Tag Archives: acceptable to God

Unlearning

I recently listened to something and learned about an experiment with dogs.  It was rather cruel, but it exposed something important.  The dogs were put alone in a cage with a metal floor and the floor was electrified.  Random areas of the floor were given shocks and the dogs would jump to another area.  However, as soon as they jumped to a new area, the dogs would be shocked there.  There was really no escape.  Eventually, the dogs gave up.  They just cowered in a corner and waited for the next shock.  When it came, they didn’t move.  Since they had learned that there was no escape, the dogs resigned themselves to the pain.

I know people like that.  Once they determined that there was no hope, they gave up.  They learned to look at themselves as losers, failures, prey for others.  They just expected abuse because it always came.  Even if it didn’t come right away, it came eventually.  So these poor folks live in expectation of pain at any moment, ready to grit their teeth or flinch or cry.

Actually, many people have this kind of education in their lives.  We talk about “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”  We anticipate trouble, expect it even when we have no evidence.  Why?  Because we have trained ourselves to get ready for the shock and pain.  This is why, when given the choice, most people will choose to hear the bad news first.  Since it is coming anyway, we might as well get it out of the way.  The bad news always comes.

Then along comes Jesus.  He tells us that He loves us without strings, without the bad news.  He just loves us.  He has reached out to us in our need and He has given us all we need.

But, no matter how much we want that to be true, our experience—our training—tells us that it cannot be true.  We must have to measure up somehow (and eventually we won’t) or we must have to guarantee it somehow (and we know that we can’t) or we must have to be special in some way (and we don’t believe we are).  So, no matter how loving Jesus is or how pure His love for us is, we find it hard to accept that we are accepted.

This broken world did not and could not prepare us for Jesus.  Nothing in this world is the way it should be.  Sin broke everything.  But Jesus comes from outside this world.  Jesus is God, coming to us to save us.  His love is not affected by the brokenness sin caused.

But, listen, Jesus understands when we find it hard to trust Him.  He wants us to trust Him, to believe in His acceptance and love, but He knows this world and He understands our training.  That’s why He tells us, over and over, that He will not leave us or let us go.  That’s why He tells us to be happy, because He has “overcome the world.”

One of my favorite Scripture passages is from Romans 12:2 where Paul tells us,

. . . do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind . . .

 

The transformation that is taking place in you and me is not one of better performance or greater spirituality.  We are not working hard to stop being losers.  It is our thinking that is being changed.  We are adapting to the truth about ourselves and our Lord.  We are unlearning the training of our experience in this world and we are learning the reality of our value and position in Jesus.

And, little by little, it is working.  We are beginning to see that it is all true…

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Filed under Freedom, grace, Relationship

Why do you try so hard . . .

. . . to get what you need from those who cannot give it?

When you and I try so hard to gain the approval of others, we fight a losing battle.  It isn’t that the others will never give it.  Some won’t, of course, but many will.  People often do acknowledge extra effort and personal sacrifice.  Sometimes the recognition is there and it feels good.  Once in a while we get our “moment” in the spotlight.

No, the problem isn’t really in the rest of the world.  The problem is in us.  The world is not enough.  The beautiful young model stands in front of the mirror and sees her imperfections.  No matter how many people tell her that she is perfect and desirable, she sees herself differently.  The successful businessman looks only to the next success, never back on the last one.  The athlete sets goals for herself, but isn’t satisfied when she accomplishes them.  The student receives a 100% on a hard test but wishes he could have done better.  It is never enough.

And those who do stop the endless striving usually do so with a sense of resignation.  They know, somehow, that it will never be good enough, so they just stop trying.  It isn’t just not good enough; it just isn’t good.

I am as convinced as I am of anything in life that this world cannot give us what we need.  There is no accomplishment, there are no words of approval, there is no beauty that will ever be enough.  So, even if we are honored at work or at home or among our friends, it fails to satisfy.  We try to explain it by saying that it doesn’t last, but the truth is that it failed almost right away.  The secrets we hold inside, the things we see in the mirror, tell us that something is lacking.

We were made to seek approval, value, from the outside.  No fellow sinner, nothing from this broken world, is good enough to tell us that we are good.

Only Someone who is perfect can pronounce us perfect.  Only Someone unstained with what has stained us.  Only Someone better and undamaged by the brokenness of our lives.  Only Jesus.

I believe that most of us know this in our hearts.  The only real approval can come from the Lord Himself.  Until He says we are good, no amount of trying will make it so.  Until He gives us rest, we will never stop trying.

That’s why we must help other believers understand what has been done for them and who they are in Christ.  In order to be free from the search for approval among the people of this world, they have to see that they are already approved by the only One who can give them what they need.  Sadly, the church has failed miserably at sharing this message.  Too many churches tell people they must do certain things in order to be acceptable to God.  Whether it is giving enough, working enough, sacrificing enough, smiling enough, or just being good enough—these churches put a barrier between the people of God and His approval.  They force their people to seek approval from those who cannot give it.

But the message of the cross is that you and I are filled with the perfect life of Jesus Christ.  His righteousness is ours.  We are holy because He is holy.  He has washed away all our sins: past, present, and future.  We are, because of Him, as good as He is.  He has made us good.

Finally, we are able to accept that we are accepted, believe that we are fully approved.  It is contrary to the voice that has always been with us, but it rings true in so many ways and meets the real need of our hearts.

Jesus is enough for us.

Jesus has made us good.

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Filed under Grace definition, Relationship