From Shame to Honor | My Journey into Sonship
The transforming power of honor, sonship and unconditional love of the Father.
In 1983 I had a moment that changed my life forever. In a vision I saw myself waking up in a cabin that I used to dream about going to with my Dad. It was hunting and fishing paradise in the Canadian Rockies, a few hours' drive from where I grew up.
My dad had promised to take me there for my 12th birthday, but at the last minute, he cancelled. He was a very successful businessman who was also an alcoholic and a workaholic before he became a Christian and didn’t realize how important it was to me to spend time with him. So, at that moment when I was 12, I made the decision that I would never believe his word again. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t need a father anyway.
"What I saw literally blew my mind."
Now in this vision, I saw myself as a twelve-year-old boy on that vacation we never took, waking up in the cabin with my dad. He was preparing breakfast and through sleepy eyes, I peered into the kitchen to see who was making me breakfast.
What I saw literally blew my mind. There was a middle-aged man dressed in blue jeans standing at the stove, whistling, having a great old time cooking enough food to feed an army. He had shoulder length gray hair and was about the same stature as my earthly father. As he turned around, he looked into my eyes and I knew instantly who this was. He was Abba Father, my Daddy God!
Through the window of His eyes, I saw into His soul. With one look, He communicated that He loved me with his whole heart. He wasn’t measuring me by my works to see if my works deserved His love, He loved me regardless of my works. He could see right through me, into my heart. He knew me completely: present, past and future, and still loved me.
He knew my weaknesses, my failings and my sin. He knew how many times I had made promises only to break them. Yet that had not diminished even a tiny bit of His love. My worth to Him was not determined by anything I had done in the past or would do in the future. It was solely determined by what Jesus did for me on the cross two thousand years ago. He has always loved me and always will.
"Our concept of God often comes from our past experiences with parents or other people who have had authority over us."
I knew that I would never be able to add to that value by what I do. I received in that moment a gift of God’s grace, the gift of sonship. I knew now that I had the same value that Jesus has to the Father, and knew the meaning of Romans 8:15,"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, Abba," Father.'" (NIV)
It was like the day that I became a Christian. I laughed and cried at the same time, realizing that God my Father loved me with an unconditional, everlasting love. For the first time, I felt true honor. I was already secure in the love of Jesus, but now I know that I am secure in the love of the Father as well.
How about you? Do you really feel secure in the Father’s love?
THE # 1 STUMBLING BLOCK TO SONSHIP
I have found that most of the confusion concerning the Father’s loving heart comes from how we view our parents and other authority figures. These are all people we have looked to for approval and a sense of identity and purpose.
In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, the servant who had one talent judged the master as a hard man, harsh, unfair, stoic, stingy. He had fear instead of faith and as a result was unfruitful. Our concept of God often comes from our past experiences with parents or other people who have had authority over us.
“A father’s voice can set in motion an entire trend of life.” - Gordon MacDonald.
At the beginning of every seminar I conduct, I ask the participants to write down on paper how they view God the Father, and how they view themselves. At one meeting, a pastor from a large church in Asia wrote, “I see God the Father as distant, unapproachable, unreasonable, hard to please, strict, perfectionistic, demanding, silent, absent and to be feared. I see myself as unworthy, insignificant, a failure and disposable". He was projecting the rejection and judgment he had suffered from his earthly father onto God and interpreting everything that was happening in his life through his past experience.
Another woman wrote, “I was one of five daughters in my family and my dad was a dominating disciplinarian and someone I really feared while growing up. I remember physically shaking in front of him as he shouted at us or hit us with the belt... I remember saying to myself how much I hated him and wished he were dead. No matter what I did, I could never please my dad, and I realize how this has led me to a life of striving, wanting to please everyone to get approval. God showed me that just as my dad was distant, I thought God was distant also; and just as I used to strive to please my dad, I was striving to get into God’s presence.
"I realize now from this teaching that I am always face-to-face with my Father God, and He has placed hope in my heart. I am precious to Him, He delights in me, and I bring joy to his heart, whether I am lying down doing nothing or working hard, He loves me the same.”
