How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. Jeremiah 31:3
Whether we realize or not, everyone has a view of God, regardless of where one is in his or her faith journey. It’s a picture that defines what we believe about God’s heart, what He values and how He interacts with humanity. With that said, what does your picture of God look like? How does this snapshot influence the way you approach Him and how you believe He approaches you? These questions are critical because they shape us at our core. Regarded theologian A.W. Tozer goes as far as saying that “what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
Sadly, our initial pictures of God reveal how much we misunderstand the heart of God. Often, the first things that comes to mind for many of us when we think about God are rules, guidelines, and restrictions. This view drives us into a work-based agreement rather than a caring relationship. The Bible instantly becomes a dry instruction manual that needs to be followed in order to have a relationship with Him. We often translate this into the assumption that we’ve got to act better in order for God to accept and love us. If we just stay in the guidelines, then we will be in His good graces.
The strangest thing about this assumption, this idea that God loves and accepts us based on our behavior, is that it didn’t come from God at all. In fact, God’s message is just the opposite. God’s message is that you will never find acceptance with Him through your behavior. When sin entered into the world, there was nothing that “we” could do to atone for this condition.
God sent the clearest message possible about His heart when He sent His son, Jesus Christ. It is a message of unconditional love. When you understand the heart behind the one making the rules, you will begin to see those boundaries and guidelines in a different way. You will begin to see the “why” behind God giving them to us in the first place. God’s rules or guidelines are not conditions of a relationship with Him; they are confirmation of a relationship. God’s rules or guidelines are not conditions of His love; they are confirmation of His love.
The problem is we tend to compartmentalize God so that He becomes something we can manage. We give Him access to some areas of our lives but restrict His access to others.
Sadly, we also do this with our relationships. We keep people at arm’s distance. We might show a few cards, but keep an ace up our sleeve. We dictate who we let in, how much they know and what remains off limits. We yearn for control in all of our relationships, both with God and with others.
By forcing Him into a little box, we feel more comfortable ignoring His voice as He speaks to those past hurts, sins, failures, and regrets. By settling for self-preservation in our relationships, we don’t have others around us speaking into our life. God knows that while this is our tendency, this is not what a relationship with Him or others should look like. Yet, He still offers us something that no one else can offer: unconditional love.
There are no gimmicks, hooks, baits, or switches with God. He literally gives to us unconditional, no strings attached love. We have the option to accept it or reject it. And what is hard for our brains to wrap around is that if we reject God, it still does not change how He feels about us. He is in a continual pursuit for our hearts. His LOVE never ends.
When we replace God and His Love with the grasping for control, our life deteriorates. When we cut off love within our family, friends, and marriage, our relationships and our lives are capable of spinning out of control. This is not how God has designed us to live. God knows that while this is our tendency, this is not what relationship with Him looks like. God wants to be the center of every decision, the One you go to for everything, the One you depend on, the One you respond to. He also wants others around you to encourage and spur you on to reflecting His heart.
- What areas of your life are off-limits? Why do you restrict letting God and others into these areas?
- How do you try to control your relationships, including your one with God? How does this grasping for control influence these relationships?
God, thank You for loving me in the midst of my brokenness. Thank You for seeing all the junk that is in my heart and still loving me. May I reflect Your love to others through my actions and my words. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.