by Erin Bird
Before I flew to Kenya four weeks ago, I loaded a digital copy of the book Gospel by J.D. Greear via the Waverly library’s use of the Libby app. While I didn’t finish the book during my trip, I enjoyed the first half so much I ordered the book and picked up where I left off a couple weeks ago.
In the book, J.D. shares what he calls “The Gospel Prayer.”It’s a prayer he’s been praying for years that has helped him truly live a Jesus-centered life, and not simply fall into cultural Christianity with its works-based approach to righteousness.
His prayer (which I’ve gently massaged to make it flow a little more smoothly) goes like this:
“Heavenly Father, in Christ, I know there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less. Help me realize Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy. Just as you have been to me, so I will be to others. And Heavenly Father, as I pray, help me measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.”
I want to take the next four weeks to work through the four primary parts of this prayer. So this week, let’s look at that first sentence: “I know there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less.”
If you are a parent, you possibly know first-hand the love many parents feel when they hold their newbornchild. This little one, who is only hours old in this cold world, has done absolutely nothing except breathe, cry, move, and fill their diaper, and yet you can’t help but feel like your heart is going to burst from love.
That’s how God feels for you, but a billion times more. He created You, which means His image is within you. (Genesis 1:26-27, Genesis 5:1-2, Isaiah 43:7, John 1:3-4) And through Jesus, He died for you for the remission of your sin (Romans 5:8, 1 Corinthians 15:3, 1 Peter 2:24). This means you are doubly His! He created you AND purchased you. That’s why J.D. says in his Gospel Prayer that God loves you SO much there is nothing you can do to make Him love you more or love you less.
I think we forget that God is not fickle like us. He is consistent. Yes, He can have anger over your sin. But even within His anger is a consistent fierce love for you. You are His masterpiece! So He does not love you based on what you do. Rather, He loves you based on what He did in creating you and what Christ has done through the cross.
Oftentimes, we make the mistake of thinking that we are “saved by grace,” but our spiritual growth comes through self-effort. We mistakenly think that in order for God to continue to love us (or love us more) we have to
- read our Bible (and if you do it every day you get brownie points!),
- pray certain prayers,
- wear certain clothes,
- eat (or not eat) certain foods,
- or even engage in certain rituals.
While God wants you to grow spiritually through the Scripture and prayer and giving and even sacraments like communion and baptism, engaging in these activities doesn’t make Him love you more. You engage in these things BECAUSE He loves you fully.
Your Past Can’t Haunt You
If you live with guilt over past sin, you need to know that Jesus’ death on the cross is powerful enough to forgive ALL your sin. Just look at the men and women in the Scripture who experienced forgiveness after doing the unthinkable:
- Peter denied the Son of God three times, yet became a key leader of the early church,
- King David had a one-night stand with Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba), and then covered up the pregnancy by having Uriah killed in battle, yet God (through Jesus) still fulfilled His promise to put a king on David’s throne whose reign would never end,
- the adulterous woman in John 8 (who deserved a punishment of death by stoning) was forgiven when Jesus said, “Go, and sin no more.”
- and Paul approved of the execution of Jesus-followers and later called himself “the foremost sinner,” yet God used Him to help countless numbers of people become Jesus-followers and write much of the New Testament to guide countless Jesus-followers for generations to come.
I don’t know what sin you’ve committed, but I do know that if God can forgive these sinful men and women, He can forgive you.
Getting Away With Sin?
As you hear this, part of you might start thinking, “So if God loves me this much that He forgives all my sin, does this mean I can get away anything? Like, does it even matter?”Yes, it matters! Sin is a HUGE deal! The penalty of sin is death. That’s why Jesus died on the cross for your sin to be forgiven. If He hadn’t died in your place, you would be liable to pay the penalty.
But when you truly realize the sacrifice Jesus made for you, you don’t want to sin! To gladly keep sinning after knowing Jesus paid the ultimate price is like receiving a gift then smashing it to bits, while asking for another present. When you truly appreciate the gift, you treasure it.
Therefore, God’s extravagant love isn’t a license to go and do whatever you want. Rather, His love is an invitationto live FOR Him and WITH Him.
And that’s how the first part of J.D.’s Gospel Prayer can help you. When you regularly pray, “Heavenly Father, because I am in Christ, I know there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less,” you can rest in this truth, motivated to live for God not to earn His love, but because of His love.