WHEN YOU’RE NOT SURE GOD ACCEPTS YOU by Chris Vogel for Core Christianity
I admit that I was (and am) an athletic misfit, but I suspect I wasn’t the only one always picked last for kickball in school. Did you ever eat alone in the cafeteria? Were you ever rejected by the “cool kids” in high school?
We all need to know that we are accepted, valued, and loved, but deep down most of us struggle with a visceral sense of rejection and pervasive lack of assurance that can’t be explained away by painful childhood memories. To go through life and have no recognition of ever being slighted or rejected may be more demonstrative of a narcissist than a normal person. Being assured that we are accepted is something we all desire but struggle to obtain. The student with good grades fears doing poorly. The athlete knows there is someone better and that his or her days are numbered. The salesperson dreads the annual review.
We all struggle to belong, to know where we “fit in.” It happens even in churches. When you walk through the doors of a church, you immediately wonder, “Do I belong here? Will I be accepted?” When you look around it seems that others have their acts together: their marriages are strong, they are successful in their careers, their kids do well in school. They look better, dress better, and behave better. It is clear God accepts them. Right? Wrong. The guarantee of our acceptance doesn’t come from fitting in or being accepted by others, but by God’s own promise to accept us when we flee to him for refuge and safety.
Hebrews 6:13-20 provides the basis of God’s promise and reminds us that our assurance is guaranteed by his own oath. Throughout the letter, the author of Hebrews encourages his readers to put their hope in Jesus, because he is superior to the other anchors they would have looked to in their previous lives as Jews. Jesus is superior to Moses, the Aaronic priesthood, and the sacrificial system. In 4:11-6:20 the author pauses to emphasize the importance of being diligent to enter God’s rest (4:11), to hold fast to one’s confession (4:14), and to draw near (4:16). What follows is a strong warning in 6:4-8 not to fall away, but with it all hope for assurance seems to be stripped away. While he desires that we have full assurance of hope until the end (6:11), you and I may be left quaking in fear that we may not be accepted. It is then we are reminded of the basis of our assurance: not our performance, but God’s promise.