I was fathered by a man my own age, in the Gospel that is. He led me to saving faith in Christ, spent a few months helping me get into the Christian disciplines, then the baton was passed and I was fathered by others.
I was eighteen years in my first church, sitting under the tutelage of a Senior Pastor, who was old enough to be my “real” father. Along the way I was led by the Spirit to assist those younger in the faith, exercising the spiritual “father muscle” in my own life. This process is gender inclusive. I have received mentoring from both men and women in my journey.
The gospel lineage is insured by the reproduction of spiritual life. Fathers produce sons, who become fathers that reproduce sons. The Source, is God through Christ, “bringing many sons and daughters to glory.” (Hebrews 2:10)
One of the most well known and prolific father/son relationships is Paul and Timothy. “In Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” (1 Corinthians 4:15-17)
Transformed fathers produce transformed sons.
Allow me to present four character traits of spiritual fathers:
True gospel fathers live a life consistent with the message they teach. They are not perfect but they are persistent to re-align when needed. Walking in the light equates to quick repentance and the sweet fragrance of humility. You are comforted and encouraged by the fact that their maturity and leadership does not preclude their desperate need for daily grace. Every “jar of clay” shares this common table.
True gospel fathers will live a life of restraint for the sake of the gospel. “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23) This is far from compromise or people pleasing. It is a lifestyle of submission to the Spirit whereby we are guided in how to respond to people.
True gospel fathers preach “Christ crucified” from the posture of experience and not as an academic sermon. They are not swayed by popular commentary that casts the gospel in the light of being foolish and weak. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:18,25)
True gospel fathers will go the second mile in birthing sons. “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!” (Galatians 4:19) Perhaps you have experienced this – pouring out your life with much effort to guide and train someone, only to feel as if you wasted your efforts.
Every spiritual father has no doubt been puzzled a time or two with those under their wing. Of course that would include those who have fathered you over the span of your journey.
Though insured by the sovereignty of God, this gospel lineage is enriched by the obedient responses from your heart and mine.
May we always be: as a son following and a father becoming.