No Soliciting (Revelation 3:20)

I got locked out of my house last night. To make a long and convoluted story short, I had switched car keys with my wife earlier in the day. Prior to leaving the house for my daughter’s 1st grade orientation, I had made a giant steaming pot of my special chili with extra jalapenos, hot banana peppers and a secret blend of special spices. I was ready to dig into a steaming bowl of atomic fire goodness. When I arrived home, I realized a critical error: My wife doesn’t keep her house keys on the same key ring as her house keys. No house keys. Stuck on the other side of the door from chili so good that you need a whole bottle of Tums for dessert. All I could do was knock on the door and hope that my wife would have mercy on my growling stomach.

Do you have the same picture of Jesus? Is he the God who’s knocking on the door of your heart and desperately wants to come inside? Growing up in the church, I was often told that Jesus was a like a gentleman: He’ll knock on the door but won’t force Himself in. But is this imagery accurate? Is this picture of “the God who knocks” even true to its Biblical source material (Revelation 3:20)?

For that answer, we have to go to Jesus’ letter to the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22). This letter is the last of seven letters that the risen and glorified Jesus commands John to write to seven churches in Asia. At the end of each of the seven letters (including this one), believers are commanded to hear and apply the words that the Holy Spirit gives to the seven churches. So let’s stop and listen to what Christ is saying to us through the letter to Laodicea:

[14] “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. [15] “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! [16] So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. [17] For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. [18] I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. [19] Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. [20] Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. [21] The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. [22] He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Revelation 3:14-22 ESV)

Before we even get to Revelation 3:20 and the whole knocking bit, there’s another common misapplication found within the letter to the church of Laodicea. Revelation 3:15-16 is often abused as a demonstration that Christians should be “on fire for Jesus!”   And if you’re not as spiritually passionate as a Spartans cheerleader, then you’re spiritually cold, disgusting to God and probably need to repent before God sends your wishy-washy rear end to Hell. I once had a youth minister that made a sort of devilish Vin diagram on a white board during youth group. He then proceeded to made all of the youth group members place on “X” on the continuum of whether their faith was hot, lukewarm or cold. He then proceeded to tell us that unless we get “on fire for Jesus,” then God would puke us out of His mouth. Man, I didn’t want to get puked! I think I fudged that I was “mildly hot” … Barely out of the puke zone on the “puke-o-meter” crudely drawn on the white board.

Here’s the correct interpretation: Six miles to the north of Laodicea, the city of Hieropolis was famous for its hot springs. Ten miles to the east of Laodicea, cold spring water brought fame to the city of Colosse. Both cities had useful and valuable sources of water. In contrast, Laodicea had no adequate water supply and had to pipe in water from hot springs six miles away. The water arrived lukewarm into the city and was commonly cooled down in jars for everyday use. There is also some evidence that the water was also mineral-laden, making the water poor tasting. In short, Laodicea’s water was lukewarm, gross and useless. While hot and cold water have potent uses, there is little everyday use for lukewarm water. Case in point: Starbucks would be out of business if they only offered lukewarm coffee and tea. Similar to the city’s water supply, God has now found the Laodicean church to be gross and detestable, which is why they would be better off as either hot or cold (Revelation 3:15).

God goes on to explain why the Laodicean church was so contemptible: The church had become a Christless. The church had become so self-confident in its personal riches and accomplishments that they didn’t comprehend that they were actually “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). The church’s enormous material wealth had blinded them to their spiritually impoverishment. The church, which was located in a city famous for medical training and healing, had become spiritually blind to its sick and wretched condition. In response, Christ calls the church to surrender its material wealth for trustworthy and refined spiritual riches and to clothe their wretchedness in free white robes of righteousness and purity. The church in Laodicea proves there is no correlation between material prosperity and spiritual condition.

And here’s where we get to the whole knocking part of the letter. Revelation 3:20 is the verse that launched a million tracts and altar calls. The verse is the final verse in just about every evangelistic tract (don’t believe me … go check out Share Jesus Without Fear or The Four Spiritual Laws). Once the gospel presentation has been given to a non-believer, the presenter usually is trained to conclude with: “OK … Jesus is knocking on the door to your heart … Are you going to let Him in? … Or are you going to leave poor Jesus out in the cold?” Essentially, God is a gentleman and He just won’t barge into your life until you’re really ready.

