If one of my children came to me and said, “Dad, what do I need to do to be a part of your family? For you to love me?”
“Just keep your room clean, do your homework and be nice to your brothers and sisters!"
If that were my response, you would think I was an unloving parent. Why?
We love our children because they belong to our family. They don’t have to do anything to belong. Yet, that is how we think of our heavenly family and our heavenly Father.
In my last blog post I spoke about knowing our identity. If our identity is correctly understood, we respond to what God has done for us by believing we are who He says we are. We then act and live like Jesus commands, receiving that we are “holy and dearly loved”.
Because of the work of Jesus Christ, we are holy. Because of the work of Jesus Christ, we do belong to our heavenly Father. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us more or make ourselves “more holy”.
Things like studying scripture, fasting, praying, ministering to the poor, seeking out the lost, or observing the law are not bad. Jesus did all these things and commands us to do the same.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15
"You are my friends if you do what I command you." John 15:14
"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." John 5:37-42 (See also Luke 11:46, Matt. 23:25-28)
The Pharisees that Jesus was speaking to in the above passage were trying to get into heaven by doing religious things. We are already citizens who are bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth (Col. 1:11-14). We don’t obey so that He will love us: we love Him and so we obey.
We spend time with Christ, not to earn His love or favor, but to learn who we have become as a new creation full of His Spirit. The more time we spend with Him, the more we act like Him.
Our time with Him does not and cannot change the way He feels about us. However, a lack of time with Him will change the way we see ourselves and the way we think about and experience Him. When we have an incorrect understanding about who we are in Christ, we stop believing the right things about who we are and start believing lies about who we are. And this leads to a life of slavery and a lack of freedom and peace.
John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
In the same way when we start trying to become something we already are (a “Good Christian”), we miss the life Christ has died to give us now. We are returning to the yoke of slavery we were once oppressed by under the law of works.
In trying to "be a Christian", we miss out on “being” His child. Living in the freedom Christ has died to give us. Don’t worry about obeying His commands. Experiencing His love for us always leads to loving Him and loving others: the two commands He says are the most important. Everything else flows from our love relationship with our heavenly Father.
You cannot become something you already are. You are a Christian, a son or daughter of the King. Now live like this is true! There is now no more condemnation for you (Romans 8:1). Jesus has paid the price for you to belong to the Father and belong in His family. Stop trying to “clean up your room” for Him to let you back in!