People don’t earn God’s approval or receive life and salvation because of anything they’ve done.
Rather, the only reason they receive life and salvation is because of God’s kindness through Christ.
There is no other way.
- MARTIN LUTHER
Whose approval do you want? Whose matters to you?
What we think about ourselves too often depends on what we think the most important person in our life thinks about us.
Of the five love languages, the one that speaks loudest to me is “words of affirmation.” (The rest fall out in this order for me: deeds of service, quality time, physical affection, and tangible gifts.)
Yet the greatest gift can also become my greatest temptation.
As Tim Keller writes in Counterfeit Gods, we have surface idols—things like spouses, kids, money—that our sinful hearts use to fulfill our deep idols—things like power, control, approval.
Some people are strongly motivated by a desire for influence and power, while others are more excited by approval and appreciation.
Some want emotional and physical comfort more than anything else, while still others want security, the control of their environment.
People with the deep idol of power do not mind being unpopular in order to gain influence.
People who are most motivated by approval are the opposite—they will gladly lose power and control as long as everyone thinks well of them.
So if my husband fails to notice how hard I worked cleaning off our bedroom bookshelves (totally hypothetical), I can feel offended. Where is my approval? Why no words of affirmation? Doesn’t anybody appreciate me?
And down I spiral into self-pity. And more sin.
But what about God? Do I think he also should applaud my good deeds? Do I expect his recognition when I’m extra nice to a rude salesclerk?
Oh, I want to answer, “Of course not!” How self-indulgent that would be. How prideful.
While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21), it’s a different thing altogether to think God should ever thank me for anything, as if he could ever be in my debt (Romans 11:35-36).
That is absurd. It crushes my idol of approval-seeking.
In an unexpected twist, when I look upward, away from myself, I find I am approved. Not because I deserve it, but because Jesus does. Because God approves Jesus, and I am in Jesus, God approves me.
If God is the most important person in my life, what he thinks about me matters the most. And determines how I think about myself.
I’m approved. By grace, thank God.
It’s not complicated theology. It’s realistic truth. Magnificent and miraculous, yes, but authentic.
Every word of affirmation I receive is a gift (Titus 3:5-7).
Unearned. Undeserved. Unreasonable.
But I welcome it.
It’s the only approval that matters.
* * *
Whose earthly approval do you seek the most?
How does having God’s approval help you?
Joining Peter and friends for one word at a time.
Today’s word: approved.