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About this series
Discover Your True Self
How to Silence the Lies of Your Past and Actually Experience Who God Says You Are
Who are you? Who says so? You? Your family? Your friends? From the first two chapters of the book of Ephesians, Chip helps you discover who God says you are as a believer in Christ. Understanding your position, the freedom, and the power you possess as a child of the Most-High God, enables you to move beyond the struggles and the uncertainty we all experience to living an amazing life of peace and assurance. It equips you to serve others with humility and patience and it empowers you to forgive and share with lavish generosity. People will wonder what your story is and with the help of this series, you'll be able to answer with confidence.More from this series
What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.
There is a secret law of your soul that you will gravitate towards your image of God. And that’s why getting a high, holy, clear, loving, accurate picture of Him is the greatest thing you can do for every area of your life.
But the second most important thing is that you can see God accurately, but He longs for you to see yourself the way He sees you.
Let’s do a little experiment. I want you to just think of a picture of yourself now coming to your mind and I want you to describe yourself just in your heart of hearts: how would you describe yourself? What are the three or four words that depict you, that you think are accurate?
Is it loving? Caring? Warm? Approachable? Smart? Gifted? Innovative? Powerful? Or is it lonely? Inadequate? insecure? Confused? Fearful? Lost? Angry? Are there old labels of too tall? Too skinny? Too fat? Loser? Never amount to anything?
As honest as you can, how do you actually see yourself? Not how you wish you did. Father, we ask now, in the name of Your Son and by the power of Your Spirit, that You will activate the gifts, our minds, and our hearts that we could hear from You today and that as we walk out of this building, by a supernatural unction of your Spirit, that You’ll take the written Word and make it the living Word and allow us, at least in some measure, Lord, in a significant measure, to see ourselves the way You long for us to see ourselves. I pray that in Jesus’ name, amen.
If you pull out your notes, what we have just talked about is something psychologists call our self-image. If you want a definition of that, it’s the mental picture of conception of one’s self. It’s a person’s idea of your self-worth. It’s the composite pictures of all the mirrors.
There are all kinds of things – your parents have the biggest impact on that. Authority figures. People in authority. When you are a teenager, your peers begin to greatly influence you. Culture. Media. In other words, there are all these mirrors that have told you, over time, who you are.
And you unconsciously believe them. Some of them, actually, you believe things about yourself that you’re not even aware of. It’s a lot like walking to a fun house and there’s a mirror when you walk in and you look eight feet tall and you look at another mirror, you look eight feet wide. And you look at another mirror and you’re one foot tall.
In other words, they are all distortions. Some of you had great homes, some of you came through horrendous homes. Some of you had traumatic experiences. Some of you were labeled early on and all those things impact us. You have a view. It’s almost unconscious of yourself. But you are living out of that.
And if most of our problems are rooted in a warped view of God, I would suggest that all the rest of them are in a warped view of yourself. This isn’t some academic exercise where we hope we get to the end and you can just think of yourself as wonderful and everything is great and you don’t have any problems. That’s not the world that we live in.
But in a fallen world, everyone has warped mirrors. I can tell you about every, single one of us – you do not see yourself accurately, nor do I. But the more that you do, the healthier you become.
The more you do, the more you are able to receive love and the more you’re able to give love. And at the end of the day, I will tell you, there are a lot of things in life, but receiving love and giving love is all that really matters.
For some, when I said, “You are smart, you’re warm, you’re innovative,” you honestly said, Yeah, I think that’s pretty true of me. For others, when I talked about, “Inadequate, insecure, loser,” some painful emotions, some memories came back.
I have some cards that we are going to look at a little bit later, and they are cards that I would say, unequivocally, not only transformed my wife’s life and my life, but it saved our marriage.
It’s a very personal series to me. My wife came from a horrendous home background and experienced rejection that I won’t go into. She never heard her father say, “I love you.” She never got a hug that she can ever remember. And that was just the beginning.
After that, like most young girls who aren’t loved well by their father, they look for it other places that built tragedy and lots of pain in her life. And then she came to know Jesus. And God loved her. And I met her a couple years later. And then a year or so after that, we got married and eighteen months into our marriage, I’m thinking, I don’t think this is going to work. She couldn’t receive love.