Here’s the basic problem with this interpretation of Revelation 3:20: Who is the recipient (and intended listener) of this letter? The church at Laodicea … Not non-believers! Jesus is saying to His church: “HEY! I’m outside the door knocking! Let me in!” In its spiritual blindness, the church at Laodicea had divorced Christ from His church. Jesus – particularly in Luke – describes the age to come as a banquet. The concept actually originates in Isaiah 25:6-8, speaking of a time when God will prepare a banquet for His people and wipe the tears from their eyes. Jesus frequently talked about celebrating and sharing the table with his disciples in the age to come (Matthew 25:1-13; Matthew 26:29; Luke 14:1-24; Revelation 19:9). The sharing of a common meal at a common table was a demonstration of affection for one another. Now imagine having a birthday party, awards banquet or anniversary celebration without the guest of honor. It would be pretty silly. It’s equally as silly to celebrate the Messianic banquet while locking the Messiah outside. The Laodicean church has fellowship and affection for one another but not Jesus Christ. Revelation 3:20 really is a vivid image of Jesus locked outside of His house while the church is eating fried chicken and yucking it up without Him. Jesus has been locked out a building with His name on it.

Imagine a church completely disinterested in Jesus … to the point that they were ignorant of the fact they had locked Jesus outside the front door. Imagine a church so prosperous and self-sufficient that they had gone beyond needing fellowship with Christ.  Imagine a church that had forgotten Jesus’ words in John 15:5: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Some of you reading this blog are now thinking: “He’s describing my church!” And that’s the point. The modern church is supposed to hear the words of this letter and to avoid this error that God finds so gross.

So it’s incredibly ironic that Christians tend to use a verse intended as a warning to a church that makes God want to puke as a personal invitation to non-believers. Please hear me correctly on this point. While I’m not questioning that the presentation of the gospel demands a response from the hearer, Revelation 3:20 is not the verse to use to achieve that goal. In terms of evangelistic use of Revelation 3:20, I’ve heard some essentially argue that it’s OK to use a Bible verse out of context as long as the intended illustration/application is theologically accurate. Regardless of how well-intentioned and theologically correct, ripping a verse out of its context to serve a different purpose is never OK. A well-intentioned misapplication of Scripture is still a misapplication. As much as Christians complain about cults taking Bible verses out of context, we should follow the same standards in our interpretations of Scripture or we lose all credibility as well.

But – for the sake of argument – is the overall illustration being made even accurate? Is Jesus really a gentleman? Is he gently knocking on the door waiting to come in? I think this fluffy imagery takes the sharp edges off of God’s relentless pursuit of mankind’s affections. God went to the extreme to reconcile us back to Him through sending His Son to the cross. Is He no longer willing to go to extremes to save souls? Hogwash. When most adults and teens share their testimonies with me, it often begins with an account of how God turned their lives completely upside-down by allowing death, cancer, suffering, struggle, depression, sorrow or debilitating illness to come into their lives. Their struggles led them to the point whether they discovered their need for a Savior. God is willing to allow worldly ruin to come to you so that you uncover the spiritual riches in Christ. You can’t just stick the metaphorical “no soliciting” and “no trespassing” signs on the doorpost of your life and tell Jesus to go away. The entire earth is His (and everything in it … including us), and God cannot trespass on what rightfully belongs to Him. Go ask Moses, Balaam, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah or Paul whether God was ever-so gently knocking on the door to their heart.

There’s a reason why very few testimonies begin with people feeling sorry for poor meek and mild Jesus standing out on the cold and rapping his bruised knuckles against your door. The whole “why won’t you let Him come in?” tactic is manipulative and is not the gospel. Jesus is not some sad and lonely homeless person that just needs a good friend to share a cup of coffee with. Jesus is the exalted and risen Savior seated at the right hand of the Father in glory. Jesus desires our worship – not our pity. God is the One taking pity on us despite our wretched, unlovable and blind condition.

