
“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in
the midst, they said to him, ‘Teacher this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the
law Moses commanded us to stone such, what do you say about her?’ This they said o test him, that
they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down wrote with his finger on the
ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin
among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’” That was somebody caught right in the very act of
adultery; very obviously in their eyes the worst of sinners. And he still loved. And he has that
love towards you and me.
And so most of our unbelief comes from our constant judging of ourselves, in a way. We do something
that isn’t really up to the level that we know we should live, and then we get a bit shaky. We
think, “Well we’re horrified at that, and so God must be pretty horrified at it, and he won’t have
anything to do with us.” Well of course, the next second his love is around us and his arms are
around us and he is saying, “Come on, come on; let’s not do that again.” And he’s right there. And
so looking at his heart we can be in constant peace and in constant rest about our lives.
And it’s the same with everything; it’s the same with tomorrow. He does not “quench the flickering
torch.” He will not allow us to “come into anything above what we’re able to bear, and with the
trial he will provide a way of deliverance.” His love is always around us. And it’s beyond what we
understand ourselves. “Therefore I tell you, ‘Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat
or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food,
and the body more than clothing?’” You know you can almost hear his dear heart and the words, “Look
at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap…” Now you see him like a father with a little
child, “Look! Look up at the birds! Lift your heart up!” “And yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not of more value then they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit [18
inches or 45 cm] to his span of life.” So you can’t grow any bigger than you are. “And why are you
anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,
yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so
clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he
not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s
own trouble be enough for the day.”
But he loves us with a warm and affectionate love. And he wants the best for us. He wants the best
for us, and he wants us to be happy; he wants us to be happy. That’s why he said, “Rejoice, and
again I say, Rejoice.”
So really there’s every reason to look up into his dear face and to know that our Father does love
us. And in a warm way: this is our dear God; this is the dear one who made us persons. This is not
some big impersonal force; this is a dear Father who is more personal and loving than our dear dads
and mums. This is the one whose heart is soft towards us. This is our Father.
Let us pray.