Who are You?” they asked.
“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say about you and much to judge. But the One who sent Me is truthful, and what I have heard from Him, I tell the world.”
They did not understand that He was telling them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing on My own, but speak exactly what the Father has taught Me. He who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, because I always do what pleases Him.”
As Jesus spoke these things, many believed in Him. (John 8:25-30)
This coming weekend, we have a special family get together planned. All of my children and their significant others, and my grandchildren will be together.
It’s something I look forward to more than anything else. I miss my children keenly. I love my current life, and it’s deeply fulfilling. Yet my heart longs for that time when the children were at home, and we were a solid unit. There was a very deep sense of identity, that we were a family together then.
Now, we ‘re scattered. And we’re still a family. But that cohesive identity of us as a unit isn’t the same. We each have our own lives. I miss being one with my children, and it feels like an arm or leg has been cut off.
Some of it has to do with a sense of belonging. Our family is who we are. It’s where we belong.
And that’s what I’m thinking about as I read today’s red letter passage. Jesus had a very strong sense of belonging with his Father. His overarching identity was as his Father’s son. He did nothing without his Father. He spoke nothing but what his Father taught him He was completely connected with God.
Do we have this very strong sense of belonging with God? Is that our identity?
We have to realize that we don’t belong to the world. Trying to fit into it will only leave us frazzled and empty.
We don’t belong to others. Trying to please them is a never ending treadmill.
We don’t even belong to ourselves. I tell you, I can be a hard master. I can tell myself that I’m never good enough.
The only place we really belong is with God.
“Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.” (I Peter 2:25)
That’s what Jesus felt. He only wanted to please God. God was his Father. He didn’t obey him just for the sake of obedience. He loved his father with all of his heart, and was completely devoted to him.
I really want to understand this better. Because I can’t just feel comfortable and safe with God sometimes. Surely he isn’t pleased with me. Surely I should be doing more, doing better.
Brene Brown wrote, “True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
How can I increase my self acceptance? The best way has to be by believing that God accepts me.
There’s a really touching children’s book by Max Lucado called “You Are Special.” It’s about small wood people called Wemmicks, carved by a wood carver named Eli. At one point Eli reassures one of the wood people, Punchinello, who sees himself as flawed because that’s how others see him, “What they think doesn’t matter. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special.”
Punchinello asks, “Why do I matter to you?” And Eli replies, “Because you’re mine. That’s why you matter to me.”
The book illustrates what God feels about us. God reassures us, “You’re special. You’re mine. That’s why you matter to me.”
We are His, wonderfully created. And so we can accept ourselves.
We don’t belong because we do all of the right things. We do the right things because we belong.
So as I spend time with my family this weekend, may that wonderful feeling of belonging that I have with them remind me of the feeling I can have with I’m with God. He is home.
I’m going to be honest. I’m not there yet all of the time. But I want to get there more.
Here are a few practical ways to see God more as the place we belong:
- Study out the story of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32)
- Meditate on Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
- Pray the Lord’s prayer, remembering that it starts with calling God, “Father,” or more literally, “Daddy.”
- Pray that the Spirit will teach us. “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (Gal 4:6. Also Romans 8:15)
- Repent daily of belonging to the world, to others, or to ourselves.
- Stay connected to God and Jesus. Remain in him. Walk in the Spirit.
- Practice the Greatest Commandment. Love God with all of your heart, soul, strength and mind.
It’s this last one that I want to focus on in closing. I’ve realized that I am not going to feel like I belong to God, unless my heart belongs to him. I know that should be a no brainer, but there are so many times I try to convince myself that he loves me and accepts me, like these are the requirements for me to then believe in him and love him. When I just blindly pour myself out in love to him, it all comes together.
This devotion is what Jesus had. The context of today’s red letter passage is that Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, and the Pharisees were challenging him. He made the claim that he was the light of the world, and they tried to undermine his testimony. Yet, what’s so cool is that, even with the Pharisees throwing up a screen, many of the people believed in Jesus as he spoke.
Why did they believe in him? I believe it’s because he was single-minded. He was so visibly all about God.
Jesus projected a pure heart towards God. His identity was like a flood light. It attracted others to him.
The more we belong to God, the more we will be the same way.