Growing up without a father figure was difficult. I looked up to older men to be father figures in my life because I had no clue what a father, husband, or even just being a man meant. The lack of love from a father figure also caused me to look for unconditional love from friends and social groups I hung out in. Eventually, I tried working my butt off to show the world I was worthy of love and respect. My life became about performance just so I could get that "good job" pat on the back. Throughout much of my life I've been a chameleon, changing my mask to fit others expectations and standards of who I'm supposed to be.

As my relationship with Christ grew, I was fathered by God and discovered true love and acceptance. God's unconditional love has now become the most comforting and reassuring treasure in my life. In order for God to love me, I don't have to talk, act, or look a certain way. I'm not required to join a club, pay dues, or even wear the right clothes or have money in my bank account. I don't even have to go to church in order for God to love me!

The myth (and lie) is that in order for God to love and accept us, then we have to perform. God doesn't want my good behavior or a performance based lifestyle. He wants me. He doesn't care I'm covered in tattoos and bald with a giant beard that would scare most people in the pews of churches. He loves me despite my shortcomings and sins. God simply loves me for who I am—his child. Christ is the only person who exists that loves me fully and completely. He knows me on the deepest and most intimate level. He knows my most pure thoughts and my most disgusting and depraved ones. And yet, he loves me.

The myth (and lie) is that in order for God to love and accept us, then we have to perform

The Apostle Paul reminds us that because of what Christ has done for you and me, we don't have to put our confidence in human effort. We don't have to run around and earn God's love. Because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross—and that he died while we still despised him—we're not required to earn his love. It's freely given.

All those years I spent searching for approval and love, I was really looking for Jesus. And perhaps you are too. Perhaps you're still trying to earn God's love and "be better." Maybe you're looking to friends, a romantic relationship, or a job to tell you you're accepted. They'll always let you down though. When you place your life in Christ's hands and what he says about you, you find freedom and he molds you. But if you trust man over God? It's disastrous. Other people can't give you the unconditional love you crave, so why not place all of it in Jesus?

These days Christ whispers in my ear which paths to take, and because I know he loves me, I trust him. I then care less about what other men and women expect of me because they're not my father, Lord, or Savior. They're just humans like me.

When you begin to accept Christ's love and stop trying to earn it, you'll forgive the unforgiveable rather than keeping a scorecard. You'll give mercy to the marginalized and not worry about how it makes you look in front of others or in God's eyes. You'll simply do it because you love God. And then you'll have no doubt he loves you too.

APPLICATION:

1. Reflect on Christ's crucifixion for a few minutes. How in his death did he show unconditional love to you and the world?

2. How are you trying to earn approval either from people or God? Why?

3. Write a list of moments in which you've felt God's love. This can be something as simple as winning a soccer match or a sunset.

Excerpted from Jake’s book, Mountains