39: Who, Not What
God’s love for each one of us is not based on what we do but who we are. When we respond and believe the gospel we become new creatures in Christ1. We are adopted into the family of God and are now His children2-3.
Our identity has been changed. Who we are has been divinely and supernaturally altered. This has nothing to do with anything we did but everything to do with what Jesus did. He not only took our sin, He gifted us with His righteousness4.
Old things have passed away and the new has come. I am no longer a child of hell but a citizen of heaven5. God is my father, I am His son6. I am not the same egg. I have been changed. It is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me7.
I love my sons because they are my boys. Regardless of what they do or don’t do, or what they accomplish, or how much money they make, I will always love them because they are my sons. This love I have for them is constant, and is not tied their performance, but is based on their identity.
One of my sons has Downs Syndrome. His name is John, which means beloved. I love John and he loves me. I love him for who he is, and He loves me for just being His Dad. He thinks I am the best thing since sliced bread. He doesn’t care how well I do my job, or how fast I can throw a baseball, or how much money I have in the bank, I’m his Dad and that is enough.
My relationship with my sons is about as close to unconditional love as I have come to on earth. And this is the way God loves each one of us. Nothing we do can make Him love us more than He already has. He is our Dad, our Abba father.
I hope you will prayerfully meditate on the following scriptures listed as footnotes. Let these truths permeate your being.
12 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2Romans 8:15 you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
3Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
4Romans 5:17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
5Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
61 John 3:1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.
7Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
For many of us, this is a hard truth to grasp and make our own. We are so conditioned to see ourselves based on our body of work and view ourselves by what we have accomplished. It is difficult to comprehend grace and unconditional acceptance. For years I defined myself based on how good a husband or father, or how successful a businessman or speaker. When I had these stripped away I was able to begin to see myself as God sees me and not how I perceive myself.
God likes me for me, for who I am, plain and simple. He created and designed me just the way I am. My guilt, shame, and sin were paid for and eliminated on the cross. In Christ I am a new man, His workmanship8.
8Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
I think that one of the contributing factors to our battle to fully embrace God’s unconditional love, is our feeling of unworthiness. We know that by nature, we are guilty convicted sinners, separated from God, and helpless. And when we are redeemed, our sins are covered and we are clean inside and out.
But there lingers still, the pernicious little whisper that causes us to question his unconditional gracious love. We know in our mind that He has paid our debt, but we wonder if His salvation reaches to the secret stains in our heart of hearts, and this doubt hinders us from being wonderfully and completely loved.
This insidious lie is shame. Shame is different from guilt. Guilt is the result of what we have done. Shame is the fruit of who we are. Guilt is based on what we did. Shame affects who we are. Do you see the subtle, but deadly distinction?
We know we are saved by grace and our sins are gone, but we fail to see that not only what we have done has been redeemed, but who we are has been transformed as well. We have been saved to the uttermost9. The struggle is to believe this truth, and I hope to devote more time to this battle in the next newsletter.
9Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him,
For those who are parents, you can help your children begin to understand this essential truth when they sin and commit wrongdoing. Instead of saying “You are bad,” rephrase and simply say, “What you did is wrong.”
The first statement implies that their person, or their identity is bad. The second statement acknowledges that what they did is wrong, but not who they are. “You are bad”, can lead to shame, “What you did is wrong”, properly acknowledges the guilt, and leads us to our Savior for forgiveness.
May God enable us to “apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:18-19