A Heart for Men and A Calling to Shepherd

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Earning God’s Favor

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matt. 3:17)

 “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption: the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:13-14)

 “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION!” (1 Peter 2:9)

 I recently found myself in the flow of God’s love through helping a brother struggling with addiction. He was living a double life, wherein he thought if he was just involved in doing enough of good works it would earn God’s favor and allow him to go on ignoring that gnawing feeling of conviction. This resulted in a continuing cycle of deception and defeat. Once he came to his senses via confrontation by a few of us, he confessed to the deception and is now taking real steps out of bondage and towards finding his true identity in Christ.

I, like my friend have a passion for “doing,” and it is to others like us I address this article. Oft times those of our ilk think the numbers of our good works is what determines His “Well done” and can even lead us in to hypocrisy when they cover up real issues we refuse to deal with. That’s not to say God doesn’t want to see good works from us, and He is certainly pleased with them. The Bible makes it clear He does, and we will be eventually judged according to our deeds (John 15, Rev. 20) as much as anything.

During a fellowship a few days after we confronted him, where a number of us gathered around this brother to hear his confession, pray, and offer encouragement and guidance the Lord gave me revelation concerning the verse in Matthew above. It suddenly struck me, not that the Father said this about His Son [for I had read the passage many times and had a pretty good grip on it]. What I realized anew was when He said it: something I had totally missed in all of my “doing” over the years. God made this proclamation before Jesus’ formal mission had even begun! Before the Son had preached the gospel of the kingdom to a soul, done His many miracles, profoundly touched thousands, or died for us on the cross the Father proclaimed “you are my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased!” We doers would ask, “Shouldn’t this have been said as Jesus was hanging on the cross, after all those good deeds had been accomplished?”  That was certainly how we would have written it.

But no. God was already pleased with His Son! This is reinforced by the tenses in the second two verses above. The first is past-tense and the second present-tense. We won’t be rescued and transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of heaven on earth after we prove ourselves, we have been! We won’t be a chosen race and a royal priesthood after we are finished with our purpose on earth. We already are! What my friend and I, and all of us “doers” out there need to come to fully grasp is we were His beloved sons in whom He was well pleased from the moment we took on Christ. That’s our identity!

We are no longer sinners in need of grace. That’s who we were before we were sons. We are saints walking in grace because we are sons! If we are sinners in need of grace after being redeemed, then Christ died for nothing and we still are who we were. As Colossians 1 above states, He did all He did to transfer us out of the kingdom of darkness and in to the kingdom of God.  1st Corinthians 6 says we were sinners in need of grace at one point, “but we were washed, but we were sanctified, but we were justified.” Notice again, past tense. Do we, as saints, stumble? Of course, but “stumbler” is not our identity! God did not call David [a rare case of an OT Christian] a sinner who would do His will, He called David a “man after His own heart.” If we don’t come to understand this critical truth, we will spend the rest of our Christian lives desperately searching for the acceptance of our Father we already have. And that, my friends, is the definition of futility.

[Note: As stated, this is intended for us doers and not for those Jesus would call lukewarm who would use these verses to justify “doing” nothing due to trusting in a false grace promoted by modern Christendom to save them. When God brings a son into His kingdom He gifts that son, and expects a return. It is the appreciation of grace—the love and good deeds God showed us fueled by His Spirit, that drive us on to the love and good deeds we do for others. If your life had not been profoundly changed by what you thought was your conversion, compelling you to share what has been shared with you, then the message you need to hear is this: stop trusting in a two-minute prayer you prayed at some point in the past and go back to the cross with the express intent of becoming a true believer this time. God would much prefer pruning doers over moving sluggards.]

But for us doers, it comes down to who we truly believe we are in the Spirit. The continual battle to try to earn God’s favor must stop. It is futile, as I learned during 39 years of endless striving fighting a fight that cannot be won. The search for what we already have ends, simply, when we realize we already have it. Then we can run in freedom the race already won! Stop letting your sin define you, and be transformed by the renewing of your mind! Leave that identity behind as “rubbish so that you may [truly] gain Christ,” and take on the identity God gives all His sons and daughters. Then we can all begin to enjoy the “good deeds He has prepared beforehand” for us through our service to a Father who holds grace in His hands, and has been well-pleased with us from the beginning!

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