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So now our proclamation which is taken from the first Epistle of John chapter 3 verses one, two and three.
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God and we are! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Amen.”
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 doctinal 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, 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. And I believe it was that Indian god, and I believe I know the name of the god,--But I’m not going to give the name because the Bible says “don’t use the names of foreign gods”—had followed me up through my life through more than fifty-five years of Christian ministry. But it’s power and it’s presence had never been totally excluded. And I want to say to you, in my experience which has been extensive the things that happen early in our lives are sometimes the most decisive and the hardest to deal with, even things that happened to us before we were actually born, while we were still in our mother’s womb. It takes the Holy Spirit to uncover these things and show us how to deal with them.
I’m not a psychologist, I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m just a preacher. But, since that experience there has been a profound ongoing change in my spiritual experience. I want to try to show you from Scripture how you can come into the same kind of relationship. I want to give you some Scriptures. Now I’m not going to base this on subjective personal experience. I’m going to base it strictly on Scriptures. In Hebrews chapter 1, verses 1 and 2, the Scripture says this,
“God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, [Now the word His is in italics. It means it’s not there in the original text.] whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” [or the ages]
The Scripture’s talking about two different ways in which God speaks. He speaks in the prophets, but in a different way He speaks in a Son. Not the Son, a son. It’s not a difference of person, it’s a difference of ways. Andrew Murray translates that, spoken to us sonwise. A different kind of approach. The prophets could reveal so much, but when God wanted to reveal Himself as Father there was only one person in the Universe who could do that and it was the Son. And that’s why the Son came, to complete and fulfill the message of the prophets, but also to bring a revelation that no prophet could ever bring—the revelation of the Father.
And then in John 17 we have what’s called the High Priestly prayer of Jesus, where He’s praying to the Father on behalf of His disciples who were with Him there. And in part of this prayer speaking to the Father, verse 6 of John 17, He says,
“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave me out of the world.” [That’s His disciples.]
Now there are two things I want to comment on. First of all what name had He manifested? Now the Jewish people for about fourteen centuries have been familiar with the name that we call Jehovah or Jaweh, the sacred name of God which is never pronounced by the Jewish people, only written. They’ve known that name. That was not something new to them. What was the name that Jesus manifested to His disciples? If you read the prayer you will find it’s the name Father. And it occurs six times in that chapter. Jesus came to manifest the name of the Father. And the word manifest is important. He didn’t just come to talk about it, He came to demonstrate it.
How did He demonstrate the reality of the Father to His disciples? By living like a Son of God. He was never frightened, never perplexed, never in despair. He never failed to know what to do because the Father was always with Him. They saw in the life of Jesus a different kind of life. They were familiar with the prophets. They were familiar with Moses. They were familiar with men who had done tremendous signs and wonders and spoken mighty words. But here was a Man who lived knowing that He had a Father in heaven. And Jesus, by His whole life from beginning to end, manifested the name Father. That’s why He came. That’s why God sent Him, because only a Son can reveal the Father. The prophets can speak about it, teach about it, but they cannot reveal Him, they cannot manifest Him.
And then in Matthew 11, verse 27, Jesus is speaking and He says,
“All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and He to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”
So “no one knows the Son but the Father, and no one knows the Father but the Son and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal the Father.” So I want to tell you very clearly tonight I cannot reveal the Father to you. Nor can any preacher do that. There’s only one person who can reveal the Father, that is the Son. If you are to know the Father it must be by the revelation of the Son. We are shut up to that, otherwise it’s not there.
Then Jesus continues, and I love these words and they are familiar and famous to many people. Now listen to this.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Oh, those words in Greek are so vivid. All you who are carrying burdens. Who are struggling. Who find it hard going. Who sometimes wonder if you will ever make it through. Jesus says, “Come to Me. And I will give you rest.”
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
What was His yoke and His burden? To do the Father’s will. It was His relationship with the Father. And He said, “If you’re struggling, if you’re perplexed, if you’re anxious, if your frustrated, if you’re not satisfied with the way your life is going, come to Me. And I can reveal the Father to you and that will be a life-changing revelation.” It will give you a new sense of belonging. It will bring you into true rest.
How many of you are really enjoying rest? There’s not much rest in our contemporary culture. You can look there for it in vain. So do you know what rest is? Do you know what it is to relax? There’s only one place you can find rest—in the bosom of the Father. Jesus will reveal Him to you. I can’t do it. I can tell you about it, I can pray for you, but only Jesus can do it.