Let’s stick with presenting Jesus how He describes Himself in Scripture. In Luke 15:3-7, Jesus describes Himself as the shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep behind to rescue one lost sheep. When the one lost sheep is found, the shepherd picks it up on his shoulders and carries it home. The shepherd, his friends and his neighbors all rejoice that the lost sheep has been found. In Luke 15:8-10, Jesus describes Himself as the woman who lights a lamp and searches every nook and cranny and cobweb in her house for her lost coin. When the coin is found, she calls her friends and neighbors around to rejoice about the coin’s rescue. God’s heart is to actively seek out those who are in desperate need Him. God does not passively sit back and allow the lost to remain forgotten or perish. The most sturdy door that you could ever up could not keep Him from seeking you out.

I am thankful for a God that relentlessly pursues every one of His flock.

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Amnesiac (Matthew 18:20)

Have you ever had a moment where you walk into a room and forget why you went there? Have you ever gotten into your car and immediately forget where you want to go? Have you ever completely forgotten that critically, life-changingly important message the instant that you saw the face of the person you needed to speak with? Have you ever listened to a song on the radio and can remember the face of the artist who sung the song but not the name? It’s frustrating. I used to have a memory like a steel trap. Now I have more and more days where I can’t remember why I’m holding my car keys. I’ve noticed that my sweet wife is now leaving more and more reminders for my absent memory: A shopping list by the back door … A bottle dishwashing detergent above the dishwasher … A hand written note on the family white board. I try to blame it on getting old, but I don’t think my wife is buying it. It’s not like I don’t have two calendars on my office wall, one calendar at home and a calendar on my smart phone.

As Christians, we also tend to be a bunch of walking amnesiacs, forgetting that God is omnipresent and that He is always with believers. And this is probably the reason why Matthew 18:20 is so abused.

Unlike many other misapplications of Scripture, Matthew 18:20 is often misapplied in the most well-intentioned of manners. The verse is often quoted to reassure believers that Jesus is present when they gather in His name. More specifically, the verse is frequently quoted at the beginning of church business meetings to urge people to keep their knives and billy clubs under their chairs … because God is watching to ensure Robert’s Rules of Order are maintained. The verse is also invoked by both fundamentalist brylcream pastors and hipster Beiber-cut worship leaders as a way to invoke awe in the congregation because God has showed up in the building like Elvis. More personally, the first person that ever witnessed to me quoted the verse prior to his presentation, as if to remind me (and possibly himself) that Jesus was listening in on our conversation like an FBI surveillance van.

The verse is actually a part of Jesus’ message regarding church discipline in Matthew 18:15-20:

[15] “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. [16] But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. [17] If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. [18] Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. [19] Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. [20] For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:15-20 ESV)

In this passage, Jesus informs believers how to deal with sin in the midst of the church. First, the offended believer should take the matter to his sinful brother one-on-one (meaning: don’t text message all your friends or blab it all over Facebook). If that sinful brother refuses to repent, the offended believer should take another party with him. The final stage in the church discipline process is to refer the matter to the church. If the sinner is still unrepentant, the church should move to remove that person from the congregation, treating him the same as a Gentile or tax collector. Essentially, treat that person as a nonbeliever due to their hard-heartedness and pray for repentance and restoration with the church. And (without getting into the mechanics of how this works) Jesus has given the church authority to render such decisions regarding church discipline. When the church expels an unrepentant sinner from His church, then Jesus is present to endorse that decision. When we are invoking Matthew 18:20, Jesus’ endorsement of the weighty process of church discipline should be the frame of reference – not flippant use as a prooftext for the presence of God.

By ignoring the church discipline context, the passage is typically corrupted for two vastly different reasons. In some fundamentalist churches, the verse is used as a demonstration of God’s authority. The message: Remember that God is present and is watching you like a solider on the Korean Demilitarized Zone. In this manner, the message being sent is the same as my mischievous friend from High School chemistry class: “Turn off the bunsen burners! … Put the explosives under the fume hood! … The teacher’s coming!” The message about God is often the same: Don’t forget that the authority’s here! … Don’t forget that God’s ever-watchful eye is following you during worship (especially the teenagers)! … You’d better behave!

