God gives us spiritual parents.
One of the things that I love about God is how incredibly practical He is. Even though He is willing to give us Himself as a father, he knows that we were designed to live in relationship with other beings with skin. God stoops down to our level, changes us with His fathering heart, and even goes one step farther: He sends spiritual parents in our lives.
A spiritual parent is a human being who knows Christ as their Lord and is tasked with bringing you as an individual into your full sonship in God. Paul said to the Corinthians that though they had many teachers in Christ, they had one father—himself (1 Corinthians 4:15). He had become a father to the whole Corinthian church through being the first to bring the Gospel to Corinth. Paul had a special relationship because of that act that always gave him permission to speak into their messy situations. In an ideal setting, the person who led you to Jesus should be one of your primary spiritual parents. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
When a person comes to Christ, if the person that lead them to Jesus is either absent or non-existent (meaning the person came to know Jesus by simply reading the Bible, finding a tract, etc.) then a spiritual adoption must occur. When this happens, spiritually mature, well-fathered believers can and should reach out to new believers and assume the fathering role in their Christian walk. While this is not the best scenario for spiritual parenting, it will work in a pinch.
The goal of these spiritual parents is to raise these spiritual sons and daughters into their new Kingdom identity. The spiritual parent is tasked with loving with the Father’s love and being a physical representative of the Heavenly Father in the new believer’s life. Spiritual parents also will become channels of wisdom passed down from other believers (2 Timothy 2:1-2). They will also bring discipline and correction to those areas that are in need of it. Most who think they are spiritual parents believe it is done primarily through teaching. In reality, sonship is taught through life lived together, love shared, and wisdom passed on in life as situations arise. Spiritual parents are constantly “re-presenting” God as Father, so that the lies we naturally believe about God are dispelled.
It’s through this process of mirroring God the Father, teaching new sons how to experience sonship, and being a tangible fathering force that these spiritual parents reproduce spiritual sons. In the end the sons and daughters they raise will raise spiritual children of their own, because they’ve been well fathered. This process, continued for many generations of disciples, would pass on and expand the circle of family and sonship that God designed to rest on all of humanity.
God raises sons and daughters through natural parents, Himself, and spiritual parents. And now that we understand how God raises His children, we have to turn our attention to combatting the orphan mentality in us and in others. We’ll begin looking at that next week….
The last few weeks we’ve been discussing the implications of sonship on our walk with Christ. If you’re interested, you can check out the previous posts in the series here:
God fathers us Himself.
God has always been a father. He was the father of our Lord Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world (Colossians 1:2-3, John 17:24), He was a father to Israel (Hosea 11:1), and He has been a father to the church of every generation. God has designed the world so that even though children are born without fathers (or born with terrible fathers), He will be a father to the fatherless. Psalms 68:5-6 describes how God protects the orphan and sets the lonely in families. This is something God does because He is a father.
We see this play out specifically when a man or a woman turns from their sin and accepts Christ as the leader of his or her life. At that point God gives us “the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15). This radical adoption breaks off every form of fear and abandonment and it is God’s answer to the harsh reality that not everyone has a good dad to call their own.
This Spirit of adoption is not just a warm, fuzzy love feeling, it’s much more practical than that. I know of one brother who really had very little fathering growing up. When he became a believer, he found himself totally unable to do simple things that a father usually teaches a son. His testimony is he held on to the promise that the Lord would be a father to him and God literally fathered him into adulthood. God would actually speak to him things a father would teach his son. But even if you’ve grown up knowing how to function in life, a father gives more than just instructions. His fathering presence frees us from the fear and insecurity that plagues mankind and stops us from every really achieving anything significant. Do not minimize the impact of being fathered by the One who created the role Himself.
When we come to know Christ, we gain access to God as our father. But like we started this series off saying, many people come to know Christ but never transition out of the orphan mindset. There are several major reasons for this, but one main reason is we were designed to relate to beings with skin. God hasn’t left us alone in that arena. He’s even prepared for that. We’ll look at that next time…
We’ve been discussing for the last few weeks what it means to operate out of an orphan spirit. However, it’s not enough just realize there is a problem. We have flesh out how a person goes from living as an orphan to being a legitimized son of the Kingdom. God has designed the human experience so that no matter what your situation, you can experience the love of a Father and a family.
Most of us believe God creates sons only one way. In fact there are several major ways, all designed to reinforce and strengthen a person’s identity as a child of God. Since this love comes to us from different sources, each has a different degree of impact if we miss it. If we understand the ways in which the love a father creates true sons, then we can better address the orphan mentality that is so prevalent in our day. So how does God make us true sons?
God creates son in three main ways: God gives us natural parents, God fathers us Himself, and God gives us spiritual fathers.
God gives us natural fathers*.
Most of us enter the planet with this as the governing reality of our lives. In the ideal situation, our fathers loved us, disciplined us, pursued our hearts, and helped us become functioning adults. This reality is so prevalent that Jesus would point to unredeemed fathers and use them to showcase the heart of God (Luke 11:11-13).
The reality however is that not every child is born into a family with a father. Some fathers chose to walk out of the lives of their kids. Other children have their fathers taken from them by disease, violence, or war. Still other children have fathers in their lives, but they are emotionally absent or worse.
The point is while every child has a biological father, not every child receives the benefit of having one in their lives. Thankfully, God has other modes of raising children. We’ll look at those next week.
Here’s the question for this week’s post: How has your natural father raised you as a legitimate son? Not everyone has had this experience, so if you have, share a little bit of your reality in the comment section.
* This is not to deny the need for natural mothers. Mothers are also absolutely essential. The lack of a godly mother has a similarly significant effect on the lives of children. However, for the purpose of this post, we will focus primarily on the impact of natural fathers.