Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The First of Millions

To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

                        John 1.12-13

Acceptance for Acceptance

Since we abhor—and many of us are victims of—religious rejection, we tend to think of “acceptance” from our side of the counter. By faith, we know God accepts everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, or orientation. We’re correct to believe this according to Acts 10.34-35, where an epiphany leads Peter to shed his bigotry against Gentiles. “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right,” he says. Yet if we look at his confession, we find he is not suggesting Jesus’s death and resurrection purchased blanket acceptance for one and all.

God’s love comes without condition—it’s universal. His acceptance does not. It carries requirements and while they have nothing to do with those mentioned above, they exist nonetheless. Peter says God accepts everyone who honors and obeys Him. John asserts the same thing but puts it differently. He says God’s acceptance hinges on our acceptance of Christ. It’s quid pro quo, acceptance for acceptance. Rejecting Jesus won’t diminish His love. But until we receive Him, we’re ineligible for the rights and benefits of His acceptance.

Unrecognized and Unwelcome

John prefaces his statement with this: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 10.11-12) Unfortunate though it was, Jesus’s rejection was pivotal to His mission and happened precisely to plan. Pondering this for a moment unearths a number of truths that lock together. As our surrogate, it was essential for Jesus to endure hatred, intolerance, and the sorrow of feeling unrecognized and unwelcome. “The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” Isaiah 53.6 says. He became like us in every way to become the perfect sacrifice for all sin. He also became like us, so we could be like Him. Thus, it’s truly magnificent that His acceptance of us is predicated by our acceptance of Him. How many of us realized we were actually emulating Jesus the moment we consciously accepted Him as our Savior? Yet that’s exactly what happened. When we decide to follow Christ we are following Christ. That’s amazing in and of itself—but there’s more to come.

God’s Children

Social rejection wasn’t Jesus’s problem. Indeed, the Gospels stress He was extremely popular, possibly even famous, constantly surrounded by crowds and hangers-on. Still, His high profile and being thronged—even the power of His words and deeds—didn’t convince the authorities, pundits, and the masses kowtowing to them He was God’s Son. That’s what Isaiah means by “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” It’s why, in God’s quid pro quo acceptance, those who accept Jesus as His Son are granted equal rights as His children. When we receive Christ, a birth occurs in us no less spectacular or phenomenal than His. John says it’s the same thing—God brings another son or daughter into the world without human assistance.

Jesus was the first of millions conceived by the Holy Spirit. You’re one; I’m one; everyone who accepts and believes in Christ is one. No one can change that, despite how many desperately try. That night long ago, when a virgin wrapped her tiny Son in rags and cradled Him in hay, a process began that continues to this day. We accept Christ. He accepts us and offers us the right to be God’s children. We accept His offer and claim our inheritance through Him. It’s so beautifully simple that, as a minister I greatly admire says, “You’d have to hire someone to help you misunderstand it.”

Anyone who accepts Christ and believes in Him is accepted--and given the right join millions who are born of God.

(Tomorrow: Good and Perfect Gifts)

Postscript: Subscription Update

To those of you who subscribe to Straight-Friendly, I apologize for the irregularities you've experienced receiving new posts in your email. Somehow, I screwed up the feed--ask me not how, but know I'm such a techno-numbskull it's no surprise. I believe it's been corrected now and will immediately send out the posts that went missing. If you experience further delays, please let me know ASAP. (And Merry Christmas, everybody!)

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