will take on different meaning and tap new motivations. Rather
than providing an excuse for falling victim to sin, our security in
his love will actually destroy the root of sin and teach us how to
live as his free people in the earth.
But let us be certain of the process at the outset. You cannot
implement the practical implications as an attempt to become
secure in his love. That is backwards, confusing the cause with
the results. It will only produce another form of legalism—trying
to earn by effort what God has made a gift.
Freedom to grow in him comes when you recognize that his
love for you isn’t affected by your actions. Philip Yancey in his
book, What’s So Amazing About Grace?, said it as clearly as we
need to understand it: “Grace means there is nothing we can
do to make God love us more… and there is nothing we can do
to make God love us less. God already loves us as much as an
infinite God can possibly love.”
Our only choice is whether or not to live loved, trusting that
his eye is on us and that he can work out in us everything that he
desires. That is the challenge of life in God’s kingdom. He has
done everything to demonstrate his irrefutable love; but he will
not make us live there. We can still live less-loved, pursing our
own agenda with our own resources and in the process not only
destroying ourselves but hurting others as well.
The choice is yours; and it can never be made once for a life-
time. This choice is made every day in every circumstance in
which you find yourself. Do you trust that he loves you even in
this, or will you fall back on your own wisdom and desires?
NOT RELIGION, BUT RELATIONSHIP
There are two ways to hide from God’s love—rebellion
and religion. Rebellion, illustrated in the prodigal son, defies
God’s love and seeks to cover up guilt and shame through the
indulgence of sensual desires. Religion, on the other hand,
is far more subtle. It seeks its cover-up with good works and
obligation. However, like the prodigal’s older brother, it still
denies the Father’s place in our lives and leads us no closer to
knowing him for who he really is.
Simply, religion is keeping score—striving for acceptance
Trying to Earn Points . . .
through our own performance whether it be in our good works
or some ritualistic exercise. Those things squarely put the focus
on us and what we can do to be accepted by God and all these
are doomed to fail.
Most of Paul’s letters were written because even the earliest
believers found themselves trading relationship for religion.
Instead of learning to live in the security of his love they would
go back to the traditions, creeds, disciplines and laws as an
attempt to earn it themselves. He reminded them over and over
again, that God’s love would take them further than their own
efforts and achievements ever would. But his words often fell
on deaf ears then, as they have in generations since.
Why do so many enjoy striving for God’s acceptance, even
after he went to such lengths to prove it was already ours?
Perhaps people feel more secure if they can control the relation-
ship. Perhaps they’re afraid that if they no longer have to earn
his acceptance they’ll find themselves using grace as an excuse
to pursue their selfish desires. Perhaps they don’t want a rela-
tionship with him at all, simply his help in time of need and that
coveted “Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free Card.”
Religion offers us the illusion of earning acceptance, but it is
only a cheap substitute for the reality of life in him. God’s desire
is to engage us in a life-changing relationship. He knew the ‘life-
changing’ would come only out of the relationship. Thus he
demonstrated his love for us before we did anything to make
ourselves worthy of it. By doing so, he wanted us to stop trying
to earn it and just live in light of it.
What would you do today if you knew God absolutely loved
you? God knows the answer to that question will lead you fur-
ther into his life than the strivings of religion ever can. The key
to living a productive Christian life is not waking up every day
trying to be loved by God, but waking up in the awareness that
you are already his beloved.
NOT A FORMULA, BUT A FRIENDSHIP
By releasing us from the terrible burden of trying to earn his
friendship God put the focus right where he wanted it—on the
relationship he always wanted to have with each of us. He wants
He Loves Me!
to be a closer friend than any other we’ve ever had: sharing our
joys, our pains, even our failures as he teaches us how to live in
Daily, God wants us to discover more about him and how he
wants to be involved with us. This is an intensely personal pro-
cess. Try as we might to standardize that relationship by offering
a checklist as to how to cultivate it; we will always fall short. No
living relationship thrives through the use of a checklist, because
they are far more dynamic than any list can facilitate. God can
be personal enough to develop this friendship with each of us
as we invite him to do so.
Some people have asked me if this kind of friendship risks triv-
ializing God and reduces our awe of him. I have not found that
to be so. Those who treat God as a buddy who thinks and acts
just like they do, always make me wonder if it’s the Living God
they’ve found or is it an illusion of their own mind? God is who
he is. He is the Almighty, Holy God who created the heavens and
the earth. He is more magnificent than we can ever conceive. I
can only approach him with confidence because that’s the way he
wanted it, but that doesn’t diminish in my mind for one moment
who he is.
Some have argued that if we wouldn’t be so casual with
an earthly sovereign, why would we presume to do so with
God Almighty. I know what they mean. If I had the opportu-
nity to meet a president or king I would dress up in my finest
and extend him all the decorum his station demanded. But it
would be impossible to become his friend in that environment,
Does the king or president want that with everyone? I
wouldn’t think so. Who can go to the president in their comfort-
able clothes, jump up on his lap and laugh and play with him?
