“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” 1 Peter 1:22–23 (ESV)
At Boca Raton Community High School, one boy who struggled to feel accepted because of his Haitian accent started a group called “We Dine Together.” This group looks for fellow classmates who are isolated at lunch and seeks to gather them together for lunch. Many of us know what it's like to feel shy and by ourselves. Loneliness and isolation are epidemic in American culture.
As Jesus followers, we are accepted by God because God chose us. This acceptance is not like human acceptance that can be conditional or based on some circumstances like talent, skill, wealth, or even the family into which we were born. John 1:12 tells us that we are born of God by God’s own choosing. We did not earn it, we were not given this privilege by any specialness; we accepted the gift and He gave us the right. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” John 1:12–13 (ESV). In other words, we are at peace with God because God initiated a new relationship with us through Jesus Christ. God declared us His children. So like a child who may be struggling to gain a sibling’s acceptance, know that you have the Father’s acceptance. In this instance, your Father is the Father of all people everywhere. It’s nice to have others’ acceptance, but you don’t need it. You have the Father’s acceptance. In any circumstance today when you hear or feel that sense of fear of rejection, remember: You are accepted and loved by God. You don’t need their acceptance. For those who are struggling to love, offer the love the Father has given you. Perhaps pray for them as part of beginning to love them well.
What would change in you if you knew that under no circumstance could you ever be separated from God who loves you and would never act against you? How would you handle challenges if you knew that in these circumstances, God wanted to grow you and improve your confidence in Him? Imagine God telling you, “[Your name], I am present in you and will transform every situation into something for your good!”
Where, or in what, we find security is where and when we find rest. People are most at peace when they feel secure. When we accept Jesus Christ as Savior and accept God’s invitation into a relationship with Him, we are ultimately secure. God is with us and, more importantly, He is for us. There is no greater security than to have the Creator of the universe with you in any circumstance (Romans 8:28, ESV).
God promises us that He will never leave us and that we cannot be separated from the love of God by anything or anyone. There is no condemnation that can separate you or me from security in Christ (Romans 8:31–39, ESV).
What situation are you facing today or this week? Rather than praying and asking God to deliver you from the situation (as I have done thousands of times), ask God to show you a way forward and to be with you “in” the situation. May God grow us in our faith and mature us as Jesus followers by reminding us we are ultimately secure in Christ Jesus.
Do you know that you have been born for significance? Your life is expected to “bear the fruit” of a relationship with God because of your acceptance of Christ Jesus. In Matthew 21:19, and also in Mark 11:12–14, Jesus teaches a life lesson to His disciples that indicates their lives are expected to show that their relationship with Him and with God bears fruit. A fig tree is supposed to produce figs. A relationship with God will immediately make your life significant as you bear the fruit of the Spirit— “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” Galatians 5:22–23 (ESV).
Your life matters because you have been chosen and appointed to bear the fruit of knowing and having the Holy Spirit within you (John 15:16). You are like a branch grafted onto the True Vine that is a channel of God's very life (John 15:5). Your life will bear the fruit you were created to produce—your spiritual gifts.
Producing fruit is not a matter of effort. Bearing fruit is a natural result of being grafted to the vine that gives life and is love. When we focus on the four-legged stool of being Jesus followers (attending a weekly service, daily quiet time, Life Group, serving), our lives begin producing the fruit we were born to produce. We show the life God gave us for the purpose God gave us life. Our significance is to be what God created us to be. Celebrate the fruit God is bringing to life in you.
I am loved. Have you ever “chased love?” I have—twice, actually. In high school, I chased love in general. I was shy and not particularly popular or athletic. I remember trying to find all kinds of ways to “be loved.” Chasing love led me to some pretty harmful places and experiences. In college, I “chased” love from one particular woman whom I met my first week of college. I tried all kinds of ways to get this woman to notice me and love me back. I remember getting so angry and upset that one evening I told my roommate that I was done “chasing women.” Have you experienced that type of frustration in some way?
Knowing that we are loved by God does an amazing thing in the human psyche. Knowing we are loved empowers Jesus followers to focus on loving others instead of getting love from others. Rather than spending all our energy and actions trying to get others to love us, we can instead extend the love given to us by God in Christ Jesus. I am convinced this shift is not possible without Jesus as the source of our acceptance. When our focus is on getting acceptance from other people, there is always a hidden motive to our actions. When I know I am already fully and completely loved, I can offer love without expecting it in return. Unconditional love is the love of God has toward us; and it is the kind of love we should offer others.
Worship at The Cove reminds us and renews our experience of being loved by God. Commit to being in worship weekly, to being renewed and refreshed in God’s love for you. As you know this love more completely and fully, begin to serve in ways that allow you to love others as God has gifted you. If you are regularly doing these things now, celebrate the freedom from not having to worry about acceptance from others and celebrate the power God is surely developing in you to love unconditionally.
My colleague, John, is a brother in Christ and also a classic extrovert. After spending a considerable amount of time with him on a business trip, I can honestly say he is one of those people who has “never met a stranger.” In a room full of employees or at a restaurant, John is always engaged in conversation. I, on the other hand, could spend hours in either setting and, unless there was a specific reason, could remain to myself and be content...well sort of. I do admire his ability to connect.
The approval battle ultimately is won in accepting the love of God in Christ Jesus and engaging in fellowship and community with other believers in Christ. We are equal in all ways and live in relationship with other people now as Jesus Christ taught and modeled. We are fellow citizens in the Kingdom of saints. God has justified us in Christ and we are loved by Him. We are all members of the same “fraternity and sorority,” members of the same club, of the same family. We are to be reminded that for those who are in Christ, we are also all dwelling places of the same Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22, ESV).
It is time for a paradigm shift in our relationship with other Christians. We are all one body in Christ Jesus. We are all part of the same family. We are each on a journey to be matured in living out our faith. We are all in this together.