She was beautiful, smart, loving, caring, and passionate in her relationship with God, but when she looked in the mirror, she saw someone that was unworthy of love, who was a loser, who was rejected, who was absolutely unfit for anyone to care for her and so, she couldn’t receive my love or other people’s. And I will tell you what, sitting in a counselor’s office trying to figure that one out was painful.
By God’s grace, we had a counselor that wasn’t just good in psychology, but he was a theologian. He was a retired senior pastor, and he saw beyond all the psychological issues and saw that my wife had such a warped view of herself, she needed to see herself the way God saw her.
And so, he had her begin to write down misbeliefs that she had. A misbelief like, “I need other people’s approval in order to be happy.” And then at the bottom, stop sign. And then the truth, “I want people’s approval of me, but I don’t need it. With God’s approval, I am no longer compelled to earn love and acceptance. I am free to be me.” And then he gave her a passage about belonging and she read it over.
For two years, we would read over these cards. Because you’ll notice on your notes, there are some very dysfunctional and ugly things that happen when you have a warped view of yourself.
One, it builds a sense of rejection. We all deal with rejection. Some of you, it’s a huge issue; some, a smaller issue. But because we do, we become people pleasers at all cost. Some people that are overly sensitive to criticism, it’s like, “Boy, don’t you reject me too.”
For others, you withdraw to avoid. You know what? You just don’t risk. You don’t engage in certain things or certain activities because you don’t want to get hurt.
Some of your greatest success, some of your achievements, some of the reason you get up earlier and you work harder and you have made it and you have achieved and everyone thinks it’s so great – behind all of that is a scared person that you always have to, because your whole value is based on what you do and how you appear.
As we were reviewing all those cards, I thought I was being a loving, kind husband, helping my wife come through these deep issues. But when I read those cards, what I realized was I had all the same issues. I just – I was actually getting rewarded for my dysfunction.
I thought I had to please people, I thought I had to be successful, I thought I had to be an overachiever to the point that, in my twenties, I ended up in the hospital through exhaustion and then again in my thirties in the first church.
I had a doctor say, “You don’t even have an immune system right now. What in the world are you doing?” And I gave him my schedule and he looked at me and he goes, “Well, you’re an idiot.” To which my wife said, “I’ve been telling him that. He just won’t listen to me.”
So, here’s what I want you to know. We are going to go on a journey. I am going to share some of those cards with you. Because what we are going to do is we are going to take the lies that we believe about ourselves and we are going to replace them with: this is how and who God sees you.
Open your notes, because we have a command here. And the command is: this is not an option. Our self-perception is not like, “Wouldn’t this be nice?” Romans 12, verse 3 says, “For through the grace of God given to me, I say to every man among you, not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think as to have sound judgment as God has allotted to each man a measure of faith.
In other words, we are commanded not to think too high, not to think too low, but we are to think about ourselves the way God sees us. That little phrase where it says, “A measure of faith,” put a circle around it. This isn’t your personal faith. Grammatically, this is: the faith. In other words, notice the word: to think, to think, to think, and sober. All four of those are the same root word in Greek.
This is a command – you have been given a measure of the faith. This is who you are in Christ. That’s the big concept. When you trusted Christ as your Savior, you died with Him, your sins have been forgiven, the big word is you were justified. In other words, you were declared legally righteous. All your sins – past, present, and future – are forgiven. The imputed righteousness of Christ is given to you and so, as a follower of Jesus, God sees you through the lens of the forgiveness and the blood of His Son.
So, are you ready for this? He loves you just as much as He loves Jesus. That’s what the Bible teaches. It says that if any man is in Christ, any woman is in Christ – real relationship. Not in church, not in morality; in Christ. The old things passed away; behold, all things become new. It’s a process.
But what I want you to know is I don’t think most people understand what it means to be in Christ. What have you received? How do you see yourself? My observation of most Christians is we so are big on justification, and we should be. Oh, wow, yes! I am born again. I have a new relationship.
And then it kind of stops. But the average believer doesn’t know that that led to being a son or a daughter and there’s a journey. And now, you have a heavenly Father and a new standing and you don’t ever live anymore trying to earn His favor; you’ve already got it.
You have a loving, kind heavenly Father and an elder brother, Jesus, at the right hand of the Father. And He wants you to live out of a love that we already have. But getting that from here to here and out in your life, wow, that’s a journey.
