Once upon a time there were two fathers.
The first father set unreachable standards for his children. He was angry and seemed impossible to please. He constantly reminded his kids that if they didn’t consistently live up to the family name, they were no children of his.
He constantly prodded them with questions and statements such as:
“Are you sure you’re part of our family? Your behavior doesn’t reflect it.”
“I won’t claim you as my child if you keep acting like that.”
“Fail one more time, and you’re out of the family.”
This father’s children were constantly on edge. For many of his kids, his threats didn’t lead to obedience, but rather to rebellion. Even the children who obeyed him did so out of fear, not out of love. They were constantly second-guessing themselves and had tremendous self-doubts. Many of these kids grew up to become adults with behavior problems that lasted a lifetime. Most needed counseling.
The other father was a loving one. He too had high standards for his children, but he was determined to help them live it out. When they fell and failed, he would offer them immediate and full forgiveness. Instead of condemning them, he coached them. Instead of enraging them, he encouraged them. Instead of threatening them, he strengthened them.
Yes, he disciplined his kids when they broke a family rule, but the goal was always to help them live their lives to the full. This dad was almost obsessive about his children walking in confident assurance that he loved them, no matter what.
When his kids broke his rules, he would encourage them with statements such as:
“I love you. That’s why I’m going to discipline you.”
“The consequences I’m going to give you for your choices will be painful, but in the end, they’ll help you live a life of integrity.”
“You’re my child, and I’ll never, never, never leave you nor forsake you—no matter what.”
Which father do you think will produce more well-behaved children? As these children grow into adults, which group will be more likely to struggle with broken relationships, need endless hours of therapy, and endure pain-filled lives? Which group of children will be more likely to become adults who live with boldness, integrity, and high standards?
If the Gospel you preach depicts a Heavenly Father who overtly or subtly communicates to His children: “If you stray, you can be sure you’re not my child” or “I may kick you out at any time if you don’t live up to my standards,” then your Gospel is no Gospel at all.
We’re saved by faith alone in Christ alone (John 6:47). At the moment we genuinely put our faith in Jesus to save us, based on His death, burial, and resurrection, we’re adopted into the family of God (Galatians 3:26). He’ll never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). This reality is not a license to sin, but a reason to serve God with all of our hearts (Romans 12:1).
When we sin, our Father will discipline us (Hebrews 12:6), but He’ll never cast us out or lose us (John 6:37-39). If we keep sinning, He may even take us to Heaven prematurely (1 Corinthians 11:30, 1 John 5:16), and we’ll suffer a lack of rewards (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). But if we’ve genuinely put our faith in Jesus, we’re God’s kids, whom He loves no matter what (Romans 8:29-39).
This isn’t a free pass to sin, but a reason to offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) for the rest of our lives.