My daughter defines “friendship” as a relationship where “you can just be yourself”. We all need relationships with people who love us and accept us completely, a place where we feel safe and secure. Every relationship is unique, but healthy relationships have this in common: they are based on trust, loyalty, and commitment. They are places where “we can just be ourselves”.

An environment of honesty, good will, and unconditional love reassures us that we are relationally protected. When we are with people who love us in this way we are able to be transparent, which serves to deepen the relationship. We all need relationships with safe people who love us if we are to thrive and grow. This is also true in our relationship with God. If we feel loved and accepted by God we will approach Him in faith and with confidence. Conversely, if we feel condemned by God, we will not have a healthy relationship with Him. Being secure in our relationship with God requires two commitments. The first involves His eternal commitment to us, the second involves our commitment to stay in the relationship with Him.

God is committed to keeping us as His children.

Jesus spoke of His love for His followers by comparing Himself to a shepherd who walks in front of his flock, guarding them, leading them to good places, and reassuring them with his voice. “I give them eternal life,” He said, “and they shall never perish: no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

This remarkable assertion is founded on God’s unswerving commitment to those whom He loves. Because of His unending love and unstoppable power, He is willing and able to guard us. (II Timothy 1:12) Even our own sins and lack of faith will not lessen His commitment to those who are committed to Him. Timothy writes that “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (II Timothy 2:11-13) His love for us is not grounded upon our performance, it is grounded upon His perfect love and character.

If we feel loved and accepted by God we will approach Him in faith and with confidence.

Make no mistake, God is holy and hates sin. But we still sin, even though we don’t want to. When we do, we need to remember that God has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him. We have Someone who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-2:2) Because Jesus Himself suffered temptations and yet did not sin, He is able to be the sacrifice for our sins and also to help us when we are tempted. Through Christ, God remains steadfast in His love to us.

We are committed to continue as His children.

Someone said that home is where they have to take you in when you knock on the door. Unfortunately, not all homes are so welcoming. But God always welcomes His children. And He wants us to be assured of our place in His family. Because we are His children, members of His family, we have a role also; our responsibility is to remain in His family.

John wrote his letter, the book of I John, so that people would know whether or not they were Christians. Central to his message was the confidence that Christians can have in their relationship with God. He writes: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13) The confidence that He will never leave us causes us in turn to remain connected to Him, even when life is difficult.

John says, “I write these things” so you can have this assurance; so you can know for sure you are a believer. What are “these things” that he writes? He is referring to three evidences laid out in his letter that show a person that he has become a believer. These evidences are our love (4:7), our obedience (2:3-6) and our faith in Christ (4:15, 5:1a). It is not that we will demonstrate perfect love, obedience and faith but that we will experience each of these in ways we cannot explain apart from the fact that Christ is changing us on the inside. In these ways, the true believer remains faithful to the end, “continuing in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Colossians 1:23)

At times we all face doubts, accusations, and even suffering. When this happens, it is essential to remember that we are God’s children, committed to follow Him. The fact that we are God’s children does not mean we never sin or disobey God. Nor does it mean our salvation is dependent on our obedience. It does mean that we continually participate with God in our sanctification, working with Him by faith to grow in Christlikeness. As true believers we continue to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” because we love Him and trust Him, pressing on to fully gain the salvation that is already ours through Him. (Philippians 2:12) To those who recognize both the divine and the human aspects of following the Living God, this approach is both mysterious and practical at the same time!

The confidence that He will never leave us causes us in turn to remain connected to Him, even when life is difficult.

Put another way, God has given us everything we need to live a godly, holy life and be sure of our salvation. But we must make every effort to grow in righteousness, remembering that we have been cleansed from past sins and called to live as children of God. This way we confirm that God has brought us securely into His family.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.

Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. II Peter 1:3-11

There is a basis for us to be secure in our relationship with God and be certain of our salvation. The basis of this security is God’s eternal love coupled with His ability to keep us to the end. This is confirmed in our lives when we have a trusting dependence on Him and a maturing character.

