God Is

Day 47

Dear God: Count Me In

Read your Bible: 1 John 3:1–3

Spotlight Verse:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!1 John 3:1

Earlier I quoted from the book Children’s Letters to God. I can’t get enough of the innocence and honesty in these letters, so here are some more:

Dear God, If you give me the genie lamp like in Aladdin I will give you anything you want. Except for my chess set. And my money.

Dear God: Thank you for my baby brother. But what I prayed for was a puppy.60

These letters are all cute, but it’s striking to me how many times these letters show kids trying to strike the same bargains with God that grown-ups do.

Often these letters show the kids’ thinking of religion as a quid pro quo arrangement. That’s a Latin phrase meaning “this for that.” They reason that if they do certain things, then God will be more or less obligated to give them certain things.

It’s like this child’s letter to God:

Dear God: Well I did what I promised but You did not send me the horse yet. What about it?!

Ever do that?

“Well, God, I did not miss a church service all year. But You did not send me the new job yet. What about it?!”

“Well, I went on the mission trip, but You did not send me the new spouse yet. What about it?!”

God owes you nothing

Jerry Bridges, an author famous for writing about the spiritual disciplines, gives an urgent warning:

My spiritual disciplines, like a quiet time, Bible study, Scripture memory… formed the foundation for my spiritual growth. However, I came to believe that my day-to-day relationship with God depended on how faithfully I performed them. My experience is not unusual. One student told a friend of mine that he was diligent in his daily quiet time “so that nothing bad will happen to me.”61

But the Bible says that God is no man’s debtor. He is God. He does not owe you or me anything! (See Romans 11:35)

The more I study the attributes of God, the more I realize: God owes me nothing.

He doesn’t owe me any answers to prayer.

He doesn’t owe me any explanations.

He doesn’t owe me a certain quality of life.

I can never do anything to put God in my debt, because He is God! If God is God, then He is under no obligation to puny creatures like me.

Yet… God is gracious and loving. He doesn’t owe me the blessing of eternal life, but instead offers it freely. In fact, He lavishes love on me and you.

He designed, He initiated, and He completed the plan for your salvation. There’s nothing you can do. So He did it all.

That frees you and me to just receive it.

Like the little boy in this letter:

Dear God: Count me in. Your friend, Herbie.

That’s what it looks like to lean fully on the love and grace of God. You don’t insist on anything. But you receive everything.

But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12 (NLT)

We have all benefitted from the rich blessings He brought to us — one gracious blessing after another. John 1:16 (NLT)

You know what? Being loved like that changes you.

When you’re loved lavishly, it changes everything.

Everything good I do
is a result of the gratitude I feel
as a recipient of God’s grace.

Like Isaiah after he is cleansed, I want to go out for God.
I want to love
and give
and have compassion
and forgive,
because that’s what’s been done for me!

I pray that you always keep the simple child-like faith of Herbie: Live in simple, awestruck wonder of what God has done out of His infinite love for you!

God is… gracious!

Questions For Reflection

How do you slip into quid pro quo thinking? Why are we often tempted to think like that?

Is it difficult for you to think of God as totally gracious? Why or why not?