SOCIALLY UNACCEPTABLE

socially unacceptableDisclaimer:  If you want to become better, like I do, you might want to read this.  If you do not want to be challenged and convicted, as I was when writing this, you might not want to read this.  (reader discretion is advised)

I’ve sensed for a while now that it’s time for me to rethink the role of social media in my life.  For some reason, though, I continue to justify why it’s important for me to stay “connected” to the world.  Think of all the great political views and personal commentaries I would miss, all of which are always rich with robust and helpful dialogue; or all the opportunities I have of sharing a post to really prove I love Jesus. What would I do with all the time I would save from not copying and pasting to my status all the warnings that I and others need to be aware of?  And how would I get my need for validation if I don’t check the number of blue thumbs or red hearts I get on my latest selfie or post?  (Yes, the sarcasm is thick.)

I get it though. There is something to be said about the good that social media platforms afford. Without a doubt, I love to see photos of my grandkids; I enjoy being edified by verses of Scripture and thoughtful insights from someone’s devotional.  I love to see and hear what God is doing in His church here at home and around the world.  I even love to see an hilarious video clip of kids being freaked out by the “magic sheet and disappearing trick” (just YouTube it).  So, there certainly are some redeeming qualities.

But truthfully, much of what seems to show up on my feed, and maybe yours as well, isn’t helpful or healthy.  After this past week I have been more disheartened and grieved over the divisive and harsh posts that social media, specifically Facebook, continues to perpetuate. Social media cannot do what being truly connected with other people can do, which is having face-to-face conversations where honest questions can be asked, listening is practiced, and understanding is gained.  Just a thought:  if you know someone who posts on your wall that has a differing view than you politically, religiously, or ideologically, and you feel the need to comment, rather than argue in a 2-hour thread call them up, go get a cup of coffee at Starbucks (or if you’re boycotting, try Chick-fil-A), and have a sit down conversation that seeks to gain understanding rather than win an argument.  That seems more helpful.  And it certainly seems to be more biblical . . . well, maybe not the Starbucks/Chick-fil-A coffee, but you get the point.

I recently read an article that was entitled, “If Jesus Were On Earth Today, Would He Use Social Media?” The conclusion that the writer came to was that He probably would, but not in the way that many do today.  I agree.  He would have leveraged social media as a tool and not a weapon; as a means for advancing the gospel and not arguing a point.  Don’t get me wrong, He would have engaged others with truth (and He did), yet it would be personal and full of grace.  By grace, just so some may not think I’m saying Jesus gives sin or a distorted worldview a pass, grace is just as much grace in unwavering correction as it is unmerited favor.

On the other hand, if the disciples would have had access to social media, I guarantee that Peter would have had a literal “come-to-Jesus-meeting” on a few occasions. I can see Peter’s posts or tweets right now:

“Mad sword skills.” #Malchus #NotToday #CanYouHearMeNow

or,

“Jesus just said He’d build His church on me.”  #Winning #ClassFavorite

or,

“When you have to feed over 5,000 people and Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays.”  #ComeOnMan #WeNeedAMiracle #JesusTakeTheMeal

Yeah, there would be a rebuke coming.

One more.

“Walking on water . . . not so much.”  #EpicFail #ThoseWavesThough #JesusIsMyLifeguard  (this one I think Jesus would’ve enjoyed.)

When you look at the Bible, Jesus understood the value of sitting down with those who weren’t like Him (Luke 15). He even had conversations with those who had vitriolic hate towards Him (Luke 15:25-32).  As Rosaria Butterfield has said, He didn’t sin with sinners, but He did sit with sinners. And I think we would be most like Jesus if we did the same.

With that being said, here are some questions I’m considering, and would encourage you to honestly and prayerfully consider as well.

FOUR QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA . . .

IS SOCIAL MEDIA FEEDING MY NEED TO BE NOTICED AND VALIDATED?

In the book The Simplest Way To Change The World, Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements write, “In The Divine Commodity, Skye Jethani writes, ‘The appeal of social networking sites is the ability to simultaneously have hundreds of “friends” without actually risking the emotional investment of a real human relationship.’ The creation of ‘likes’ on avenues such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is one of the most brilliant marketing tools ever created, because we all want to be liked.  It’s mesmerizing to check our feed and see who liked our last post, and depressing when we discover that no one has.  In fact, some social scientists now describe our endless use of social media as ‘like addiction.’”

