God loves me. But does he like me? (on being “Christ-like”) | Advent {8a}


UPDATE: Part 2 of this post is now up.

I have a quick confession. I technically ascribe to the “flavor” of Protestantism called “Reformed” that takes the roots of its doctrinal tradition all the way back to the leaders of the Reformation. The first church I really learned much of anything about Christianity and theology is Reformed…ish. The seminary I went to prides itself in being the bastion of orthodoxy for “Reformed” theology. My church is a member of the Reformed Church in America family of churches.

But, I’m not a good Reformed man.

For better or worse, there’s this primary strain of thought behind “Reformed Theology” that heavily emphasizes “God’s Glory” above all things and violently attacks anything that may try to steal some of that glory for itself. It emphasizes that the “direction” of all good and godly things is not from us towards God, but rather from God towards us. It talks a lot about our own weakness and our addiction to building our lives around everything else but God–about how apart from God’s unmerited saving and cleansing work in our lives we could never love God or be pleasing to God.

The good news (as it is presented) is that Jesus has come and lived a life pleasing to God and so when we trust in Him, we are mysteriously “joined” to him and his perfect life, so when God looks at us, he sees Jesus’ life and good works and is suddenly able to delight in us.

And I absolutely believe all these things. I do. So what’s the problem?

There are times I don’t simply want to have been made pleasing to God; I actually want to please God. Let me unpack this a little…

I really want to be able to offer God something of my own, as small as it may be, that will be pleasing to Him. I want to be pleasing to God. I want so badly to have something inherent to myself that God delights in (as opposed to just what Jesus has done for me and dressed me in).

But this isn’t good, traditional Reformed thinking about this. The usual Reformation thought is that if there is any ounce of something “delightful” in me, then that is an ounce of myself that Jesus did not have to cover with his blood; it’s something I can “glory” in.

But is there a way to believe that God’s subsequent, “post-union-with-Jesus” delight in me is not merely “legal” or a begrudging obligation on his part because I happen to be joined to His Son? Or is it a genuine delight: but only in His Son, and He merely looks right past/through me to him?

I’m not sure which thought is worse.

Am I alone in this sentiment? I want to hear and read those words “Well done, my good and faithful servant” and “This is my son, in whom I am well-pleased” and not just believe he’s talking to Jesus in/on me, but that God can truly be speaking to and of me.

I mean, I’m genuinely not wanting to take any glory or credit or whatever. It’s not me wanting to have “earned” any salvation. It truly is that I love this God so much that I want to lift my feeble, weak hands and know–just know–that he takes some pleasure in what I can offer–that he smiles over me and not just “Jesus in me”.

This has had some interesting implications in my life. I have no problem believing God loves me. I mean, he “gave his only begotten Son…”. But, if I’m honest, I have a really hard time believing he has any sort of real “liking” towards me. And this ends up being a root cause of much anxiety in my life–of my seeking this sense of being “liked” or “wanted“.

But Advent has helped me so much this year.

How? Well, tune in tomorrow.

In the meantime, has anyone else felt this sentiment before? How would you help someone feeling this way?

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8 thoughts on “God loves me. But does he like me? (on being “Christ-like”) | Advent {8a}

  1. Really good thoughts here. You’ve put your finger on a place where some Reformed theology has allowed its system to overturn the more pervasive way that scripture talks about us as agents standing in the presence of God.

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  2. I’ve never liked the notion of loving without liking. Begrudging delight seems like nonsense to me. I’m with Piper on that point. 

    As for the other concept—looking at you with delight only because He is looking *through* you… I definitely understand why this would bother you, and I’m trying to figure out why it doesn’t trouble me. I think perhaps it’s because this is only part of the story. This came up recently when Josh and I were preparing for a discussion with our small group about identity in Christ. The material was talking about Christ living through us and some of the wording could have been misinterpreted to mean that we should all live exactly as Christ lived—i.e. everyone should be a carpenter, everyone should teach in parables, etc. Obviously this isn’t what the writers meant and isn’t true.

    God made us all unique. He loves his creation. He loves your unique personality and gifts and abilities. He loves molding and shaping you into the man that He originally intended you to be. And your salvation and justification and sanctification is worked all through the righteousness of Christ—not your own. But it is still your unique life to live through Him. And one day you, too, will be glorified. 

    Would you agree? Are these thoughts helpful?

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  3. Pingback: God loves me. But does he like me? (on being “Christ-like”) | Advent {8b} | the long way home

  4. Lore: it is finished.

    JRD Kirk: Read Part 2 and let me know what you think. I’m definitely on the same page as you in the whole “Kingdom of God/Fulfillment of Israel vs. Personal Salvation” discussion. The direction I took this, though, was (admittedly) trying to work out the more “personal” dimensions of this from the perspective of a more holistic/corporate/creational-redemptive/Kingdom guy. I’m trying to figure out how to speak personally and deeply with the “language” and vocabulary that is the (as you said) “more pervasive way that scripture talks about us”. All that to say, I look forward to some of your more “pastoral” thoughts on Part 2 to help me learn how to bridge these gaps in my mind.

    Jen, that is so great. If you check out part 2 (linked above), you’ll see I land in a very similar place, but it’s so encouraging to hear someone else say it another way (with far fewer words than it took me, ha!). Thank you for your heart and your care, even from many miles away.

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  5. Pingback: HAPPY ADVENT!! {10} | the long way home

  6. Pingback: a beautiful quote on our security in the Incarnation (by T.F. Torrance) | the long way home

  7. Pingback: God loves me, but does He like me? | theology.josh

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