Boosting Cars, Smoking Dope, and Being a Child of God

[From the archives.]

Boosting Cars, Smoking Dope

When our kids were young, my wife insisted on never telling them they were a good little boy or good little girl. You see, my wife knows what Jesus said in Mark 10:19 – “No one is good—except God alone.” We didn’t go around telling them they were worthless and wicked, of course. We often had the occasion to praise and encourage their good behavior, but none of those behaviors made them good.

As our son and daughter entered their teens, people would sometimes ask how the kids were. My usual response was, “Well, they’re not out boosting cars and smoking dope, so we’re doing OK.”

But you know what? Even if they were acting badly – or perhaps I should say when they acted badly – one thing remained true, real and unchangeable: they were still our kids. No matter how they act, good or bad, we’re always going to be their parents and they’re always our kids.

The Parent with Eternally Constant Love

Have you ever passed judgment on yourself like this?

“I’m a horrible child of God.”

If you have, or anything remotely like it, let me clue you in to something.

You’re not.

You are not a disappointment to him, you are not displeasing to him and you are not a horrible child of God.

You are a beloved child, saved by his wonderful and extravagant grace, a grace that he showered on his people because he wanted to.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11.)

Let’s break that down.

  1. God decided to reconcile you to himself when you were still dead in your sins.
  2. Christ loves you so much that he gave his life for you.
  3. You are not now nor will you ever again be under God’s wrath.

Later, in Romans 8:1, Paul made it abundantly clear:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Do you see the word “no” in the middle of that verse? Here’s what it means in the original Greek:

“No”

“Nothing”

“Not”

It can’t be any clearer. The only one who has any right or authority to condemn you has eternally chosen not to.

Stop Playing God

Some people in God’s family still condemn themselves, though, and I have a question for them: Who are you to play God?

Satan is the one who accuses God’s people. (Zechariah 3:1.)

Accusing yourself, then, means you have fallen for one of Satan’s trick. But because you are in Christ, the wonderful news is that Jesus himself advocates for us. (1 John 2:1.)

He doesn’t accuse us, he doesn’t condemn us, but instead he stands up for us. That’s what our brother, the firstborn of God’s family, does for us.

Eternally Beloved

The bottom line is this: you are an eternally beloved and eternally pleasing child of God no matter what you do. The reason for this is because God’s pleasure in you doesn’t depend on you but on Jesus and what he has already done for you. If your past, present or future sins made a difference in how God views you, then Christ’s work would not be sufficient to remove God’s wrath from your life.

But it is. Finished, done, accomplished, past tense. And because of that, we never need to feel as if we should hide from God. Instead, because of the finished work of Jesus:

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16.)

and,

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12.)

It’s all true, and it’s all by God’s grace.

***

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20 Responses to Boosting Cars, Smoking Dope, and Being a Child of God

  1. hirstiusd says:

    Tim, when I entered into recovery from addiction 25 years ago, I kept looking over my shoulder and waiting for God to lower the boom. This fearful attitude went on for two years, until I realized who God is and that no condemnation or punishment was coming, only new life. I am still living that new life and sharing it with others as best as I can. God’s perfect love casts out fear. Only love remains. My entire perspective is of a person who has had their life saved unexpectedly by the One who is love. Biblical truth is real life truth. Young people need to know this by seeing it and experiencing it for themselves. In sharing this truth, parents have the most important role.

    • Tim says:

      “My entire perspective is of a person who has had their life saved unexpectedly by the One who is love.” What a beautiful way to put what it’s like to find your life is now in Christ.

  2. JJ says:

    That word ‘beloved’ has kept coming up in my day today… I only just clicked on to follow you and the first post you do after my clicking has that word… hmmm

  3. One of my daughters yesterday commented to her sister ‘Take the shame!’ It’s slang for ‘oops you did that wrong’. I interrupted, saying, “No, we have no shame when we love Christ. He doesn’t bring us shame.” I am not convinced they were listening (too busy giggling at their own pursuits) but I believe it’s still important to say these things when appropriate because you never know what goes into their hearts, do you?

    I do say ‘good girl’ and ‘good boy’ but I would never say ‘bad girl’ or ‘bad boy’ because the behaviour is what’s bad, not the child (and as humans we do latch onto the negative easier than the positive). But, if the topic comes up in one of our talking sessions, or perhaps when we’re reading the bible together, I would say that we’re only good because God says so, not because of anything we have done or can do.

