The True Knowledge of our Heavenly Father - Bob Sawvelle

The True Knowledge of Our Heavenly Father

Fatherhood is at the core of our experience with God. Our revelation of the adoptive nature of God and the Father’s unconditional love toward us is essential to living a healthy, victorious Christian life.

Our revelation of God must be based on His Word—not our life experiences!  For many, however, their experiences develop their understanding and theology about God and His nature. Particularly, experiences with father figures in our lives often shape our view of God rather than His Word and witness of the Spirit.

Do you remember The Andy Griffith Show? It aired from 1960-68 and is still one of America’s all-time favorite sitcoms. Griffith played Sheriff Andy Taylor, a widower raising son Opie, played by Ron Howard, in a Mayberry, NC. Mayberry was portrayed as an idyllic place to live. They lived with Aunt Bee, who helped take care of the two of them—she was always making something good in the kitchen. An almost perfect home for Opie! Andy frequently took Opie fishing and was always the loving, caring father full of wisdom and patience toward him.

As a kid growing up in the ’60s in America, Andy seemed like the perfect dad! Oh, and Mayberry seemed like the perfect place to live. In 2004, TV Guide ranked Andy Taylor as #8 in their list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time.” [1]

But here is the reality: we don’t live in Mayberry! There is no perfect town, no perfect Aunt Bee around to help, and no perfect Andy dad who is flawless! Even if we were raised in good homes with healthy fathers and mothers, they weren’t perfect. Worse, some of us (if not many) were raised by dysfunctional parents. Our views of parents, in particular fathers and father figures in our lives, can shape our view of God.

Who Do You Say I am?

In Matthew 16:13-20, Jesus asks the disciples a couple of important questions.  He first asks them, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matt. 16:13 NIV) They answer, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matt. 16:14 NIV)

They answered by telling Jesus what others in Israel were saying about Him. Or how the culture of their day viewed Jesus. Some say, John the Baptist or a type of “Holiness Preacher.” Others say, Elijah or a type of miracle-working prophet or “Power Preacher.” Still others say Jeremiah, or the “Weeping Prophet.” Yet, their answers, or culture’s view of Jesus, all represented different revelations as to who He is.

Jesus then asks a second question, “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:15 NIV) Peter exclaims, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16 NIV) Jesus responds to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 16:17 NIV)

The revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to Peter and the others didn’t come from their own human understanding or the prevalent views of Jesus in society. God revealed this to them, both through His Word and by the Spirit.

Jesus said, in John’s gospel, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:7 NKJV) Jesus is the exact representation of the Father!

Jesus came to liberate an orphaned planet and to restore us in relationship with Father God. He plainly declared, He and the Father were One, and if we know Him, we therefore know the Father. In other words, Jesus revealed the Father’s heart toward humanity—then and now! He is the loving, caring, forgiving Father we all long for. Perfect in every way and without sin.

Consider John 3:16 that most of us know,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)

And Romans 5:8,

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

God took the initiative, as a loving God and Father to us by sending His only begotten Son to demonstrate His love for us! This is the true knowledge of our Heavenly Father!

However, often our view of the Father is based on experiences with our earthly fathers. Here are six common types of fathers:

The Passive Father

He can be preoccupied, indifferent, and often won’t tell you that he loves you. He only loves from a distance; we think that God is the same – distant, passive. Sometimes we can’t experience His love, so we just cope. Until healed, this can cause us to have a hard time experiencing love & intimacy with others and God.

The Performance-Oriented Father

He has strict values and expectations—you must measure up and perform well!  We become strivers and want people to notice us. We want to become valued for what we do. You may feel you never pray enough or do enough.

Many raised by this type of Father try and earn love, and often become legalists. But always remember, love is a gift! For those struggling with performance orientation, it’s a struggle to sit at the feet of Jesus! Performance orientation is a major cause of depression. Our identity is as daughters and sons, not in what we do!

The Authoritative Father

The only interaction with this type of father is to correct.  He is a legalist. There is little love in legalism. The Law was designed in love to bring us into Grace through Christ!

If raised by this type of father, we might believe that God is harsh and impatient. We might operate in shame; blame others when things go wrong. We can become intolerant of others and their mistakes.

The Abusive or Accusing Father

They are physically, sexually, or verbally abusive. Often, they render unjust punishment and deliberate affliction of pain.  They typically motivate through shame.

Any kind of abuse distorts our image of God and destroys our trust in male authority. We won’t draw close to God, or to those in authority due to a lack of trust.

Jesus even commented on this to the people of Israel, “… How often I longed to gather your children … you were not willing.” (Matt. 23:37 NIV) Why? They lacked trust, afraid to risk rejection, and afraid of more pain.

