GODLY SPIRITUAL FATHERS
GODLY SPIRITUAL FATHERS
J. Grant Swank, Jr.
One may not think that we could look to Peter for a sermon on Father's Day. But that is exactly what I propose to do. Yes, this Peter who once betrayed Jesus has now become stalwart, courageous and holy before God. We find these qualities especially in Acts 5.
You recall the incident: Ananias and Sapphira, husband and wife, have lied to the Holy Spirit by keeping back funds from property sales for themselves rather than give the moneys to the work of the Early Church. Spiritual father Peter then is directed by heaven to discipline the two in hopes of warning other adherents not to repeat the same deceit.
In verse 3 alone, there are evidences of Peter's spiritual fatherhood. It is this Peter who is now fathering the Early Church through some difficult times. The particular focus is on Ananias and Sapphira, two who tried to hoodwink God and the church community.
From verse 3, we see that Peter as a spiritual father is the MOUTHPIECE OF GOD. Peter speaks the truth of heaven when he confronts Ananias in a lie. Peter's discipline of Ananias is clear, clean and easily understood. Peter speaks in simple language.
Peter is not attempting to be unkind to the spiritual child Ananias. Peter instead is expressing tough love, that is, trying to bring a man to his senses, to his conscience, away from his conniving self into an honest self under heaven.
Satanic fathers have no idea as to how to be mouthpieces for God for they have no knowledge of God. Instead, fathers of the lie compromise, speak with forked-tongue, deliver blurred messages and engage in double-talk. They are self-serving and worldly. No wonder disciples of deceit find their dwellings where satanic fathers live for it is most comfortable there when one is blind to the truth.
From verse 3, we see that Peter as a spiritual father is the DIVINE QUESTIONER in that his paternalism acts itself out with a question rather than a declarative statement: "Ananias, why have you done such and such?"
This is a rhetorical question for Peter already knows the answer. He is asking the question in order to prick Ananias' soul. Compare God using the same type of communication style in Eden after Adam and Eve sinned. God asked: "What have you done? Where are you hiding?" and so on. Once again, God asks not because He does not know the answers but to prick the consciences of our first parents.
Spiritual father Peter is seeking to prod, to poke, to stir up a sense of morality in Ananias. He is going to demand accountability from the fellow. Peter is confronting Ananias with this kind of questioning in order finally to be redemptive. Can spiritual father Peter catch hold of Ananias' soul for honesty before it is too late?
Satanic fathers know nothing of such motives. Instead, there are no poking-about questionings, no calling to accountability, for all is OK and anything goes. This is under the guise of not being judgmental--a most popular cliché in our time when everyone writes his own religion.
Further, in verse 3, we note spiritual father Peter not afraid to acknowledge the reality of SATAN. He uses the word itself. He speaks of the Devil in his opening question to Ananias.
Because a spiritual father will always maintain a keen perception of right and wrong, heaven and hell, truth and the lie, mercy and judgment. Therefore, Satan cannot be dismissed, treated as if he does not exist.
Compare John the Baptist.. When he confronted Herod sleeping with a woman not his wife, John went to the heart of right versus wrong. Compare Jesus when confronting the hypocrites. He went to the heart of truth by declaring to them that they were the offspring of the father of lies.
Satanic fathers have no inclinations to speak of the Devil. Such talk is considered harsh, unchristian, uncivilized, unkind, discourteous. It is rude and unloving, brash and forward, cutting.
Therefore, satanic fathers are sweet-tongued, deceitful in their over-concern with "manners," and in so being, dupe their disciples with a veneer of respectability which is damning.
Also, Peter, the spiritual father, comes through in verse 3 as MARRIED TO THE HOLY SPIRIT for Peter loves, adores and serves nothing other than Holy Spirit's pure truth. Note how Peter speaks in the same sentence of the Devil and the Holy Spirit, one in contrast to the other, one in contest with the other.
Peter defends the Holy Spirit against Ananias' "mush religion," his pretense, his counterfeit piety. Peter will not tolerate the misuse of holy matters, the play acting of "holy" when all along the deed is of hell.
Satanic fathers use Holy Spirit-talk of love and goodness and kindness as a cloak for their shenanigans. They delight in speaking of light and hope, but it is with the motive of tricking their disciples in never coming to the actual truth. Such paternalism is therefore hypocrisy at its zenith. It is a most popular form of religion void of God.
Moreover, spiritual father Peter in verse 3 ADDRESSES THE PERSON by speaking his name: "Ananias." Peter is not asking a question of the mob. He is positing a question to an individual. He is looking into the eyes of one person.
Christianity is always an individualized religion. It is a "by name" religion. Therefore, Christian ministry is always directed to a person's conscience. A good father always knows his offspring by name, singling each out for attention.
That means that no one can hide from the eye of the Father God. And the spiritual fathers for the Father God are under especial commission to see through that same vision. They must see persons individually--in need of personal attention, redemption.
The Gospels reveal Jesus as the particularizing prophet. He singled people out. Individuals meant everything to Him. "For God so loved the world. . ." True. But that world then reduced itself by the incarnation addressing the world by individual circumstances, names and places.
Satanic fathers know nothing of the individual. They play act that they do, but they don't. Instead, they care not for persons but instead care for their own popularities. That is why they delight in speaking to the masses. In that, they themselves can lose their own consciences in irrelevancies. All becomes blurred in the ministry of the satanic father. All becomes a mist rather than a particularization.
Lastly, spiritual father Peter shoots STRAIGHT ARROWS. He says quite factually and compassionately to Ananias: "Satan has filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit." No garble. No side-stepping. No diplomatic bridges which would compromise tough love. It is right there on the line--"Satan has filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit."
The word "lie" is an unpopular term in any age. It must not be spoken outloud, especially when addressed to an individual. No. That is being unfeeling, barbaric, rough-edged. It is not Christ-like. A Christian would not speak that way to another person. Of course not.
But spiritual father Peter did. And he did so because the Holy Spirit told him to speak that way. And because Peter was married to the Holy Spirit rather than popularity, Peter obeyed.
Why would God have a spiritual father address a spiritual offspring in such terms? In order to cut through to truth. God is Truth. God cannot tolerate skirting the issues.
Satanic fathers shoot crooked arrows for they are into game playing, protecting their own turf, waiting in the wings for applause, entertaining being entertained. And so they confuse their hearers and play up to their disciples and tickle ears. They in turn cover up truth with the lie. In that, they reveal Satan as their pater.
In every age, in every place, God calls forth spiritual fathers who are given over completely to TRUTH.
By being filled with divine honesty, these heavenly messengers are sent forth to care lovingly for their children in hopes of directing them finally to glory.
May their tribe increase in this compromising time. May their courage rise with the threats to their standings. May the Spirit of heaven inspire them onward, regardless of the cost.