Perception is reality. Three things tamper with your picture of God:
1) Bad decisions. Demas fell in love with the world and left the race. Really stupid.
2) Parents. If you had a punishing dad, you may think that God’s out to get you.
3) Satan. His mission statement reads, “Change their picture of God.” Worked with Adam and Eve. You’re next. Defeat him good!
Here’s an accurate picture of Father God painted by Jesus:
The Father is not controlling.
An illegitimate request from a rebellious son—to have his share at his time on his terms. The father could have said, “Nothing doing.” Not this father: “…the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living” (Luke 15:13)
Think of an overbearing boss, an insecure mother, a cult, an angel named Lucifer. That is not the Father of Jesus, the most powerful, loving, secure and least controlling Person in the universe. The kind of “control” God exercises is sacrificial love. He hounds us with love, and victimizes us with a conspiracy of goodness. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life…”
The Father is full of compassion.
The world was opposite of the prodigal’s expectations: it took without giving. He decided to return home. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (v. 20). Really? Yes!
“Compassion” is a compound word meaning “with suffering.” “Love suffers long and is kind.” If you had a distant dad or a controlling mom, they did not represent the compassion of the Father.
The Father forgives effortlessly.
The son started his prepared apology. But “the father interrupted his son’s confession and said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe…’” (v. 23). He had heard enough. He was convinced of the son’s heart and forgave him—freely and fully. That’s the way God is—always!
The Father is extravagant in his generosity.
He didn’t withhold forgiveness, but we could expect him to hold back what might have been the rewards of obedience. Not even close. He said,“Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it” (v. 22,23).
The son is thinking, “I am receiving the very things I wanted in the world—a party and fancy clothes. I was an idiot.” This father images the Father of Jesus, who told His disciples, “Fear not, little flock. It is the father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
The Father loves to enjoy us.
Once the gifts were received, it was time for the party: “’Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate’” (v. 23b, 24). Heaven is the idea of a love-sick Father who deires to celebrate with His children—for eternity!
The Father wants sons, not servants.
The prodigal knew he didn’t deserve being treated like a son, because he had not acted like one: “The younger son said, ‘Make me like one of your hired men,’” but the father gave him the clothes of an honored child. The older brother didn’t understand the difference between a son and a servant. He said, “All these years I’ve been slaving for you…” but he was frustrating the grace of his father. Grace is received, not achieved. It is a gift, not a paycheck.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father…” not, “Our Boss.” Fathers operate according to mercy, bosses according to merit. I’ll take mercy!