So, where do we get this accurate view of God? We could go a lot of places, but I would say the book of Ephesians is probably the best that I know of. The book is a circular letter that was written to the churches in Asia Minor. And the apostle Paul had been there for quite a while.
And what he wanted to do, it’s a huge metropolitan city, a very influential city. So, it was going to be read here and all the other places. And what he is going to help them understand is, the first three chapters: this is what you have received and this is who you are in Christ.
The next four chapters, “This then, in light of what you have already received, is how you live.” And so, he opens it up; very common beginning. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, to the saints,” that means just the holy, set-apart people that have trusted Christ, “who are faithful in Christ Jesus, grace and peace from God our Father in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, there’s this general opening. Now, here’s what you need to get. The structure of this passage – I’d encourage you maybe to follow along in your Bible or your phone, whatever you use. Verse 3 all the way through verse 14 is one, long sentence. I think it’s the longest one in the New Testament.
And what happens is verse 3 is the thesis. He makes this amazing, amazing statement and all the rest of the verses in all these prepositional phrases, he is going to wind us through a journey to say: all these spiritual blessings – and I think he just went off. I think the Holy Spirit just captured him and he goes, “Here’s all that we have!”
And he just started going, “We are chosen, we are adopted, we are redeemed, we have an inheritance, we have been sealed.”
But here’s where he starts, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with” – what? “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”
In other words, now that you’re a part of God’s family, every spiritual blessing He has given to them – here’s our phrase again – in Christ.
Now, I need to make a quick disclaimer here. Everything I am going to talk about from here on is written to those that are in Christ. If you happen to be visiting or if you’re checking out Christianity, I’m going to talk about: this is how God sees those who are in Christ. This isn’t true of the whole world.
Now, what I will tell you is is that He is pursuing you and He wants you and He loves you and you need to hear, if you would like to join His family, this is the relationship He wants for you. But this is not how God feels about everyone.
The fact of the matter is is that we were all rebels. We were all hostile to God. And until we understood that we needed forgiveness and we turned to Him and received forgiveness through Christ, these things aren’t true.
But notice what He says about those of you that understood and humbled yourself and realized: I need help. He says, “Just,” what’s the spiritual blessing? Verse 4, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed upon us in the Beloved.”
As you look at that, you notice there are a few key words. One, every spiritual blessing begins with this – it’s – He chooses you. In other words, you might write in your notes: God wants me.
Some of you know someone that you want to date or you want to marry. Some of you are looking for someone to fill a position and you want this kind of person. This word is used negatively: the FBI has a top ten list that they really want and they are pursuing.
If you want them, what do you do? Your pursue them. Here’s what I want you to know; this is an amazing thing. God wants you. He wants you for Himself.
I remember as a kid – I grew up in the suburbs so it was lawn, driveway, lawn, driveway, lawn, driveway. This is a touchdown, this is a touchdown. And the big kids would play. And it was tackle. Stupid, I know.
And I was always three or four years younger. And I was small and I was skinny. And so, they would pick up sides and I would get down to the last two guys and it was just, “Choose me! Choose me! Choose me! I’m a stupid, young kid. I’ll dive on the concrete! I’ll make you laugh! I’ll try and tackle the big guys. I’ll do whatever you want. I just want to belong. I just want to be on the team.”
And that desire is in you and me, just the teams change, don’t they? I want to be on that team, I want to be in that fraternity. I want to be in the group that lives in that section of town. I want to have…I want to be in the group whose kids go to that college. I want to be someone that, when they look at me at the gym, I have that kind of body. I want to belong; I want to be wanted.
Do you realize so much of our lives is doing crazy things to want to belong to other people that, honestly, they don’t care too much about us? And God says, I want you. I care about you.
I hear Christians that have been Christians for a long time and a series of circumstances will happen and if it’s good, they go, “Wow, that was really lucky!” Really? There’s no order? There’s no plan? It’s just life is about chance? You were just lucky? Instead of: “A sovereign God orchestrated these circumstances in this way.”
And then there’s another group that something happens and it’s like, “God predestined that that car, that color would be in this spot and my whole world has been planned for me and I’m a robot. Everything is predestined.”
So, let me give you a good definition of predestination and how it applies to this passage. Predestined means God has determined beforehand that those who believe in Christ will be adopted in His family and be conformed to the image of His Son.
