I have been meaning to get back to you to discuss further your identity in Christ, and particularly the second words—a dearly beloved—from my oft repeated “affirmation of identity”—I am a dearly beloved, blood bought, child of The King. Frankly, for many (dare I say most), fully embracing God’s love for me can be a most difficult act of faith! We often “get” the theology and some key verses (like John 3:16 or Romans 5:8) into our heads fairly early in our journey, perhaps responding to further statements of the truth with “I know that already!”, but taking it into our heart (meaning our whole being) seems, at times, nearly impossible! Papa, please touch our hearts with your love.
I hope you took time to read the email about John and Annie Glenn (which I sent last week under the “Loved as You Are” caption). I shared it with you because I think both John and Annie show us something of love: John, who looks beyond the exterior/speech impairment and loves Annie as she is (not because he sees “potential” in her, nor even hoping to change her)—he loves her; and Annie, who is willing to be loved as she is—not allowing her impediment and “self-consciousness” to delay or block her enjoyment of John’s love for her. I’m sure you see where this is going. Yet, I expect you are already throwing up mental/theological roadblocks! “Sin is ‘way different’ than a speech impairment!” Really? Not on God’s side! The verses which so readily come to mind make it clear that while we were still sinners God loved us (and, if I can move on in Romans 5 I would ask with Paul, How much more now that we have been reconciled?). The problem is not on God’s side, but ours! In our counterpart role, unlike Annie, we are often so focused on our self and our failures that we cannot welcome and enjoy God’s love for us (by the way, such a focus is not of God but rather a fleshy residue of trying to do good, rather than the fruit of trusting Him Who has made us good—but that’s a separate email!). As William Newell points out in his summary of some key truths of grace: To consent to be loved while unworthy is the great secret. Experiencing constant affirmation God’s love in each moment is both liberating and encouraging. Yet how few of us live there!
Think about what it must have meant to Jesus to hear such an affirmation of love from His Abba. It is a story we are all familiar with. Jesus journeys out to the Jordan River, where his cousin, John, is baptizing people. The two of them talk and Jesus insists that He, too, be baptized by John. The scene unfolds as the water engulfs Jesus and as He comes up from the water the spiritual realm opens before them, The Spirit visibly descends upon Him in the form of a dove, and His Abba speaks from Heaven—this is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Think about how Jesus must have felt. Can you enter into that with Him? What great affirmation! To know I am loved, just as I am, right now, in this moment. Of course, you might be playing one of those “but I’m not Jesus” recordings in your head right now (by the way, the ‘voice’ saying that to you is not Jesus!). How hard it is for us to remain focused! Our flesh works to keep us from the truth (for it fights against the Spirit)! Sorry. . . . Where was I . . ., oh, Think about how Jesus must have felt. . . . Loved by His Abba (Papa). Allow the Spirit to use your imagination (right now) to the point that you experience that moment as if you were the one over whom those words were spoken. Loved by Abba (Papa). How do you feel? What is it like to hear those words?
Of course, that was Jesus. Yet, with that vicarious pleasure still fresh, consider the words of Jesus in prayer. As our friend, as our older brother, He says to Abba (Papa) that He (Abba, Papa) loves us just as He loves Jesus! Really! I’m not making this up! Read it yourself in any version you choose, at John 17:23. Here it is from several:
. . . and have loved them as You have loved Me (nkjv)
. . . and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me (msg)
. . . and have loved them, even as You have loved Me (nasb)
. . . and that you love them as much as you love me (nlt)
You might need to ‘take a minute’ with that. You are sensing His affirmation, aren’t you? Let it flow! . . . Allow the Spirit to take you wherever He leads, and in the midst of His working consider returning with Him to your baptism, to experience it again—this time with your spiritual eyes wide-open to the spiritual realities. Hear the words of Papa, spoken over you, . . . This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased. . . . Loved by Papa. . . . Just as He loves Jesus!
I invite you to say with me: I am a dearly beloved, blood bought, child of the King.
Live as one loved of Papa, because you are.