Excerpts From a Letter to my Daughter, January, 2002
(Edited for Publication.)
"My Dear Daughter,
... I will not at all pretend that I’ve been the best father I could be. I am very aware of my many shortcomings both as a husband to your mother, and as a father to you as my daughter. I will make no excuses or plead any extenuating circumstances for any of that. Yet whatever my shortcomings and sins have been, my conscience is clear that I have over the years sought as best I could to point you to Jesus Christ as your only hope in life and in death, and that if any of us have any standing before God Almighty at all, it is on the basis of what Christ has done and has nothing at all to do with what we are or have done.
... The concern I have is that you need to find your security ultimately in Christ alone. If security were found ultimately in being in a family, we would have had you baptized as an infant in a Presbyterian church. If security were found ultimately in a church, the Reformation would not have happened and we would be Roman Catholic. Ultimate security is in Jesus alone.
In the normal course of life mom and I will pass away and you and your sister will lay us in our graves. Eventually, given a normal life span, we all become orphans. Your grandparents are orphans. It may not be too much longer and your mom and I will be orphans. Someday you and your sister will be orphans. It may be ten, twenty, forty, or maybe even fifty years from now, but that day will come. Ultimate security cannot be found in parents who will die and pass away, but in Him who is described as the God of the widow and the orphan (Psalm 68:5).
Finding security in a church is a precarious matter indeed. People like your cousin find “security” in the cults that have ensnared them. Even in churches that are not cultic, it is possible for the members to be cultic in their adherence to the church. It’s their security and it becomes very difficult for those people to let go of that security even when there is clear need to do so. The result is a fear not founded on a fear of God, but a fear of man. Obvious problems are overlooked and ignored because to face those issues will disturb the security that has been built on a foundation of sand that is quickly swept away when the storms roll in.
“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind.” (II Tim 1:7) In this we find the source of courage is in the power of the Holy Spirit living in our lives, the sovereign, unchanging, undeserved, un-conditional love of God in Jesus Christ in our heart and life, and the sound mind that comes with ongoing moment-by-moment communion with Him.
My dear, dear, daughter… Security must ultimately be found in Christ alone. It is founded in His doing and not ours. In all our many failures, assurance is found in Him and in His promises. Our obedience comes not from some twisting of God’s promises to mean we can somehow even as Christians “earn” more favor and grace with God. It is only when our security is based in Christ alone that we can find the courage that is spoken of in II Timothy 1:7. It is in His un-conditional love that we are able to respond to Him with the desire to please Him and serve Him in loving obedience.
... these are some pretty basic things. God has expectations of what it means for someone to say that they are a Christian. Problems arise when other people or a church has expectations of what it means for someone to say they are a Christian, which go beyond the expectations of God. God has clearly stated what fruit He is looking for in Galatians 5:22-24. This fruit is a matter of the heart, not a matter of externals such as dress, music, and a middle class life style, or other external cultural accoutrements that go beyond Scripture. God’s emphasis is on the heart. If the heart is right, God will work His will in that person’s life so all the externals will eventually take care of themselves, not according to the extra-Biblical expectations of men or of churches, but according to His will for that person’s life.
My dear, dear daughter… I am very concerned that you do not find yourselves bound by the expectations of men, but by the expectations of God alone. A corollary to that is that you do not have expectations of others that say they are Christians that go beyond what God expects. Do not let yourself be bound and do not let yourself bind others. It is way to easy to place God in a box. We get to think He only works certain ways and we are closed to how He may in His sovereignty choose to work in others. We then measure the orthodoxy or commitment of others by the limitations of our self-constructed box and fall into spiritual arrogance and sinful pharisaical pride. PLEASE, PLEASE do not ever do that. You will only end up crippling your walk with God and miss much of the breadth of the Christian life. God’s true church is not measured in terms of those who meet together in a particular place. His true church is measured in terms of all those whose heart and soul has been given to Him in response to his great mercy, un-conditional love, and everlasting kindness in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Please do not ever think I do not love you. It is true I may not always know how best to show that love to you, and in seeking to love you will often fail miserably, but I DO LOVE YOU, and whatever you do and wherever you go in life you will ALWAYS be my very own dear daughter who I love so very, very much.
Love and prayers,
~ The Billy Goat ~