The theological concepts are two-fold and I just want to touch on this, because I don’t want your mind going places rather than why this passage was written. The sovereignty of God – the Scripture clearly teaches that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and in control from eternity past to eternity future. He knows the beginning from the end. Right? That’s just a truth. That’s a reality.
You read this book from the beginning to the end, God is never surprised. By contrast, or actually, in parallel, the responsibility of man. As you read through, Scripture equally teaches that men and women are responsible and culpable for their actions, they must choose to accept or reject a relationship with God.
So, it’s not like everything is all lined out and your choices don’t matter. We hold these two truths in tension and when we do, it produces a couple things. One, reverence for God’s Word. When the apostle Paul, who wrote all about this idea of sovereignty and responsibility, when he got done, he didn’t have an argument. He broke into praise and said, “Oh, the depth of the riches of both the knowledge and the wisdom of God. How unsearchable are His ways and His paths beyond finding out.”
And so, what we know is it does a couple things. One, reverence for God’s Word and then humility with each other. And just all for the unsearchable wisdom of God.
Here’s what I want you to get. Often, when people go through Ephesians, they want to argue about: is it more responsibility or is it more sovereignty? And can you imagine getting a love letter from someone overseas and arguing about: now, is this blue ink or black ink? Because I can’t quite tell. And miss the point: it’s a love letter.
The purpose is: I want you, I love you, and here are the implications. This wasn’t written for people to debate. This was written for people to know that the awesome God who spoke the galaxies into existence sent God the Son and He died in your place. And when He did, you cannot just be forgiven, but He wants you and whosoever will.
The Scripture says God is not willing or desiring that any should perish, but all would come to a knowledge of the truth. And he says, Ephesians, I chose you just like I chose Israel, and I chose Israel not to reject other nations. I chose them so they would be a light to share it with other people.
Now, let’s ask ourselves what it means to get an accurate view of God that I am chosen, number one; and that I am adopted.
What does God say about those who are in Christ? Number one, we are chosen by Him. Literally, we are picked out personally for Himself.
Notice, it’s unearned. It’s not based on what you do. It’s eternal; from the foundations of the earth. But here’s the core truth: you are wanted by God. Think of all the things we do to be wanted. We want to be attractive. We all got up and we dressed. I am guessing at least most of the women put on makeup. You thought about: what are you going to wear?
We want to be wanted. Our lives often are just filled with: if I can do this, or, if I could achieve this, or, if I looked like this, or, if I could have that, or, if I achieve that, then I would be more acceptable and then I would be wanted.
Can I just ask you something? What if that got solved? What if, in your heart of hearts, instead of needing and having and wanting to be wanted? I don’t really think this is right, but I don’t think he’ll love me if we don’t go to bed. You know what? I don’t think this is really right, but if I don’t let him on the traveling team or her on the traveling team, I know it’s messing up our family but I want him to really feel accepted by his friends. I don’t think that is a really good group for my daughter. I don’t think that’s really the right place, but I don’t want to be too hard, because she might feel rejected and miss out because her…
What if we taught our kids and what if all of us said: You know what? We all desire to be in. We all desire to belong. We all desire to be wanted. But what if we didn’t need it anymore? What if you were so wanted and so loved and so secure by the One who made you and the One who died for you and the One who you will spend eternity with forever and ever and ever, that you had a freedom to say, “I don’t have to work seventy-two hours. I don’t have to keep up with everybody at work. My kids don’t have to all get into these schools or those schools. If they do, it’s great. I don’t have to put pressure on them, because my value, my okay inside my soul – it’s not what other people think.” It really isn’t.
And, yet, this disease is in all of us, correct? So, the big question is: how do you break it? I think he goes on and tells us. He says you’re not only chosen, but you’re adopted by Him. That means complete in all the rights and privileges of being a part of His family.
It’s irrevocable. Once you’re adopted into His family, you’re a part of His family. And the core truth is you are accepted by God and you are His child. Now, let me give you a picture that will help you with this, because right now, your body language and your eyes are telling me, I’m leaning forward and I’d like to get this, but I don’t have it yet.
I have a friend who grew up in an orphanage. His name is Billy. He was in the orphanage until he was eight years old and everybody that he grew up in this orphanage with is people would come in, “I want this one. I want this one.” Billy kept – he’s left out, left out, left out, left out.
