Let’s play a little word-association game. When I say, “lavish,” what comes immediately to your mind? I don’t know about you, but what comes to my mind is frosting on a cake—chocolate frosting, deeply and generously applied with reckless abandon. I want to reach out and swipe up a fingerful for a taste. This frosting is so generously applied, in my imagination, that my fingerful won’t be missed, there’s plenty for everyone.
In his first epistle, the apostle John describes the deep generosity of God’s love as a lavish love. John doesn’t just say this is God’s love in general, but his love for us, as a Father’s love for his children.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1 (NIV)
How Deep the Father’s Love
John is astonished at the greatness of God the Father’s love, the lavish generosity of which extends so far toward us that we are even called his children! And not merely called children, but because of the Father’s love, we are his children. This love reached for us from before the foundation of the world when, paired with his equally lavish grace, our Father predestined us for adoption through his Son, Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:4, 5). Because of his great grace-filled love for us, we are children of God.
John later tells us that “God is love” (4:8, 16), and while the magnitude of this attribute is incomprehensible to our finite minds, for believers, the fact that love is intrinsically natural to God the Father is not entirely surprising. What is surprising is that the love of our heavenly Father was not extended to loveable children, but to sinners—to his enemies! We weren’t adorable little cherubs when he first laid eyes on us, but wretched rebels. Yet, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Stuart Townend begins his hymn with the same awe and wonder that I feel when I meditate on this truth:
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
To make us his treasured children, God the Father sent his treasured, eternally-beloved Son to die in our place and give us life. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9, 10).
Our Perfect Father
All this talk family talk may be raising more word-associations. What comes to mind when the word ‘father’ is used will certainly be our own earthly fathers— many of whom were good, some of whom were not, and none of whom were perfect. With all the word-pictures in scripture, which are meant to illustrate spiritual truths by giving us examples from the world and our lives, the truth being taught is greater than the example we understand. I wonder if, just as marriage was given by God to his people to show us a picture, however imperfect, of the relationship of Christ and his Church (Eph. 5:25-33), fathers were given to us for the purpose, ultimately, of showing us a picture, however imperfect, of who God the Father is? The more I study, learn, and meditate on scripture, the more incomprehensible I find God to be. And that this Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, should love me and call me to be his child becomes more amazing still.
Our earthly fathers may have been present with us, loving, providing for, and protecting us as much as they could, or they may have disappointed or failed us in some fashion. Our earthly fathers may have wanted the best for us, but even the best of them lacked perfect wisdom to know what that best was, and even if they knew, they lacked the power and the means to bring it about. The imperfections of our earthly fathers are not meant to illustrate for us an imperfect heavenly Father, nor is the comparison meant to shame our fathers for not being perfect. God doesn’t give us imperfect fathers so we would focus on their shortcomings, but to give us a longing for the perfections found only in him.
Our heavenly Father will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). He knows our earthly needs, so we can trust him to provide (Matt. 6:25-32). Even more than our earthly needs, our heavenly Father knows our deepest and most desperate needs are everlasting life and holiness and to meet these he applies the blood of the Lamb to our guilt and sin, thus giving us life in his Son, Jesus Christ. Our heavenly Father knows that as long as we are amused by the trivialities of the world and captivated by our old sinful habits we won’t be completely satisfied in him, so he gives us the Holy Spirit and his word to sanctify, discipline, and teach us (John 17:17; 2 Tim 3:16; Heb. 12:6-10).
Our heavenly also Father gives us each other, the Church, that the love which he pours into us may flow outward as we image our Savior and learn to love others. John repeats this over and over in his epistle, “love one another… love one another… love one another…” (3:23; 4:7, 11, 12), having learned it from Jesus during his final evening with them before he was arrested, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).
Lastly, our heavenly Father has provided for us an inheritance more precious than gold: imperishable, undefiled and unfading (1 Peter 1:4). Jesus has gone ahead to prepare our place and has sent the Holy Spirit to prepare us for this glorious inheritance (John 14: 1-3; 16-17; 25-26). As we grow in sanctification, we learn to cherish Christ more than our sin, to love our Father more than the things of the world, and to more fully enjoy our fellowship with them. Speaking of incomprehensible truths, the fellowship which began in the Trinity before the foundation of the world will include us into eternal glory in perfect loving union with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit forever and ever (John 17:20-24)!
And so, dear sisters, let us pray that we may have strength to comprehend with all the saints even a fraction of these incomprehensible truths (Eph. 3:18). May we grasp the truth that the Father lavishes his perfect love upon us, generously enough for all his children to share, even overflowing to others, a grace-filled, purifying, eternal love from which there will be no disappointment, and about which we may confidently—with astonished and tearful gratitude—declare that, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God [our Father!] in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38, 39).
 Stuart Townend, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, Copyright © 1995 Thankyou Music, https://www.stuarttownend.co.uk/song/how-deep-the-fathers-love-for-us/ accessed 6/6/2018
About the Author:
Barbaranne reads, writes, cooks, runs, and shoots an occasional photo in Texas. She and her husband Jim are the parents of five of the neatest people they know and grandparents to the first two of (hopefully) many grandchildren. She has been blogging ever since she accidentally signed up for a blog while attempting to comment on a friend’s blog post and figured, “Why not?” She now blogs at Gratefuland Women of Purpose, a ministry of the women of her church. Barbaranne and Jim are members of Christ Presbyterian Church in New Braunfels, Texas, where she leads a Bible study for women in the hope that she and they may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.