Tag Archives: acceptance

Relationship pt 3

So, does God accept us? Does God accept Jesus? Of course He does and, in Christ, we are accepted. Our acceptance is a gift, the life of Jesus flowing within us. You see, because of Jesus – Who is the Person of God’s love and grace – we have been restored to a full and free relationship with God. We walk and talk with Jesus as people who are fully loved by the One who is our Strength, our Victory, our Righteousness, our Future, and our eternal Friend.

What does that look like? I suspect that it looks a lot like it must have looked in the Garden of Eden. Picture Adam waking in the morning. Had he been afraid during the night? Did he chastise himself about the things he didn’t get done the day before? Did he determine to work harder in the new day? We know that he had work to do. Did Adam worry about the produce of the Garden? I don’t think so. Instead, his life was very good. No worries! No fear! No rejection!

Suppose that we could get up in the morning with the full knowledge of the love of God and the awareness that He will be present with us through the day. How easy would it be to talk with Him? We do our work with the joy of participating with Him and there is no concern that we may not measure up or that we may fail. What if we could just ask Him what to do and then do it? We go to sleep at night without anxiety for the future, for the things left undone, for the errors of the day. We can give the things of the day to Him, thank Him for being with us, and trust Him for tomorrow.

One of the things Jesus said about us is that we would hear and recognize His voice. Yet, most believers would say that they struggle with this. They don’t know the voice of their Lord and they wonder what they should do next. This is a serious topic and broad, but let me simply say that the Lord wants you to know His voice and He loves hearing yours as you relate to Him.

You can talk with Jesus – anytime, anywhere! There is no barrier between the two of you. You can tell Him your concerns and listen for His response. You can ask for His leading and trust that He will lead. You can thank Him for His kindness and know that He appreciates your acknowledgement. And you can praise Him just for Who He is.

But that isn’t all of it. He responds! Remember that He wants to lead you and He wants you to hear Him. It may not be audible, but it is still real. If you are not used to hearing Him, it may take some time, but trust that He does speak to you. Sometimes you can look back to see how He spoke/led in the past. Sometimes you can just wait until you have a sense that He has told you what to do. Other times you just yield your will to Him and then do what you think is right. If it isn’t right, He will show you or turn you to another direction. Trust Him!

That still isn’t all of it. He doesn’t only respond. Sometimes He initiates the conversation. Listen for His voice. You have probably heard Him from time to time. He prompts you to talk with someone or to do something. When you do it, you are amazed at the results. He led you to just what the other person needed.

Let me give a specific example. Suppose you feel led to share the gospel with someone. You may be scared to do it, but you know that it is the right thing to do because you believe that the Lord is leading. You share and the person is ready to hear and receive. The Lord has prepared the way and you have heard His voice.

But let’s suppose that you prepare and pray and fuss and then the person walks away from you without accepting the Lord. What happened? Most of us are tempted to think that we did something wrong, that if we had done a better job that person might have been saved. We fill our lives with guilt from failure and poor results. But perhaps the plan of God was simply to have that person hear the gospel. That person might go away and, at some later time, accept His love on the basis of the seed you were able to plant. Would that make you feel differently?

God rarely shares the full story of His plan with us. He just asks us to walk with Him. He gave you the words to say and somewhere, in the midst of your rambling, you said them. The person heard them and that little part of God’s plan was accomplished. It wasn’t about you. You were just along while God was working.

Now, if you could walk into that with the understanding that this is the work of God and you can trust Him for whatever results will come, and if you could walk away thanking Him for the opportunity to share in His work, you wouldn’t have to feel guilty or ashamed because of your poor speech or presentation. Of course you want the person to become a believer, but God wants that more than you do.

Can you trust that God loves others more than you do? That He wants them to benefit from His work? If you can, you can learn to rest and enjoy what He does in them. You do whatever He asks you to do and you leave the rest to Him. Even in these most important things, we can find rest because of our relationship with Jesus.

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I am Accepted!

Words of Grace 

(This morning begins a simple and important series of posts that will offer words of encouragement to begin the week.  The weeks of the holidays and winter can be discouraging, even depressing, as we struggle to find the joy.   We all seem to have negative words stuck in our heads, telling us lies about ourselves.  These “Words of Grace” will be for believers, those who have come to God through faith in Jesus.  Watch for these posts each Monday.  I hope you are lifted up!)

 

When identity is based on performance, you can never do enough.  When identity is based on appearance or talent, you can never be good enough.  The most successful people often feel as though they lack something to be accepted.  The most beautiful people or popular people think of their flaws.  So how could the rest of us have any hope?

We strive not so much to better ourselves, but to feel better about ourselves.  Perhaps because of the way we were raised, perhaps because of the competitive world into which we were thrust, or perhaps because of the betrayal and rejection we have experienced—we can find it very hard to believe that we are finally accepted.  The negative words ring in our ears.

Where do you go to find acceptance, real acceptance that settles the matter in your heart?  To work?  To your family?  To your friends?  We want to be accepted in all those groups; but, even if we are, we can still feel that something is lacking.  There is only one opinion that brings the satisfaction and closure we need.