By the time you’re eight, most all of your cute, little friends are gone. And finally one day, a family walked in and looked at him and said, “We want you.” And so, Billy was adopted. His name was legally changed. They didn’t have any children, so he had a bedroom all by himself.
The family came in, he tells the story, that they came in the first few nights and he was sleeping on the floor. And they said, “What are you doing? We have this nice bed. We’ve got all these new things for you.” And he goes, “I have never slept in a bed. I am unworthy to sleep in that bed.” Hmm. And then they looked in the closet and there was food stuffed in the closet. Billy, when they weren’t looking, went to the refrigerator, he got food, and he hoarded it, and he stuck it – why? Because that’s what he has always done.
He didn’t feel loved, he didn’t feel worthy, he couldn’t receive love, and so His greed and His fear of rejection or not having, even though he was legally adopted and had a mom and dad who loved him, and his name was officially changed and he was deeply loved, he kept living like an orphan.
Can I ask you a really penetrating question? And if you can let the denial drift off just for a moment, how many of you are living like spiritual orphans? You are loved by God, but you are looking for it everywhere else. You are loved by God and He has a great plan and you are putting Him on hold and your whole life and your energy is about gaining approval and acceptance and love somewhere else.
Well, Billy grew up. He became one of my professors. And he has been dealing with this issue his whole life, even to adulthood, to the point that all those things about pleasing people, all those things about fearing rejection until God did a great work in his life. And then, at one point, he decided God called him to plant a church and he would take a risk. It used to be called South Hills.
And Billy’s name is Bill Lawrence. Bill Lawrence taught me to preach. Bill Lawrence figured out: he’s adopted. He is loved by a Father. He is cared for deeply.
He didn’t have to – when he went to school, he got this degree, that degree, that degree, that degree. He just kept running after: what will make me acceptable? Until even after being a pastor for ten years, he had a breaking moment. And he began to understand what it means to be adopted by a loving, caring Father that is in a reality in your heart.
What does it really mean to be adopted? When we hear the words that I have just shared, they make some sense to us, but they make a lot more sense to the people who got this.
That word adopted to us is, now, it means a lot to me. I adopted two boys. If you have adopted kids or if you are adopted, I will tell you, this passage means a lot more to you. But if you were in Ephesus and you were hearing this read, adoption, you would think the Roman law. The only people that get adopted are adults. They didn’t adopt children.
And the people that got adopted would be if my wife and I couldn’t have children and we don’t have any heirs, we would find the smartest, best, most wonderful person who was an adult in their, probably, mid-twenties or thirties and we would adopt them. And according to Roman law, their past life vanished. Even if they had any debts, it vanished. Their name was changed and they became officially part of our family. In other words, they earned it. They are such a wonderful person, they would be adopted.
And these Christians are reading this and saying, “That’s what a wealthy person in Rome would do. But God of the universe adopted us unworthy people? He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves?” Can you imagine this sense of, Wow! I must be valuable! I must be really important. I must be lovable. And that’s what happened to them.
I think J.I. Packer is right. Classic book: Knowing God. He has a section on adoption. And I love it, he says, at the end of this chapter nineteen, he says, “It’s a strange fact that the truth of adoption has been little regarded in Christian history. Apart from two nineteenth century books now scarcely known, there is no evangelical writing on it, nor was there any writing on it before the time of the Reformation, and there has not been anymore before or after.”
See, I think this is something that we haven’t taught. I think this is something that, down deep in your heart, the deepest emotional needs, the deepest relational needs, this sense of belonging that is supposed to come from God, we have so emphasized: “Come to Christ, turn from your sin, it’s a gift, it’s all about grace.” We have these stunted people that I think many or most are genuine believers living like orphans. And trying to find love and acceptance in everywhere but where they already have it.
So, let me give you a little journey. Thanks to J.I. Packer, I took a section of his chapter and here are five things that are true of us, all right? Of us orphans who have now been adopted.
Number one, when you are adopted, you are loved. See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God! And such we are!” Literally, the phase is: see what manner of love.
And that phrase manner of love, literally, it’s a general translation but it’s basically: how foreign. How different. How illogical that God would love us. Makes no sense is the idea.