Now I want to speak briefly about four important results that come from knowing the Father. Number one—it gives you a sense of personal identity. You know who you really are. You see, all through the Bible every person is identified by his father or her father. You read the genealogies, the father the son of so and so, the son of so and so. What gives a person identity is knowing having a father. And even in our English language today, though much has changed, many people’s sir names are the names of their fathers, like Williamson, or Johnson, of Thompson. All they are saying is the son of William, the son of John, the son of Thomas. And we have basically, all around us, an identity-less generation. A generation that has no sense of identity. They’re sometimes called the X Generation. What does X stand for? The unknown quantity. They don’t know who they are.
I believe, myself, if we could transmit them, transmit this to them, there would be a tremendous response. I believe there are millions of young people just milling around, lost, confused, perplexed because they don’t know the Father. I don’t believe anything will really ever change them sufficiently until they come to know the Father.
So, if you’re here this evening and you don’t really know who you are, you’re a kind of faceless person, a rootless person. You’re not counted anywhere. You don’t have a real identity. You may have an identity that you put on, you can go to the mirror and put it one with makeup, or in other ways, but it’s not a genuine identity. It comes through the Father.
The second thing you have when you know the Father is a home in heaven. From the day I was saved I always believed if I continued in the faith, faithful, I would end up in heaven. Heaven was my destination. But I never thought about heaven as my home until I came to know the Father. You see, what makes a home a home is a father. After I had this experience I said to Ruth, “Ruth, I don’t care whether you put up a tombstone over me after I die or not, but if you do put up a tombstone I just want you to put two words “GONE HOME.”
I think of a precious Hawaiian sister that we knew that was there this time when we were in Hawaii. She’d served the Lord faithfully many years. She was dying of cancer and the fellowship she belonged to made sure there was always a sister by her bed every hour of every day. And she said to people quite often, “You know I’ve never seen an angel. I’d love to see an angel.” And then as she was about to die she sat up in the bed, stretched out her hands, and said “I see them. I see the angels.” And the next moment she was gone. The angels had come to take her home. How do you expect to go home?
There was a beggar outside a rich man’s door in the time of Jesus. He was called Lazarus. And he was there sick, full of sores. But he was a believer. The dogs came licked his sores in compassion. Then it says, “It came to pass that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.” What impressed me was it was not just an angel it was the angels. I think one strong angel could have easily have transported that emaciate frame, but God sent an escort of angels to that poor beggar lying in the street.
It says of the rich man, “He died and being in hell he lifted up his eyes…” What a different destiny. I am persuaded that God really wants to send angels to His believing sons and daughters. Why should we go home lonely? Why shouldn’t we have an escort? God has got enough angels. I think it’s important the way a person dies.
As a young preacher I was so impressed by the journals of John Wesley. And one day a report was brought to him that a certain Methodist sister whom he knew had died. And his comment was this, “Did she go in glory or only in peace?” Which way are you going to go? Only in peace? Or do you think you’re going to have a glorious entry into the Father’s mansion carried there by an escort of angels. See it makes a difference when God is your Father. You have a home. You’re not a stray. You’re not a wanderer. You’re on a pathway that’s leading home.
The third thing that comes through knowing the Father is total security. In Matthew 10:29,
“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.”
You know that it says two sparrows are sold for one copper coin. Five sparrows are sold for two. So if you buy five you get one extra. You understand? It’s not just four, it’s five. They were so little value that you could five for two copper coins, like two pennies. And Jesus said, “Not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s will.” And Jesus says, “Do not fear. Therefore you are of more value than any sparrow.”
Every now and then you will see a little boy or a little girl held in the father’s arms, lifted up, cheek pressed against the father’s lapel, and there may be chaos all around, things may seem to be falling apart, but that little child is not the least bit disturbed, because he or she is in the father’s arms. And that’s how God wants us to be--safe in the Father’s arms. No matter what storms rage, no matter what evil forces assail us, I’m in my Father’s arms. I’m content to be a little child. I’m over 80, but I like to think of myself as still held in my Father’s arms.
John 10:29, Jesus says this,
“My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
So when you are in the Father’s hand there’s nothing that can snatch you away. And we’re living in times when it’s pretty important to be in the Father’s hand. And things are not going to get better in the world, believe me. They’re going to get darker and fiercer. If time permits and we live I’ll probably bring a last message on that theme. But life isn’t going to get easier. Life isn’t going to get less dangerous. It’s going to be more dangerous. And it’s very, very important that you know you’re in the Father’s hand. Jesus said, “My Father is greater than all. There’s no one that can snatch you from the Father’s hand.”
And finally knowing the Father provides motivation for serving Him. I think this is often neglected. Jesus said about His own relationship with the Father in John 8:29.
