Of all the relationships in our lives, one that we draw great value and worth from is a father. I recently saw an image that moved me, it was of a young boy in Syria crying over his father’s body, pleading not to leave him. Every child needs a father. A father’s involvement in the life of a child is necessary for their overall development.
From a young age the father also becomes a figure that children often strive to emulate. I’ve often been intrigued by how much we all long for our father’s approval and to hear the words: “I am proud of you”. The wise man has said: “the glory of children is their father” (Prov. 17:6). On the same token, the absence of a father or mistreatment and abuse by a father can have destructive effects on children well into adulthood. Man’s longing for a loving father is universal. It is one that has been wired in the deep recesses of every man’s spirit.
In light of this, a purpose paramount in the ministry of Jesus Christ during the days of His flesh was to reveal the Father. Philip once asked, “Lord, show us the Father”. I’m not sure what Phillip expected to see when he asked that unusual question. But, Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” (Joh. 14:8-10). Jesus Christ was Himself the embodiment of God the Father.
But, this is also the purpose of every son – to reveal the Father. We are the offspring of God. Birthed in the image and likeness of Divine Nature. We are being made like Him because we are of His same substance. And in our transformation into His image we are to express Him, reveal His nature, and show forth His glory unto all men that they may encounter their heavenly Father.
Many saints today see God as an unapproachable entity too lofty for man to lay hold of. They assume that the more unattainable and distant they make God, the more they bring honor to Him. Yet, this is in direct contrast to the nature of God. Which right-minded fathers is pleased by being alienated from his children? Are we not “heirs of God” (Rom. 8:17)? Did Jesus not say that “you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mat. 5:48)? Have we not been made partakers of His divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4)? To the men of Athens gathered in Mars’ Hill, Paul declared: “He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being… since we are the offspring of God” (Acts 17:27-28,29). Dear saint, that God wishes you to be a partaker of His glory does not depreciate God or lessen His glory.
On the contrary, the more we become like our Father and the more we reveal Him, the more He is pleased, the more He is glorified. We have all been summoned to this lofty end. Every son is called to reveal the Father. Notice the 144,000 sons of God on that holy mountain have the Father’s name written on their foreheads (Rev. 14:1). The Father’s name is the Father’s nature. The writing on the forehead signifies the nature of God that is transcribed in their mind. These are a company of sons who possess the mind of Christ. They manifest the Father because they possess His name. His name is their name, His nature is their nature, His heart is their heart.
Jesus prayed: “I have manifested YOUR NAME to the men whom You have given me out of the world” (Joh. 17:6). The Amplified reads: “I have MANIFESTED Your name (and revealed Your very self, Your real self) to the people whom you have given Me out of the world”.
In the aforementioned verse, I would like to draw your attention to the Greek word used for ‘manifest’. It is different from the words we have previously considered as relating to the coming of the Lord (i.e. Parousia – presence, Apokalupsis – unveiling). The Greek word is ‘phanaroo’ which means “to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown” but with a distinction. More specifically, it refers to when someone reveals someone else. This is akin to when the Son manifested the Father, or when we manifest the indwelling Christ. Examples of the word’s usage include: “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest (phaneroo) in our body” (2 Cor. 4: 10). “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest (phaneroo) in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).
As the pattern Son, our Lord Jesus revealed the father and exemplified all the attributes of what a son is. He was always devoted to the Father’s will, always obedient to the dealings of the Father. And having completed His course, He prayed: “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (Joh. 17:4-5). It is the corporate expression of the Father’s nature, as exemplified by Jesus, that creation now waits to encounter in eager expectation. This manifestation of the Father’s heart is a necessary precursor for reconciliation.
In our earthly families, fathers play the role of protector, provider, teacher, leader. They correct, care, encourage, admonish. One who possesses a father’s heart knows exactly how to raise each of his children. But the role of fathers extends beyond the family. In a broader sense, I believe there are fathers also of nations. Abraham received the promise from the Lord that he would be “a father of many nations” (Gen. 17:4). In more recent history, we read of the founding fathers of America who to this day influence the identity and principles of that nation’s government. However, unlike the US there are many nations who do not share such a history.
The current political and social climate of Ethiopia, the country of my upbringing, is testament to many of the truths I share here. Ethiopia has for generations been a fatherless nation. It has had brave and heroic leaders who have become iconic symbols throughout the world. It has had cunning and divisive leaders. It has had outright dictators who ruled with an iron fist. But the nation has not had a leader who possessed the heart of a father. I believe it is the expression of the Father’s heart by the current leader that has galvanized the euphoria and hope of the nation unlike any we have witnessed in recent history.
Love, forgiveness, sympathy, compassion, kindness are often notions considered naïve in the political sphere. Yet these are key attributes of God our Father. And just as a son/daughter needs a father that loves, forgives, corrects, empathizes, cares, protects, so do the people of a nation. People long for a fatherly ruler to follow. That’s why Mandela towers above the numerous greedy and power-hungry leaders that Africa has amassed over the past 60 years. He exemplified the Father’s heart – one that espouses forgiveness and reconciliation.
But the same can be said in the spiritual sphere. Where are the spiritual fathers in the land? How many have embraced us as Paul did Timothy? How many have pointed us to Christ rather than making us subservient to their denominational creeds and programs? How many have liberated us from the flesh consciousness of the natural-mind and brought us into the conscious awareness of our heavenly Father? How many have walked with us and labored to birth the Kingdom in us? How many have revealed to us the divine vision of God for creation and urged us continually to press on? How many have begotten us in Christ through the gospel?
In the 20 or so years I’ve spent in the church system, I can tell you sincerely that I’ve only had instructors. Indeed, the land is full of them. Paul declares: “for though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers” (1 Cor. 4:15).
Paul goes on to say: “for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore, I urge you, imitate me. For this reason, I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:15-17). The word begotten here means to “procreate (properly of the father, but by extension of the mother)”. It means to regenerate, to bear, to bring forth, to conceive. All this Paul had done among the congregation in Corinth through his toil in the gospel. Among the Galatians also, Paul had labored until Christ was formed in them (Gal. 4:19). This is the heart of God the Father revealed through Paul. Thus, he calls Timothy “my beloved and faithful son in the Lord” just as the Father had said of Jesus Christ: “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mat. 3:17).
I believe the notion of a ‘spiritual father’ is one that has presently become distorted in many church circles. There are many who run around claiming to be spiritual fathers. But many of these have usurped the rightful place of God as Father in the lives of the saints. Such are not the fathers of which Paul spoke. Notice that Paul was drawing people to Christ and not his ministry or himself. Paul, like Jesus, had revealed the Father and made Him known. Therefore, just as Jesus had said “if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father”, Paul could also say “imitate me”. In both, it was the Father moving and living and having His being so that men could encounter Him and partake of His nature.
Not much has changed from the time when Paul wrote those inspired words. There are countless instructors in Christ today but fathers who possess the Father’s heart and nature can perhaps be counted on one hand. It’s no surprise then that we have a fatherless generation who abides in spiritual slavery. Tossed with every wind of deception, many have lost sight of their divine purpose, their identity in the spirit, and their birthright as the offspring of God. Israel was a fatherless people those 400 years in Egypt. There they had lost sight of the covenant which God had made with their fathers, until Moses was raised up to reveal the I AM and to bring the people to a renewed consciousness of their Father.
I am grateful today for the Moses’ that God has set in this hour who are revealing the heart of the Father to us. It is our prayer that the Lord would continue to raise up a people in His image who will manifest the Father in all His glory to this generation!