You Can Stop Trying to Get God’s Acceptance Now
After all, He does say something somewhere about being perfect as He is perfect.
And so our desperate pursuit of acceptance begins.
Because on top of God’s approval, most of us have spent most of our lives trying to please our parents, impress our peers and appease our employers.
And as long as we’re succeeding, it can be exhilarating, but mostly it’s just exhausting, because it forces us to live in performance mode, always trying to win, or at least pass. Or at the very least, not come in last.
To make matters worse, most of the people we know have selfish reasons for wanting us to change. Our parents wanted us to change, because we drove them crazy with our childishness, our friends wanted us to change, because we embarrassed them with our clumsiness and our boss wanted us to change, because we disappointed them with our tardiness. And since no one’s perfect, we generally resent the imperfect people in our lives who want us to be perfect.
So our desperate pursuit of acceptance continues.
Only our God is very different from the other people who love us (or tolerate us), in two significant ways.
First, God wants us to change for our own good. Not for His.
Our sin doesn’t disappoint, embarrass or drive God crazy. Our sin doesn’t keep Him up at night. It doesn’t prevent Him from reaching His goals. It doesn’t even inconvenience Him in the slightest!
No, God wants us to change for our own good, because He loves us (IN SPITE of who we are) and knows (far more clearly than we could guess) just how our sin steals our joy, peace and hope.
If you can believe that, then you’re free to open up to Him about your frailties, fears and failures. You can face up to the fact that you don’t measure up, and that’s OK.
God is not mad at you. To the contrary…
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
– Romans 8:1
That verse doesn’t say there’s not very much condemnation. It says there’s none. Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
But it gets better. (And this is the second way God’s love differs from the other people who love us.)
God expects us to change with His power. Not our own.
His love is so potent, He can actually give us the power to change, grow and mature. (And He wants to.) Indeed, if we’re going to believe God’s word, we must believe that His love will one day make us PERFECT!
So while parents may nag, friends may judge and bosses rage, God empowers.
“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” – Romans 8:2-4
But the same sin nature that keeps us from achieving perfection on our own is the same sin nature that keeps us from accepting that we can’t achieve perfection on our own.
And that same sin nature keeps us from being able to thrive in the most important relationships in our lives. Indeed it compels us to one of two basic options:
- Keep trying harder and harder to earn the acceptance of the important people in our lives (family, friends, pastors, teachers, coaches)
- Give up on that and seek out other “friends” who will accept us just the way we are.
We’ll get into the outcomes of these two options next week, but in the meantime, I encourage you to get together with a friend or two and discuss these questions:
- Do you truly believe that God accepts you completely, in spite of the way you are? Why or why not?
- If you do, do you feel like you easily rest in that love? Why or why not?
- Do you truly believe God can empower you to make the changes you know you need to make or do you feel like you’ve got to do it on your own to please Him or prove yourself? Why?
- Are you more inclined to keep trying to please the important people in your life, or distance yourself from them and find other people who will accept you just the way you are? Why?
[This is post is part of a series called Relation^ology (it begins with this post) where we identify the greatest relational need of our heart and then ID the counterfeits we seek out or settle for instead. Relation^ology started out as a discussion series and can be booked for your college, youth or young adults group (or singles group, life group, cell group, community group or whatever they’re calling Bible study these days).]
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The LoveEd study guide series, Beyond Sex & Salvation, will empower you to prepare for relational success when it counts: BEFORE YOU FALL IN LOVE! It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. Check out the first two 8-lesson study guides in our store. You can walk through it on your own, but it’s more fun with friends, so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study. Even better? And ask a married couple you respect to lead it!