Summary

We can be secure in our relationship with God.

  • A healthy relationship is based on trust, loyalty, and commitment.
  • God is committed to keep us as His children.
  • We can know we are God’s children and be committed to Him.
  • God has equipped us to live godly, holy lives assured of our salvation.

Application Suggestions:

If you were God, what are some of the changes you would make in your own human character?

What are some of the signs in your life that God has begun that process of change?

Read and meditate on the book of I John.

Get this Pocket Principle in Knowing God, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

broken picture with restored picture

Two things in life that I find really interesting are WORDS and FEELINGS.

I love the way words can be put together in endless patterns and sequences out of our imagination to do all sorts of things. Tell a story, convey information, give instruction or evoke a feeling. Our own creativity determines how we will put words together, never the same way, never like anyone else.

I love that feelings are frequently a mystery and can be so hard to understand and identify. Sometimes appearing when we least expect them or sometimes being ushered in early in anticipation of a certain situation. There are so many words to describe feelings and yet sometimes we are unable to name a feeling when we feel it.

And then there are words, standing alone, that just by our knowledge and experience of them, can arouse feelings in us.

For me, the word RESTORATION is one of those words. When I hear “restoration”, I feel positive and secure, maybe even safe. Restoration is a good word. It even is fun to say. Repeat it out loud a couple of times and see if it doesn’t feel good just rolling off your tongue.

Restoration means to be brought back to a former or original condition, to be brought back to a state of health, soundness or vigor. With a definition like that, it is no wonder it feels so good to say it….rest – or – ation!

In this Pocket Principle, we learn about how restoration occurs in us spiritually. And since all our parts interact when we experience spiritual restoration, we also get restored mentally, emotionally and even physically. Read on to learn what God had in mind when he gave us the Gift of Restoration. Hopefully, this will cause you to feel positive, secure and safe.

Understanding People – Restoration through Christ

 

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

This is part four of the series The Difficulty of Sharing Our Faith. from Gospel Centered  Discipleship

I’ve often heard people say the reason they find it difficult to share their faith is because they don’t have all the right answers. “What if someone suggests all paths lead to the same God, making Jesus irrelevant?” they say. Or “What if a co-worker claims she could never be a Christian because the Bible has too many errors?” These are serious questions that deserve thoughtful responses. As Christians, we should have reasons for our hope. However, I wonder if we often put our hope in having right answers instead of hoping in the reason for our faith? Let’s consider the role of “right answers” in the difficulty of sharing our faith.

Reasons for Hope

While some consider Christianity to be an unthinking faith, the Bible underscores the importance of reason. Peter, a disciple not known for being good with words, wrote this: “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Pet 3:14-15).

We are to offer “reasons” for our hope, to always be prepared. Prepared to do what? “Make a defense” is a translation of the word from which we getapologetic. An apologetic isn’t an “I’m sorry” attitude. Nor is it a defensive, antagonistic stance against culture. It is a reasoned statement of belief. To make an apologetic, then, is not to argue out of defensive insecurity, but to offer a reasonable explanation from our security. What kind of security frees us to offer reasonable explanations for our faith?

Two kinds of security free us to engage in apologetics. The first is intellectual security. The Christian faith has a long tradition of apologists who have faithfully defended the faith century after century, answering some of the most difficult questions. The earliest apologists include: Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Tatian, and Clement of Alexandria (view their texts here). Their apologetic answers have been handed down from generation to generation. New apologists, such as Ravi ZachariasWilliam Lane CraigTim Keller, John Frame, and Alvin Plantinga, also address new questions. We do well to read them.

It is important to note that the gospel alone acts as a grand apologetic, addressing the deepest of life’s questions including: the problem of evil and suffering, the existence of God, the hope of salvation, the nature of God and man, and the role of faith. Through apologetics the gospel has proven intellectually credible and existentially satisfying for many people across many cultures. The gospel provides a coherent, rational view on the world that is intellectually secure. It makes sense of a world where things are not as they are supposed to be. But there is another security that frees us to offer reasonable explanations for Christian faith.