His children, of course. That’s what God has offered us, not
the relationship of a subject but that of a son or daughter who
can know him as he really is and not be intimidated by that. He
didn’t want to use his magnificence to dwarf us, but to elevate
us into a friendship with an incredible Father. That could never
make him less awesome, only more so.
Trying to Earn Points . . .
NOT FOR HIM, BUT WITH HIM
As you grow increasingly certain that his love for you is not
connected to your performance you will find yourself released
from the horrible burden of doing something for him. You’ll
realize that your greatest ideas and most passionate deeds will
fall far short of what he really wants to do through you.
I used to be driven to do something great for God. I volun-
teered for numerous opportunities and worked hard in the
hopes that some book I was writing, some church I was planting
or some organization I was helping would accomplish great
things for God. While I think God used my misguided zeal in
spite of myself, nothing I did ever rose to the level of my expec-
tations. Instead they seemed to distract me from God, consume
my life and leave me stressed out or worn out from the pursuit.
I’m not driven anymore. I haven’t tried to do anything great
for God in the last four years and yet have seen him use my life
in ways that always exceed my expectations. What changed? I
did, by his grace.
My desire to do something great for God served me far more
than it ever did him. It kept me too busy to enjoy him and dis-
tracted me from the real ministry opportunities he brought
across my path every day.
I used to start my day laying out my plans before God and
seeking his blessing on them. How silly! Why would I even want
God to be the servant of my agenda? God’s plans for my day far
exceed mine. I can almost hear him now as I awaken, “Wayne,
I’m going to touch some people today. Do you want to come
It’s amazing how gentle that is; but all the more powerful
because it is. I don’t have to go. God’s work won’t be thwarted
by my lack of participation. He will touch them anyway, but I
wouldn’t miss it for the world. He does things I’d never dream
of and uses me in ways I could never conceive. His focus on
touching people instead of managing programs has revolution-
ized my view of ministry. It requires no less diligence on my
part, but directs that diligence in far more fruitful endeavors.
If you’ve never known the joy of simply living in God’s accep-
He Loves Me!
tance instead of trying to earn it, your most exciting days in
Christ are ahead of you. People who learn to live out of a gen-
uine love relationship with the God of the universe will live in
more power, more joy and more righteousness than anyone
motivated by fear of his judgment.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through
Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not
counting men’s sins against them.
For your personal journey
Spend a few moments thinking where you are still counting
in your relationship to God. Is it failures? Minutes in prayer?
Number of converts? If you find yourself doing those things,
ask God to help you receive what he has already given you. Stop
doing anything that seeks to earn his love and learn to do what
you do simply because you already have his love. This is quite a
change of mind that only God’s Spirit can produce.
Trying to Earn Points . . .
So Sin Isn’t
Important to God?
“Never let us be discouraged with ourselves; it is not when
we are conscious of our faults that we are the most wicked:
on the contrary, we are less so. We see by a brighter light.
And let us remember, for our consolation, that we never
perceive our sins till he begins to cure them.”
Francois Fenelon (1651-1715)
he pastor invited me to speak to a retreat of his elders.
“Would you teach us about grace? Our leaders really need it!”
On Friday night I began to lay the foundation for an under-
standing of God’s grace. They were not impressed. They didn’t
laugh at my stories or respond to my overtures. They were
either suspicious of me or hostile to the material, I couldn’t tell
which. I hoped for better in the morning , but the mood hadn’t
changed at all.
After a few more moments of unsuccessfully trying to win
them over, I finally stopped. “Let me ask you a question,” I
began. “Am I making any sense at all?”
Eyes darted around the room uncomfortably, but most set-
tled on an elderly gentleman in the corner. After a moment,
he spoke. “What I hear you saying is that these young people
coming to our church don’t need to jump through the same
hoops I’ve been forcing myself through all my life.”
Good, they have got it! I thought. I nodded as he paused.
“Well, I’ll tell you something.” The mood got darker. “If
you think I’m going to let them get away with that, you’re
crazy!” I glanced around the room and saw nods of agreement.
Obviously I was the minority.
“So why I am I here?” I said turning to the pastor.
“I told you, we don’t understand grace!”
And they didn’t. Their security with God was derived from
their rules and rituals and through them they had staked out the
high ground above the rest of the people and were not about
to give it up. They made serving God their god and missed
knowing the Living God.
I understood their dilemma, because I had lived there too.
Who hasn’t seen people use God’s grace as an excuse to guilt-
lessly chase their own agenda? They accept God’s forgiveness
and an eternity in heaven but go on living in the same captivity
as the world around them. Not wanting to apportion “cheap
grace” to people who don’t want to do things God’s way, we
find ourselves constructing a list of expectations to help define
what a true Christian does.
It’s as if we can only keep the message of grace intact for the
first fifteen minutes of someone’s birth into God’s kingdom.
After that we start loading them up with the obligations of being
a good Christian:
“Of course we are saved by grace, but that doesn’t mean we
can just sit around and do nothing. God is a loving Father, but
don’t take advantage of that because he is also a severe judge.
We are not saved by our works, but we still need to live a life
that pleases him.” The latter usually consists of some mix of
He Loves Me!
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested