It does our hearts good to hear that we've been "accepted" when we've been looking forward to or longing for something. Case in point, my oldest daughter and her collegiate pursuit. She applied to only one (just like her old man) and when we received the envelope announcing she would be a part of the class of 2019, there were great squeals of joy heard throughout the house and the news was quickly shared on social media. Acceptance was a very big deal.
For the past couple of months, I've been teaching a class based on a book I dug out of my archives. The publication date on my worn copy of Bob George's "Classic Christianity" reads 1982, and as I've worked through it, my class and I have found the message conveyed to be timeless ... even if they do have slightly updated versions (with different pages). To say that Bob cuts through all the background noise and clutter of religion is an understatement.
These past two weeks have been especially rich, even though they've also awoken some ghosts from my past. Bob's theme has been laser focused on how God declares us completely accepted based on the finished work of our Divine Brother Jesus. What he explains, and in very clear terms, is that so very many of us have only been told half the truth about our Christian experience. And, in believing only half, we have missed out on the joy God offers in such radical fullness that it's hard to explain.
As I read the book, I'm constantly reminded of the woman in John 8 who is thrown down in front of Jesus by the Pharisees. Most of you know this story well, but what keeps coming back to me is what the Master says to her at the end. He offers complete acceptance ("I don't condemn you either) and encourages her to embrace the life offered - live in light of the gift of freedom she's been given without reserve or hesitation.
And here's where the ghosts of the past come roaring back. I flashback to the days when we'd sing "Just as I am" knowing that it meant, "You got in. Now work hard to keep in good standing." I flashback to the traveling salesmen we called evangelists who, in retrospect, were selling guilt by the truckload. I flashback to my first experience in college where the rules ruled and everything was on a merit/demerit system. And where was the acceptance the Gospel clearly taught? Nowhere to be found. In it's place was fear that God always expected something more and was ready to zap me the instant I failed to live up to my end of the bargain. No freedom - no love - no acceptance.
Friends, the God who invites us on the Crooked Path and the Jesus who walks with us have declared us accepted based on nothing we did or ever can do. Understanding and embracing that FACT is the most freeing thing I can think of. It's the truth God offers and it flies in the face of the lies the Evil One tries to tell us. And it's so very real ... we are ACCEPTED - 100%.