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Three levels of acceptance

by Jacob Ninan

1. Acceptance from God as His children

The most fundamental need in our life is to get right with God and to be accepted by Him. He is the One who created us, and the One to whom we have to give an account one day. We know that no one can go to Him on the basis of his own merit, for having been 'good' or having done good things. None of us is good enough. On the contrary, any one of us can find acceptance by God if we go to Him acknowledging our sins and our sinful condition, and receive forgiveness from Him on the basis of the death of Jesus in our stead. The worst sinner can be accepted on this basis, and the most 'civilised' sinner only on this basis.

It is most important for us to know and be sure that God has accepted us. This alone can give stability and security for our lives, and make us bold before the devil and people. If we know that God is on our side, we need not be afraid of anyone else.

Once we have been accepted by God as His children, what we lose if we fall into sin is fellowship with God and not His acceptance. We should not start wondering if He has now become angry with us and rejected us. He loves us as a Father, and even though our sin would grieve Him, He would never stop loving us. He has promised that He would never forsake us or leave us (He.13:5). We can get back into fellowship with Him by confessing our sins (1Jn.1:9). Even if we have gone far away from God in backsliding and messed up our life like the prodigal son, there is a way back to God. God will never turn away anyone who goes to Him in repentance and faith (Jn.6:37). If He tells us to forgive someone who sins against us again and again and comes to us asking for forgiveness, He will not turn us away even if we have sinned for the umpteenth time and then go back to Him (Mt.18:21,22;Lk.17:3,4).

Does this mean that once we have been accepted by God sin is not so serious? No. Paul tried to make this very clear (Ro.6:1,2,15). Just like it happened to Adam and Eve when they sinned, we will also lose fellowship with God, feel shame and feel like hiding from God. We cannot avoid having to reap the consequences of our sin even after we have received forgiveness (Ga.6:7). We could have become a little closer to God and enjoyed His love a little better if we had not given in to the temptation. We lose that particular opportunity forever when we sin.

The only way we can lose our relationship with God is if we reject Him ourselves and choose to go our own way. See FAQ on the eternal security of a believer.

The consequences of sin can be very painful to bear. God may chasten us in order to bring us to our senses, because He loves us too much to let us go off on our own way (He.12:6). Even after we have repented and received forgiveness, we may find it more of a struggle next time to overcome. The devil's accusations and temptations to discouragement may become stronger. If others know about our failure it can affect our reputation, and that can take time to be restored. But if we humble ourselves before God and willingly submit to His discipline, His acceptance can be just as sweet and clear as at the beginning. If we humble ourselves in the right way, God can even turn our failure to work for our good by giving us more gratitude and love towards God, earnestness and zeal to please Him in the future (2Co.7:10,11).

2. Acceptance by God for service

Paul says that God found him faithful and put him into a ministry (1Ti.1:12). God cannot entrust a ministry to anyone if He does not have confidence in that person that he can handle that responsibility. In Paul's case, God had seen how he had been honest, sincere and zealous to live according to all that he knew about God, even when, as a self righteous Jew, he did not really know God in the right way. God had watched Jesus for 30 years, and when Jesus was ready for His public ministry God testified to His approval publicly with an audible voice at the time of Jesus' baptism.

God calls His children into His service for various tasks. Just because we see that we have certain abilities, it does not mean that God has called us to serve Him with those abilities. Moses made that mistake when he was 40 years old and had been trained in the palace of Egypt. He thought that since he had the necessary qualifications he was the one God had called to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt (Ac.7:25). But he was not ready yet, because God had to take him through another 40 years of training.

God calls His servants in different ways. We cannot expect that His call for us should be in a way similar to what happened in the case of someone else. Our call may be through a clear impression in our heart, a particular verse in the Bible, a special circumstance or a combination of circumstances, through a dream, a vision or many other ways. But if God calls us, we will know that He has called us. God may use other people to confirm what He has already told us, but God has a direct contact with all His children in the new testament times. One needs to be especially careful if one's call seems to come essentially from another person. Many are the cases where people have been misled in this way.

God usually calls people in an extraordinary way if their task is extraordinary or if it would be normally difficult for people to have faith to do the things He wants them to do. But for most people, His call comes in a very common way, as a longing or a burden in their heart to do what they are called to do. For example, the person who is being called to be an evangelist finds in his heart a burden to reach out to those who have never heard the gospel or responded to the gospel. Since there are many different tasks in the body of Christ, more than what are specifically listed in the Bible, we all must seek to find out from God what exactly He wants us to do.

God's support for us in serving Him is the proof that He has called us for that particular task. We will find that He is with us, encouraging us, guiding us and bringing out results. Many times, 'results' may take a long time to appear, while we toil on patiently carrying out what He has entrusted us with. But even when we cannot see results, we will know that God is with us in our life and work. Sometimes it may even be that we do not see any perceptible sign of His presence with us. If our conscience does not disturb us with the memory of some unsettled sin, He may be testing our faith which has to hold on to what He has told us and confirmed to us earlier.