We all have a desire, and a need, to be noticed and validated.  That’s true for some more than others, but nonetheless it is a need deep within every human being.  And, truth be told, no human being can ever provide all that you want or need in this area. It is only in Jesus that we find our true identity; our sense of value and security in knowing that He notices us. And it’s not because it’s all about us, because it isn’t.  It’s all about Jesus, but He lavishes His love on us and reminds us of who we are in Him.

It reminds me of the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19.  As a social outcast and thief, the chances of Zacchaeus being noticed by Jesus (at least in the minds of the people who knew him), were below zero.  Yet as the Messiah passed through town, this short man who climbed a tree to see Jesus was acknowledged.  And not only was He acknowledged but He was, maybe for the first time, truly noticed.  Zacchaeus would go from seeing Jesus from a tree, to sitting down with the Christ at the table in his own house.  The point is, Jesus notices you even in your most broken moments in life and He not only wants to meet with you, He wants to have a relationship with you.

So, what if instead of spending so much time looking for what we can’t get on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even Snapchat, we spent that time scrolling through the feed of God’s word?  I promise you that you’ll discover that all you need is found in all Jesus is.

AM I SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA?

Ok . . . #3.  Yeah, we’d like to not take time and honestly evaluate this, but we need to.  Business Insiderfound that people spend 20% of their time on the Internet viewing social media.  To put that in perspective, if you spend 8 hours of your day sleeping (which most people don’t, according to a recent Gallup poll), of the remaining 16 hours of the day, you will spend, on average, over 3 hours just on social media.  For some, 3 hours is an understatement.

In light of the research that validates what most of us know to really be true, here are some statements I often hear that make me say, “Really?”:

“I don’t have time to read the Bible.” (Oh look, another Facebook poll question to answer.)

“I’m too busy to reach out to my neighbors.”  (I wonder what [insert neighbor’s name here] is posting about?)

“I’m too busy to come to church on Sunday.”  (I’ll just watch it online.)

“I don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done.” (See “Business Insider” research)

I know, maybe a little too close to home, or maybe the heart.  I’m asking these same questions of myself as well.  What I’ve discovered, though, is that the margin we lack and long for in our lives is not because there isn’t enough time or space available, it’s that we can easily fail to choose wisely how to spend the time we’ve been graciously given wisely.  The apostle Paul encourages us well when he says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15

So, what if instead of spending so much time on social media and missing opportunities to develop deep relationships with people and enjoy that which really matters, we spent time growing in our relationship with Jesus; developed meaningful relationships with our neighbors and friends; connected with others in a faith community of believers for encouragement, exhortation, and enjoyment; and just took time to get outside and enjoy God’s creation?  I think we’d be healthier and happier because we were all created for that kind of rhythm of life.

WOULD JESUS BE PLEASED WITH WHAT I AM ABOUT TO POST?

Whatever you are typing in your status, about to tweet, would Jesus be pleased with it?  Would it reflect the character of Christ that, as followers of Jesus, we are to display to a watching world?  Are they words that edify and build up, or tear down?  Are they words that speak truth in love, but in a way that doesn’t require a face-to-face conversation in order to be helpful.  The right thing said at the wrong time and in the wrong way is never right.  That’s why the apostle Paul admonishes us when he writes, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6

Talk about practical wisdom for a social media age.  When Paul uses the illustration of “salt” you have to understand that in those days it was used as a preservative, it was highly valuable, and added flavor to their favorite meal.  So with that in mind, is what I’m about to say life-preserving to those whom I am speaking?  Is what I’m saying sincerely adding value to the conversation?  And is what I’m about to post so flavorful that it would cause people to say, “I really would love to hear more from this person.”  Or, “I’d really like to sit down and have a conversation with this person.” There’s wisdom in that, as Paul says, especially towards those who are not true believers.  Imagine what might happen if instead of coming across as mean-spirited, argumentative, combative, and rude, we see every post, tweet, conversation as an opportunity to walk in wisdom, make the most of our time, and make much of Jesus so that others are left with the taste in their mouth of wanting to know more.  #Winning #TheGospelAtWork

God, forgive us for failing to do this well in the past.  Help us do better.

