Summary: Counteract lies with God’s truth that we are loved by Him and that His love is powerful.
I used to always identify with the first snowman. Part of my personality is idealistic, sees the good, believes that things can improve, people can change, and greater things are ahead. But this year, for a number of reasons yet un-examined within me, I feel more like I’m in the second group – and I don’t like that. I believe that “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Cor 13:7), and don’t like the feelings that nag away, saying the opposite – “go ahead, give up… look at reality, what is there to have faith in anyway?... why hope when you just keep getting disappointed?... why bother enduring through difficulties when you could just escape by snoozing with some lazy snowmen at the base of a tree?...”
I’m not listening to those feelings, I know they speak lies. But I don’t like the appeal they have to me, and so I have to discipline myself and resolve to recognize and fight them. And for me, the best way to fight the subtle lies is with truth – simple, foundational, bedrock truth. I find it helpful sometimes to return to those things that I know to be true, regardless of the circumstances of life, and to put them in front of my face so that I’m forced to see them, recognize them, reaffirm them, and then live out of them. I invite you to walk with me through two of those foundational truths this morning.
I am loved.
The first one is that I am loved. Yes by people, my wife and son, extended family, church community. But the deeper, stronger, firmer truth is that I am loved by God. I don’t really know why – I see the evil in my own heart (at least in part) and know beyond question that I don’t deserve to be loved by a holy and perfect God, I have not and can not earn His affection. But I know it is true anyway. God loves me. So much that God sent Jesus into the world, born into a humble stable, to live a difficult life and then to die an unthinkably horrendous death, and then to be gloriously raised from the dead. As a result of God’s actions, I have been invited to become a child of God’s, by God’s offer of adoption which I accepted.
Now listen carefully: that foundational truth – I am adopted into God’s family – is the basis from which I now live. My actions don’t make me more a child of God’s if I’m really “good”, and they don’t make me less a child of God’s when I’m really “bad”. The foundation is that God adopted me as His Son – I am a member of God’s family. Don’t take my word for it, take God’s Word for it: “4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” (Gal. 4:4-7). Did you hear that, with your ears and your heart? God’s love for us has resulted in His adoption of us – we are not slaves, but children, with an intimate (note the “Abba, Father” words) relationship based on the most secure foundation possible – we are God’s family. That doesn’t change because I act a certain way, positively or negatively, and it doesn’t change even if I feel like God is quiet or distant. The plain, foundational truth: I am loved and am an adopted child of God.
I’m currently leading a small group of people in ministry, and one of the questions we got into a couple of months ago was this: “what do you think it the biggest obstacle to effective ministry today?”. We had great discussion, and my perspective is that the biggest obstacle is truly believing that we are loved by God. If we truly believed that, you and I would live very different lives. If we lived from that security, we would be far bolder in how we live. We would take more risks for God’s Kingdom, knowing that we are secure and that if something fails or gets hard, it doesn’t change our status as God’s children. We would care far less about what other people think, because we’d be living from the perspective that what our Heavenly Father thinks is so much more important. We would care far less about money and possessions, because we would have our need for security wrapped up in the love of God and our status in the eyes of others that comes from material things becomes almost laughable. Our negative emotions would have far less of a hold on us, because anger and jealousy and envy and greed lose most of their power when we live first and foremost from the place that stands unshakably in the truth that we are loved by God and adopted as His children: those other things fall away.