    Interesting post, thank you.

    • Tim says:

      Your relationship with your daughters sounds wonderful. I bet they will remember many of these moments, and that they’ll find them coming to mind in years to come.

    • keriwyattkent says:

      Sandy, even if you think they’re not listening, keep giving your kids those positive messages. They are loved and accepted. A friend gave me great advice when my kids were small: instead of saying “good boy” or “good girl,” say “that was a good choice” or “that was a bad choice.” I’d often add, “It looks like you made a bad choice. But I think you can make a better choice.” This language separates the person (who is loved no matter what) from their choices (which might be bad ones) and empowers them to make a better choice. Kids get this. When my daughter was naughty once, I said, “what happened?” and she wailed, “I made a bad choice!” 🙂

      • Tim says:

        “… keep giving your kids those positive messages. They are loved and accepted.” We never know what’s sinking in and what will resonate with them later, but I am sure it’s a lot more than I can imagine.

      • Thank you, Keri 🙂 Our way of expressing disapproval is ‘that’s not acceptable’ which I learned from my son’s special school. Lots of ‘techniques’ for dealing with special needs children are also incredibly helpful with ‘normal’ kids too!

  4. Great post Tim. Though you forgot one of my favorite verses 1 John 4:18. Tim it really is true that when someone understands the importance, but different roles of law and grace it is life changing. Just finished a podcast script was going to send to you yesterday, titled “The verdict is in, but the jury is still out.” Christianity is the only system in the world where we are no longer having to work to present our case for a favorable verdict. The Christian is also the only construction project where the inside is 100% done to perfection in the inside. Then the outside is a working of the matching the inside. Great post Tim.

    • Tim says:

      “Christianity is the only system in the world where we are no longer having to work to present our case for a favorable verdict.” – I love that line!

  5. Christine says:

    Great post, Tim. The book of Romans, especially those verses you quoted from Chapter 5, is always such a great and wonderful reassurance to me. God loved us when we were his enemy–Wow. That is some incredible love. I need to be reminded of that every day!

    • Tim says:

      Wonderful reassurance is right, Christine. God makes his enemies his friends. It gives me reason to want to do the same.

  6. Jeannie says:

    One of my favourite books, Changes that Heal (by Henry Cloud), has a whole section on how the good/bad polarity causes so many problems in our lives: we want to present ourselves as all-good so we fake it, OR we think we’re all-bad and we suffer shame, OR we idealize others and then are crushed when they show flaws, OR we demonize others and can’t see our common humanity … and on & on. If only we could replace “I am good” or “I am bad” with “I am beloved and so are you,” so many of these problems would vanish. Thanks for re-posting this today; I enjoy when you post from your archives.

  7. Although we have nothing to do (no works) with our justification in Christ except to respond in faith, we do have a part to play in working out our sanctification process by submitting to His working in and through us, the choices we make, etc. Yes, I’m saved but guess what? I’m still sinning. This is where I need to stay humble, repentant and confessing to my God so that nothing comes between us and our relationship. Spiritual warfare means we are in a constant battle but we are given our armour, our weapons and told ‘In this world you WILL have trouble, BUT (gotta love the big buts of the Bible) be of good cheer, take courage, be confident! I have overcome/conquered the world and its power over you.” Jn 16:33. It saddens me when believers have difficulty distinguishing between a spiritual attack that condemns/shames them often into a downward spiral of depression and beating up on themselves (which is NEVER the way God works) and the gentle, loving conviction of the Holy Spirit that reaches out to draw us back close. I would urge any believer who struggles with this to fight back with God’s Word (just as Christ did with Satan) as I learned to do long ago. When those accusatory, blaming thoughts entered my mind (often about the sins of my youth) I would say something like: “You’re right. I did it/said it. Not denying it. I wish I hadn’t but PRAISE MY MERCIFUL GOD who took the penalty for that sin. He not only FORGAVE it but He told me He would FORGET it. My God says in Jer. 31:34 and in Heb. 10:17 “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” And my God doesn’t lie. So you, the demonic or anyone can go to God and accuse me all you want about this but He isn’t going to know what the hell you’re talking about.” Yes, I sometimes talk like that, this is war. I am bold in the authority and power of Christ’s name, but never arrogant. I know it’s not me. I can tell you that after practicing this for awhile, this kind of attack just will not work on you anymore. Our lives in Christ and with Christ in us, even in this battle, are to be rich in purpose, meaning, passion and promise!

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