So, what if instead of posting what we really feel in moments of frustration, anger, hurt, disappointment, etc., we prayed before we posted?  I think we’d allow the Spirit to guard our hearts, our minds, and our words, and in doing so would help us walk in wisdom and add flavor instead of leaving a taste of bitterness.

IS THERE A BETTER PLATFORM FOR ME TO BE HEARD?

Yes, there is.  I hope that you’ve seen it throughout what I’ve written.  The best platform to hear and be heard is in relationships with others.  Looking at a screen can never take the place of looking into the face of another individual.  We’re wired for something better, something deeply relational.  When is the last time you sat down with someone who had a completely different view politically, and had a conversation involving talking and listening?  What about with someone of a different race and sought to gain understanding by listening? There are many more conversations that we could have as well that would be greatly helpful, and would open more opportunities to make much of Jesus and the hope of the gospel.  Personally I’m for creating opportunities for dialogue, rather than closing doors on what could be God-ordained conversations.  You may never come to a place of agreement with whomever you are conversing with, and that’s ok.  The goal isn’t agreement as much as it is understanding.  If I walk away from a conversation understanding someone better, it helps me love them better.  It helps me pray for them more specifically; and not so that they would come to see things my way, but that God do what He desires to do in them. It is God’s responsibility to change the hearts of people, not mine.  But He does call me to love my neighbor, even when that neighbor is considered by you an enemy.  Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . .”  Matthew 5:43-44 

So, what if instead of using a social media platform to hear and be heard, you started creating opportunities for conversations to take place in a way that you gain understanding about a person rather than judge them from the soundbite of a post?  I think we would add value to meaningful conversations, and maybe, just maybe, point people to the solution rather than add to the noise.

STRUGGLING IN PRAYER . . .

warfare praying“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” Colossians 4:12

Epaphras is the kind of person you want as a friend. How would you feel if you knew there was someone who cared about you and loved you enough to go to battle for you, in prayer, that you might know the God who holds all things together and is sovereign over all? How would you feel if someone struggled on your behalf, in prayer, for you to be set free from your alcohol, drug, porn, gambling, or any other addiction? For your battle with depression, anger, self-esteem, loneliness, and unforgiveness? For your marriage to be healed? For your sadness to be turned to joy? For your child who is sick? For your son or daughter who is a wandering soul? For your salvation? For you to know the depth of the riches of Christ?

When I was a sophomore in high school (a very difficult time in my life), I remember my parents struggling on my behalf for me to meet godly friends who would influence my life in a way that pointed me to Jesus. I’m sure that my parents weren’t the only ones praying for me, but they struggled on my behalf in prayer. As a result, God did bring two friends into my life who God used to change my life. Their struggle was not in vain. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 4:16)

Struggling on behalf of others in prayer is one of the most Christ-like and loving acts in which you can engage. So here’s a couple of questions to think about: On whose behalf are you struggling in prayer? And, who have you asked to struggle on your behalf in prayer so that you might stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God?

The struggle needs to be real.

CULTURE IN CHAOS: LIVING IN A POST-TRUTH WORLD

post truth imageThis afternoon I came across this video on an NBC news site, and although not shocking it did greatly grieve my heart. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfzL8BrNSLQ) A similar story of Drag Queen Story Hour at a New York City is equally disturbing. (https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/drag-queen-story-hour-at-nyc-library) It is sad. It is foolish. And even though it seems utopic, it is destructive. I truly do feel sad for these children, and the parents of these kids. Sadly, we don’t need to wait to determine how this will turn out. Time will tell the same tale of those who have suppressed the truth because they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened: it will be chaotic, not utopic.

A person’s worth and identity is not determined by the acceptance of others. All who are seeking gender neutrality so as to find common ground, equality, and dignity are creating a false reality. Our bodies attest to this, which is why some are choosing not to reveal their biological gender to their children because to do so would be an admission of that which is absolutely true. To deny who we are by God’s sovereign design is to reject true dignity, worth, value and identity. Because we are a fallen humanity, marred by sin, there will never be a place where everyone is fully accepted, with no stereotypes or prejudices this side of heaven. That sounds so insensitive and fatalistic, but thus is the result of the curse of sin; which all the more makes the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ so incredibly life-giving and full of grace and hope.