Another woman wrote, “Until now I always felt that I would never be good enough for God. I did not deserve His love. If I did something wrong, God could not talk to me because He is Holy and I am not. God favored other people more than me. I always feared that God would give me what I could not bear. God always moved in the opposite to what I desire. God was disciplining me all the time. I always felt guilty when I wasn’t praying or reading my Bible because I believed God would be angry. I subconsciously tried to earn his love, no free lunch. I could not feel God as He was Holy and distant. I often found myself complaining about what I did not have. I felt like a failure and a loser, purposeless, I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. I used to see God as someone who was mad at me all the time. I was so afraid of learning submission that I would not be able to open my Bible. I would hold it but not open it; I would be in such dread. I now know that God is not like that. He is not hard on me. He is gentle and humble of heart. He doesn’t see me as never measuring up. He sees me covered with grace, and He alone will strengthen and perfect me.”
"Words have a powerful impact for good or evil."
At the same meeting, another girl wrote, “Before today, I had always felt that I never quite measured up to what my earthly father expected of me. I have seen God the Father through the distorted filter of my earthly father. Today, God the Father began to speak to me words of love, acceptance and forgiveness... I have discovered that He loves me unconditionally. I am thriving in the knowledge that He made me, loves me and finds pleasure in me. Wow, it is so great to be a daughter of the King!” When she repented of her dead works, the Father’s healing love broke through.
Words have a powerful impact for good or evil. “A father’s voice can set in motion an entire trend of life,” wrote Gordon MacDonald. We live in a world that is predominantly shame based, where a person’s value is determined by what they do, more than who they are.
I saw a billboard recently with big, bold print advertising a mobile phone company that read, “I Do Therefore I Am.” Doesn’t the whole world live by that motto? However, the Christian is supposed to live by another motto, “I am, therefore I do.”’ He lives life from a place of approval, not for approval.
Do you know that you are already a complete success in your Abba Father’s eyes, not for what have done or will do, but by what Jesus did for you two thousand years ago on the cross? Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing, in spite of all the pressure from other people’s agendas. He was free to perform His Father’s agenda, and He wants the same for us.
John 17, the high priestly intercessory prayer of Jesus, has been called the “Holy of Holies” of the New Testament. What the disciples heard Jesus pray on His last night with them before his crucifixion had nothing to do with an agenda for church planting or any other gift or ministry. Instead, the whole conversation was about being one with the Father.
In John 17:22-23 Jesus prayed, "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (NIV) The glory Jesus is talking about here is the glory of being God’s Son. The Greek word for “glory” and for “honor” is the same word, so wherever you see “glory” you could also say “honor.”
"The greatest hindrance to receiving this gift of sonship is trying to earn what we have already been freely given."
John Trent, in his book, The Gift of Honor, defined “honor” this way: “Honor is a decision I make to give priceless value to another human being just because they are created in the image of God.”
Webster’s Dictionary defines “glory” as “a feeling of dignity, great value of being, acceptability, and legitimacy.” To “honor” means “to make glorious, to validate, to prize, to treasure, to esteem highly.” Jesus has given every believer the glory of sonship, the unfathomable value that the Father has for Jesus, He now places on you.
“So why don’t I feel like it?” you may ask.
The greatest hindrance to receiving this gift of sonship is trying to earn what we have already been freely given. The fact is, the harder we try to earn it, the further away we get from it. That is called self-righteousness, living under the law of sin and death. What we need is the new kind of “righteousness”—the righteousness that comes only by faith. Jesus took our place on the cross so that we could take His place in the Father. He got what our deeds deserved so we get what His deeds deserved, the glory of sonship!
Our salvation is all inclusive. It includes both redemption and adoption. You haven’t only been redeemed; you’ve been adopted by none other than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. As much as the gift of salvation includes liberation from death, healing and all other gifts and blessings of God, so also in the atonement was your privilege to be a son of God, the Father.
Have you experienced this blessing Jesus bought for you? If not, “Ask and it shall be given unto you!”