“GOD NOT ONLY APPROVES OF YOU, HE ADORES YOU” reads the confident proclamation on a sign in front of a mainline Protestant church in a city near here. Of course, public pronouncements of error by religious leaders and religious organizations are legion. We could fill volumes with them. That, of course, would serve no useful purpose. But when error is rampant, believers must be careful to avoid falling prey to the inroads that Satan would like to make in our understanding of who God is and who we are. “God not only approves of you, He adores you.” The words are powerful, seductive. Who wouldn’t want to believe that? They make God look good. And they certainly make us feel good about ourselves. Those two statements pretty much summarize the thrust of most teaching in the modern church. The only problem is that the quoted proclamation runs counter to the truth in God’s Word. We’ll note several examples.
The first and most egregious mistake may be seen in the fact that the statement is addressed to the public at large. Every passing motorist who observes the sign is intended to understand that the “you” refers to him or her. The teenager making plans to rob a convenience store, the man careening home after an all-nighter at the local bar, the woman heading to a motel for an adulterous assignation, the CFO who has been embezzling funds from his company—all are greeted, as they pass the church, with the wonderful assurance that God approves of them. The statement is so outrageously unbiblical that we could fill pages with proof texts refuting it. But three taken almost at random should suffice. David affirmed that “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psa. 7:11b, KJV). Moses confessed: “all our days have declined in Your fury” (Psa. 90:9a). And the same passage that declares that God manifested His love for the world by giving His Son to die (John 3:16) declares unequivocally that “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). To suggest that God approves of sinners is an unbiblical, damnable heresy that will send people to hell not to heaven.
A second error, even if addressed to believers, is the notion that God approves of you. On its face, this statement is patently false. God approves of Himself; He approves of His own work; He approves of His Son: “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31); “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17b). God does approve of believers, but He does so in Christ and because of Christ and Christ’s redemptive work alone. Speaking to His disciples about a master, Christ said, “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done’” (Lk. 17:9, 10). Isaiah observed that “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (64:6b). It does not sound as if God approves of us in ourselves as the words on the sign suggest. “He hath made us accepted in the beloved [Christ],” Paul explains (Eph. 1:6b, KJV). Yes, Christ is “not ashamed to call . . . [believers] brethren” because they have been “sanctified” through the work of Christ (Heb. 2:11). The unqualified “you” in the sign makes the statement false.
A third error is the idea that “God adores you.” It is certainly true that God is a God of love, who pours out an unfathomable love on those whom Christ has redeemed. But to attribute adoration, with its overtones of reverence and worship, to God in respect to His creatures is to demean His divinity. It elevates man at the expense of God’s deity. God has certainly loved His own with a love that beggars description; He willingly bankrupted heaven to redeem us. But to suggest that He adores believers debases God rather than exalting believers.
Satan would like nothing better than that believers embrace sound-good, feel-good platitudes that replace actual scriptural truth. God has graciously given us the truth in His Word; we must measure every statement by that eternal, unchanging yardstick.
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