“And he who sent Me is with Me.[that’s the Father] The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”
What was the motivation of Jesus’ service? Was it success? Was it popularity? It was to please the Father. And I believe it’s so important in the Body of Christ that that motive is restored. Because frankly one of the main problems in the Church today is competition between ministers and ministries. Do I have the biggest mailing list? Do the most people attend my meetings? Am I on the most television stations or whatever it may be? People think that success provides security. It doesn’t. In fact, the more successful you are the more insecure you are because you might lose it. Somebody might have a bigger mailing list or draw a larger crowd or be on more television stations, and then where will your security be? See. Security comes out of your motive. “My motive,” Jesus says, “is to please my Father.” And I really have found in my life, since this experience came to me it’s changed my motivation.
I was as a child and a boy very success oriented. And it so happened I was very successful. I was always head of the class. I obtained a scholarship to Eton. From Eton I obtained a scholarship to King’s College Cambridge. King’s College Cambridge I became the senior student and at a very early age, age twenty-four, I was elected to a Fellowship. So I know what success is. But success didn’t give me security. Then I became—I mean you’ll have to understand I was a “Hippie” before my time, before there were any Hippies. So I became a Conscious Objector, which is pretty difficult since my father was a Colonel and my grandfather was a Major General and my uncle was a Brigadier. For me to be a Conscious Objector was not in the family tradition.
But I went before the Tribunal and the Vice Provost at Kings was the man conducting the Tribunal. He said are you willing to serve in a non-combatant unit. I said, “Fine, as long as I don’t have to kill people.” So that’s how I ended up in the Royal Army Medical Corps. I have to say it was really not the kind of career that suited me. But I got saved, you see. As long as I was walking around in my Fellows gown, walking over the grass, and drinking in the Fellow’s lounge, I didn’t need God too much. But when all that was stripped away from me, and I became by a freak of promotion a Local-Acting-Unpaid-Lance-Corporal, people asked me sometimes what is a Local-Acting-Unpaid-Lance-Corporal, and if you haven’t been in the British Army you can’t see all those dashes. L-A-U- and so on. Well I said to people it’s like being as near as you can to being a worm without being a worm. And that’s when I got saved. And God radically and totally transformed me.
Well I have to tell you that promotion comes with salvation. So I got promoted, contrary to all Army regulations, because I’d been a Conscious Objector. I was promoted to be a Corporal. I went on a certain course, and with my background it really wasn’t a problem to me to stand on parade ground and shout at people and tell them what to do. I mean, it was second nature. So I passed the course, and when I came back I found on orders I was promoted to be a Corporal. You see salvation brings promotion. So the commanding officer who was a doctor from Northern Ireland, Col. Dan McVicker, sent for me to tell me about my promotion. I mean, if you haven’t been in the British Army there are things you cannot understand. He said to me, “Good morning, Corporal Prince.” I said, “Good morning, Sir.” He said, “How’s the cooking going?” Well that was a totally unexpected question. But, when you’ve been in the army a few months you learn discretion. You don’t commit yourself. So I gave him a non-committal answer. I said, “It’s seems about the same as usual, Sir.” Which in my judgment was awful. He said, “Didn’t you know you’re the Corporal Cook of this unit?” I said, “No, Sir. No one ever told me.” “Well,” he said, “we wanted to promote you and there was no vacancy for a Corporal except for a cook, so we made you Corporal Cook.”
By the mercy of God I never did any cooking because… But you see, that was when I met the Lord, when I was as near to being a worm as you can be without being one. But I still had this drive for success. I was very much a success-oriented person. I didn’t esteem success the way the world… I didn’t expect to be promoted as an officer, but I expected to succeed in the ministry. And actually God brought me to a place of almost total despair. I was a pastor. Some of you know I used to hold meetings at Speakers Corner Marble Arch three days every week. And we saw people saved. We saw people healed. We saw people baptized in the Holy Spirit when that was very, very rare.
But I had this awful problem of depression. And there was this thing that said to me, “Others may succeed, but you can’t.” And so God brought me right down, and then He showed me this demon of a spirit of heaviness. And I called upon the Lord and I was delivered from it. But God had to let me come right down before He would lift me up.
But even then I was always, in a way, conscious of success. And in some ways I became successful. But success doesn’t bring security. In fact, the more successful you are the more you’re threatened by other people’s success. And don’t tell me that’s not a problem in the Body of Christ because I know it is. “This is my church. I’m the pastor. This is our movement. We’re the biggest. Etc.” I’m not saying that critically. I’m just saying it’s not the way to security. Security is very simple. It’s knowing God as your Father and making it your aim to please Him. There is no situation in which you cannot be motivated by that.
You may be in a traffic jam, you may be late for an appointment, you may be stewing there in the road, you’ve clenched your fists and you’re all tense, and then you say to yourself, “What am I doing here” I’m here to please my Father.” It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, it’s my reactions that matter. Am I reacting in a way that’s pleasing to my Father.
