But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. —Romans 5:8
As I stared at the sleeping, pudgy, pink bundle I held in my arms I was overwhelmed with a feeling I had never experienced before. He was absolutely breathtaking. I loved everything about him—his lips, his ever-so-kissable cheeks, the little rolls on the back of his neck, even his breath smelled good! The tremors, the nausea, the contractions, and painful, long labor didn’t even matter to me anymore—he was worth it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. There was nothing this beautiful little baby could do to make me stop loving him or wanting him. I loved him no matter what. I loved him unconditionally. That’s what it took for me to finally grasp God’s great love for me—giving birth to my first child.
Some Christians immediately start walking obediently through life once they give their life over to Jesus. They actively seek to do God’s will, they pray faithfully, share their faith often, and they never seem to make any mistakes (which isn’t true, obviously). I was not one of those Christians, and people that have known me for longer than ten years can attest to that. I became a Christian at a young age, but that didn’t prevent me from making A LOT of mistakes. There have been periods of my life where my actions were not that of someone who professed to love Jesus. I’m sure the word “hypocrite” had been thrown around a few times when describing me, and that probably wasn’t the worst. The thing is, deep in my heart I believed in Jesus and I loved Him, but somewhere along the way of making mistake after mistake, I started believing the lie that God didn’t love me. How could He? How could He possibly still love me when all I seemed to do was mess up? Sure, He loved and forgave others when they did, but not me, I was just too “bad”.
But then I became a parent and realized what a huge lie I had bought into. If I, a fallible human being, could love my child unconditionally, then how much more God loved me! Not only does God love me as His child, but He loved me when I was His enemy. Paul wrote to the Romans, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” If I had to pick a favorite Bible verse, this would be it. The reminder that God’s love has nothing to do with anything we can do for Him. We are born into a wretched and sinful state, and Jesus went to the cross to pay for it. To take our place—yours and mine. Our salvation is not based upon our merit. It is based exclusively upon Jesus—in His holiness, sinlessness, and righteousness—giving Himself over to the death that we deserve, because He loved us, no matter what.
I truly believe there are many Christians out there who are just like I was. They have faith in Jesus and started walking in God’s will, but after making a few mistakes, they were deceived into thinking they were no longer covered by His love and grace. The self-condemnation has shown up and taken over the knowledge of God’s promise to us that once we believe in Jesus, we become co-heirs with Him and spend eternity with Him. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Jesus literally paid the price for us. His righteousness has been credited to us. Our sins from the past, the present, and, yes, the future will not count against us. Spending seasons in our lives where we might stray away from God’s will for our life does not diminish the fact that He will be there to receive us, joyfully, with open arms when we come running back. We may be broken and have nothing to offer, but that is exactly the state we were in when Jesus willingly went to the cross for us. We may not feel like we are worth it, but Jesus obviously felt differently, even while we were in our worst state. Satan wants us to believe that most dangerous lie—that God doesn’t love us—but it couldn’t be further from the truth.
I would be lying if I said that sometimes I don’t get down on myself when I mess up. I’m a perfectionist at heart and I prefer structure and rules (although my husband might say differently), so grace can be hard for me to accept sometimes. It was hard for me to accept all those years ago, but I am so grateful I came around! My life doesn’t always run smoothly, and I can be a messy person, but there is joy and peace now where there used to be guilt and self-doubt. All because of my Father’s great love.