The first time is found in the Gospel of Mark. Here we see Jesus, God manifest in the flesh, the Son of God (the second person of the Trinity), praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Mark 14:34-36 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
Jesus Christ knew that within a short time He would be betrayed and then led to the cross, where He would bear our sins in our place. In the Garden, He was so overwhelmed - because He, the Sinless One, would be bearing all the sins of mankind upon Himself, would be separated from God the Father, whom there had never been any separation between from all eternity.
In His trust, He willingly gave Himself up to the will of His Father, and went to the cross - knowing there was no other way to save us. There He bore the sins of ALL mankind - past, present, and future - my sins and yours - all of them. Then He cried, "It is finished!" - the complete debt had been paid, and He died. Three days and three nights later, Jesus, the Son of God, arose again in triumph over the grave - proof positive that the Heavenly Father had accepted His once-for-all sacrifice for our sins. Forty days later, He ascended to Heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to bear witness of Christ and convict fallen mankind of their need of the Saviour (see John 16:7-14). When we turn to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance and faith, and receive Him as our Saviour, trusting in Him alone to save us, we receive His free gift of eternal life, and the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us.
Here is the second time we find the word "Abba" used:
Galatians 4:4-6 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
In God's perfect timing, He sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world. Jesus became a man to die for our sins and to buy us back from the slavemarket of sin that we had sold ourselves to. When we come to Him, we are born again and become God's children by faith - we are adopted forever into the family of God.
Galatians 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
And the Holy Spirit makes that salvation real to us, causing our hearts to cry out to our Heavenly Father - Abba, Father! Ah, the closeness and intimacy God longs us to have with Him.
Now we come to the third time this phrase is used:
Romans 8:14-16 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.
The instant you come to Christ and are made a child of God, that moment the Holy Spirit indwells you and begins to lead you in the will of God. You are no longer enslaved to fear, but now have a different Spirit working within - the Spirit that testifies to your own spirit that you are now God's child and that He is your Abba, Father.
Now with that background on how to become a child of God and have that close, intimate relationship with Him, I want to share a parable with you that Jesus told the multitude, the story of the Prodigal Son. This is probably one of the most well-known stories in the Bible. Place yourself in the place of the son in the story and realize that the father here pictures the Heavenly Father.
Luke 15:11-14 And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
The son asked his father for his inheritance. Once he received it, he took it and wandered off into a far country - far away from his father. All of us have wandered far from the Heavenly Father...
Next we see the son wasting all his money, wealth, inheritance on riotous living - that could include wild partying, drugs, alcohol, illicit sex - anything outside the will of God - wherever sin would take him. Then his wealth began to run out - he had spent all and began to be in want. He began to realize his need - he had nothing left...
Luke 15:15-16 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
The prodigal son had wandered so far and sunk so low that he was willing to compromise even further and work for pig farmers, serving slop to the swine. The significance of this is: Jesus was preaching to a Jewish audience and to them the pig was an unclean animal. They were not to eat pork - therefore to even raise swine would also be against them. Yet, here we see this desperate son sinking so low that he was willing to feed the pigs to get by.
Unfortunately, his situation was so desperate that he began desiring the husks that the pigs were eating. If you have ever seen pig slop, you wouldn't want it - yet this son was so desperate that even the pig slop was looking good to him!
Luke 15:17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
Wait a minute! What am I doing? Why am I thinking of eating pig's food? My father's house is full - he has bread enough and to spare - even the lowest of his servants have plenty. This prodigal son thought on his desperate situation, and realized that he didn't need to live in the filth and muck of the pig pen any longer. He didn't need to perish. Even so, we don't need to perish far from God, in the muck and mire of sin, starving for whatever this world might offer us - the Father's house is filled with plenty for the hungry soul.
Luke 15:18-19 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
Here we have repentance. He realized he had sinned and wandered astray from his father - as we have all wandered astray like lost sheep from the Heavenly Father (see Isaiah 53:6) - we have all sinned against Him. We need to realize that and turn in our hearts from the pig pen of this world towards Him:
Luke 15:20-21 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
He arose. He took the first step away from the muck and mire of his sin - he could not clean himself up. He literally had nothing left but his filthy rags that he was wearing - the rags covered with the pig slop he had been living in. Even so, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in the sight of the Heavenly Father - and we need to realize this in our heart and turn from it. Not clean ourselves up first - just acknowledge in our heart and to God that we have sinned against Him and wandered away - and that we do not want our sins and the filth of our pig pen anymore. Notice, the father was waiting for the son before the son ever turned to go home - the Holy Spirit is calling to you, convicting you of your sins, and calling you to come home - to where the Heavenly Father is waiting eagerly with open arms to receive you unto Himself.
Then, oh the wonder of grace! The wonder of God stooping down and doing for us what we never could do for ourselves:
Luke 15:22-23 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry.
He didn't say, "Clean yourself up first." Instead the father took those filthy rags off his son and covered him with the best robe - the instant he came home. The moment you turn in your heart towards the Saviour, the Heavenly Father receives you and covers you in the best robe He has for you - the robe of Christ's righteousness. From now on, your Heavenly Father no longer sees your unrighteousness, your filthy rags - instead He sees Christ's righteousness credited to your account.
Next, the son is given the ring of sonship - this is the seal that the Holy Spirit places on us when He indwells us - the earnest and guarantee that we are now adopted into the family of God, and Jesus will one day take us home to Himself and give us our new bodies in Heaven.
Lastly, the son is given shoes for his feet - these represent the feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, the readiness to go where God would have us go with the Gospel of salvation.
All of Heaven rejoices and makes merry every time a prodigal child comes home.
Wherever you are in life, consider these three final points:
If you have never turned to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, why not take that step right now (make sure you have made the most important decision you could ever make in light of eternity) by receiving Jesus Christ as your Saviour, turning from the pig pen of this world, and coming home to the Father's House. He is still waiting with open arms for you.
If you are saved, but are not living for the Lord, not maintaining your walk with your Saviour - come back into the Father's House, and cry out for that closeness with God that He wants you to have. Abba, Father. Oh He loves you so and does not want you to wander any more.
And thirdly, if you are no longer a prodigal son, but are in fact a child of the Heavenly Father through faith in Jesus Christ, use those shoes He has shod you with - be the witness He wants you to be of the Saviour - and wisely use the time the Lord has given you to bring more prodigal children home.
Abba, Father - thank you for receiving this prodigal child, and use me, Lord, to bring others home to You!
In Jesus' precious name,
Tonight (September 5th/2009) I slightly edited the last few paragraphs to change this study from a New Year's Eve challenge to something that could be used year round. Lord willing, down the road I want to put together a third poetry book, with about half of it focussing on salvation. In it, I will also include several clear studies on salvation, such as this one and John 3:16 - The Gospel In A Nutshell. Please feel free to give me your input on these.
For my friends who receive updates on my blogs, I am currently working on some new studies, including further developing several series I had already started (or have since preached/am preaching), such as Our Walk In Ephesians - Part One (Lord willing, I will be preaching part two this Monday, so need to finish putting it together). Please hold me up in your prayers as I seek to get back into the regular habit of writing.
Thank you for reading this blog and for being a blessing to me. May the Lord richly bless you in return.