The two greatest evidences of love in all the New Testament are, first, the cross. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died in our place.” And second, sonship and daughtership. It’s not just that He made is right with Him. It’s that He wants to be intimately involved in our life. He’s a Father. He wants to take care of us.
When Jesus is teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, how are we supposed to pray? “Father…” When He was risen from the dead, what did He say to Mary? “Mary, go tell My brothers,” He’s our elder brother now, “go tell My brothers, My God and My Father and your God and your Father…”
When He talks about the spiritual life and he says, “When you give and when you pray and when you fast, do it secretly so” – who? “your Father…”
God wants you to know, I’m your Father and I love you perfectly like a Father. You’re adopted, you’re really a part of My family. This isn’t theology. This is reality.
The second thing is that there is hope. “The Spirit,” Romans 8, “Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. And if children, heirs also – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ if indeed we suffer with Him so we may also be glorified with Him.”
In other words, when you are a child with someone who is really your Father, you’re an heir. My oldest boys, I had the privilege of adopting when they were about four and a half, or five.
I recently revised my whole estate plan. I have four kids. And everything I have is being passed on to all four of my kids. My biological kids and my adopted kids – why? Because after so many years, it never entered my mind they’re not mine. And God wants you to know – hope! Hope isn’t the economy. Hope isn’t if you meet someone someday. Hope isn’t if you go public. Hope is not about your kids getting into this school or that school.
Here’s hope. Hope is is that you are now a child of God and if you’re a child, you’re an heir. And what do you know? You’re going to get a resurrected body. You’re going to go to heaven for sure. There is going to be a family reunion. God is going to be with you forever and ever.
Hope is: in the midst of your hardest times, He may not snap His fingers and make everything go wonderful tomorrow. He will go through it with you, because He is your Father.
Some of you are really good dads. Some of you have had really good dads and really good moms. And you think back when you were a kid and the hardest times, in your first breakup, and the broken bone, and you didn’t make the first team and all the rest.
And your mom or your dad, they loved you. God says, That’s Me! For you! Not out there some way, somehow, but now.
The third thing that is true of us that are adopted, there is intimacy. “For you have not received the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba Father.’” It’s the most intimate, sensitive term. Aramaic for Papa; Daddy.
This isn’t this God that is far off that, Okay, I guess I need to read it – a chapter a day keeps the devil away. Gosh, giving, boy. That’s a big one. Maybe I should go on a mission trip. Do you realize so much of today’s evangelical Christianity is just transactional? “What do I have to do to somehow earn or gain God’s favor? And if I do these things, at least according to TV preachers, He has to do all these things for me.” And at the end of the day, it’s really not about intimacy and love. It’s really about getting what you want and using Jesus. It’s called idolatry.
God says, I want to give you the most intimate relationship. I want to love you. I want you to know that you can share with Me everything. And I am involved. And I want to bless you, not if or because you do this or that. I already am for you. I already love you. I want you to open the Scriptures to say, “Papa, how is it going today? And I need Your help.” And to hear His voice through the Word and hear His voice through God’s people and that you would be in love with God, not simply trying to earn His favor or be a good person.
My son, one of my older sons, went through a really big time of rebellion. And by God’s grace, he did a one-eighty. I remember sitting in the car and tears streaming down my face that we just couldn’t keep doing life and he was at the end of high school and I said, “You’ve got a couple days to decide whether you can keep living in our home or just the behavior and all the rest. If you’re old enough to do whatever you want, then maybe you need to do that somewhere else.” And it was after about three or four years of very painful times.
And just crying, “It would break our heart, but we love you. I don’t know what else to do.” And he went into his bedroom for a couple days and I think he reengaged with a God that he wondered whether He existed or not and went the very genuine doubts that all of our teens and young people do.
He came out later and did a one-eighty and began to really walk with God. I remember saying, “Son, what happened? I don’t get it. What…?” The change was so dramatic. And I was a pastor. You’re thinking, Maybe it was one of my sermons.
And in a moment of intimacy and tenderness he said, “Dad, I have doubted everything and I’m sure it was part of being a kid in a big church where people said all this stuff about you and feeling pressure. And I knew it was just outright rebellion. But I just began to, for two days, think, Jesus is so real to you and Mom. He’s just so real to you and you’ve got lots of issues, most of which I’ve been pointing out for the last three or four years, but you’re no different at home than you are at church.”
