Do you ever have those moments when you turn toward heaven and ask God, “What do You want with me?” I’ve been walking with Jesus for 30-plus years now and still find myself returning to that question, sometimes in faith, sometimes in frustration.
Regardless of my posture toward God, His answer remains consistent. In fact, it has been God’s message to His world ever since He first uttered the words “Let there be…” You can read it all across the pages of the Bible. But the most explicit and concise phrasing of that message comes at the very beginning of Jesus’s ministry.
In Matthew 3, Jesus goes into the wilderness to be baptized, a way of connecting himself with the promises and purposes of God. Jesus is about to go around the region teaching about God, performing miracles that signal the coming of a new creation, and calling people to live under the good and perfect reign of God as King. Not long from this moment, Jesus will obey God to the point of his own death on a cross. But before any of that happens, before Jesus says or does a thing, God has something He wants to make very clear to Jesus. In dramatic form, the skies open up and a voice declares:
“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
To be clear, this is a profound portrait of God, especially within a culture where so much time, effort, energy and agony are poured into crafting ourselves in such a way as to be desirable to others, so that we can earn their approval and admiration. We consistently strive to make ourselves “lovable” enough to be worthy of others’ love. For many, our life experiences have communicated to us that love is primarily a feeling, an emotion, something that ebbs and flows like the tide. But in the Bible, love is an action and a choice, a way of being that seeks good for another, regardless of who they are.
That’s why, before Jesus does anything, his ministry begins with an affirmation of his identity from the One who knows and cares for him. Jesus is loved. God takes delight in him. God is pleased with him. Everything that happens from this point on will not be because Jesus needs to earn God’s (or anyone else’s) approval. Instead, it will be from an outpouring of love already received.
Later, in Romans 8, the apostle Paul will say that we, too, are children of God who are able to call Him “Father” just like Jesus and that we are loved, delighted in, and a source of pride and pleasure for God. In fact, this is the message that God wants everyone to know. This is the very thing He has been saying to His world all along: I love you.
What does God want from me, from us? To know we are loved and to live from that love. How beautiful is that?
Joshua Gorenflo and his wife, Kya, are ministers at Kenai Fellowship, Mile 8.5 on the Kenai Spur Highway. Worship is 11 a.m. on Sundays. Streamed live at kenaifellowship.com.