In the context of emergent gatherings, modern worship concerts and para-church youth groups, the verse is often illegitimately used in an experiential manner. There’s that quivering lip and tears falling moment during the last worship slow jam of the setlist where the worship leader closes his eyes and says: “Isn’t God is soooooooooo awesome? … He’s soooooooo good … And he’s here with us tonight … Remember that when two or more are gathered, He is here with us!” Essentially, you should know that God has heard our Hillsong United song, that God shown up and – if His presence doesn’t move you into a crying, messy heap on the floor – there’s something wrong with you. You should be experiencing God’s presence like a close encounter of the 4th kind.

But here’s the core issue: Are we saying that if we magically plopped one sole believer on a life raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that God is not with him? Are we saying that God is not present unless two or more believers are together in one place? Or – even worse – that God is somehow more uniquely and specially present when two or more believers are gathered? The answer to all of these questions must be emphatically “NO!” God is equally as present with the one lone believer in the middle of an Islamic country where Christians are routinely martyred as He is with the wealthy mega-church of thousands in the Dirty South. It is theologically incorrect to insinuate that God is only present when two or more believers are together. There are no limits on God’s omnipresence. Moreover, God cannot be summoned like a genie in a bottle or conjured like a witch’s coven. When we sit in a circle, hold hands and demand that the Holy Spirit show Himself to us then aren’t we just really conducting a glorified seance?

While it is totally inappropriate to use Matthew 18:20 out of context, the need for reminding ourselves the presence of God is serious and legitimate. It’s why an entire generation of Christians wore “WWJD” bracelets and t-shirts. It’s why youth ministers nauseatingly drill the words “quiet time” and accountability into the heads of their students. God’s followers have always had a tendency towards spiritual amnesia. In Deuteronomy 6:10-25, God warns the Israelites that they’ll retire in the Promised Land with homes they didn’t make and vineyards they didn’t plant. God warns the people not to forget about the mighty works He conducted during the Exodus. God warns the people that they are in danger of forgetting about their God. And as demonstrated in Judges, the Israelites do forget about God and His warnings … over and over and over and over.

Life in the Promised Land makes people forget about the Exodus. Once the Israelites were content and believed that they no longer needed salvation, they completely forgot about the One who saved them. Modern Christians suffer the same temptation. Once Jesus rescues us from sin and death, we are tempted to completely forget about Him. As a pastor, one of the experiences that frequently drives me to sorrow and discouragement is encountering those who claim to follow Christ but live in complete ignorance of their Savior. Through the years, many in church leadership have asked me about friends and relatives that live in this spiritual amnesia: “How can you truly experience Christ and then completely forget about Him?” The answers can be varied and numerous: Unrepentant sin … Pride … Spiritual warfare … But most often it comes down to a question of greatness.

We would do well to value Jesus as the highest and greatest wealth to be found in all of eternity. The kingdom of Heaven should be like the expensive and rare pearl that we would be willing to surrender everything for (Matthew 13:44-46). If we have completely forgotten about God’s greatness, did we genuinely experience His greatness at all? Have we had a true Isaiah 6 encounter with the exalted Lord where we respond by surrendering everything to Him? The world will tempt us to believe that we can find something higher and greater that Christ. The hustle and bustle of 9-to-5 paychecks, 10-page term papers, extracurricular activities, soccer mom van rides, adorable (sometimes) needy children and grandchildren, our smart phone calendars and a exceedingly long laundry checklist of other annoyances and things we “have to do” tempt us to re-prioritize our lives. We get spiritual amnesia.

Instead, our attitude should be one of Paul in Philippians 3:8: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” When Jesus becomes just another piece of junk collecting dust in the garage, it’s time to do some Spring cleaning before Jesus gets lost amidst the other garbage in our lives. Our spiritual amnesia is perpetually grounded in the belief that something spiritually insubstantial is more burdensome than the weight of glory found in Jesus Christ.