And he said, “You never made me feel like I needed to shape up so you would look better at church. I see you and mom talk and pray and I realize I’m not sure what I’m doubting, but He sure is real to you. And I asked God, Will You help me like never before? Will You be real to me?”
The reason we are losing our youth, by and large, is not simply what they are hearing in college and the universities. Of course, that’s difficult. And not simply just the culture. The culture has always been hard for youth. I think what they need to see is the reality of the intimacy in your life and your love with your heavenly Father, but it’s not, “We brought you to church, we dropped you off at the youth group, we put you in a good Christian school,” or whatever your plan is.
And somehow, it has become moralism. And their heart. They haven’t seen a heart that beats for God. They haven’t seen you cry over your sin. They haven’t seen that what really matters is not success and not education and not how you appear. It’s why in our weakness and our brokenness that God pours forth His Spirit.
This adoption is transformational. It leads also to holiness.
“For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines and He scourges every son whom He receives. It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as His sons; for what son is there that He doesn’t discipline?” And then he tells us why. “For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but God, He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness.”
We are so loved and so part of the family that anything we would do that would jeopardize us getting the best, God actually brings consequences. Some of the hardest times you’re going through, it’s not that He’s down on you. It’s He loves you so much He is trying to get your attention away from the idols and away from the media and away from all the different stuff that you are bombarded by, because He wants to draw you near. You do that with your kids. And He is doing it with you and me.
And finally, I love this, is when you understand adoption, there is assurance. In other words, you know that you know that you know. The apostle Paul would say in Romans 8, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And here’s what I want you to get is that you are loved and you are wanted. That’s who you are. You are wanted. You can want it and desire it from other people, but you don’t need it. And nothing can separate you from His love. You’ve got to declare that. Someone breaks up with you, you lose a job, your goals, your frustrations, all those things, they are going to go up and they are going to go down many times over the decades.
God is saying, I want you and I’ll be there for you. And all the things that really matter, I will never let go of you. Now, here’s the question: how do you get that in that great eighteen-inch journey from your head into your heart? So turn to the back of your notes, and I’ll show you.
These are the actual cards that my wife used. We wrote them on old 3x5 cards and they became so helpful that Living on the Edge printed them so that they would be prettier for people, I suppose. And thousands and thousands of people are doing what we did early in the morning.
First, the principle is: replace the warped mirrors and misbeliefs by the truth of God’s Word. Second, identify your lies that you believe and write them on the side of a 3x5 card. Now, you guys are high-tech. I’m a card guy, okay?
Example, for this one, “I must be approved or accepted by certain people to be happy.” Or, another lie, “I need other people’s approval to make me happy.” I’m telling you, you believe that with all your heart. You do stuff and you are making decisions about your family, your life, your career, your relationships that are simply rooted in this lie that you have to have their approval.
And I will tell you what, that’s the misbelief. Then I turn the card over, “I want people’s approval of me, but I don’t need it.” I’m as insecure as any and everyone in this room or whoever watches this wherever. I want you all to like me. We all do! But I don’t need it.
With God’s approval, I am no longer compelled to earn love and acceptance; I am free to be me. And you know what? Read that over in the morning, read that over in the night, read that over in the morning, read that over in the night. Because the core is this belonging.
And so, the next card is, “I am wanted, appreciated, and loved by God, the most important person in my life.” I watched my wife go for three or four years with my daughter, going through a series of these cards that she just read and she just read and she just read. You know what? I have a daughter that actually believes she is wanted, appreciated, and loved by God, the most important person in her life, and made some very hard decisions under peer pressure, because that got put into here that made it down to here.
She knew that she belonged. And when you really belong to Him, and you have a passage that says that, I will just tell you, you get free.
Now, here’s the deal. This is not like, Oh! I read those cards, two weeks later, everything is great. These are, you take one degree and you change it. I would encourage you to read this over, to write those on cards, and just say, “I’ll do this morning and night.”
And if you will, for sixty or ninety or a hundred and twenty days, you will begin to incrementally begin to believe that you’re a daughter of the living God and you’ll have desires that will change, that you won’t know, like, I don’t have to read the Bible. I want to. I don’t have to pray so long. It’s just an invitation. I don’t have to do this or do that. I don’t have to respond this way in work. I don’t have to make my kids happy every day, every moment, because you will understand that you belong and you will be set free.