New Wine 2013: Deeper




Isaiah 42:8

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

James Roberts – Father and son, our identity in Christ

James Roberts 


James Roberts is a tall bloke with no hair. He leads Connect Church, a church plant in Chorleywood Hertfordshire where the idea is to be relaxed, real and relevant. James is married to Dibs and they have three girls aged between 16 and 12. Besides the Lord he is passionate about rugby, wine, sailing, food (especially curry), travel and music.




Prodigal Son parable – Luke 15:11-31


The well-known story Jesus told about the Father with the two sons who wanted to have their inheritance early is what we call the Prodigal Son parable.  There was the older son who stayed at home but the focus of the first part of the story is on the younger one who went away with his share, wasted it and ended up destitute and scrounging scraps from the pig trough before returning home, hoping to be taken on as a bond-servant who at least got fed.


Later we see that the focus of the story is actually about the Father’s heart for the son who had made such a mess of his life. He was a real father, and the young man was given the proper clothes of a son and a signet ring of status as a son, none of which of course he deserved at all.


It is a story about who we think we are, and how we see ourselves. In verse 29 we hear the jealous older son exclaim: “All these years I have worked like a SLAVE…” So who did he think he was? A servant. The younger son returns, with little expectation after his poor showing. Who does he want to be? A servant. Who do we think we are before God?



Why do we have children? Surely to love them! No one has children to lighten their workload, or to have them grow up as our servants. So the Father-son relationship between God and us was never about ‘doing stuff’.


James told a story about his dad, who was a capable handy man, always doing improvements and projects round the house. One day he asked James to help him make some shelving to go at the top of the stairs and set him going, sawing and fitting. This was a great project, except that… the bits that James measured and cut were… not entirely straight and well-fitting. That could have been an embarrassment. But the point was, James’ dad wanted to involve him and wanted to have some fun doing a project together – however it ended up. As James said: “My dad could have done a far better job on his own.”



John Wesley started off his long ministry career with the mindset of a servant, and there wasn’t much joy in it, nor much fruit. The turning point for him came when he met with God in a Holy Spirit encounter, and exchanged the faith of a servant for the faith of a son. He recognised then: “God didn’t need me – I needed God.”


Back to the prodigal Son story, the older son was possibly further away even than the younger one, through slaving for approval. Yet the state and the money was handed over freely – in the context of the story, an unusual thing, an act of freewill. God wants to be a Father. He wants us to be sons.



Living in salvation is not about what we do. We have to resist that because our old mindset keeps taking us back there. It’s never about the supposedly ‘good things’ we’re proud of – which are actually things we know are sin. It is always about who we are.



A key verse is Romans 8:14 where we, as children of God, cry out in intimacy: “Abba, Father!” We all grew up with different kinds of dads, with their own mixture of good and not so good attributes. We tend to project our growing up experiences onto our heavenly father. So if the values we saw demonstrated and experienced were, for example, performance orientated, that is what we will try to project on to God. That is how we will try to please Him – until we realise that He just wants us as sons.


It’s never about what we do for Him. It wasn’t with Jesus. Jesus laid down his tools and went into the River Jordan for baptism, and an audible voice was heard, saying: “This is My Son in whom I am well pleased.” This wasn’t a round of applause when Jesus was on the Cross, when He said “It is finished!“. This was God speaking right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, before He had done anything – speaking of who Jesus was (or is) and His pleasure in that.


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