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Little Monsters (1 John 4:8)

If you could only use one word to describe God, what word would you use?

If you are a Bible-believing “worship-every-Sunday” Christian, you might use words like awesome … majestic … powerful … amazing. If you don’t see eye-to-eye with the Christian worldview, you might describe God as wicked … unfair … uncaring … cruel … imaginary. Amidst the thousands of human words available to describe who God is, most people of all spiritual flavors will point to 1 John 4:8 and describe Him in one word: LOVE.

Now don’t get me wrong … 1 John 4 does describe God as love, and – at its most basic level – there’s nothing wrong with that description. There’s no debating that the greatest example of love that the world has ever been given is the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross (John 3:16). God loved us while we were hateful rebels against His authority and evil enemies against His rule (Romans 5:8). When we love our enemies and forgive those who have wronged us, we demonstrate the love of God to a lost and hurting world (1 John 4:19-21). We love because He first loved us.

The problem comes when God is painted into a corner by saying that the singular defining characteristic of God is love. Within the realm of pop culture, this argument is made to state that people should generously love everything from Earth Day to Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Similarly, some will argue that God’s loving nature is an unbreakable law, and – if God is love – then God would be utterly incapable of being angry, insensitive or wrathful. Essentially, many will turn 1 John 4:8 into an unbreakable quadratic equation: “God = Love.” And bad things can only happen when we turn Scripture into a word problem.

As a result, God is often described as an overly-simplistic, one-note version of the complex, awesome deity in which He is. It’s like saying that God is a HAL 9000-like robot only programmed to love that cannot escape its programming (“Stop it Dave.”). If humans (which are the creation of God) are capable of expressing a wide range of moods, emotions and characteristics, why do we attempt to describe the Creator as a glorified simpleton that must rigidly and obtusely love at all costs? When John says that God is love, he is stating that love is one of God’s attributes – not that God and love are identical or that God cannot display anything other than love. God is a loving God. ‘Nuff said.

If you actually looked up the number of “God is (blank)” statements in Scripture, one would come up with a radically different view of the complex character of God. Just to allow Scripture to speak for itself, here’s a sampling of the number of “God is (blank)” statements that appear more than once in Scripture:

  • God is our strength (Exodus 15:2; Psalm 28:7, 118:14, 140:7; Habakkuk 3:19).
  • God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24; Nahum 1:2; Hebrews 12:29).
  • God is merciful (Deuteronomy 4:31; Psalm 111:4, 116:5, 145:8; James 5:11).
  • God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4; Galatians 3:20; James 2:19).
  • God is God (and no one else is) (Deuteronomy 4:35. 4:39, 7:9, 10:17; Joshua 22:34; 1 Kings 8:60, 18:21; Daniel 2:47).
  • God is a refuge (or tower/shield/fortress) (2 Samuel 22:32; Psalm 14:6, 18:2, 28:7, 46:1, 62:8, 84:11).
  • God is our salvation (Isaiah 12:2; Psalm 68:19).
  • God is holy (Leviticus 19:1; Isaiah 6:3; Psalm 99:1; Revelation 4:1-8).
  • God is good (Psalm 34:8, 100:5, 135:3, 145:9; Jeremiah 33:11; Lamentations 3:25; 1 Peter 2:3).
  • God is our portion (Psalm 16:5, 119:57; Lamentations 3:24).
  • God is righteous (2 Chronicles 12:6; Psalm 11:7, 129:4, 145:7).
  • God is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9, 10:13; 2 Corinthians 14:33; 2 Thessalonians 3:3).

At first blush, we can already confidently declare that our God is more complex and multi-faceted than a simplistic view of “God is love.”

More importantly, the first major self-revelation that God makes about His character is found in Exodus 34:6-8. After the whole golden calf debacle, God renews the covenant in the presence of Moses, and clues him in to nature of the God that he is worshipping: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” This statement, which is repeated an additional eight times in Scripture, is the defining statement regarding the character of God found in Scripture (Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3). This statement is the essence of the Gospel in a nutshell: God is both just and merciful. God demands faithfulness but responds with forgiveness.