In Romans 1:18, the apostle Paul mentions those who “suppress the truth.” A people who suppress the truth will become a people who are unbridled in their sin. By suppressing truth, Paul is referring to those who refuse to acknowledge God and His ways. When a person refuses to acknowledge God, it is to numb the conscience of their mind and ignore the longing of their soul so that they might live as if there is no God. To live as if there is no God, is to live with no sense of accountability to the truth of God. Regardless, a person’s choice to not believe in God or to not follow the ways of God does not negate the truth that God does exist and His ways are true. The truth does not hinge on our opinion.

But again, it is no surprise that truth has become relative. In 2016, Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year was “post-truth.” It is defined as this: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” In other words, regardless of the facts, biological realities, common sense, or anything else that may be empirically evident, our culture would say truth is determined by how a person feels or what a person wants to believe. Incidentally, there are some who profess to be Christians who are walking lock-step with culture regarding this flawed definition of truth, as opposed to clinging to the timeless truth of Scripture as the reference point from which our worldview should be shaped.

So what is our response as followers of Jesus? How should the Church respond to a “post-truth” culture?

As the Church, our desire should be that we become a people who, transformed by the grace and hope of the gospel in Christ Jesus, love all people regardless of their choices. It does not mean we condone or celebrate their choices. As the apostle Paul would say, “May it never be!” Rosaria Butterfield said it well when she wrote in her book “The Gospel Comes with A House Key,” that as believers we are called to sit with sinners but not sin with sinners. What that means is that we are willing to step into uncomfortable situations and engage in meaningful conversations for the purpose of making much of Jesus and the hope that is found in Him. If we as the body of Christ, those who are true believers and not “cultural Christians,” do not press into what is taking place in our culture, we will be like those who pave roads over a treacherous cliff. Our burden for those who reject the truth of God should be as heavy as that described by Charles Spurgeon: “If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”

May we, as followers of Jesus, pray instead of criticize; speak words of truth in love and immersed in grace; be uncompromising, yet engaging. And may all we do point to Christ and the hope of His gospel. It is our only hope, and the only hope for this world.

OF CATHEDRALS AND TEMPLES

IMG_8281Yesterday, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago (Metropolitan Cathedral) in the Plaza de Armas in Santiago, Chile. It is a beautiful cathedral that went under construction in 1748, and was completed by 1800. Like most cathedrals I’ve visited, it was impressive to say the least. The ornate and detailed beauty portrays a craftsmanship that is both skillful and thoughtful. It has been said that great cathedrals were built so as to proclaim the glory of God; meant to point to something greater and to leave those who enter its doors humbled at the bigness of God and the smallness of man. In medieval times, grand cathedrals that seemingly reached to the heavens and dwarfed even royal castles, spoke of the dominant role of religion. Although religion was prominent, it seemed that the manifest presence of God wasn’t. During what is often called “The Dark Ages,” a common language Bible was suppressed, yet as in every period of history, God’s truth and those who proclaimed it continued in their faithful witness of Christ and the hope of the gospel. God’s presence was still active and moving in the lives of those who faithfully sought after God, men like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, and William Tyndale. There is much more I could say about this time in history, but maybe for another day and another entry.IMG_8290

As I stood in the midst of Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago, appreciating the grandeur and beauty, God brought to mind a couple of passages of Scripture: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is My footstool; what is the house that you would build for Me, and what is the place of My rest? All these things My hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My word.’” Isaiah 66:1-2

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man . . .” Acts 17:24

This cathedral, as inspiring and beautiful as it was, was just a building. Looking around at the tourists who were more often looking through the screen of their camera phone than they were with their eyes (I at times being one of them), I saw others who were there to pray to the saints; statues that, to many, seemed to offer hope and life. Sadly, the truth is they do not. There is only one, Jesus Christ, who offers hope, and life, and the forgiveness of sin so that we might truly be saved, and He does not live in temples made by man.

IMG_8309A building with no life inside is just an empty shell. It is just as true for churches in America, or anywhere else for that matter, as it is for the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago. And, truthfully, a person’s life is no different. What matters more than beautiful edifices and ornate decor of cathedrals or even the lives of those who pursue and hide behind the edifice and decor of all that our culture exalts, yet is empty, is the wonder, and mystery, and beauty of God’s glorious presence in the temple of we who are created in and bear the image of God.