God tests and prepares His servants, like He did with Moses. If a man is not found faithful after he has been given a ministry, God may ultimately remove that person from that responsibility and move on to another person. This is what happened to King Saul (1Sa.13:13,14).

On the other hand, God enlarges the boundaries of those who have been tested and found faithful (Mt.13:12).

All the service which people think they are offering to God may not be acceptable to God. Both Abel and Cain brought forth sacrifices to God. Abel's offering was accepted because God was pleased with Abel, and Cain's sacrifice was not accepted because Cain's life was not acceptable (Ge.4:3-5). A lot of 'service' may get no reward from God because He never asked someone to do them for Him or because they were done for wrong motives such as getting honour from men (1Co.3:12-15;Mt.6:1).

If there comes a time when we see that there is no more anointing on our work, we must be honest enough to recognise that God is not pleased with our work, however much we may think we have laboured and sacrificed for Him. Perhaps there is disobedience or some other form of sin which makes our service unacceptable to God (1Sa.15:22). Perhaps we were sincere and faithful when God called us, but we may have drifted away to seek after money or honour, or become proud in our heart because of success, and become careless with sin or obedience.

God is extremely patient with us, and He knows our feeble frame. He will restore our fellowship with Him when we repent and confess our sins into which we have fallen. But if the sin is extremely serious, if it is a case of repeated negligence to listen to His warnings, or especially if it has brought public reproach to His name, He may not immediately restore our ministry (Nu.20:12). This is because we have shown ourselves to be unreliable. God says He will 'restore' the time we have lost because of sin (Joe.2:25). But this is not necessarily in the sense of giving extra time physically. If our repentance is radical, our increased fruit in subsequent years can tend to make up for what we have lost earlier. If we become zealous in not sowing to our flesh anymore and sowing to the Spirit from now onwards, the time will come when the ploughman will overtake the reaper (Am.9:13).

We must differentiate between the acceptance He gives us personally when we confess our sins, which will be instantaneous, and His acceptance of our qualification for His service. One is totally unmerited, and the other is dependent on our faithfulness also. It is not that a call for serving God is not part of His mercy and grace but something we have to earn. Even when we are chosen vessels to accomplish God's purposes we are only vesells of His mercy, and even after we have done what we have been asked to do, we are still only unworthy servants (Ro.9:23;Lk.17:10). But at the same time we must remember that God cannot use us if we have not shown ourselves to be trustworthy.

Even when the anointing has departed, we may be tempted to carry on with the ministry because we do not want to lose our position or reputation. When King Saul was disobedient to God and God decided to take away the kingdom from him, he first tried to argue that he had not sinned, and then started to plead that he should be honoured before the people (1Sa.15). He did not want his honour to be taken away from him. If we have gifts and abilities that impress others, very few people may be able to see the difference that has come in our ministry because of the lack of anointing. When the anointing had departed from Israel after King Solomon had drifted into idol worship and his son Rehoboam had taken over, the king of Egypt came and took away the treasures from the house of the Lord including shields of gold. King Rehoboam tried to cover up by making shields of bronze in their place (1Ki.14:25-27). But just as bronze is nowhere comparable in value to gold, human service is powerless compared to a service with the anointing of God.

If God takes away His anointing from our ministry, it is good for us to recognise that our sin is serious, and to humble ourselves accordingly. It may be that God will restore our service to us after a period of chastening or give us another work to do (La.3:29). Certainly it will not do to carry on as if nothing has happened.

3. Acceptance before people

God wants the leaders in the church to be those who have a good reputation before people (1Ti.3:2). While this is specially true of leaders, we can take the principle to apply to all who want to serve God. It is obvious that if the people do not have any confidence in us, they will not accept any spiritual service from us.

People's confidence or its absence cannot by itself be a dependable guide to what God thinks about us. Generally speaking, people admire those with charismatic personalities, outstanding abilities, etc. But these are not marks of godliness. In this case, acceptance by people does not indicate acceptance by God. If we have an anointing from God and people do not value us because we do not have the type of things they are looking for, it does not matter either. Paul had no attractive personality or impressive skills, and yet he had the anointing of God (2Co.11:5,6).

On the other hand, if we have lost the confidence of people because of some failure on our side, we must not be in a hurry to assert our authority and ministry. It is time for us to humble ourselves before God and wait for the time when He gives us back the anointing.

In conclusion, let us be bold knowing that God has accepted us in His mercy, having blotted all the sins of our past, and let us strive to love Him in our heart and with our life. If we slip up and fail, let us not lose any time wondering if God would take us back. Let us get up and run back into His loving arms. Let us seek to have a sober, realistic opionion about what God thinks about us, not doubting His love for us, but seeking to glorify Him in every way.

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