"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children" (Ephesians 5:1).
Our understanding of God's perception of us is vital in motivating genuine faithfulness to Him. We are to follow Him "as dear children," that is, we are to know God as a father who cherishes us and counts us as precious to Himself.
Many believers do not live their Christian lives in this blessed atmosphere of grace and truth. Too many sins and failures have consigned them to the notion that God is so displeased that there is little reason to expect His loving favor. Sin is unquestionably a serious matter in the believer's life, and being "dear children" does not preclude our Lord's displeasure with carnal words, attitudes, and actions. Nor does it mean that He will not chasten us if necessary (Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 12:6). However, in the most elemental sense of our person and being, God's favor is eternally upon us as a free gift of grace (Ephesians 4:24). We are "accepted in the Beloved," our Father is "for us," and we are spiritually enrobed in the very righteousness of Christ Himself (Ephesians 1:6; Romans 8:31; I Corinthians 1:30).
Growing awareness of such Biblical assurance begets growing desire in the believer to respond in heartfelt devotion, and tangible faith and obedience. Love begets love (I John 4:19). Our Father has no interest in a mere grudging obedience resulting from a heart devoted to duty and discipline, as opposed to a consecration born in our hearts by the Holy Spirit's illumination of God's own heart toward us (Deuteronomy 28:47). We will be dutiful and disciplined as we walk with our Lord, of course, but such qualities will be known as the fruit of the Spirit rather than perceived as the means by which we walk with God. "The fruit of the Spirit is... temperance (self control - Galatians 5:23). He is in the process of redeeming the entirety of our being, with the heart always as His primary focus and scene of grace (I Samuel 16:7; Proverbs 4:23). Thus, our growing awareness of His heart toward us is a powerfully effectual perception that changes us into God's own image (II Corinthians 3:18).
How "dear" are we? Eternity will not be long enough to exhaust the answer to this question. The brightest light of our belovedness, however, shines forth from the darkness of Calvary. We are loved to the degree that our Heavenly Father sent His beloved Son to suffering forsakenness and death on a cross of horror in order to save us. Words don't adequately convey the reality, but they do change us as we ponder them more and more. May such pondering fill our hearts, and may our following become increasingly faithful as we more and more understand our place in God's heart as dear children.
"But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."