So many go to church on Sunday and hear all about what they have done wrong.  They come away believing that God does not accept them, that they will never be good enough.  Their sin and weakness lie heavy on their hearts, made even heavier by the preacher’s words.  Surely acceptance is not to be found with God, they think.

But the good news is that we are accepted!  One of the basic definitions of grace is to make someone or something accepted, to accept someone.  God accepts you!  When your identity is based on His love, you are finally good enough.

We have learned through experience that love is not quite the same as acceptance, so we might believe God loves us and still doubt that He accepts us.  We have learned that He has saved us, but we have been taught that He does so in spite of His feelings about us.  Some people think that God will tolerate them because of Jesus.  They believe that they are “dirty rotten sinners” in His sight and that He must look at Jesus to receive them into His presence.  But the truth is that God accepts you and me, as individuals, because of Jesus.

Paul understood.  He said:

3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved Ephesians 1:3-6 (NKJV) 

“He has made us accepted.”  Notice that it does not say He will accept us.  Nor does it say He has made us acceptable.  He has made us accepted.  It’s a done deal.  It doesn’t even say that He accepts us.  That would feel weaker to us.  Yes, God accepts us, but that’s because He has to, we might think.  No, He has made us accepted.  His grace has been sufficient in us.

This is a big deal!  You can stop trying to measure up.  You can stop striving to find acceptance in the world around you.  Whether it is the negative voices that come from your past, the rejection of a loved one or friend, or the fear of failure in spiritual things—the decision has been made.  You are accepted.  You are good enough.

So, through this week, tell yourself the truth:

I am accepted.

I am good enough.

God has said it.

All because of Jesus.

I am accepted.

It is finished.

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But what about…

Grace 101

There are times when the preacher goes from preaching to meddling.  Some people might think of this post as meddling.  You might be right.

Jesus told us to treat others in the way we would want to be treated.  I think there’s a reason He said that.  It’s because you will never receive what you are unwilling to give to others.

You see, the hardest part of the path is not what we find in the church or even in our judgment of ourselves.  The part of the path that is least likely to receive the message of grace is our judgment of others.  We see the sins of others more clearly than we see our own.  We sometimes have less patience and forgiveness for others than we would like to experience ourselves.

Often, when I talk with people about grace, the fact that God has dealt with our sins and no longer holds them against us and has done everything necessary for us to be saved, I get a response like this: “That’s nice but what about…?”  The example given is usually some behavior observed in others that is offensive to the person.  Usually it’s something the person doesn’t see in himself.

Can you live with your girlfriend and still be saved?  Can you drink to excess and still be a Christian?  Can you be a part of XYZ church and still go to Heaven?  Can you smoke, cuss, look at porn, cheat on taxes, steal cable TV, lie, drive badly, or have doubts about some facts in the Bible?  If these behaviors won’t keep a person out of Heaven, what will?

It is very difficult for us, even with an understanding of grace, to let go of the judgments we learned.  We have invested in a game that measures success on the basis of doing better than others.  Notice that it is not doing well, not really.  No, we have trouble believing that we can do well, but we sure can do better than some of the people we know.

Listen, I do this.  I suspect we all do.  I know grace teachers who proclaim boldly the love of God and sufficiency of the person and work of Jesus but criticize and complain about other people’s behavior.  I know that there are certain things that trigger my irritation and are hard to ignore when it comes to letting Jesus deal with His people.  After all, they are only accountable to Him, not to me.

Why do we judge?  Some of it comes from the values drilled into us by parents, church, or life.  We see certain behaviors as wrong, simply because we were taught they were wrong.  Some people, according to our prejudices, are unacceptable because of those behaviors.

And some of this comes from the energy and frustration we spend trying to avoid the passions and temptations that come along in our lives.  We work to stay away from sin, and then we become frustrated when we see others who don’t seem to try to avoid it at all.  We are especially tested when we are supposed to understand that Jesus accepts them just as He does us.

But listen: how will we ever really accept the truth about the way the Lord accepts us if we can’t believe that He accepts others the same way?  If He rejects one because of a certain behavior, then why would He not reject us when we do the same thing—or anything else that is sin in His eyes?  We will not receive the joy and peace of knowing the love of God if we don’t see that He accepts all people just as He accepts us.

Yup, that’s meddling.  Lord help me to remember this throughout the day!

(Since I wrote this post, I have received a comment on the previous post that has prompted me to add this paragraph.  When others hurt us, they are accountable to God for their sin.  If they truly belong to Him and He chooses to forgive them, that’s His business because He is their Master and they answer to Him.  But that doesn’t make their actions less evil or sinful.  God is not the Author of evil nor does He condone evil done by the hands of His people.  We can acknowledge this without being legalistic or unforgiving.  It is certainly true that Christians can hurt each other and participate in the work of the evil one as we operate in the flesh.  There are many admonitions against believers hurting each other in Scripture.  If we fail to understand that Christians can do things which are evil, we will misplace the blame for that evil.  Instead, we must allow the Lord to love and forgive as He wills and trust His servants to His hands.  He may discipline or change them, but He will not stop loving those who are His.  And remember, not all who claim His name are His.)