Now I haven’t mastered that but I’m a lot nearer to it than I was. I have this intense desire to please my Father, my heavenly Father. And I wouldn’t trade that for any other motivation that’s in the Body of Christ. And you see where the ministers of Christ are motivated that way, there’s no room for competition. If each of us is equally set on pleasing the Father, we’ll never compete with one another. You see, there’s a secret here and it comes through knowing the Father.
Let me recapitulate briefly the four things that come through knowing the Father. Number one, personal Identity—You know who you are because you know who your Father is. You see we have a fatherless generation around us. And they’re never going to be satisfied until they have a father, and it’s our privilege to tell them there is a Father who loves them, who’s waiting for them, who will not condemn them, who will not criticize them, who will not point out all their faults and failings. He’s just waiting. And I have said to some people, I believe if we could get that across to this generation many of them would run into their Father’s arms. That’s what they’re longing for.
But the only way we can communicate it is the way Jesus communicated it to His disciples. It’s not by preaching. That can play a part, but it’s by living as sons and daughters of God. Living in security. Not carrying some heavy load, but trusting Him whose burden is light and His yoke is easy. Whose burden is light and whose yoke is easy. And when people see people like that they become interested. “What makes you different? Why don’t you have furrows in your brow? Why aren’t you taking sedatives?” I know the Father. He cares for me. He provides for me. “Why don’t you have all the financial worries of so many other people?” My Father cares for me. He feeds the sparrows and He feeds me. Now that’s not always easy, but it’s the goal, it’s the solution.
Secondly, as I’ve said before, you have a home in heaven. I’m just looking forward to getting home. I’ve been a long while on the way, more than fifty-five years, and I’ve got many precious brothers and sisters who are there ahead of me. I’m looking forward to meeting them again. Death doesn’t frighten me. I have to be careful that I don’t become almost ambitious. I say that carefully because I don’t believe my job is finished. And my aim is to finish His work. Jesus said, “My food is to do the Father’s will, and to finish His work.”
God made that very real to me. John 4:34, and I went around telling people I’ve got a new diet. And they say, “What is it?” “My food is to do the Father’s will and to finish His work.” So you have a home in heaven. I mean, heaven has become real to me. There are some very sentimental songs that nobody sings today, but I rather like them.
“Sometimes I grow homesick for heaven
Where all the redeemed of all ages
Sing glory around the white throne…”
It’s corny, but I like it. I used to be very complicated, very intellectual, very profound. Now I’m very simple. I have a home in heaven. I have a Father who loves me. I have a Savior who’s waiting for me. And I have wonderful brothers and sisters that are there ahead of me! I think I mentioned one night about Ali, the Sudanese Muslim whom I led to the Lord. I trust by the grace of God he’ll be there. And he’ll say, “Thank you. I’m here because of you.” Will there be anybody in heaven who will say that to you? “Thank you. I’m here because of you.” It’s a very meaningful consideration.
The third result I spoke about is total security. I think we’ve dealt with that pretty thoroughly. You’re in the Father’s arms. You’re held in the Father’s hand. And no one can snatch you out of the Father’s hand! There’s no power in the Universe that can do that! Jesus said, “My Father is greater than all.” We have the greatest Father! The most wonderful Father! A God who’s a God above all gods. Whose hands are on the corners of the Universe. Who created the angels and the stars and is worshiped by millions and millions of glorious beings in heaven. And He’s waiting for little things like you and me to turn up. Isn’t that marvelous?
And then as I’ve said, and this has made a great difference in my life, it has provided me with motivation for service. I’m not out to build the biggest or be the greatest. I’m out to please my Father. There are lots of situations where there’s not much you can do. You may be sitting in a doctor’s waiting room and you’re late and he’s keeping you waiting and the magazines are pretty boring. What are you going to do? Please my Father by my attitude, by my meditation. There’s never a situation in which that motivation does not apply if we can cultivate it.
Now I’ve told you clearly and plainly, I cannot reveal the Father to you. The only one who can do that is Jesus. But if you seek Him sincerely and humbly on the basis of His word I believe, in His own way and time, He will reveal the Father to you. And I want to give you an opportunity tonight. I’m not saying what will happen because I don’t know, but if you have that longing that’s been stirred in your heart to know God as your Father, why don’t you rise out of your seat, come forward, and I would suggest if you can find a place to kneel, you kneel, and then you just tell the Father. “Father, I want to know You. I thank you for Jesus. He’s my Savior. He’s changed my life. I know I belong to You, but Father, I want to know You. I’m on the way but I want to come to the destination.”
I guarantee you nothing. I don’t know what will happen, but I have a sense that God is here tonight, and that there is a hunger in many hearts. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” If you are hungry and thirsty here tonight, you will be filled. And we invite you if you are hungry and thirsty for the knowledge of the Father, you’ll stand to you feet. And if you feel so led, move out and begin to cry out to God and worship.