There is a unique tension that exists between being loved unconditionally by God versus becoming a new, transformed creation in Him. That push-pull doesn't simply come about when we're making plans to eat better, exercise more, speak kinder, or whatever.
I witness this tension every few months, when a group of new students comes through YWAM Brisbane for a Discipleship Training School (DTS).
They arrive with a desire to know more about God, but hold on to a belief that they have it all together, that they are fine the way they are, or that they don't need to be transformed by God's love. I say these things, because I was once in their shoes.
When I arrived in Brisbane in October 2010, all I knew is I wanted more of God. That's it. I didn't know what it would look like or what it really meant. I had quit my career in Canada as a journalist, packed all my belongings into boxes and flew across the world to spend a solid six months pursuing God's heart and His plans for my life.
What happened was, at least for me, unexpected.
Having grown up in a Christian family who attended church each Sunday and occasionally read the Bible together, I knew in my head all the principles about loving, obeying and following Jesus. Yet, when it came time to let God love me that was a different story.
I was used to working in order to receive something. But God said, simply let me love you. No strings attached. Nothing in return.
The best example I could relate to was Jesus Himself. As both the Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus shows us how to live and relate to God. Before Jesus ever did anything miraculous or shared the Gospel of the Kingdom, God the Father spoke these words: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased," (Matthew 3 verse 17).
Jesus hadn't lifted a finger, yet God loved Him.
Could the same be true for me? For all of us? I believe the answer is a resounding yes!
Repeatedly through Scripture we read that it's God who transforms us from our old selves into a new creation. The apostle Paul writes, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2 verses 8-9)
Once I was able to let God love me that's when the miraculous happened: the woman who would regularly wake up anxious about the day ahead and the massive to-do list waiting for her, now felt peace that God had my day in His hands.
The same woman who would spend time shopping for clothes or housewares to make her life look more complete, now wanted to spend hours with God hearing what was on His heart.
I see this same transformation time after time with each DTS student. One young British girl arrived as a bitter, sarcastic Christian, who clearly wanted more God but wanted it to fit into the box she had set for herself. Once God got hold of her heart and showered her with His love, she softened. She wanted to pray for people. She laughed. She was a new version of herself. And all she had to do was allow God to love her.
Author Joseph Langford, who I believe sums up the remarkable exchange best by saying, "The same God who loves us as we are, also loves us too much to leave us as we are."
Lisa Goetze grew up near Toronto, Canada, where she worked as a writer for two national news broadcasts. She now serves full-time at Youth With A Mission in Brisbane.
Lisa Goetze's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/lisa-goetze.html