Living as Abba's Child: Learning from Jesus {a Bible Study}

The most basic of human relationships is that of parent and child.  The Parent-child metaphor is perhaps the most tender picture of our relationship with God as believers.  This is so movingly expressed in the Scriptures by the Hebrew term for Father God “Abba,” meaning “Daddy.” How appropriate then (as we go into the months celebrating mothers, fathers, and children) to take a break from the blog-type format.

Let’s do a little digging into the Scriptures.  (You may like to do this for your own devotions or as a small group study.)

Warm-up Questions: 1.    Read  Children Incognito.

2.   What are some characteristics of a child? Do you ever feel that way inside?

3.   Can you identify with the key thought?  How? “We are all just little children locked up in adult bodies, trying to live adult lives in an adult world.”

4.   What do you think about the proposed solution? “The only way we can live an adult life in an adult world is by living as a ‘child’ in relationship with our Father.”

Jesus’ attitude toward children:

Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them: for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Mark 10:14

Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me. Matthew 18:3-5

Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me. Mark 9:37

Jesus Himself called His disciples “little children”.  Look at the following with a smile:

John 13:33

John 21:5

How would you summarize Jesus’ attitude toward children?

Jesus, God’s Perfect Child: How did Jesus live as a Child? What can we learn by looking at His relationship with His Abba and our relationship with Him? Look at the following Scriptures to answer these questions:

1.   Jesus lived secure in the Father’s love.

John 5:20

John 14:31

John 15:9

John 17:26

Because of the Indwelling Christ (Col 1:27), I can live as Abba’s child, secure in my Father’s love.  I can love and be loved in return.

John 16:27

1John 3:1

1Jn 4:19

Rom 8:35-39

Eph 3: 17-19

Eph 5:1

Brennan Manning in his wonderful book, The Rabbi’s Heartbeat, says,

Define yourself as one beloved by God.  This is the true self.  Every other identity is an illusion. (p.40)

We may do foolish, even downright sinful things, yet as Steve Brown likes to say,

But God is still fond of me.

Can you say the same?  Do you know the unconditional love of the Father despite your brokenness?  If not, ask the Lord to enable you to experience His love which is greater than life itself.

That leads us into the next point…

2.  Jesus lived from His identity as the Son of His Father.

Jesus has been called the “Human Face of God”.  He bears the family resemblance.  His identity was as the only-begotten Son of His Father.  Jesus never lived separate from His Abba.

John 1:1,14

Heb 1:1-3

Col 1:13-15

John 5:17-30

John 8:28-29

Because I’m in Christ (1Cor 1:30), I can live as Abba’s child, finding my identity in being the beloved child of the Father.  I become like Him as I by faith yield to Him and focus on Him.

John 1:12

1 John 3:1-3

2Cor 3:17-18

Col 3:1-4

The realization that the Father has placed me in Christ His Son and that He, the Perfect Child of the Father, lives in me enables me to live day by day in union with the Father and the Son.

3.  Jesus lived with trust and submission to His Father even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Matthew 26: 36-46

Heb 5: 7-10

As Abba’s child I can trust my Father in every circumstance, no matter how mundane or dark.  I can trust in His presence, provision, and purpose.

Heb 12:5-11

Romans 8:28-30

Ps 23:4

Ps 139:12,23-24

Application Questions:

1.  What keeps you from living as a “child” in relationship with your Abba?

2.  What might change if you began living as a child with your Abba, rather than trying to live as an adult on your own?

Brennan Manning states that

The positive qualities of a child—openness, playfulness, simplicity, sensitivity to feelings—restrain us from closing ourselves off to new ideas, surprises of the Spirit, and risky opportunities for growth.

3.  Spend some time with the previous questions…and with your Abba. Ask Him to enable you to walk with Him as His beloved, vulnerable child today.

