If you’re truly a Christian, God has no reservations about you whatsoever. None. Whatsoever.
This is a truth I learned — or rather, began to learn — from Jack Miller.
It happened in the fall of 2010, during my first sabbatical after 15 years in the pastorate. The wheels had really begun to come off my life and ministry. I had worked eighty-hour weeks for more than a decade. And the cumulative impact of such a schedule had finally begun to take its toll.
But more than that, a long-held belief that I had carried with me had made such headway in my life that it, perhaps more than anything, was the deeper impetus for my sabbatical.
Black Cloud Looming
More and more I was becoming convinced that there was a black cloud of inevitability looming over my head, that I would commit a ministry-ending sin, that it was my destiny, that it was inevitable.
Before the sabbatical, I shared these feelings with two other pastors at our church. In response, one asked, “Why do you think that to this point in your ministry you have not committed a ministry-ending sin?” And without a beat, I said, “Because God loves his people.” He said, “What about you? Doesn’t God love you, too?” My response? “Well, sure, yeah . . . of course he does.”
Questioning at the Crux
Only in retrospect did I understand what was going on. There was a fundamental questioning of God’s love for me at a very practical point in my life. And it seemed so ironic.
I like to think of myself as the harbinger of grace, the pastor that relentlessly preaches the love of God to people — but in a critical way, I had never preached it to myself. I had begun to see in myself what is common for many Christians: so few of us really grasp, really apprehend, especially at the most critical and practical junctures of our lives, God’s love for us in the gospel.
Enter Jack Miller.
He planted churches, founded World Harvest Mission, taught practical theology at Westminster in Philadelphia, and eventually wrote books. Being a Westminster grad, he already had legendary status in my mind. My real acquaintance with him came through reading The Heart of a Servant Leader, a book that has massively impacted my understanding of the Christian ministry. After devouring it, I was on the hunt to find and consume as much of his work as possible.
So in addition to his books, I started hunting for sermons. At the Redeemer Presbyterian Church website, I came across a message that he preached there about five years before he died (1996) called, “Covered by Jesus’ Blood.” That sermon became the anthem of my sabbatical. I listened to it over and over and over again and wept every time.
And the reason is that God used it to convince me not only that he loves his people, but that he loves me!
The Friend with No Reservations
In the message, Miller argues from 1 John 4:10 that by the sacrifice of Jesus, God the Father “was permanently constituted, not only your forgiving God, but your friend. And he has no reservations about you whatsoever!” He goes on,
God has loved me so much that he covered me over completely with the righteousness and blood of his Son. And there’s no more feeling on his part of any kind of having any anger or disapproval with me and no matter what may come out of my past, out of my memories of what anyone may have said against me, good, bad, or indifferent, whatever it may have been, I live before God, and have a freedom from God and that freedom is powerful.
I am a son of God, or you are a daughter of God, through propitiation . . . and that is unshakeable. It will never be repealed. It is a complete forgiveness.
But more than a complete forgiveness, it is a total reconciliation with God. And it means that he is your friend forever!
Jack Miller saved my life. Not because he was a savior, but because he pointed me to the only one who is. Now I am convinced more than ever that God doesn’t just love the people of my church. He loves me.