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Proud of Me?

Proud of Me?

No, God couldn’t be proud of me.

He sees all my pettiness, my failures, my self-centeredness, my sins.  I look back at my life and it seems like one series of mess-ups after another.  I look at me now and I can’t believe how I keep making mistakes and end up not being the person I want to be.

God can’t be proud of me.  He’s probably proud of Billy Graham, but no way he’s proud of me.

I don’t know whether you’ve ever said words like those to yourself, but I sure have.  And if you look honestly at yourself, you think the facts are indisputable: no way God could be proud of you.

But if you are a child of God, if you through faith in Christ have been born again, then you are forgetting some other facts that are more important than all of your failures stacked up in a pile as high as Mount Everest.

Fact #1   God Created Me & Chose Me

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world… Ephesians 1:4

God from the beginning chose you for salvation. 2 Thessalonians 2:13

Read these verses, slowly, and personalize them with your name.  “God chose John to be in Christ before He even created the universe.”  Think of that.  Even with all my frailities, God specifically created me and chose me.  I am His.  He made me.  Made me to be in Christ. 

When I have crafted an essay or a poem and step back and look at it, I am proud of my creation.  Even if I know it won’t win a reward, even if it might not be the best I’ve ever written, I’m still proud.  When my child scribbles a picture I put it on my refrigerator.  Does it belong in an art gallery? That doesn’t matter, it’s my child and my heart is well satisfied with their efforts.  So, how can we not realize that a perfect Creator does not step back from us, His creations and beam with pride?

Fact #2  God Has Forgiven Our Sins Through Christ

God will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)

All of the failures, all of the sins, all the mistakes that convince us that God cannot be proud of us— they are cast into the depths of the sea.  God has forgiven us.  Just picture this conversation:

God:  I am so proud of you.

You: I know you’re really not.  Think about how angry I got today at my friend and mistreated her.

God: Uh, I don’t remember that.

Well, yes, God actually can remember everything, but get the point: forgiveness with God is not just a mushy feeling: it is also judicial: all of our wrongs are forever not counted against us in any way.  Through Christ’s death God is free to forget our sins.

Fact #3   God Has Clothed Us in Righteousness

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  (Isaiah 61:10)

Not only does God forgive us, He does much more: he actually clothes us in Christ’s righteousness.  As Christ took our sins in God’s eyes, now we take Christ’s perfect righteousness in God’s eyes.

Fact #4  God Rejoices Over Us

The LORD your God is with you,
       he is mighty to save.
       He will take great delight in you,
       he will quiet you with his love,
       he will rejoice over you with singing.”  (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV)

It’s undeniable, it’s in the Bible: God delights in His children, He sings with delight over each and every one of us.  He created us, He forgave us, He clothed us, and now He can rejoice over every one of His children.

Fact #5 God is Pleased to Give Us Life With Him Forever

Even if this life was all that there was, all that God has done for His children would be proof of His affection for us.  But there’s more.  Much more.  Incredible, abundant life for all eternity:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ (Matthew 25:34)

What will I one day hear?  “Come, John, blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  I just let that sink in and it completely blows me away.  Jesus will one day invite me (me!) into a kingdom that God has prepared for me.  And the joy and the love will just keep growing forever and ever.

Whenever your heart is down, comfort yourselves with these truths.  If you are His child, you have a proud papa, one who chose you, who has forgiven you, blessed you, and who is preparing an eternity for you.

There in the stars or a smile of a child,
We glimpse how His joy fills eternity.
This is His pleasure to give us Himself, His glory, His heaven, His peace.
And soon all confusion will fade from our sight,
With wonder we’ll dwell in His kingdom of light.
Perfectly wonderful, mystical joy sings for creation’s great dance.
God bids us to join Him in all that He has,
Delighted to give us the chance.
God is delighted in all He has done,
Nothing can end all the joy He’s begun.
His children delight in Him through His own Son.
God is delighted in all He has done.  (Steve Green)

What Makes Me Worthy

communion eucharist lord's supper bread wine elementsI was taking communion last night. As I held the bread in my hand and heard my pastor say what I held symbolized Christ’s body I thought, “I’m not worthy to partake of these elements, how could I ever be worthy?  I’m not worthy of any of Christ’s mercies or His forgiveness.”

I wasn’t thinking of it at the time, but Martin Luther had a similar thought, the first time he administered the elements.  He was so overwhelmed at his sinfulness and utter unworthiness that he froze and was unable to go on.

What makes me worthy to partake of the Lord’s Supper?  Honestly, there is nothing in me or about me that makes me worthy, no action, no prayer, no penance that will make me fit to be in the presence of Christ.

But the things which are impossible with men are possible with God(Luke 18:27).  It is God who makes me worthy to take communion and enter His presence.  I think of the story of the prodigal son:

And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. (Luke 15:21-22)

Notice how the son freely admits that he is not worthy to be a son.  And what does the father immediately do?  He puts a robe, a ring, and shoes on him— all the signs of a son and heir.  The father does more than say mere words, he takes action to demonstrate his decision of granting sonship to this wayward child.  The son not only feels the embrace of his father and the kind words of his father, he has a robe on his back, a ring of authority on his hand, and shoes on his feet to prove to himself and everyone that he really is a son.

