A central theme in the personal life of Jesus Christ, which lies at the very heart of the revelation that He is, is His growing intimacy with, trust in, and love of His Abba. Jesus was indwelt by the Spirit of the Father and given a name for God that would scandalize both the theology and public opinion of Israel, the name that escaped the mouth of the Nazarene carpenter: Abba. Jewish children used this intimate colloquial form of speech in addressing their fathers, and Jesus Himself employed it with His foster-father Joseph. As a term for divinity, however, it was unprecedented not only in Judaism but in any of the great world religions. Joachim Jeremias wrote, “Abba, as a way of addressing God, is ipsissima vox, an authentic original utterance of Jesus. We are confronted with something new and astounding. Herein lies the great novelty of the gospel.” Jesus, the beloved Son, does not hoard this experience for Himself. He invites and calls us to share the same intimate and liberating relationship. The greatest gift I have ever received from Jesus Christ has been the Abba experience. My dignity as Abba’s child is my most coherent sense of self. Brennan Manning, Chapter Four
The Abba experience. God = Abba.
Abba loves me. He loves me as His beloved son.
Abba likes me. He accepts me as His forever friend.
Abba is right here, right now. I am not alone.
When I look at Jesus’ life, as presented in the four ancient Gospels, I find an amazing man who apparently has grasped this unique truth about God, the Creator of the universe. If I’m reading Brennan Manning’s book, Abba’s Child, correctly, I’m thinking that this unique truth Jesus not only grasps, but is willing to give freely to others, can be best summarized as ‘The Abba experience.’
This ‘ipsissima vox’ of Jesus, embracing the all-wise, all-knowing, omnipotent, omniscient & omni-present God of the Holy Scriptures as ‘Abba,’ is an experienced truth that, quite honestly, has escaped me for most of my life. As a church-goer, you’d think that I’d been able to take this unique truth of ‘God = Abba’ and allow it sink deep into my soul. But unfortunately, over the years, I’m afraid that most of the lessons I’ve learned in church substantiates a different experienced truth. A truth that might be expressed best with this old adage:
God helps those who help themselves.
Isn’t it interesting that nowhere in the Bible does this wise saying actually appear! And yet, so much of our Americanized Christian experience revolves around worshipping and serving a God who must see us as pro-active participants with Him before He can truly love and accept us as His beloved children.
I wonder if Jesus looks at our lives down here in the twenty-first century and wonders why we believe such a lie? How is it, for example, that we tell people (and ourselves) that we sinners must get out act together if we really want God to be pro-active in our lives? Why is it we ignore Jesus’ words and actions that reveal God, our Creator as our loving Father, with or without our affirmative action? Why is it that Jesus says, ‘Come to me if you are heavy laden with religious rules and regulations, and I will give you rest,’ yet so much of our church life reverses His words and tells us that we must follow religious rules and regulations so that Jesus might give us His rest?
So what happened here? Where and when did Jesus’ Gospel of Grace, where God = Abba, go left and we went right? Do you remember when or where we left Jesus’ path of enlightenment?
Maybe it was when we, the Church, decided that we could lead folks instead of allowing Jesus to be their leader? Maybe it was when we decided that God = Abba was too childish…or too simplistic? Maybe it’s when we decided that waiting on Abba was much more difficult than just doing it ourselves?
Maybe that doesn’t matter now. Maybe all that counts now is for us to return to the path of grace that Jesus laid out for us two thousand years ago. Maybe simply restoring ‘the Abba experience’ as demonstrated by Jesus of Nazareth is the key.
Now repeat after me.
The Abba experience. God’s Gospel of Grace.
God = Abba.
Abba loves us. He loves us as His beloved sons and daughters.
Abba likes us. He accepts us as His forever friends.
Abba is right here, right now. We are not alone.
Amen and amen.
My prayer: Jesus, it’s true that You demonstrated for us a whole new way of interacting with our Creator-God. It’s equally true that You freely gave away this ‘Abba experience’ to those who apparently had ‘eyes to see and ears to hear’. So Holy Spirit, fill me and empower me with those same eyes to see and ears to hear this Holy Truth from Jesus, that God, my Creator is Abba, my Father. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: How might the Holy Spirit want to take this revelation of God = Abba and move it from just being a fact that I know about God to the ‘Abba experience’ Brennan Manning refers to in his writings? Am I living in the truth that ‘my dignity as Abba’s child is my most coherent sense of self’?
So what is God speaking to you today as you live as Abba’s child in the midst of His Gospel of Grace?
Over an eleven-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at God’s Gospel of Grace; Exploring the Good News of God’s Unconditional Love & Acceptance. We are using Brennan Manning’s classic book, Abba’s Child – The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging as our guide. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Gospel of Grace home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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