The Absent Father

He is not there for his children, always working or gone. Perhaps divorced, or left.  We may feel orphaned. We can take on too much responsibility and become angry and resentful. I personally went through this when my father divorced my mom when I was a young teenager, the oldest of five children. Adults would tell me, “Well you must be the man of the house now.” I soon began to resent my father, and it took nearly twenty years before I was able to fully forgive him and break the power of the judgments that I had against him.

A Pew Research Pole revealed that the number of children living apart from their fathers has more than doubled in the last fifty years, from 11 percent in 1960 to 27 percent in 2010. “We see that the share of children living apart from their dads has more than doubled and at that same time, we see that three-fold increase in divorce – clearly the trends fit together.” [2]

Here is the good news: God is not distant; He is near and a Father to the fatherless!

The Affectionate Father

They are loving, attentive, listening, and helping to train and empower their natural and spiritual sons and daughters! training, equipping!  Fathers, consider what Paul wrote:

Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.]” Col. 3:21 (Amp.)

But what is your revelation of Who Jesus Christ is? Is Jesus to you just:

A good teacher? A prophet? Or maybe you view Him as narrow, harsh, and judgmental—perhaps like your natural father or father figures in your life?

Or do you view Him as loving, compassionate, and forgiving? Do you view Jesus as the Son of God, your Lord? Or perhaps you believe He is the Savior of the world but not your savior yet? Perhaps you are afraid to get close, similar to your experiences of intimacy with fathers in your life?

How we perceive Jesus not only determines if we are born again but determines whether we walk in victory or defeat, whether we walk in grace or the law.

However, Satan attempts to blind our minds to the gospel and revelation of the true nature of God. Many don’t believe in God. Others are offended at Him, again, often through negative experiences with father figures or other situations in life.

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe.” (2 Cor. 4:3-4 NKJV)

The battleground for Satan is our minds!  We are to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Thoughts and beliefs can be strongholds or fortresses in our minds that must be dismantled through knowing God’s Word and healing through the Spirit! You have an active role in this!

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Cor. 10:3-5 NKJV)

Paul exhorts us to renew our minds. We are to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” (Rom. 12:2 NKJV) The enemy, however, wants to keep us from knowing Jesus as Savior and God as Father!

Religious doctrine, wrong teaching, and life experiences often hinder our revelation of the true knowledge of our Heavenly Father! To an orphaned planet, Jesus came, in human flesh, fully God and yet fully man, so we might be reconciled with an adopted by our loving Father!

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:15 NLT)

Perhaps your church background portrayed God as harsh and judgmental. (For the righteous in Christ, judgment was taken away through the cross.) Perhaps your own father or father figures have been harsh or absent. All of these experiences are contrary to the truth of who God is!

The Story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-24)

The prodigal son was renewed and restored by the true knowledge of his Father. He realized his father would take him back. But, he had to reach the end of himself and in humility turn back to his father. He had to choose, not the father.

God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. God gives us free will and choice. The father allowed the son to choose, fully knowing the consequences.

In Luke 15:20, we see four verbs about the Father. This illustrates how our Heavenly Father feels towards His children when we are restored to Him.

The Father saw him and had compassion, the Father ran to him, the Father fell on his neck, and the Father kissed him. This story reveals God’s great affection and tenderness toward us, ready to forgive! Understand, in the middle eastern culture of Jesus’ day, this would have been scandalous! The son dishonored the father, and a father never would have graciously received him back, much less run to him and show him so much grace and affection!

The robe, ring, shoes, and party—all assurances of the Father’s love!  Robe—Birthdays or Festival times. Ring—A mark of honor and dignity; restored authority to conduct business on behalf of the father. Shoes—Captives had shoes taken, shoes were restored when liberty granted. Party—a celebration of his homecoming!

Repentance for the prodigal son began with an understanding of the Father’s love! The son had a new revelation of His Father. He no longer saw Him as a hard taskmaster or judge. Many, like the lost son, stay distant from the Father; they don’t realize how loving and approachable He is. Again what does God’s Word say:

Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.” (Isaiah 55:6-7 NLT) With repentance, we receive the Mercy of God!

Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6 NLT)

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4 NKJV)

Our view of the Father must be based on the knowledge of:

His loving, merciful, compassionate nature, AND on His righteousness and holiness that demands His judgment on sin. However, that judgment was dealt with at the cross, through Christ! In Jesus, we do not have to fear God’s anger or wrath, but instead receive His love and walk with Him as daughters and sons, living with Him in an abundant life He intended for us.

Take a moment, forgive your dad, your spiritual fathers, or others who have let you down and perhaps distorted the true image of God to you. Don’t allow your earthly experience to rob you of a wonderful relationship with Father God!

Bob Sawvelle Signature


For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “The True Knowledge of Our Heavenly Father”


[1] TV Guide, June 20, 2004, issue

[2] Pew Research Pole released 6-15-11

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