In terms of obscure origins, we have much in common with Jacob. In a real sense weren’t we, alienated from God in Adam, also taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts? We share something else with Jacob: favored status. While he was referred to as a servant, God has called us His children. Servants carry out their master’s will hoping to avoid punishment. They win favor by performance. Offspring inherit their father’s DNA and live out His will from a new nature. They can’t win Father’s approval—they were born again with it. Being His beloved is their inheritance. Slaves operate out of fear, which produces religion. Children operate out of love, revealing Life.
Sadly, even His children can get their identities entangled in religion. I can testify that hearts with rejection-wounds are easy prey. Satan gets us to trade our labors for approval, conditioning us to function with a slave’s mentality: “If I cease to perform, I cease to be approved. And that is unacceptable.” As men applaud us and the system promotes us, we can form a likable image of ourselves—disciples in good standing on the merits of our work. While it should be the honored hero, grace is left just holding the door. This is elder brother—religious energy. How much of what is done in Jesus’ name is fueled by this energy? What kind of light does it produce?
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
Our litmus test as disciples is whether or not we are anxiously looking about. We might ask, “Isn’t anxiety just a knee-jerk reaction to threatening circumstances? By choosing, can we really alter our anxiety?” If being anxious were not in our wheelhouse, God would not have commanded, “Stop it.” Following this line of reasoning, God must think of threatening circumstances as an issue of our perception. When we see threatening circumstances, He is saying we must adopt His vantage point and… Fear not.
What things are currently threatening you with anxiety? Our perception-deceptions will not be overthrown unless we name them. Unless we humble ourselves by acknowledging where fear rules, we cannot even change direction. Let’s press on to know the Lord by admitting where fear and anxiety are shaping our thoughts and emotions. Let’s offer them up to God and invite Him to occupy these newly vacated spaces in our hearts. Let’s persevere until our identity—as offspring—is fully restored and we stare down our circumstances (those within and those without) with bold confidence that we are, by nature, over-comers.
Father, You have forgiven us of our sin. Forgive us also for trafficking in performance-based religion—where we have traded the joy and freedom of offspring for approval and applause as servants. Pour Your Spirit out upon Your children. Deliver us from religious darkness. Show us where we are anxiously looking about. Lay the axe to our works-oriented roots. Rather than the noisy gong of religion, let the world hear the resounding ring of laughter and song flowing from bold and celebrant hearts, living in stunned awe at Your overwhelming love and Your abundant life. Let this be.