When I go into churches and speak to children I ask them two questions:
First, how many people here sometimes think you have to be good for God to love you?
They tentatively raise their hands. I raise my hand along with them.
And second, how many people here sometimes think that if you aren't good, God will stop loving you?
They look around and again raise their hands.
These are children in Sunday schools who know the Bible stories. These are children who probably also know all the right answers -- and yet they have somehow missed the most important thing of all.
They have missed what the Bible is all about.
They are children like I once was.
As a child, even though I was a Christian, I grew up thinking the Bible was filled with rules you had to keep (or God wouldn't love you) and with heroes setting examples you had to follow (or God wouldn't love you).
I tried to be good. I really did. I was quite good at being good. But however hard I tried, I couldn't keep the rules all the time so I knew God must not be pleased with me.
And I certainly couldn't ever be as brave as Daniel. I remember being tormented by that Sunday school chorus, "Dare to be a Daniel" because, hard as I tried to imagine myself daring to be a Daniel, being thrown to lions and not minding... who was I kidding? I knew I'd be terrified out of my skull. I knew I would just say: "OK yes whatever you say! Just don't throw me to the lions! Don't pull out my fingernails! Make it stop!"
I knew I wasn't nearly brave enough. Or faithful enough. Or good enough.
How could God ever love me?
I was sure he couldn't.
[Read the rest of the article at Desiring God.]