Derek begins this week's message about knowing God as your Father. That entails not just knowing about Him, but actually knowing the reality of your relationship with Him. Jesus said no one could come to the Father except through Him. To illustrate this, Derek tells of his own experience in discovering this truth after he was saved.
So tonight I want to speak to you about knowing God as your Father. We’ve all got the language starting with the Lord’s Prayer, and it’s all genuine but do we have the experience or is it just religious words? In John 14 verse 6 a very familiar passage to evangelicals and others like that. Jesus says these words,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Now in that statement there are two main elements: the way and the destination. What is the way? Jesus is the way. What is the destination? A lot of Christians have never even considered that. Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus is the way, but the Father is the destination. And I am aware through many years of experience and observation, that multitudes of Christians are on the way but they’ve never arrived at their destination. They have never come to know God personally as a Father. So they continue on the way. They live good lives and they see a lot of blessings, but they’ve missed the real point of the coming of Jesus which is to bring us to the Father.
Now I want to illustrate this from personal experience. I was rather dramatically saved in the middle of the night in an Army barrack room in World War II in the year 1941 in the dear sweet city or town of Scarborough in Yorkshire. I didn’t know anything about doctrinal salvation. I just had the experience. But I discovered afterwards there were people who had the doctrine but didn’t have the experience. So if I had to choose, I’d rather have the experience than the doctrine. But, praise God, you can have both. But don’t be content with the doctrine without the experience.
And my life was dramatically and permanently revolutionized. And where are we now? We are in 1998 so that’s how many years? Fifty-seven years I have walked with the Lord. I have never been a backslider. Many times I have not been what I should be, but I have never turned my back on the Lord, and the Lord has blessed me and used me and I have preached probably in about fifty nations. But in 1996--I know I had just celebrated my fiftieth year in fulltime ministry and had a glorious celebration in our ministry.
And then Ruth and I were on holiday in Hawaii in a little rented apartment and we’d gone there to rest. And it’s quite amazing how many times we go somewhere to rest and we don’t rest. It’s almost, we can almost say it’s a foregone conclusion we won’t rest. And I ended up having surgery and so on, for all of which I bless God. But anyhow, there we were prepared to rest and each morning we sit up in bed and pray and worship and we also take communion together.
This morning we had prayed, we had worshiped, we were praying, and I was sitting in the bed and something very unexpected, very objective, very physical began to happen to me. I found a power that was moving in my feet, then in my legs, and then up my body. But at the same time I was aware of what was like a long arm stretched out from somewhere over my right ear trying to press down a black skullcap on top of my head. It was as if I was caught in a conflict between these two powers. And Ruth told me later that my whole body was affected by this struggle. She said your color changed to purple. It was totally objective. It was not something subjective.
For a little while I didn’t know what was going to happen, and then the power that was working in me overpowered this arm that was trying to stretch out the black skullcap and force it on my head. And it was withdrawn and something happened and immediately I knew God as my Father. It became totally natural for me to say Father.
Now I want you to know I had had the doctrinal knowledge for many years. In fact, I had even preached a series of three messages which are recorded on tape about knowing God as Father. I had all the theory. And it was true. It was correct. There was nothing incorrect or insincere. But what I didn’t have was the experience. I had found the way. I had been on the way a long while, but I had not arrived at the destination.
And tonight I want to speak to you about the destination, coming to know the Father. In a quite gentle but profound way it has revolutionized my life. It’s revolutionized my prayer life. I am from a British military background. Every male member of my family that I’ve ever known personally has been an officer in the British Army. So I’m a disciplined type of person and I’ve had a very real and dramatic experience of conversion that I’ve never doubted, but this was totally new to me, to know God as Father. And I thank God for my parents and my grandparents. They were fine people. They had a sense of duty which hardly exists in people today. But as for knowing anybody as a father, that wasn’t there. In my family nobody hugged anybody. I remember when I was sent off at the age of nine to a boarding school wearing my little bowler hat I was embarrassed to kiss my mother in public. I don’t think my father ever took me on his knee. There just wasn’t that kind of relationship in our family. They were moral people, good people, beautiful people, but there was a whole dimension of love and intimacy and freedom which we never knew.
Now when I came into the baptism in the Holy Spirit I experienced a lot of freedom and power. But I never had this breakthrough. And after that skullcap was removed, immediately I knew God as my Father. I have theories about the skullcap. I was born in India and I have discovered in dealing with people in deliverance and other ways, that your early years are often the most decisive in your total spiritual experience. And India, as I’ve said, is a nation of three million gods. And I think some of the gods of India followed me up through my life. In fact, I was sometimes aware of some dark force. I mean I was saved, baptized in the Spirit, speaking in tongues, praying for people, seeing the sick healed, but there was always a sense somehow in the background somewhere there was something dark.