Thursday, July 7, 2005

The Journey of Spiritual Fatherhood

I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake.

I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one.

I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father.

I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.

I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the world.
(1 John 2:12-14)
The apostle John is a contemplative sort, and there is often a lyrical quality to his writing. This passage is, perhaps, a song — a hymn about how one grows in the Lord from new-born babe, to mature faith, and on to fatherhood in the Spirit. He considers four stages of enlargement:

Little children. The Greek word is teknion. John is addressing recent converts, newly born from above through faith in Jesus Christ. Their sin’s are forgiven because of Jesus, and they are now in the family of the Lord, being reconciled to the Father.

Little children. A different Greek word, paidion, is used in the second instance. This refers to those who are receiving instruction in the Lord. They are new disciples, in training, novices weaning away from the ways of the world. Having known the Lord as God-Who-Forgives (El Nasa, Psalm 99:8), they are now leaning into the heart of their Father and learning from Him. Their Father has now become their Teacher.

Young men. These are men and women who are well into their discipleship. They are vigorous and bold in their faith. They have entered into service, been tested and tried, and their devotion is sound and effective. The Word of God is strong in them and so they are strong in their walk with the Lord. Jesus promised His disciples, “If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). The Word is established and at home in them and these “young men” know how to appropriate the promises of God to get things done. They are now powerful overcomers—they have overcome the wicked one. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and these “young men” know how to walk in that authority and enforce His victory upon the enemy.

Fathers. These are those who were once new-borns in the Lord. They began their instruction in the “School of the Father’s Heart” and grew up into a strong, vibrant faith. This did not happen overnight, but came about through a continual focus of the heart upon God and His Word, a “long obedience in the same direction” (to quote Eugene Peterson).

John addresses them twice, but he says the exact same thing both times: “You have known Him who is from the beginning.” That is, they have come into a deep and pervasive experience of the Lord Jesus Christ. They have taken His yoke upon themselves and learned of Him, and have found rest for their souls. They have learned to know Him, not only in the power of His resurrection, but also in the fellowship of His sufferings.

And now they are fathers. They are passing the inheritance they have received in the Lord on to the next generation. They are bringing forth sons and daughters into the kingdom of God and releasing them into their divine destiny. By their manner of life they teach us that there is no higher calling than to come into intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. This relationship only gets richer and deeper, far beyond the ability of human words to describe.

Where do you find yourself in this hymn? Have you received forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ? Have you come to know God as your Father and to learn of Him? Is the Word of God so established and at home in your heart that you know how to walk in the victory the Jesus has won over the world, the flesh and the devil? Have you come to that place in your faith life where all you want is to know Him more and more, and to bring others to that same place because you realize that there is no greater joy, no higher calling?