Season 3 | EPISODE 3

Taste and See: Discovering God’s Unconditional Love

35:27 · March 12, 2024

In this episode, Jim Lovelady offers us a “taste and see that the Lord is good” experience, featuring Marc Davis’ opening talk from Serge’s recent Sonship Week in Hollywood, Florida. Marc explores the profound layers of God’s love and welcome extended to His children, shedding light on the beautiful truth that each of us is deeply known, cherished, and rejoiced over by the Father. Marc navigates through the vital themes of identity, the Father’s boundless love, and the transformative effect of embracing our divine sonship. This episode warmly beckons us to venture deeper into our relationship with God, encouraging us to claim our identity in Christ and discover the liberty and joy that flow from being recognized and adored by the Father.

In this episode, Jim Lovelady offers us a “taste and see that the Lord is good” experience, featuring Marc Davis’ opening talk from Serge’s recent Sonship Week in Hollywood, Florida. Marc explores the profound layers of God’s love and welcome extended to His children, shedding light on the beautiful truth that each of us is deeply known, cherished, and rejoiced over by the Father. Marc navigates through the vital themes of identity, the Father’s boundless love, and the transformative effect of embracing our divine sonship. This episode warmly beckons us to venture deeper into our relationship with God, encouraging us to claim our identity in Christ and discover the liberty and joy that flow from being recognized and adored by the Father.

In this episode, they discuss...

  • A Picture of God’s Fatherly love for His child (3:50)
  • How to make room for our internal skeptic (12:50)
  • Can the same old gospel still apply to cultural changes? (16:20)
  • A Question to reshape our personal identity (18:00)
  • How identity impacts every interaction in life (22:00)
  • The life injected by the identity God gives (26:39)

Thank you for listening! If you found this conversation encouraging or helpful, please share this episode with your friends and loved ones. Or please leave us a review—it really helps!

Referenced in the episode...


Our guest for this episode was Marc Davis, a program leader on Serge’s Renewal team. This episode was hosted by Jim Lovelady. Production by Anna Madsen and Sunny Chi. Music by Tommy Leahy.

𝑮𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒆 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒓𝒂𝒚 𝑷𝒐𝒅𝒄𝒂𝒔𝒕 is produced by SERGE, an international missions agency that sends and cares for missionaries and develops gospel-centered programs and resources for ongoing spiritual renewal. Learn more and get involved at serge.org.

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Questions or comments? Feel free to reach out to Serge’s Renewal Team anytime at podcast@serge.org



Welcome to the Grace at the Fray—a podcast that explores the many dimensions of God’s grace that we find at the frayed edges of life. Come explore how God’s grace works to renew your life and send you on mission in His Kingdom.


0:00:22.2 Jim Lovelady: Hello, beloved! Welcome to Grace at the Fray. So, when you’re at the ice cream shop, with your face against the glass and staring at the myriad of flavors, are you the kind of person who asks for sample after sample? Like, “Oh, what is that? Blueberry graham cracker swirl? Oh, how about that triple chocolate ricotta or the rosemary citrus sorbet? Or wait, is that blue cheese with pomegranate ripple?” I don’t know. My favorite is chocolate. Are you that person with five little wooden spoons in your pocket before you finally commit? Well, today’s episode is like getting a sample from the guy standing outside the store trying to coax you in with all the glories of maple, walnut, and pralines and cream, or whatever. This is the guy who clearly enjoys for himself what he’s sharing with us, right? He’s like one spoonful for you, one for me, one for you, two for me.

Well, this episode is a totally “taste and see that the Lord is good” kind of episode. In this episode, I want to bring you to Sonship Week in Hollywood, Florida, where Marc Davis gave the opening talk. You may know Marc Davis from the season one episode called How to Experience the Pleasure of God. Well, he works at Serge on the Renewal team as a Sonship mentor who oversees our Discipleship Lab courses, and he’s one of my all-time favorite preachers. And if you weren’t able to attend Sonship Week, a week that one of our workers called the VBS for grownups, well, here’s a little taste. And I know once you get a little taste, you’re going to want to come back for more. So, enjoy.


0:02:09.5 Marc Davis: You have heard some words of welcome already this evening from TJ and from Bob and from Emily. Their words of welcome can cover me as well, I think. You do not need us all individually to welcome you. I’m sure you get the idea, but I do have words of welcome for you. If I can be so bold, the welcome that I want to articulate is not my welcome nor the welcome of the Serge staff team, though we do welcome you. But better than that, I want to try to articulate in some small way the welcome of the Father to each of you individually and to all of you together to this place on this day. Of course, the Lord was with you at home. And He was with you en route to sunny Florida in the airport, on the highway, and at the Chick-fil-A along the way. He is always with you, and this is a sweet truth, right? He is always present with you. He’s always attentive. He always sees you, but I don’t think I do wrong to just plant the idea also of the Lord being present here in Hollywood, Florida, before you got here. Anticipating… In some way, can we say this about the Lord? Anticipating this time together, making things ready, and being glad when you walked into the room.

0:04:27.1: Some of you are parents of adult children. You know what this is like. While I was sitting at my laptop a week ago working on this talk, I got a text from my 24-year-old married daughter, Maggie, giving us her flight information for coming home at Christmas. They live in Wisconsin. If your children have not yet gone to college, if you send them to college out of state, what might happen is that they will fall in love, and they will never come home.

