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When I was growing up, this was my view of God: God doesn’t like me. Generally, i thought He looked at me with a frown on His face, or at the very least, a look of disgust. “She knows better. Why is she doing such a poor job of living the Christian life.” The older I have gotten, the more I realize how untrue this caricature is.

This is a lie Satan loves to feed us. He first started telling it to Eve in the Garden of Eden. “You know Eve. God is trying to spoil your fun. That’s why He doesn’t want you to eat from that tree.”

While it is true that He is holy and I am not, I also see very strong themes of God’s love flowing through the Bible. It is not a superficial love, but rather, the kind of love that sacrifices for another. This is also a love combined with justice. It is a love that doesn’t give in to the tantrums of a child or crumbles to keep the child quiet by giving her candy. This is not who God is.

It’s no accident that legalism played a big part in my childhood and teen years. It left a huge imprint on my life. I’m certain that is where my view of a disapproving God came from. It’s also where that constant desire for approval from Him came from. I kept trying and trying. But I knew I was always falling short.

I was already a Christian, yet I kept trying to earn God’s approval. I already had it because of Jesus!

I just didn’t really understand what happened when Jesus died for me. Jesus lived the perfect life for me that I never could. The problem is that I already was a Christian. I didn’t really understand the theology behind what happened when I became a Christian. I didn’t understand that Christ lived the perfect life I could never live. I didn’t have to work so hard anymore to earn God’s approval.

It doesn’t mean I could do anything I wanted. It just means my efforts needed to be in a different direction.

When Jesus died, He said, “It is finished.” All that striving to appease God is over. Jesus did it on the cross. Now, as the beloved child of God, I can move forward into the world with the good news of the gospel doing the things I need to do. I can live out the fruit of the gospel that shows in my life as God’s child. Some are mentioned here. (Galatians 5:21-22) I am free to live out the fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life.

I can reach out to those around me in creative ways as I use the spiritual gifts God has given me both inside and outside of the church. (Romans 12:3-8, I Corinthians 12:4-11, Ephesians 4:11-16, I Peter 4:7-11.) [These are four major areas of teaching on spiritual gifts. Most are in the complete chapter except for the I Corinthians one. That is found in I Corinthians 12-14.]

I no longer need to live as an orphan who is trying to please someone from the outside because I am the child who belongs to the family. I have been adopted into the family. I am deeply loved. God looks at me with pleasure as He watches me grow and mature in the ways I need to, to serve the Kingdom.

 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Galatians 4:7 ESV

God looks on me with a delighted smile. I am His child. Jesus has lived the perfect life I never would be able to live.

Now I am free to serve God with a grateful heart as His child who has been totally accepted and loved. The motivation is very different. So instead of looking on me with a frown, it is with a smile. If I am not a Christian yet, He looks on me with a sad smile that feels for me and how hard I am making it for myself.

Now He delights in me as His child.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 ESV