Deep Security

Many of us won’t make time to read the old and new apologists. And perhaps we don’t have to. Is it possible that Peter had in mind an apologetic that included, not just reasons, but faith? Peter was writing to people who feared persecution for their faith. When we struggle to share our faith, do we not face persecution? We are attacked by thoughts that undermine our confidence, diminish our trust in Christ, and redirect us away from speaking about Jesus. Surely, this is a spiritual persecution. Cultural apologist Ken Myers has said:

“the challenge of living with popular culture may well be as serious for modern Christians as persecution and plagues were for the saints of earlier centuries.[1]

While we may not face the gallows or plagues, we do face something more subtle–the invisible power of pop culture that undermines truth, dismisses character, and radically orients us toward comfort. The good news is that we have the same ability as those early saints to be secure and strong in our faith. When doubts surface and silent accusations fly on the cusp of mentioning the gospel, we need a security stronger than our persecution.

Before instructing the early Christians to always have an apologetic, Peter prefaces his statement with this: “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…” (1 Pet. 3:14). He reassures them, in the face of mockery, to sink their security deep into their hearts not heads. He reminds them that they have nothing to fear because they have Christ who offers perfect peace. He makes apologetics about Christ not right answers, a matter of both the head and the heart.

So, when we face that moment of temptation to shy away from identifying with Jesus, it is our identity in Jesus that we need most. We need not fear men because we can rest in Christ. People may reject us, but our forever acceptance in Christ gives us every reason to speak of Him, of His grace, mercy, kindness, love, and triumph over sin, death, and evil. O for stronger men and women who sink their identity deeply into what Jesus says about us more than what peers and co-workers (might) say about us! Our silence will convince no one of our rich, rewarding faith in Jesus. Fear over co-worker frowns will not inspire a smiling faith.

Authentic Apologetics

Our moment of opportunity is less about converting others and more about staying true to ourselves. Will we speak of our unique community in the church, the God-intoxicating gathering on Sunday, the stirring time of meditation on Wednesday morning, and the quiet, soul stirrings of communion with God? Will we speak authentically about what matters most to us and of the meaningful events in our lives or will we prove inauthentic, dismissing these things from conversation, and along with them, dismissing our true selves? Will we refrain from honoring the Lord Christ as holy in our hearts because we hold in honor the passing frowns of men in our heads? Surely the gospel offers a deeper security than the approval of passing men and women? Does not Christ’s love run deeper, His acceptance purer, and His approval longer than the love, acceptance, and approval that any person could ever give? If so, apologetics is meant to spring from a deep security in the heart, our unshakable union with Christ—fully loved, fully accepted. Apologetics is a matter of the heart as well as the head.

Defending the faith, then, is as much about defending Christ as our Lord in our hearts as it is explaining the reasonableness of our faith. The goal of apologetics should never be to convert others (that is the Spirit’s job), but it is to honor Christ as Lord in our hearts. This happens, very often, with our mouths. And in the end, for everyone the bottom-line issue isn’t an intellectual objection but hope objection. We refuse to remove our hope from one thing and transfer it to the ultimate thing, the person of Jesus. A witness of our authentic hope in Christ will be more compelling than any intellectual argument we could ever articulate. People need to see our hope burn in our bones. They need to sense the Lord Christ set apart in our hearts. They need to see that the gospel not only makes sense but that it also works. Christian faith is intellectually satisfying and existentially rich. So let’s not put our hope in having right answers but have answers that reflect our hope.

 


[1] Ken Myers, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1989), v.

Jonathan K. Dodson (MDiv; ThM) serves as a pastor of Austin City Life in Austin, Texas. He is the author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship and has written articles in numerous blogs and journals such as The Resurgence, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, and Boundless. He has discipled men and women abroad and at home for almost two decades, taking great delight in communicating the gospel and seeing Christ formed in others. Twitter:@Jonathan_Dodson