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.
Sonship requires one thing: effective fathering. If you have been fathered well, you will be both a legitimate son and a legitimate father down the road. If you have been fathered poorly, you will operate out of an orphan mentality. That orphan mentality not only affects your time as a son, it affects your time as a father as well. This is a hard truth to hear, but our entire lives are lived based on the degree of fathering we have received.
Sons live this reality out on a daily basis. A well fathered son is confident in his dad’s love. There’s a reason—the son did nothing to earn that love. He was brought into this world through the love of the father and he has been pursued as an individual by his father. Good fathers pursue their sons. This consistent love creates a sense of identity- the son belongs to his father’s family and he wouldn’t trade that position for anything the world can offer.
Sons also are the recipients of generations of wisdom that comes from their fathers. Well-fathered sons not only benefit from the wisdom that has been passed from father to son over generations, but they pass it on themselves. This may seem like a small thing but it’s one of the most undervalued aspects of father-son relationships. Sons who couldn’t or wouldn’t take their fathers’ wisdom spend years of their life rebelling against aspects of life that will not change. If they are wise enough to change, they then spend massive amounts of time learning from hard knocks what could have been taught to them by a voice of experience.
Sonship not only comes with love and privileges, but also responsibility. Father’s teach their sons that they have a role to play in a growing family that requires sacrifice and dedication. We understand some of this naturally, but much of it is taught by fathers who care enough to teach the meaning of responsibility and work. Sons begin to understand they are not just an object of affection, but a participant in their family’s existence. This realm of responsibility is developed in a son by a father exercising discipline. Discipline can be both positive and negative experiences (which is a whole other blog post in itself) but they create an internal motivation to care for self and family in a child that is self-replicating. That means a son will grow up and teach the same principles to his son after him, hopefully for many generations.
What happens if this process is aborted and a son is not well-fathered? Unless there is some form of intervention, a son will begin to operate as an orphan. This orphan mentality will cause an individual to lose all sense of self-worth and identity. Even if a son is successful, he will constantly be insecure and need to prove himself over and over again to those around him. The son operating as an orphan will neglect and reject wisdom from all sources of authority, because the main authorities in his life have rejected him. He will walk in foolishness, unable to hear hard words that come packaged in love as anything other than rejection. He will be responsible to only himself. His self discipline will be minimal and there will be areas of his life constantly spinning out of control. He may sire children but he will never father them. While he hates being an orphan he will only create more orphans just like himself.
We are facing a generation full of men and women in their twenties and thirties consumed in these realities. Their parents were part of a generation consumed with throwing off authority and living for themselves, and very few of this generation are well-fathered. Because of this reality they lack identity, wisdom, and discipline. Yet this is the very generation that will be leading the world and serving the church. (If you want to see a great example of how this plays out in the secular arena, read this article here.) Because of this crisis, the reality of our sonship in Christ will take on great significance in the years ahead.
We’ll look at God’s answer for the oprhan spirit in weeks to come. For now, tell us how God has given you these qualities of identity, wisdom, and discipline. Did they come from your father or someone else? Let us know in the comments below.