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Lesson 1: Our Loving Heavenly Father *

Introduction: One of the greatest blessings of my life was to have a loving father. It was my father who taught me that fear and love are not inconsistent. I had no doubt that my father loved me absolutely. On the other hand, I understood what judgment meant! It was a wonderful combination that shapes my understanding of our great Father in heaven. Our understanding of our Father in Heaven is even better informed by what Jesus had to say about Him. That is our study this week. Let's plunge into our Bible and see what we can learn about our loving heavenly Father!

  1. Our Attitude Towards Others

    1. Read Matthew 7:1-2. What is the rule about how we should treat each other? (We get what we give. If we show mercy, then mercy is shown to us.)

    2. Read Matthew 7:3-5. How do we normally treat each other? (Generally, we are more critical of others than we are of ourselves.)

    3. Read Matthew 7:6. How does this fit with the prior verses? This seems like a counterpoint to the instruction so far. Is it? (In our mercy and help we need to make mature, commonsense judgments.)

  2. God's Attitude Towards Us

    1. Read Matthew 7:7-8. Jesus turns a corner here. He has gone from how we treat each other to what other new topic? (How God treats us.)

      1. Do you think the prior verses about how we should treat each other inform us about how God treats us? ( Matthew 7:1 seems to say that God considers how we treat others when dealing with us, but it seems to me that God is more generous to us than we are to each other.)

      2. What is God's standard? (If we ask, God will give.)

        1. Is this your experience in life? Be honest.

    2. Read Matthew 7:9-11. What point of reference does Jesus suggest for measuring God's attitude towards us? (How we treat our own children.)

      1. Why would Jesus compare His Father in Heaven to us? (I know my father wanted to give me good gifts. I know I want to give good things to my children. This is just a fabulous encouragement to me. Every time I wonder, "What God has in mind for me,"I need to just ask, "What would I do for my child?" "What would my father have done for me?")

      2. Now let's revisit Matthew 7:7-8. If you said to yourself, "God does not grant my requests," did you grant all the requests of your children? (Matthew 7:11 refers to God giving us "good gifts." In our study last quarter, we learned that trusting God is central to our relationship with Him. God knows everything. He gives us good gifts. If the gifts seem wrong to us, we need to just trust Him to know what is best for us.)

    3. Read Matthew 7:12. Why does Jesus go back to discussing how we should treat each other? (How God treats us is related to how we should treat others. God is generous to us. He is looking out for our best interests. Therefore, we should look out for the best interests of others.)

      1. Re-read the last part of Matthew 7:2: "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Who is doing the measuring when it comes to you? (God measures. How we treat others is a measure God uses in treating us.)

  3. Jesus' Picture of the Father

    1. Read John 14:1-3. What is God asking of us? (Not to be worried here on earth. Trust God for He will ultimately take us home to live with Him.)

    2. Read John 14:4-5. Thomas hears that he supposedly knows the directions to this great place Jesus has prepared for him to live. What is his concern? (Jesus is making some false assumptions. Thomas does not know the way to go, and this is a very important matter to get straightened out! Thomas wants to go.)

    3. Read John 14:6-7. Is Jesus talking about directions? Is He referring to a map? (Jesus is speaking about salvation. The only way to heaven is through Jesus.)

    4. Read John 14:8. What do you think Philip is really saying? (The great question of the ages is "Who is Jesus?" Philip says we can have confidence in who you are, Jesus, if you will just show us the Father in heaven.)

    5. Read John 14:9. Is Jesus disappointed in Philip? (Yes.)

      1. Are Jesus and Philip on the same page? (Philip is a long way behind Jesus. Philip wants to confirm that Jesus is God. Jesus tells Philip that if he wants to know God, Philip need only consider Jesus.)

    6. Read John 14:10-11. Let's say that you are way ahead of Philip. What do you learn about God through Jesus? (Jesus did miracles to take away human suffering. Jesus gave His life for us. The picture Jesus gives us is of a Father who loves us supremely.)

  4. The Creation's Picture of God

    1. Read Matthew 6:25-26. What is Jesus suggestion about having the right priorities? (He says that having our life and health are more important than food or clothes.)

      1. Why do you think Jesus said this in the context of God looking out for us? (We need to be grateful for the basics. People who eat expensive food and wear great clothes, but are not healthy, understand these priorities.)

      2. What do birds teach us about the love of the Father in Heaven? (God makes sure they are fed. He will make sure we have enough to eat.)

    2. Read Matthew 6:27. What practical point does Jesus add? (Worrying does not make you taller, better looking or extend your life. What good is it?)

    3. Read Matthew 6:28-30. The earlier verse told us to have our priorities straight. Here, Jesus is saying something different. Will God give us only the basics? (No! You want your children to have great things. God has the same desire for you.)

    4. Read Matthew 6:31-33. Instead of worry, what should we do? (Put God first. Promote the Kingdom of God. Pursue righteousness.)

  5. Prodigal Son and a Picture of God

    1. Read Luke 15:11-12. What would you say if your son asked this of you? (I'm not dead yet!)

      1. What does this say about the father?

      2. Re-read Matthew 7:6. Was the father making a mistake?

        1. If you say, "yes," we will learn that in this parable the father represents God the Father. Would God make this same mistake?

    2. Luke 15:13-16. How are things working out for the son? Are his dreams being fulfilled?

    3. Read Luke 15:17-19. What motivates the son to go back? (Food.)

    4. Read Luke 15:20. Put yourself in the father's place. Would you have the same reaction? What if you knew the son's motivation for returning was food?

    5. Read Luke 15:21-24. My father taught me the wonderful blend of love and judgment. Is there any judgment here? (No. None.)

      1. How do we treat those who are turning to God?

    6. Read Luke 15:25-28. Who does the older brother represent? (Us - those who faithfully obey God.)

    7. Read Luke 15:29-30. What do you think about the attitude of the older brother towards his father?

      1. Have you ever thought, "I'd like to be like the thief on the cross: do what I want and at the very last minute repent and be saved?"

      2. What is the problem with this kind of attitude? (Last quarter we learned that God gives us His law because He loves us and wants to keep us out of trouble. We need to trust God. The older son envied the younger son. He did not think his life with his father was anything but "slaving.")

    8. How are the younger and older sons alike? (Both seemed motivated by what they can get from their father.)

      1. What does this teach us about our Father in heaven? (He loves us even if our motives are not yet right!)

    9. Friend, have you ever seen such great love? We are far from perfect. Like Philip, we don't understand. Like the brothers, we have the wrong motives. Jesus says that our love for our children is just the starting point for understanding the love of God the Father towards us. Will you respond to that love today? Will you accept Jesus' sacrifice on your behalf, and trust God with your life?

  6. Next week: The Son.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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