Saturday, March 19, 2016

What is a Spiritual Parent?

Scripture Readings Deuteronomy 3-6 1 Corinthians 4

Verse 1 Corinthians 4:14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 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.

In chapter Paul 4 has a sarcastic tone, as he writes to the church in Corinth. They are a city of excess in every way. Though there are many who purported to be in Christ, they had fallen to sexual immorality, materialism, and even worshipping other gods. They even tended to put their teachers on a pedestal and were prideful about who they were. In this chapter, Paul says he and the other apostles have a different lifestyle. Listen to what he says,

10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.

In the verse for the day we see Paul's pastoral heart. He says that even though they may have "10,000 guardians in Christ", they don't have many fathers. The word "guardian" means teacher in a formal sense, or "school master". Paul says in contrast they need more spiritual fathers. Paul gives the example of his relationship with Timothy, his son in the faith. Paul realized the Corinthians didn't need more information, they needed transformation!

The greatest need in the church today is discipleship, either in very small groups of two or three, or one on one mentoring. We all are in need spiritual fathers or mothers who invest in our spiritual lives. What does this mean? What do you think it meant to Paul? I think the best way to describe it is "life on life". Paul invested in young Timothy and mentored him in the "way of life" in Christ. He modeled by example, and spending lots of time in spiritual formation. I'm sure this included studying with and praying with him.

As I look back on my life, I can think of at least two or three spiritual fathers, I have been given by God. They helped me to grow and mature in my faith, and encouraged me when I had fallen. As I look back, I am glad they didn't give up on me. I am forever grateful for the impact they have had on my life.

I hope you have someone mentoring you in your faith life. If not find someone. Pray for and look for someone whose relationship with Jesus is one that you would like to have. We may have 10,000 teachers in our lives but what a blessing to have ONE spiritual parent.

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