Monday, September 13, 2010

A Father’s Approval

Some of us received it as children. Some of us didn’t. All of us are affected by it to some extent. What our fathers thought of us, or what we think they thought of us, often influences how we see ourselves and relate to others. A father’s approval is a powerful thing. Jesus understood this.

As a pre-teen, Jesus had trekked off to the temple without permission, craving time with His Father. He spent at least three days soaking up His Father’s words. When Mary and Joseph found Him, Jesus felt their disapproval. They didn’t understand why He had to be in His Father’s house. Although Mary may have been a good mother and Joseph may have been a good stepfather, no one but Jesus’ true Father could give Him what He needed. The same is true for us.

Our earthly fathers can’t give us all we need. At their best, they dimly reflect the character of our heavenly Father. At their worst, they remind us how desperately we all need a Savior. All earthly fathers, the good, the bad and the indifferent, ultimately point us toward the perfect Father. His approval is what we really want. It’s what Jesus wanted, too.

Imagine Jesus after His baptism. His hair drips water. His bare feet press the sand as He steps out of the Jordan River. Suddenly, He is flooded with pleasure—His Father’s pleasure. He sees Heaven opened, feels the Holy Spirit’s touch as the dove lands. And then, He hears the words, His Father’s words: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Jesus had His Father’s approval.

Was the Father pleased because Jesus had been baptized, setting a good example for others? Was the Father pleased that Jesus identified with sinful humanity and that He would take our sins upon Himself on the cross? Yes. But, unlike some earthly fathers, God the Father didn’t bestow His approval on Jesus because He had earned it. The Greek verb tense of the Father’s statement expresses constant, uniform delight and pleasure in His Son. The Father gave Jesus the unconditional approval each of us longs for. And because of Jesus, each of us can have it too.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26), and “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). When the Father looks at us, in Christ, He approves. Even when we sin, He doesn’t reject us. He welcomes our confession, and continues to conform us to the likeness of His perfect Son. The security we have in Him enables us to triumph over temptation, as Jesus did after His baptism. And the knowledge of the Father’s ultimate approval helps us extend true love and acceptance to others. The Father’s approval is a powerful thing.

Copyright © 2010 Sherrie Lorance. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Living Up to Your Name—Or Not (Luke 19:1-10)

Have you ever felt that you weren’t living up to someone else’s expectations of you? Zacchaeus, a corrupt businessperson, may have felt that way every time he heard his name, which means “pure.” He was a chief tax collector—a big name in the big world of big rip-offs. He and his cohorts regularly inflated citizens’ tax bills, then pocketed the extra cash before giving the payments to their Roman bosses. The name that Zacchaeus had made for himself seemed entirely inconsistent with the name his parents had given him . . . until Zacchaeus met Jesus.

Before he met Jesus, Zacchaeus was completely committed to the life he’d chosen, a life of one hundred percent selfishness. His zeal was undiluted. He wanted all he could get—and was used to getting it. He wasn’t just a tax collector; he was a chief tax collector. He wasn’t content to wait patiently for a turn to see Jesus; he ran ahead of the crowd. He wasn’t happy with being part of the crowd; he raised himself above the others by climbing a sycamore fig tree.

His all-or-nothing mentality eventually served him well, though, when channeled in the right direction. When Jesus showed Zacchaeus how empty his life really was, Zacchaeus wanted all Jesus had to offer. Zacchaeus gave himself wholeheartedly to Jesus and showed true repentance by a radical change in lifestyle. Instead of taking from the poor, he gave to them. Rather than cheating people, he restored what he’d previously taken, with interest. After his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus could tell a wonderful, true story about how Jesus enabled him to be pure—and not in name only.

What about us? Our Father has called us, “children of God” (1 John 3:1), but we don’t always behave as His children. The good news is this: He’ll do for us what He did for Zacchaeus. He will transform us into what He created us to be. He’ll help us live up to the name He’s given us.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God,
and what we will be has not yet been made known.
But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2 NIV).

Copyright © 2010 Sherrie Lorance. All rights reserved.