July 12, 2008

You Have Been Pre-approved!

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor … I was shown mercy.
1 Timothy 1:13


Many of us today receive unsolicited credit card applications in the mail. The accompanying letters usually begin the same way: “You have already been approved to receive this card!” Being told we are approved for something we haven't applied for can sound strange. But in a way it can remind us of how God's love is extended to us: unconditionally. We don't have to worry about trying to earn God's favor. God loves and accepts us in spite of who we are or what we have done. Sometimes people make promises accompanied by certain conditions. They say, “I will love you as long as you stay thin,” or, “I will pay your tuition, but only if you enroll at this college.” Sometimes what appears to be a gift is actually a veiled attempt to manipulate someone into meeting certain expectations. God's promises are nothing like that. Paul experienced the unconditional love of God in his life, and he describes it beautifully in today's Scripture reading. His words remind us that the very nature of grace involves showing love to the undeserving. Of course, we need to respond to God's promises by making promises of our own. But as Augustine summed it up long ago: “God does not love us because we obey. We obey because God loves us.”

Lord, we know there is nothing we could ever do to earn your love. Thank you for forgiving our sins and accepting us through Jesus, your Son. We pray in his name. Amen.

About the author — Peter Hoytema

Peter Hoytema has been a pastor for nearly 30 years and has served congregations in Ontario and New Jersey. He is currently the pastor of a congregation in Strathroy, Ontario. He is a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary and San Francisco Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Grace, are the parents of four adult children.

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