 

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How to unlearn a lie

First, admit that it is a lie.  That’s not as easy as it sounds.  If your understanding has been based on a lie, it will be very difficult to see the lie unless you have found the truth.  In other words, the only way someone who believes himself to be unlovable is to learn that someone does love him.  Of course, learning a fact and believing that fact are different things.  That’s okay.  You have to know the truth first.

Once you have the truth available, even if you find it hard to believe, you can start to establish it in your heart and mind.  Begin by thanking the Lord for the truth.  Tell Him that you find it hard to believe, but thank Him for it anyway.  He understands that you want it to be true.  All your life you have felt unloved, for example, and now you hear that He loves you.  Thank Him for loving you even if you are struggling to believe it.

Then make a clear distinction in your mind between the lie and the truth.  Tell yourself that your feelings of being unloved are a lie and that the fact that God loves you is the truth.  And, when the feelings pop up, remind yourself that they are the lie and the truth is that God does love you.  Then thank Him for loving you.

Now you will want to be with people who support the truth and you will want to hear and read the truth.  Perhaps a change of churches is in order, or maybe you will want to read blogs like this one.  The lie will have its support structure in your life already.  You will begin to identify their words as part of the lie.  But the truth may not have as much support so you will want to find some.  The more the truth is supported, the easier it will be to believe it.

Don’t hesitate to put the burden on Jesus.  He wants you to know that He loves you.  Pray and ask Him to show you His love.  When the feelings of rejection come, pray and ask Him to remind you that He loves you.  Tell Him how you feel and thank Him for the truth of His love.  He will hear and answer you.

 

You see, the lie of rejection and unlove holds us in the most practical places of our lives.  Almost everything around us has been interpreted in favor of the lie.  People have deceived us and betrayed us.  We feel alone, even in the crowds and even among friends.  We are afraid of the pain.  We are weary of the fight.  So we have accepted the lie, resigned ourselves to it.

But it isn’t true!  Jesus does love you!  He reached out to you because of that love.  And every time you reject the lie, you will believe the truth a little more.  This is one of the most practical and prescriptive posts I have written and I do it because we are called to a new way of thinking, to believe differently about the Lord and about ourselves.

Please don’t think this is easy.  It may be simple, but not easy.  The lie is pervasive and persistent and has a great deal of support.  The truth is not forced on you like the lie is.  Love allows you to choose because love values your thoughts and identity.  The lie hates the truth and, honestly, it hates you.  But you knew that.

You may have to do this several times a day at first.  But it will get less.  And then you will be hit out of the blue with waves of the same old feelings.  Just do the same thing.  Reject the lie and thank Jesus for the truth.

 

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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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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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Why do you try so hard?

. . . to get what you already have?

Let’s face it: most of us try hard to be accepted.  We do a little extra here or there, work a little harder on this or that, and bend a little too much.  And most of us open ourselves to manipulation and abuse when we do these things.  It isn’t bad for us to be kind and give a little more.  What’s bad is when we do it to be accepted.

Why is that bad?  Because it doesn’t work and because it reveals our weakness and because it causes us to look past our reasonable cautions.  Also, when it doesn’t work, we find ourselves getting angry or hiding further into our cave.

You know what I mean.  You volunteer or are assigned a special job in your organization and you decide to do a very good job.  You put in a lot of time and creativity, only to have others criticize your ideas or dismiss your efforts.  It’s quite natural and understandable for you to be hurt because of the rejection, but isn’t there something more?  Even if you were not expecting or working for praise, you feel less connected, less acceptable, less wanted.  It is very likely that you were looking for acceptance, self-worth, through your work.

Engraved into the granite of our minds are the words, “If you do well, you will be accepted.”  No matter what we learn later, those words are still there.  We try to ignore them or reject them, but they are there to remind us every day.  They are carved into the thinking of the people around us and we see them written all over the world in which we live.

What if you could believe that you are already accepted at the highest level, equal in value to the greatest person in the world?  What if you could believe that your acceptance didn’t depend on your good work, but on the love of Jesus for you?  All of this is true!

Did you know that you are fully acceptable to God because of Jesus?  It was one of the things He did for you as you came to Jesus in faith.  The Father made you accepted in the Son.

to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6

The thing you try so hard to get is already yours!  It really doesn’t matter what others think.  You will never be accepted by everyone in this world.  It doesn’t work that way.  But the One who does matter does accept you.  No more measuring up.  No more striving to be loved.  No more opening yourself to the cruelty and manipulations of others in an attempt to be accepted.  It is already done in Jesus.

So the next time you get that job in your organization or family, do it well because that’s who you are.  Do it well because you want to.  Then, don’t listen to those who use your work to position themselves.  Don’t accept any judgment of yourself but that of Jesus—who already finds you quite acceptable.

The Bible tells us to be transformed in our minds, in our thinking.  Perhaps it will surprise you one day to look back at the granite of your mind and realize that the words are different.  Now they say, “In me, you are always accepted.  – Jesus.”

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