Article

Growing Up Like Dad

Louie Giglio
06.13.2021
7 min read

Like you, I have a physical birth certificate, an actual paper copy. I haven’t seen it in a while, but in the old days, you needed that piece of paper for all kinds of things.

Your birth certificate, like mine, primarily declares that you were in fact born! You didn’t just mysteriously arrive on planet Earth; rather at such and such hospital, and at such and such time, you joined the human race. A quick glance at the birth certificate will tell us your length at birth and how much you weighed. A footprint may be there to forever link you to the information. And then, the two most powerful things about you are listed: the names of your mom and dad. This tells us by whom you came to be and says a lot about what you’re going to be like. In physical terms, you don’t have much of a choice, given that you are the result of the combining of your parents’ DNA, the combination of their genes. When you put it in the most basic biological terms, it goes like this—you received something from your mom and something from your dad, and the result of the two is 100 percent you. That’s why, like it or not, you have a strong tendency to grow up to look like, be like, and act like your mom and dad. Say this to a teenager and they are likely to fight you over it, defying the power of genetics and swearing they are definitely not ever going to look like their mom or dad. But let a few years go by between visits at Thanksgiving, and Aunt Lucinda will make things clear enough as she comes through the door, gets one look at the fourteen-year-old you, and declares excitedly—I can hardly believe it! You look just like your mother!

This kind of proclamation isn’t necessarily what every teen is hoping to have said about them (they might be thinking they’re a lot cooler and hip than Mom or Dad), and they might defy it. But ask any twenty-something if it’s likely they will grow up to look like Mom and Dad, and you won’t get defiance. You’ll just get a nod. By the time we become parents ourselves it’s a settled fact—we are our parents. We hear ourselves saying to our kids the same things our parents said to us. We find ourselves drifting toward our parents’ patterns of spending or their view of the world and soon enough we might even start dressing like them. At some point, wearing dress socks with tennis shoes like Dad used to doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea after all.

My wife Shelley tells me all the time that a gesture of mine is just like “Big Lou’s.” She’ll say that the way I smirked or the way I cut my eyes or the way I said what I said was just like him. Or she’ll say, when I respond a certain way, “Martha Jeane (my mom), is that you?!”

But the journey to becoming like our parents doesn’t just result from our genetic makeup. It also comes from watching our parents from our earliest moments of life, from modeling what we saw them do.

There’s a family picture we bring out every so often for laughs. I’m slightly younger, maybe two. It’s Atlanta, Georgia, circa 1960, during one of the not-so-frequent winter snows. I’m standing next to a snowman that my dad built, but man, it’s no ordinary snowman. I told you my dad was crazy talented in art and design, and unique when it came to seeing the world. Now, any old snowman is three big snowballs stacked on top of each other with sticks for arms, rocks for a mouth and eyes, and a carrot nose. But no, not this snowman. This snowman looks like a marble statue. He’s six feet tall and made of perfectly polished snow. His arms flawlessly contour into the body so his hands are clasped in front. His face looks like a carved bust of Tumnus, the impish faun from C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I guarantee there’s not another dad in the whole city of Atlanta who ever built his kids a snowman like that.

This is a big reason I’ve spent my whole life doing things differently, a little off the beaten path. When I was little and I first saw that snowman, that freaky thing is what I thought was normal! But mainly, I saw Dad’s work, and I wanted to do things just like Dad.

We all copy the behaviors and heart attitudes of our fathers, right? And later in life, for good or bad, we must all confront what we’ve grown to emulate. If your dad loved to drive 42 miles per hour in the fast lane on the freeway, then chances are there are cars regularly zooming around you when you drive. We can’t make this stuff up. We all saw characteristics, mannerisms, reactions, and patterns in our earthly fathers, and plenty of those behaviors and attitudes found their ways into our lives too. Teenagers, believe what you will, but the power of DNA is strong. And modeling, in fact, does mold us.

Here’s a twist—in Christ you have been born twice, so you have a new Father to resemble, and there’s a whole new heritage stream coming down to you.

That means, as we’ve talked about already, you have two family trees. It also means you have two birth certificates. One is earthly, one heavenly. On one is the date and place you entered this world. On the other is the date and place you put your faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life. In the case of the latter, that’s the moment God brought you from spiritual death to life through your faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Your spiritual birth certificate announces that you were born again, that you are now and forever a son or a daughter of God.

