How do you think God perceives you? Many of us might say with a shrug, “Well, the Bible says He loves me, so I suppose that means He loves me.”
So many of us have all this theological, intellectual head knowledge stifled up inside us overflowing so there’s no room for our hearts to truly be affected.
It’s just facts.
But when it comes to actual, practical, nitty gritty “real life,” everything’s different. When we mess up, we curse ourselves. When we enter social settings, insecurities pile up and stifle our true selves. When others point out our faults, we feel like completely miserable good-for-nothing creatures. When we try to follow God, it feels fake and we’re left empty.
We assume that when our hearts condemn us, God must condemn us, too. But that is so far from the truth!
“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” – 1 John 3:19-20 (ESV)
God is greater than our hearts! In fact, the very reason Jesus came into the world was to free us from condemnation.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17
I apologize to anyone reading this who knows me and has seen me live with a hard fist against myself. I don’t want you to think that my good Shepherd isn’t taking care of me. It wasn’t His fault at all, it was my own. The truth is, He has been a good Shepherd this whole time, but for much of my life I didn’t fully entrust myself into His loving care, and was left a starved, straggly-looking sheep.
I want you to know that my God is a God of comfort, and that knowing Him brings the deepest delight. In Him there is life, and life to the fullest. (John 10:10) As I begin to know Him more, I begin to trust Him more. And as I trust Him more, I feel less inclined to condemn myself and more inclined to give it all up to Him and let Him free me from all the darkness within me.
So, yes, beloved. In Christ, there is NO CONDEMNATION. The condemnation we feel is a LIE. It’s not from God but straight from the devil! He tries to tear us down so we can have no confidence before God. But God doesn’t want us to feel perpetually condemned, but only temporarily guilty when we have sinned so we can be forgiven and then have confidence before Him!
“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” – Ephesians 3:12
This past semester I was reading a book called Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning (which I highly recommend!) and this was a quote that stuck out to me:
“But we cannot assume that He feels about us the way we feel about ourselves—unless we love ourselves compassionately, intensely, and freely.”
I don’t think any of us can say we love ourselves as deeply and unconditionally in the manner which God reveals His love toward us. But the truth is, while we go off condemning ourselves, God is extravagantly loving us!
If we would only accept this unwavering acceptance God shows us, what freedom we would have!
Later in the book, Manning states: “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”
God calls us Beloved! Take this to heart. Rejecting His tender voice is the same as rejecting Himself. Rejecting our identity as His Beloved is the same as rejecting Himself.
If God is love, but we believe that we are not loved by God or that His love isn’t enough to erase the condemnation we deserve, then we don’t really believe that God is who He claims to be. We don’t believe in the real God, but a masqueraded version of Him that has poured His wrath on ourselves rather than on Jesus, who willingly took our place on the cross of shame! If in Christ we have life to the full because of His resurrection, then, quite plainly, if we believe in the real God we will have life to the full!
If we insist on condemning ourselves, then as we move forward in walking in obedience to Christ, our actions will be external, marked by fear instead of faith. If we insist to our souls that God deeply cares for us, then we can move forward to serve God, internally affected by His love, and acting out of faith in Him.
Knowing deeply God as your Father and experiencing His love for you teaches your soul to love others, as Christ has commanded us. Rather than treat people flippantly, we can reach their hearts with authentic, genuine tenderness which we ourselves have received from God.
Later on Manning explains this concept this way: “If I am not in touch with my own belovedness, then I can’t touch the sacredness of others.”
People are sacred, because they were created in the image of God. They have souls. They have needs within their souls, deep longings to be loved and known. Hunger, whether they realize it or not, to be filled with the fullness of the living God.
When you yourself have been utterly swept up in His love, all your defenses broken down, and all your fears melted away, the way you interact with others changes. No longer are you insecure, prideful, or self-seeking. Now all you know is the Lord’s tenderness, and so you express that to others, seeking for their well-being and caring for their hearts, just as the Lord has done for you.
This isn’t just obeying God anymore. While it is that, too, it’s also abiding in Him. Loving Him. Being united with Him.
It’s not acting out of a false identity anymore, like a white-washed wall that is ugly when you look passed the surface. You’ve been changed from the inside out. You naturally live as the Lord wishes to, because the Lord is your good Shepherd who is taking care of you. Why would you run away from Him and try to take care of yourself, when you know you are a helpless and silly sheep who cannot find green pastures on your own? Or why would you entrust yourself to a Shepherd who starves his flock?
In either of these cases, you would simply be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Trying and trying to look good on the outside, but starving on the inside. Being outwardly a decent human but inside being a wretch who desperately needs to be rescued and cared for by the good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. (John 10:11)
In Abba’s Child, Manning calls the false identity “the imposter” while living in our true identity requires accepting our identity as God’s Beloved and living each day in the victorious reality of Christ’s resurrection.
“The imposter starts to shrink only when he is acknowledged, embraced, and accepted. The self-acceptance that flows from embracing my core identity as Abba’s child enables me to encounter my utter brokenness with uncompromising honesty and complete abandon to the mercy of God.”
Accept that you have a white-washed wall, and then brutally tear it down. Let God rebuild you into a new, beautiful creation, that is at the core His Beloved, and at the core exempt from all condemnation.
Sink deep into this love, and don’t lose sight of the magnitude of the Lord’s tenderness toward you. His compassion never fails. Be completely honest with Him, and He will be sure to lead you into an authentic relationship with Him.
Never give up on pursuing Him, because He certainly will never give up on pursuing you, Beloved. Enjoy this song, and have a beautiful day!