What a humbling thought that cathedrals, churches, and temples don’t even measure up to footstool status. The God who created all things makes heaven His throne, and the earth is just the place He rests His feet. Yet this same God, who is unequal and unrivaled, because of His unfathomable love for us and His IMG_8317overwhelming grace towards us, came to us so that we might be saved and enter into a relationship with God. And if that were not enough, He has placed within us the fullness of His presence by His Spirit so that we might display the glory of Christ.

Cathedrals are beautiful and church buildings are important, but the majesty and presence of the exalted King Jesus resides in all who have placed their faith in Him. May our lives proclaim the glory of God.  May the ancient truths of God’s word be reflected in our daily lives.  And may the world will be in awe of the Christ who dwells in us.

 

 

 

 

 

The Progress of Man and the Majesty of God

SantiagoAndes“On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wondrous works, I will meditate.”  Psalm 145:5

From the balcony of where we are staying in Santiago, Chile, I can see the beautiful snow-capped Andes mountains.  I’ve always loved the mountains.  There is something that is truly majestic and awe-inspiring about God’s creative work.  It makes sense that they would be, though, because a majestic and awe-inspiring God creates nothing less than what is reflective of His glory and greatness.

As I was reading Psalm 145, and looking at the Andes Mountains this morning, I noticed something ironic.  There were two cranes in the foreground, against the backdrop of the mountain range, and they were hoisting beams to a building being constructed.  Two stories of “creation,” yet one declares the creative majesty of God and the other of man’s progress.

Don’t get me wrong, God certainly uses the work of humanity to display the glory of His divinity.  But it seems to me, in the culture in which we live, that often the progress of mankind is seen as superior, and much more majestic, than the work of God.  It reminds me of the people of Babel in Genesis 11, who sought to construct a tower that reached the heavens so that they might make a name for themselves.  As God often does, however, He reminded them that the One who reigns in heaven is the One who reigns over all the earth as well.

It would be good for us to remember that all we do, as good as it may be, pales in comparison to the wondrous works of God.  What God has spoken into existence, man cannot even come close to constructing with his hands.  But what God has skilled us to do with our hands should always point to the majesty and glory of God.

 

 

Mister Rogers and Bob Ross: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Bob Ross and Mister RogersFair warning: you might not want to waste you’re time reading this.

The other night my sons went and saw the new movie/documentary about the life of Fred Rogers, most notably known as Mister Rogers. For about 30 minutes they proceeded to tell me about the movie and how good it was. It obviously left an impression on them, so much that one of my sons decided to order a Mister Rogers t-shirt. I may or may not have done the same.

And then we watched an episode on YouTube. It was a wild night at the Barnard household. But it didn’t end there.

I HAD A DREAM . . .
Somewhere between my head hitting the pillow and my 6am alarm going off, the Trolley apparently took me to the Land of Make Believe. For those of you who were, and may still be, Mister Rogers fans, you’re tracking with me. Somehow I found myself on the simple set of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watching the filming of a show. But this was no ordinary episode. The special neighbor who came knocking on the door that day was Bob Ross, the painter who made Phthalo Blue and Titanium white common vocabulary. He was moving to the neighborhood. (On a personal side note, it doesn’t get any better than having Bob Ross and Mister Rogers in the same neighborhood. If you got tired of cardigans and canvas shoes you could just go over to Bob’s house and paint happy little trees and beat the devil out of paint brushes.)

BACK TO THE DREAM . . .
The show focused on Bob Ross coming over, as a new neighbor in the neighborhood, to teach Mister Rogers how to paint. But something went terribly wrong. Mister Rogers kindly asked Bob not to paint without a drop cloth, which he did not have with him. Bob told Mister Rogers that he didn’t bring one with him but that he was very good at what he did and would be very careful, to which Mister Rogers insisted that he not paint. And I’m watching this unfold before my eyes.

THEN IT GOT TENSE . . .
Bob started making fun of Mister Rogers’s cardigan and canvas shoes. I gasped. You just can’t do that. To my surprise, and not to be outdone, Mister Rogers pointed out that Bob Ross had a fro that you could see through. You could’ve heard a pin drop. They locked eyes and stared at each other.

