Walking With the Father
As a 7 year old in second grade, I once got into a lunch-time argument about whose father was biggest, toughest, baddest, mostest. We exchanged a number of braggadocious insults until finally the young chap tossed out his most nuclear option: "Yeh, well my father will come over and burn your father's house down!"
Wow. What do you say that? What's the come back? "Oh yeh? Well my father will spray water on your father . . ?" I was stunned in silence: His dad would come and burn our house down. I couldn't top that. But I still knew my dad was best.
In the same way that sons look up to their fathers, fathers want sons who grow up and join them in the family business. That's why it's not surprising that a major theme of the New Testament is maturity: God is calling his children to grow up. Consider these verses:
I Corinthians 13:11 - When I became a man, I put away childish things. Playing in the sandbox is normal and expected for 5 year olds; it looks odd if a 45 year old is playing in the sand with Tonka Toys. To step into maturity, there's stuff we have to give up, and stuff we have to embrace.
I John 2:12-14 - I'm writing to you: little children, young men, fathers. God acknowledges our growth trajectory. We don't mind it (too much) when babies have messy diapers, toddlers throw tantrums, or teenagers have bad moods. But its embarrassing when a 30 year old acts 12. We cuddle with babies, put toddlers on our laps, and create loving environments for teenagers.
- Little Children: they understand their forgiveness and their security with the Father.
- Young Men: they're fighting the Father's battles.
- Fathers: they know him who was from the beginning: they've embraced the Father's eternal perspective.
- his toddler joins him by playing with a toy ax
- his teenager reluctantly follows, doing the minimum necessary, and often with a bad mood
- his mature son joins him willingly, soberly, and joyfully - the family will be helped and the father will be blessed.
Genesis 1:26: Let us make man in our image . . . let him rule. The Father wants children who look like him and who participate with Him in the family business. Part of the separation from God that results from sin is that it disfigured us and pushed us away from the Father's intentions. This is what Jesus came to restore: to make us look like Him (Romans 8:29 - conformed to His image) and to bring us back into the family business (Ephesians 2:10 - created in Christ for good works).
John 4:34: My food . . . is to do. Our older brother Jesus sets an amazing example of maturity: the thing that gives him life, that inspires him, that feeds him, that really gets him going is doing the will of the Father.
This brings us to an observation about the Christian life: we distort what it means to follow Christ if we make too big of a distinction between being and doing. We can say that doing flows from being, and that abiding must precede acting - but if there is no doing, there is no being. These are two sides of the same coin, like faith and repentance; to separate them distorts the gospel. Consider this chart:
|Intimacy with Christ
|Activity in the World
|Restoration in God
|Application with God
With most of these, the movement is from left to right. But with some of them - the only way to arrive at the one on the left is to engage in the one on the right. For example - God worked for six days, then He rested. Jesus (Luke 4) was engaged in ministering all day and all night, then had to go be alone with the Father. To gain perspective, we often have to engage in practice. That is to say, it is deception to think that we've learned something because we understand the concept.
The Hebrew understanding of knowing is doing - we only know something whe it is really being lived out in our lives. We don't get points for knowing (intellectually) the 10 Commandments; we please God when we live the 10 Commandments. Maturity, then, is both a matter of knowing and doing; to separate these is to introduce an Arostotilian false dichotomy into the Christian life that distorts what it means to follow Jesus.
To summarize: Our Father wants children who look like Him and who participate in the family business. This is what we call maturity. To grow, there's stuff we have to give up. To follow, there's stuff we have to do. Maturity starts when we start understanding who the Father really is; maturity is manifest when our Father sees us beside him, working in the Father's harvest.
Wherever we are in our spiritual journey - God has more for us. Let's enjoy walking with the Father - and working with the Father - today.