In the same way, communion is God’s visible token, God’s physical proof that I am a partaker in Christ’s body and blood, that God has extended forgiveness and adoption to me.  I can take the wine and the bread with comfort and joy that through God’s mercy and grace I am His child.

Adopted as Sons

As Christians, we have many blessings bestowed on us by God, such as forgiveness of sins, having Christ’s righteousness accounted to us, eternal life, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Each of these aspects of our salvation stands on its own in that God could have chosen to give us some, but not all, of these blessings.  For instance, God could have chosen to forgive us our sins, but not to give us the additional blessing of the indwelling of the Spirit. 

Each individual blessing of our salvation shows God’s love and grace and mercy and glory more sweetly.  One blessing that continually astounds me, that makes me marvel at God’s great grace, is that He chose to Adopt us, to declare that we, rebellious sinners, are now children of God.  And so Adoption is the A in our continuing acrostic theology series on how we are C.H.A.N.G.E.D. by God.

For anyone who saw or read Ben-Hur, you remember how Judah’s life was changed when he was adopted by the Roman general Quintus Arrius.  He went from being a slave, locked in chains and darkness to having unrivaled wealth, power, and influence. Judah’s physical transformation from his physical adoption prefigured his spiritual transformation from his (and ours) spiritual adoption as children of God.

God was not compelled to adopt us by some good that we did or deserved:

Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.  (Ephesians 1:5)

As the verse above states, God chose before time began that through Jesus he would adopt a people to Himself, purely because of His love and mercy, by “the good pleasure of His will..”

And how do we receive this adoption?  How do we become children of God?  Purely through receiving Christ by believing Him as Savior and Lord:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. (1 John 1:12)

So what difference does this make in our lives?  How are we changed because of our new identities as children of God?  Let’s briefly look at our new privileges, new responsibilities, and new inheritance as children of God:

New Privileges:

Being an adopted son of God means we have the privileges of calling God our Father, of God calling us His children, of God blessing us as His children, and of God disciplining us as His children:

We may call God our Father:

In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven (Matthew 6:9)

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  Romans 8:17)

To be able to address the infinite creator of the Universe as our “Abba”, literally “Daddy” or “Papa”, is an incredible privilege and joy.  Yes, He is our God, our Lord, our Master, our King, and yet He also condescends to be our Papa as well.  Incredible! 

God calls us His children:

and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”  (2 Cor 6:18)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  (1 John 3:1)

What more tender way could we be addressed, what more hopeful name could we be given, than to be called the children of God?  In every trial and storm, we should be able to look up and hear God lovingly call us His children.

God blesses us as His children:

What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, wil give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!  (Matthew 7:11)

All of God’s gifts to us come from the heart of a perfectly loving Father.  We never have to doubt or be concerned about whether we will receive a stone or a serpent— no, our Father only has our good in His heart.

God disciplines us as His children:

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:6-11)

The Lord loves us enough, loves us as His own children, to discipline us.  He will not leave us in our selfish immaturity, but will do whatever is necessary, even trials, even suffering and pain, to strip away our self-centeredness until we can perfectly love and enjoy and obey Him.

New Responsibilities:

Along with our new privileges, sonship entails new responsibilities.  As sons of our Father we have the honor to obey, imitate, and represent our Father.

Obey:

as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct. (1 Peter 1:14-15)

As any Father, God expects our loving obedience to His commands.

Imitate:

Therefore be followers of God as dear children.  (Ephesians 5:1)

All of us have stories of children picking up the mannerisms of their parents.  So should it be with us: as we spend time in God’s presence we should come to resemble our Father ever more closely.  Notice that this is more a heart transformation than mere outward obedience; a rebellious child will still sometimes obey to get what he wants or avoid punishment, but as “dear children” we desire to be followers of God.

Represent:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  (Matthew 5:16)

…children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.  (Philippians 2:15)

And what is the goal of our obedience?  That we represent our glorious and loving Father, that our good works reflect His grace and transforming power to others.

New Inheritance:

Lastly, we can rejoice that as children of God we have a new inheritance.  We have this new inheritance because God predestined it for us, because we are children of God, and because we are joint heirs with Christ.

Because God predestined it for us:

in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,  (Ephesians 1:11)

Because we are children of God:

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”  Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God. (Galatians 4:5-7)

Because we are joint heirs with Christ:

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer wtih Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:16-17) 

The Nature of our Inheritance:

And what sort of inheritance has God bestowed on His children?  O, we have caught the barest glimpse so far, but the Scriptures promise that is is a kingdom, that it is eternal, and that is will be glorious:

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” (Matthew 25:34)

…that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15)

and if children, then heirs— heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  (Romans 8:17-18)

May you live as a child of God today, rejoicing in your privileges, mindful of your responsibilities, and looking forward to your inheritance.