God does loves us and therefore we,
the unloveable, are made lovely
About this time last year my then three-year-old son came downstairs and in his best superhero voice said (just imagine his fists on his hips and chest pushed out), “I’m the strongman, I can do nothing!” With big smiles on our faces, we tried to correct him, “Don’t you mean anything?” He replied, “No, I can do nothing!” We’ve been laughing about it for days. The irony and the dissonance of it all is just plain funny and cute.
But, as I enjoyed the innocence of my son, I started to ponder the reality that I don’t think much differently. Instead my thoughts aren’t communicated out loud so directly, they’re a whole lot sadder, no less ironic, and far more deadly. They go something like this, “I’m the weakman, and I can do anything!” While, I might not consciously include the “weakman” part of the sentence, it’s there nevertheless.
Why do I say this?
Well, when fear, false-humility, etc. begin to bear fruit in my life, I know my thoughts have been abiding in the silly notion that I can do anything on my own. That I, as an individual, can direct my own steps and I have no need of anyone else. Yet the fear that comes from this pride is rooted in something false.
One of the warning signs that anyone is living in the lie of Satan (that God can’t be trusted, and I’m my own god) is their internal conversation. If you find that your self-talk is a single voice, odds are its self-concerned and self-protective. Your thoughts are rooted in the lie “I can do anything” while protecting yourself from your inability to do so. This often manifests itself in constantly comparing yourself to others, “I’m better than…” or “I’m not as good as… ” These comparisons can lead to perfectionism, panic-induced paralysis, or prodigal licentiousness. The differing behaviors are only symptoms of the same disease, someone’s habitual value that they are God.
Let’s return to my son’s insightful declaration.
It’s essential to abide in the reality that we can do nothing on our own – that God is God, and we are not. Now our flesh will immediately make this statement primarily about power. I don’t think it is, however. It’s a love issue. It’s a trust issue. These are intimate companions, but for the sake of clarity let’s talk about each one separately.
When living in the lie we believe that we’re not loveable, and that God doesn’t really love us. The truth, however, is that God does loves us and therefore we, the unloveable, are made lovely. This love is not some cheap, fluffy, marshmallow love given to us from a transcendent distance. No, its the God who stoops down to give us life in his Son, and to give us his Spirit who testifies to this by pouring God’s love into our hearts. When we respond to him with love, he abides in us and we in him. And as our triune God is an other-centered communion with an eternal conversation between the Father and Son by their Spirit, it should be no surprise we should start to converse with him by his Spirit. Our internal conversation becomes a true conversation with our Father and our Bridegroom. It is a conversation based upon the delight that God is God and I’m not, and my God loves me unfailingly.
We, however, don’t trust this enough.
I find that in 1 John 4:16 we miss the full-stop after “the love that God has for us.” We tend to do the Step Toe On the Pedal and roll by that God loves us onto what we need to do next, i.e. prove that we are lovers of God. When we do this, we tend to read in 1 John that it’s our responsibility to love our brother and to love God. Now I wouldn’t want to give the impression that these aren’t important, they’re vital to John’s epistle. Yet, John doesn’t see these as a responsibility we have to force ourselves to do, rather he emphatically states we respond in love because God first loved us. If we don’t abide and dwell in the goodness of our God who is love, we can’t help but make love a responsibility because we trust the statement “I can do anything on my own” rather than “I’m deeply loved, and I can do nothing on my own.”
When we wholeheartedly trust that God is for us we’ll begin to hear another voice in our internal conversation. The voice will direct our gaze onto God’s beauty. The Spirit will bear his fruit. And we’ll discover a desire to give ourselves away to others in the way God gave himself to us.
Here the internal conversation changes from being self-concerned, self-protective, or even self-determined. Rather we’ll depend on God for all things we do. We’ll constantly ask God to join us in our daily activities. We’ll ask God for help in every circumstance, difficult or easy. We’ll confidently take risks knowing that our identity isn’t wrapped up in our performance or others’ opinions, but upon God’s testimony of us, the God who’s walking with us. The possibilities are endless when our focus is upon the glorious love of the Trinity, which is manifested in Jesus depending on the Father for everything while fearlessly giving himself away.
I’m thankful my son was right, with one major addition, in Christ I am the strongman, and I can do nothing without him. Let us confidently depend on Him, even in our internal conversation.
You are invited to comment on David’s article at Cor Deo
David is a student of historical theology and seventeenth-century puritanism. He came to love the Puritans while studying at Multnomah Biblical Seminary under the tutelage of Ron Frost. Prior to his time at Multnomah, David and his wife Erin graduated from Western Michigan University. They’ve since been blessed with three wonderful children. Following his days at Multnomah he received his Masters of Theology at New College of the University of Edinburgh. In Scotland, David enjoyed reading Puritans who were captivated by God’s loved and wanted their followers “to warm their hearts by the fiery coals of God’s love.” Alongside his studies at New College, he also served as a Theology Network Associate Staff Worker with UCCF mentoring undergraduate theology students. Then David and his family returned to the United States to pastor youth in a rural church in eastern Oregon. Now David, as a missionary with Operation Mobilisation, has a role in leading a church plant in Chippenham, England.
For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit www.cordeo.org.uk.