(And anyone else who needs to hear it). Of course this letter is long. Long for my 14 and definitely not reading for my 7. But it’ll be around for a while. And I need to say it. I tell my girls portions of the message below on a daily basis, so this is more of a developed line of thought that I hope will serve some benefit.
The blogosphere is awash with open letters of late. I’m a good copycat, so here comes mine.
Beloved, you are getting too old for me. I am ever more in awe of our Lord, every day, it seems, when you show just that little bit more understanding of His ways. You demonstrate a knowledge of the Scriptures that I’m sure I did not have when I was your age. You know the Gospel, the theology that has only been in my mind for less than seven years and you can discuss it with impressive capacity. I love it and I know your Mama loves it. And we know God is most pleased with your growth in knowledge of His things.
But I want to encourage you. That’s what this letter is all about. There are hard parts to knowing God’s Word and being His disciples. I think it’s especially hard when you are home, as children, with parents who are so anxious to see you grow in the fear and admonition of the Lord. We desire so much for you to lay claim to the promises of God and to live out the life that He has set before you. I think that you hear about obedience more than anything else at times, and I know focusing on that can become an obsession in all of us. Enough that it may appear to blot out the most important part of God’s message to you.
God’s message is that you have been forgiven. Because Jesus lived in perfect obedience and also took the your sins with Him to the cross and took the punishment for them there, you are forgiven. You girls believe that. I’ve heard it from your lips a maybe a thousand times in your short little lives and just hearing your confession is a blessing to my weak heart. You see, I’m not any sort of super guy as far as being faithful and trusting in our Lord. I’m sure you feel the same way too sometimes. Maybe a lot of times. When you, Mama and I are all weak and sinful in our family, we usually lose sight of the promises of God, at least for a while. And so you should hear this. I hope it makes good sense and that you keep it for those long days ahead when you need the message most.
Beloved, you’re forgiven. You’ve believed the Gospel and God has made you promises that you can trust. When you hear me and Mama calling for you to obey, we’re not telling you anything you can’t do. We’re believing a promise too. God has promised that, because you believe, the Holy Spirit is making it so you can do good works. So you see, we’re just working with you to make you stronger in Him, to do just what He has made possible for you. I think if you look at us as helpers, especially when you’re grown up and remember all these days of homework and chores and lessons on loving each other, you’ll see the Gospel message, God’s promises, and not just a bunch of laws and rules and discipline.
You see, some people don’t seem to realize that there’s a need for the Law after the Gospel. Or sometimes they don’t seem to see what the Gospel does to us. It really does make a difference when we believe. It’s not just a thing that happens one day and then we have to start keeping the Law in order to get good grades in God’s test. The rules, those things we’ve learned from the Bible as Law, change their purpose when we belong to Jesus. They’re now the instructions that help us to know what is the right way to live, to live like He originally designed us.
You remember the verse that Jesus says in Matthew 22.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
All the rules that we hold you to are based on this message from our Lord. Oh, we hope that you see this. Sometimes I’m sure it’s very hard to keep in mind, when it seems there are days when you know you can’t get anything right. Believe me, Mama and I have the same feelings ourselves, when we also sin day in and day out, without being able to see any improvement. And we forget the promise of God, that He has given us a heart, a new heart made of flesh, not of stone like the old one we had before we believed Him. We want you (and us too) to live our lives in love of God! That’s what we’re aiming for! And we believe you’ll get there, not because we make it happen but because God will make it happen!
I think God works in us quietly and without any sign to keep us mindful that it is not us growing ourselves. You guys get that lesson enough from us that I’m pretty sure you know it. Our improvement in God’s ways, trying to be like Jesus, is not something we do ourselves. Our improvement is because of the Holy Spirit the Jesus promised us. The Spirit that is working in us, so secretly most of the time, that we don’t realize what’s happening.
We go to church, learn, celebrate with our fellow Christians over the resurrection of our Lord. We confess our sins and are forgiven. We cling to the hope that this week will be better than last week. But it usually seems like nothing’s changed. You guys get busted. Mama and I, we lose our cool. We all sin. Just like last time and the time before that.
But have you noticed? Have you noticed that we all hate that thing about sinning? Pay attention to that hope you had on Sunday. Remember, I just said that we hope this week will be better than last week. That’s the thing you need to think about. We don’t love our sin. We don’t love to disobey our Lord. None of us do. It’s clear enough, isn’t it? That’s the sign you need to think about. God changed you in a heartbeat when you believed Him. You are now free to love and follow Him. No more being trapped in sin, loving to sin, looking forward to your next bad deed. He’s made it so, even when you sin, you don’t want to and really know and want to do the good works you were designed for!
Pretty soon you’ll have another sign to think about, one most powerful and significant that will follow you for the rest of your life. Your baptism is coming up and though I regret we waited so long to get you there, I am more excited about that than anything. And your Mama is too. And your church! Think about that! There are a couple hundred people all excitedly awaiting the day when you’re baptized. That day is when you get marked out for good, on the outside, for all the things God has already done on the inside! You’ll belong in a whole new way, to your Christian family, including even your aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces and nephew!
That right there, I hope, sticks with you along your whole life. It’ll be a great reminder of God’s faithfulness, even when you’re stuck in some rotten sin that even though you hate it, you just can’t seem to get over it fast enough. One great benefit that you have in your baptism coming so late is that you’re really well educated on what it means. Remember the Ring! You know the promises and benefits of being baptised. That makes it worthwhile for certain.
So, bottom line, my beloved, don’t look at growing up in our house as rules rules rules. Look at it as me and your Mama working for God to bring you together into doing the things He’s already prepared you for. Look at it like this: when you sin, when you mess up the stuff and we’re bugging you about it, your forgiveness is guaranteed, you’re still beloved Christian sisters who are our neighbors in Heaven and you belong to Jesus!
That’s where you come from when you do good works. No points in Heaven, just rewards. All the work is done in you by our mighty Lord. He is mighty to save us. And He saves us every time we turn around, from our little sins and our big sins and our sadness and our worries. Best girls, trust your Lord and Savior. He won’t depart from you. Ever.
Soli Deo Gloria
For God’s glory alone
Your loving Daddy.
Yes, comments are open. Don’t worry about it being a personal letter. It’s personal enough that I certainly welcome criticism, applause or just plain perspective comments.