Interestingly, the greatest number of “God is (blank)” statements are found in Deuteronomy, Job and Psalms … not 1 John. Through Deuteronomy, God emphasizes through the Law that He alone is God and worthy of all worship from His creation. In the account of Job, God gives Job the ultimate humbling verbal beat-down by initiating a line of questioning that can only demonstrate God’s power and might and man’s impotence. The Psalms describe God as a refuge, tower and shield to emphasize that God is merciful to His people. Yet again … these “God is (blank)” statements continue to point us to the essence of the Gospel: God demands our singular worship but responds with forgiveness when we fail. More importantly, the essence of this intricate character is found at the cross. The justice and wrath of God is satisfied through Christ’s death on the cross, and – as a result – those who repent and believe in Jesus as Lord can experience God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Why is 1 John 4:8 so misapplied? It’s really a misunderstanding of the nature of God’s love. In 2009, tween sensation Miley Cyrus tweeted to gossip columnist Perez Hilton: “God’s greatest commandment is to love, and judging is not loving.” Similarly, many in pop culture will argue that the defining mark of God’s love is acceptance. One of the biggest peddlers of this notion that “God’s love = acceptance” is Lady Gaga, who has been known to preach to her concert crowds (“Jesus loves every (F-bomb) one of you!”) in-between vapid pop songs and Madonna rip-offs. The Gospel of Gaga tells us: “I want you to reject anyone that does not make you feel accepted.” Are we just a bunch of “little monsters” that God unapologetically loves in all our monstrousness? The implications would be staggering. If God radically accepts me for who I am, then God would never have a need to judge me or convict me of any sin. If God radically accepts me for who I am, then my thoughts and actions have no consequences and I’m free to “just be me.” And here’s the end of the rainbow when it comes to this argument: If God is truly nonjudgmental, then vis-a-vis the church should be nonjudgmental too.

Gaga is absolutely right: We are a bunch of little monsters. We are all messed up, broken and wounded. We are rebels, anarchists, insurrectionists and sinners. We all reject God … We all tell God that He’s unqualified and unfit to rule … We all tell God that we’d be better off on our own … We all oppose His rule … We all have the audacity to tell God we’d be better off if we were in charge … We all become enemies of the King of Kings. But the reason that we’re accepted by God is not that God simply overlooks our monstrousness. And we certainly cannot say that God robotically loves and has no choice but to love our monstrousness. The reason that we’re accepted is that Christ paid the penalty for our sins and endured God’s wrath for us. While God had every legitimate right to slay us for our monstrous lives, He offers us the free gift of eternal life instead (Romans 6:23). God makes a great exchange and He dies for my sins instead of me. It’s the same Gospel as displayed in the character of God throughout Scripture: God is holy and just but is also merciful to us. Beautiful.

But the story doesn’t end there. 2 Corinthians 5:17 states: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” God desires for the old monster that we once were to die. He wants to transform us into a new glorious creation which is nothing less than the reflection of Jesus Christ. God’s ultimate goal is not acceptance … it is transformation.

Knowing that Gwen loved the movie Shrek, I got her the original book (Shrek by William Steig) that the movie is based off of. I was surprised to find that the book is considerably different from the movie. Aside from the lack of talking donkeys, the biggest difference is that Shrek’s goal is to find and marry an ugly princess. The princess doesn’t shift from beautiful Cameron Diaz at daytime to hideous green ogre at nighttime. She’s unfathomably hideous all the time. And when Shrek meets her at the end of the book, he uncontrollably loves it!: “Oh, ghastly you … With lips of blue … Your ruddy eyes … With carmine sties … enchant me … I love you so … you’re ugly!” Then they get married and live horribly ever after.

God is not Shrek. He is not impressed and infatuated with our sin and spiritual ugliness. He is not an horrible God looking for an horrible bride to live horribly ever after. God desires believers to be transformed into a spotless bride – without stain, wrinkle or blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27). He wants to transform us into something spiritually beautiful. Let God slay the little monster in your life and allow Him to transform you into something more beautiful than you could possibly imagine.

And live happily ever after.

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