All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37)
Keith Hernandez was an outstanding Major League Baseball player (1974-1990) and played most of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets. Hernandez was a five-time All-Star and won two World Series titles, one each with the Cardinals and Mets. He is a lifetime 300 hitter and won numerous Golden Glove awards for excellent fielding. Yet with all his athletic accomplishments, Keith missed out on something vitally important, his father’s approval, acceptance, and recognition of value. Hernandez shared his heart in a candid interview and said that he asked his dissatisfied father, “Dad, I have a lifetime 300 batting average. What more do you want?” His father replied, “Someday you’re going to look back and say, ‘I could have done more.’”1
Praise God, our Heavenly Father is not that way at all. Scripture says that to all who received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and believed Him, He gave the right to become God’s children. We are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passions or plans, but with a new spiritual birth that comes from God.2 Once we are born again and joined to Christ by faith, we don’t ever have to worry about not being accepted by God. The Father will not reject us, even when we’ve done something He forbids. The Lord will never be an impossible-to-please parent who angrily turns His back on us and looks for a way to disown us. He is always happy to welcome us when we repent and return to Him.
God is grieved when we refuse to leave our old ways of sin to follow Christ in His righteous ways of new life. But He never rejects us. God the Holy Spirit guarantees the eternal salvation of all who truly believe in Christ.3 We are not in danger of being kicked out of God’s family. Our acceptance depends on Jesus’ works, not our own. We are accepted by God’s sovereign grace, not by our own efforts. Eternal life is given as God’s free gift, not earned by our best attempts. Once we are united to Christ, our acceptance by God the Father is never in doubt.
If you’ve rebelled and turned away, from what God says is true, Turn back to the Lord; He will forgive; He’s ready to pardon you.4
Pastor Rick Warren observes that most of us spend our lives trying to earn acceptance from our parents, our peers, and our partners in life. We try to earn the respect of people we love and even people we dislike. People do crazy things to get approval. Some teens desperately want to join the in-crowd, so they do stupid things that someone dares them to do. Their craving for acceptance overrules their desire for personal safety. Warren reminds us of playing sports as kids, when teams were chosen. How great did it feel to be picked by the best team captain? How bad did it feel when they got down to the last few kids and you were still not chosen? We love the feeling of being accepted and hate the feeling of rejection.5
The Apostle Peter writes to all Christians: You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received the Lord’s mercy.6
God has chosen Jesus’ followers, not based on our performance or deserving, but entirely by His grace. We don’t have to earn His acceptance; we don’t have to prove ourselves. God the Father is well pleased with Christ, His beloved Son, and with all of us who belong to Jesus. We don’t have to be good enough; we can’t be good enough on our own. But Jesus is holy, innocent, and unstained by sin.7 And when we are attached to Christ, united to Him by faith, we are accepted, approved, and adopted by God into His holy family forever. That’s good news!
Even if parents, friends, and everyone else leaves, abandons, deserts, and rejects us, the Lord will take us in, comfort us, care for us, and hold us close. God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) will never turn His back on us or throw us out. He always keeps the door open for us. We will never be orphans again!8
God’s born again children are always welcomed home.
Notes (various translations): 1 The Gift of Honor by Gary Smalley & John Trent (1990, p. 116). 2 John 1:12-13. 3 Eph 4:30; 1:13-14. 4 Adapted from poem by Dave Branon. 5 from a radio message, date unknown. 6 1 Peter 2:9-10. 7 Heb 7:26; 2 Cor 5:21. 8 Psalm 27:10.