This being the apple season, our grandkids and I had a discussion over the weekend about this most wondrous of God's horticultural creations (especially McIntosh apples). Our granddaughter Emma (age 7) informed me that she likes things that taste like apples (cookies, candy, cakes). I misunderstood and responded, "Oh, I love apples too, Emma." Jackson, her older brother (age 8), immediately chimed in. "Emma doesn't like apples, Granddaddy" he said. "She likes apple products."
I found this amusing and also intriguing because their grandmother Frances (affectionately known by Jackson and Emma as "Grannie Frannie") shares the same proclivity regarding strawberries. She loves their flavor, but dislikes their texture, particularly all the little seeds that adorn the outside of the berries. So, as with Emma and apples, Frances, uh, Grannie Frannie, loves strawberry products, but does not like strawberries.
All this makes me think of believers and our relationship with God, albeit in reverse. That is, our Heavenly Father always loves us, but He doesn't always love, as it were, our products. My mother echoed this sentiment during the formative years of my childhood: "I always love you, Glen" she told me on more than one occasion. "But I don't always like you." By this, she meant that her love for my person was fixed and secure. However, plenty of occasions arose for dislike of my doings (actions, words, attitudes). I knew this was what she meant, and I knew she was completely justified in this dichotomy of permanent devotion and occasional distaste.
The New Testament frequently delineates the difference between who we are and what we do. United to the Lord Jesus spiritually, we are "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6). God's love for us therefore abides as secure and inviolable as His love for Christ. "I have loved thee with an everlasting love" declared God to Israel, a devotion also directed in the New Testament to the church. "I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it, that the love wherewith Thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:26). The same acceptance, however, does not presently apply to our fruits. God does not accept our every doing, nor would we want Him to so violate His integrity. Works that proceed from His Spirit's motivation and enabling will abide forevermore as testaments of His grace as revealed through faith. Conversely, those that originate in our flesh will not remain when passed through the judgment fires of testing. He does not accept them now, nor will He ever do so. "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire" (I Corinthians 3:15).
To echo Jackson, human beings tend to focus on apple products rather than apples. God, on the other hand, "looketh on the heart" (I Samuel 16:7). Indeed, to the praise of His glorious grace, He looks into His trusting children and beholds the indwelling Spirit of Christ, as united to our own spirit (I Corinthians 6:17). He loves us. We must also praise and thank Him that He looks upon our fruits with both approval and rejection. This no less constitutes His love than His acceptance of our person. One day no difference will exist between our essence and its expression. This is not that day, however, and I'm glad that Jack and Emma reminded me of a vital spiritual truth that fosters security in the love of God for us, but also seriousness in our love for Him.
"He hath made us accepted in the Beloved… We labor that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
(II Corinthians 5:9-10)
Weekly Memory Verse
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.