THEN IT GOT WORSE . . .
Bob took his 2-inch paint brush and threw it at Mister Rogers. Fortunately he missed Mister Rogers but did hit King Friday who had shown up after hearing all the commotion. Mister Rogers took off one of his canvas shoes and threw it at Bob Ross who was quick enough with his paint palette to block the sneaker, but ended up mixing Phthalo Blue with Van Dyke brown and Yellow Ochre, thus making a hideous new color. It was sheer madness. How in the world could two of the nicest guys, who were PBS legends, who lived in a quiet neighborhood, and who had an affinity for cardigans and happy little trees, end up at odds with one another?

THEN I WOKE UP . . .
And realized it was just a dream. I am hoping though, that somewhere in this dream world, there is reconciliation and a show of good will in Mister Rogers wearing a Cadmium Yellow Hue cardigan and Bob Ross wearing canvas shoes while riding in the Trolley and singing “You’ve Got A Friend In Me.” One can hope.

THE MEANING OF THIS . . .
Some of you, after reading this post, are thinking, “What’s the point of this?” and “That’s five minutes of my life I’ll never get back.” And my answer is this: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) Don’t fight over paint, and cardigans, and see-through fros. And, without exception, don’t throw paintbrushes and canvas shoes because the world is watching.

You’re welcome.

THE RIGHT TO BECOME CHILDREN OF GOD

child of GodIt is an act of grace that I am here on this earth. I had no say at the time I was conceived in my mother’s womb. My first breath of life was grace-induced by the goodness and sovereign grace of God, kindly revealed through my parents. I’m not here because I deserved it. I’m here because of grace.

To a much greater extent, the right to become children of God is not a right earned, it is a right given. Here’s how the gospel writer, John, speaks to this: “But to all who did receive Him (Jesus), who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12)

Each person has been created in the image of God. There is dignity and intrinsic worth, and value, in each image bearer that breathes the common grace of God. It’s common because all who have ever lived, are living, or ever will, have done nothing to give themselves the breath of life; it is an act of sovereign grace. Rosaria Butterfield, in her book The Gospel Comes With A House Key, writes, “Common grace is that kindness by God given to all of humanity—to the whole human race without distinction.” (The Gospel Comes With a House Key, p. 55)

But to become a child of God is a right that is given by God; it is an act of amazing, overwhelming, we’ve-done-nothing-to-deserve-it, incomprehensible grace that can only be received, not earned. The apostle Paul affirms this as well when he writes to the Ephesians “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

In our “rights driven” culture, there is a clear dichotomy. There are those who think everything they get must be earned (or worked for) and not received freely, and there are those who subscribe to a belief that they have a right to receive freely whatever they desire without working for it. Practically, there is high view of responsibility often expressed in an admirable work ethic (which I believe is biblical; just look at Adam’s responsibility before the Fall of mankind), but a low view of our admitting our need for community and willingly receiving with gratitude acts of grace in meeting our need. In other words, pride often gets in the way of admitting we cannot meet all our needs. With those who believe they have a right to freely receive without working for anything they desire, or even need, there is a high view of irresponsibility often manifested in laziness and entitlement, and a low view of personal responsibility. In the same way, pride gets in the way of failing to realize that we don’t deserve such grace, but rather we are entitled to all of God’s blessings with no sense of accountability for our sinfulness.

Both of these culture realities often frame a person’s view of salvation. There are some who believe that they can work for and earn their salvation, to become children of God, by simply going through the religious motions and rituals that have often been identified as being good enough to earn God’s favor. Truth is, there is nothing we can do to earn salvation or the right to be children of God. “For by grace you have been saved . . . and this is not your own doing.” Conversely, to think that salvation is automatic and your right, forfeiting any personal responsibility for your sin that separates you from a holy God, is equally false. The “God is a loving God who would not condemn anyone to Hell, therefore I’m good with God,” belief is one that denies justice. For God to be fully loving, He must be fully just. And there is nothing just about God overlooking the offense of our sins. The same is true for the hideous acts of injustice we see happening in our world. At the very core we cry for justice in this world, but expect exoneration regarding the guilt of our sin against the God who created us in His image.

So becoming a child of God is given by grace. We cannot earn our way, nor is it given apart from owning up to and confessing our sin. Only Jesus was able to do the work on the cross that could secure our salvation because only He was perfectly qualified. And only by grace do we even become aware of our fallenness due to sin, and by His grace do we respond with true repentance.

To be a child of God is a gracious gift initiated by God, and by His grace we come to receive Him and believe in Him as His adopted sons and daughters.