We see this in John’s Gospel where he describes our new birth this way: “Yet to all who did receive him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12–13).

You may feel you aren’t good enough to earn God’s love and to deserve a place in His family. Or you may be striving, hoping your good deeds outweigh the bad and land you in heaven one day. But forget that. It’s hopeless. And God isn’t counting your sins anymore because He already laid them on His innocent Son when He died in your place on the cross.

See, the power of the gospel message is this: sin doesn’t make you a bad person. No, it’s much worse than that. Sin makes you a spiritually dead person. “The wages [result] of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23a). And being dead is a major problem because dead people can’t do a thing to help themselves.

That’s why what God has done for us is called good news! Jesus didn’t leave heaven and die on a cross to make bad people better people. He gave His life as a sacrifice for our sin and rose again so He could bring us from death to life. The verse continues: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
God’s love set a rescue plan in place for you, not because you deserved or earned it, but because of His great love for you. “See what manner of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). That’s what we are because we have been born again as sons and daughter of God.
God’s love is described here as lavish. It’s not paper- thin or dirt-cheap. His love is not flimsy or silver-plated. It’s solid gold. And there’s enough of His love for every moment—for all your highs and lows in life—and for every circumstance you’ll ever face.

I love how Eugene Peterson describes God’s love in his version of Psalm 36: “God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, his purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks. How exquisite your love, O God!” (Ps. 36:5–7 msg).
There’s something more profound than just having a new spiritual birth certificate. You also now have the spiritual DNA of God. When you were born physically, everything you got came from your earthly parents. But your spiritual birth isn’t about getting anything at all from your mom and dad. They may have influenced you in your faith, encouraged you in your understanding of Jesus and shown you what it looked like to follow Him. But when you were born again, everything you received in the new you, you got from God.

Look again at how this came to be: we are “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12–13). God is our perfect heavenly Father. And we are born of God. That means we have new spiritual DNA coursing through us. God’s DNA. Sure, I still have my DNA from Louie my dad and Martha Jeane my mom, and I received some character traits and physiology from them. But praise God, He is giving me new life. I am born again by the Spirit of God, so that means I have received a brand-new spiritual DNA from God. If you have received Him and believe in His name, then you also possess this new DNA. This spiritual DNA brings new dimensions of structure for your char- acter, for your coping mechanisms, for your patterned responses, new building blocks for your very soul.

When we receive this new spiritual DNA, it means whole new possibilities open up. Romans 6:6–13 indicates that our old nature was crucified right along with Jesus on the cross so that our old selves ruled by sin might be done away with. Our parental natural DNA is still part of us, but thanks to Christ, we are no longer bound by our old sin- ful nature. We are not slaves to sin anymore. Jesus has set us free from sin, and we are alive to God in Jesus Christ. Second Corinthians 5:17 calls us “new creations.”

I don’t mean we become divine. We’re not “little Gods,” and we’re not equal to God in any way. Yet the Bible says a new nature has been given to us by God. We actually have the spirit of Jesus living inside of us (2 Cor. 13:5). Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20), and Paul further described how Christ can “make his home in [our] hearts through faith” (Eph. 3:17).

That’s fantastic news for you and me, because it means the domino effect of our human DNA, those particular characteristics that constitute the sin nature, can be broken by the power of the life and death and resurrection of the Son of the living God. The old has passed away. A new life has begun. We are sons and daughters of God. Everything has changed.

Not Forsaken

You are not forsaken. You are not an orphan. You are not alone. You are a child of God. You are who He says you are. Each of us grows up with a common longing and a deep-seated need for a father’s love, support, acceptance, security, and presence in our lives. Sadly, for many, this need is not met, or only partially fulfilled by an earthly dad. As a result, some unknowingly transfer negative perceptions of fathers into their relationships with God. Yet, God longs to be known as a Perfect Father. Through Jesus Christ, this relationship is available to everyone. Through spiritual birth, we all can see, know, and enjoy God as a Perfect Father.

Read Not Forsaken today
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Louie Giglio teaching God's word
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Louie Giglio

Louie Giglio is Pastor of Passion City Church and the Founder of the Passion movement, which exists to call a generation to leverage their lives for the fame of Jesus. Louie is also the author of national-bestseller Goliath Must Fall, Not Forsaken, The Comeback, The Air I Breathe, I Am Not But I Know I Am, Indescribable: 100 Devotions About God & Science, and How Great Is Our God: 100 Indescribable Devotions About God & Science.

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