Suggested reading: Gospel of John — look at the relationship between the Father & Jesus the Son Return of the Prodigal by Henri J.M. Nouwen Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning The Rabbi’s Heartbeat by Brennan Manning

[first posted May 2011]

Abba's Child: Children Incognito

John at playground in Metafe 138_5764
John at playground in Metafe 138_5764

In April 2005, my husband John came home from work and said, “I’m going to Shanghai next week for work!”  Now you have to know that neither John nor I had been world travelers and haven’t even really had that on our “bucket list”.  The idea of his going (by himself, mind you) to Shanghai was very terrifying…to both of us!  As he was preparing to go, he was prayed over and encouraged by our kinship/small group to trust the Lord in this test to his faith. I took him to the Dayton airport very early the morning of his departure. After John checked his bags, I cried, kissed him good-by, and prayed.   He slowly made his way in the serpentine line through which he had to go to get scanned.  Then he would be out of sight and on to the gate.

There he was -- my tall, kind, gentle soul of a husband.  I knew he was scared, and I was scared for him. All of a sudden, as clear as a bell, the small Voice: “John is just a little child, locked up in an adult body, trying to live an adult life in an adult world.”  What did that mean?  I would soon find out…

When I walked out of the airport to go to the car, what had been pitch-blackness (because of the early morning hour) had been transformed into the most beautiful, crystal clear, spring morning.  I just couldn’t go back home on the interstate on a morning like this!   I had to ride through the country.  So I left and went north, not knowing where I’d end up.

I soon found myself in the parking lot of one of my favorite places:  Charleston Falls Nature Preserve.  Normally, I don’t go to remote places by myself, but I sensed the Voice drawing me on.

Nate at playground in Pensacola 138_5462
Nate at playground in Pensacola 138_5462

As I walked down the path, I thought of our son-in-law, who just a few days earlier had left for Africa.  I pictured him in his Air Force camouflage, saying good-by to our daughter, his wife of less than a year.  And the Voice came again, “Nate is just a little child, locked up in an adult body, trying to live an adult life in an adult world.”

Jeremy at playground in Pensacola 138_5427
Jeremy at playground in Pensacola 138_5427

I walked on.  I remembered our son Jeremy a few years earlier, diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 20.  He was scared but trusting God.  Again the Voice, “Jeremy is just a little child, locked up in an adult body, trying to live an adult life in an adult world.”

Then the truth dawned upon me:We are ALL little children, locked up in adult bodies, trying to live adult lives in and an adult world.  And the only way we can do that is by living as little children with our Abba Father God!

I thought about Jesus, the Perfect Child of His Father.  How did Helive?

He lived in dependence upon His Father. Jesus said, The Son can do nothing by Himself; He can only do what He sees His Father doing. John 5:19

He lived secure in His Father’s love. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing. John 5:20

He lived in submission to His Father’s will. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed,  My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will. Matthew 26:39

He lived with His Father in trust & vulnerability.In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One who is able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.  Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered. Hebrews 5:7

This is good news, because the Perfect Child of the Father lives in me (Col 1:27).

He lives His Child-life through me as I surrender to Him!  So now I know I don’t always have to have it all together.  I can be vulnerable with my Abba and trust that He will enable me, through His indwelling Son, to live an adult life in an adult world till He calls me home!

I love a song that Twila Paris wrote and recorded many years ago in response to a teaching by an elder in her church.  He spoke about being childlike before God.  The elder had said that we don’t need to act “tough and brave”.  We can cry before our Father and trust Him to work in our lives.  That really struck home with Twila, because she had sensed that people were putting her on a pedestal because of her rising popularity as a singer and song-writer.  And so she wrote the song, “The Warrior is a Child”.  Maybe you will be able to identify with message of this song as I did:

Lately I've been winning battles left and right But even winners can get wounded in the fight People say that I'm amazing Strong beyond my years But they don't see inside of me I'm hiding all the tears

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down They don't know who picks me up when no one is around I drop my sword and cry for just a while 'Cause deep inside this armor The warrior is a child

Unafraid because His armor is the best But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest People say that I'm amazing Never face retreat But they don't see the enemies That lay me at His feet

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down They don't know who picks me up when no one is around I drop my sword and look up for a smile 'Cause deep inside this armor the warrior is a child


“You are from God, little children, and…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

[First posted on April 25, 2011]