0:05:28.7: We get almost four days with my daughter at Christmas. That text made me happy. I got kind of a warm glow in my… Coming up from my toes, right? And you can be sure that on the 23rd of December at 8:06 PM, I will be there at Philadelphia International Airport with great anticipation. I may spend some time in the cell phone waiting area just to be sure to be there when she gets here. She can bring her husband too. That’s fine.

0:06:25.9: And time together with Maggie will be life-giving to me. Does that have anything at all to do with the Father’s posture toward you? Let me try this. Many years ago, when I was a college student, I had a dear friend, a few years older than I, who, upon graduation, was invited to become the personal study assistant to John Stott, whom many of you know by reputation and appreciate. John Stott was a minister of the Church of England and, for the second half of the 20th century, was really one of the prominent faces of the worldwide evangelical movement. My friend, at 23 years old, went from Virginia to London to serve John Stott, and I, at 20, had the opportunity to visit my friend in London over spring break and the opportunity too to meet the great man and spend some time with him. So, on a Sunday morning on the steps of All Souls Church London, I was there with my friend just a few feet away from John Stott, and there was a swirl of people coming and going for morning services.

0:08:04.3: Stott was not a young man even then, but as he stood on the steps and said good morning to various people, his eye fell on a truly elderly man who was on his way to the steps of the church, yet some feet away and with great warmth and energy and joy, I heard him call out to this gentleman, “My dear Percival!” Which was, of course, to this American college student, hilarious and perfect that this elderly British gentleman’s name was Percival. But the enduring effect of that experience is not the humor of it as much as the warmth, delight, and personal connection between these two men. Percival, whom honestly I know nothing about, was to John Stott, a dear friend, and brother whom he was delighted to see, and he immediately moved through the crowd of people to go to his friend and take him by the hand. Does that have anything to do with the Father’s posture toward you? Is it possible that the Lord God, with His broad love for many people in many nations—with His general love for humanity and special love for His own people, that He might also have a specific particular love for you, individually?

0:10:01.5: I don’t mean exactly that you are His favorite, but that you are not just generally lumped in with the rest, but particularly known, particularly cared for, particularly delighted in. That in a room full of people that He would see you across the way and call out, “My dear Audrey. My dear Ronaldo.” That He would go to you with arms open, with an embrace, “Welcome! I am so glad you’re here.” Is that the kind of attitude that God the Father has toward you? I am aware that for none of us does Sonship Week happen in a vacuum, right? You each arrive here in the middle of life, in the middle of thinking about other things, dealing with other things. There is stuff going on back home with your families, at your workplace, at church. Each of you could come into this room and sit down and just lay it all out, all the things that are happening, all the things that you were thinking about and concerned about. A few years ago, my wife Susan and I were going through some very challenging things at the church where I was serving as an associate pastor. And so for help, we sought out a visit with the brother who had been our college pastor when Susan and I were at university together in Charlottesville, somebody outside our bubble.

0:12:17.8: So, Mike was very gracious, right? He welcomed us really warmly. He gave us a cup of tea, and then he gave us his full attention as we told him all about the things that were going on. And when we paused for breath and looked expectantly up to see what he would have to say, hoping that he could give us some kind of counsel to help us think these things through, Mike instead spoke to us in a way that we did not see coming. Suitable pause, and he says, “Marc and Susan, the Lord just loves you so much,” which just about reduced us to tears on the spot. But it also framed the discussion and the counsel that he did then go on to give us, and really also helped us to frame our circumstances for weeks thereafter in light of what he had said in just an amazing way, right? Here’s the first thing you need to know. The Lord just loves you so much. It really seemed that the Holy Spirit spoke through this pastor the heart of our God for us, and it melted us. Could that also be the first thing you need to hear? The Lord loves you so much. As you come to Sonship Week our desire for you is to hear the same words to your heart. Whatever state you find yourself in, whatever recent joys and sorrows you’ve experienced, whatever recent successes or failures you’ve had, hear this as a welcome. Right?

0:14:28.7: The Lord knows all about it. He is familiar with all the details, and He loves you so much. And that love, by the way, is in no way contingent on whether your recent successes outweigh your recent failures. It is in no way dependent on your performance. It really isn’t. Some of you are skeptical. That’s okay. There’s time.

0:15:09.9: You’re skeptical because it all feels a little embarrassing and squishy, subjective. Maybe because you are a Bible scholar and you care about things like nuance and exegesis and reformed theology. Those are all good things. We like those things, too. For you, I offer this. Think of the book of Romans, the most substantial theologically rich of all the New Testament epistles, the meatiest of all the meaty parts. Do you recall what was written on the outside of the envelope of the book of Romans? How was it addressed? Those introductory verses all kind of mash together. I’ll tell you. Romans 1:7, “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be His holy people.” To all who are loved by God in this place. There it is in the Bible. If you were part of the Roman church, and sister Phoebe arrived in town with a letter from Paul in hand, that seems to be what’s going on in Romans 16, and someone stood up on Sunday morning to read it. It may have been Phoebe herself. When she read to all in Rome who were loved by God, would those words be routine? Would they bounce off your heart? Would you assume that this letter must not be for me, right? Or possibly would they be deeply affirming and deeply inviting? Could you be comfortable with that language? Could you recognize yourself as one of those in Rome loved by God? Could you be at home in the knowledge that the Father Himself loves you? We are going to give you some theology this week, but the focus will be on lived theology, lived Christianity, a deeply internalized gospel that works itself out externally in observable ways. What would happen if we laid hold of these things by faith, if we dared to believe them, if we got comfortable inside our identity in Christ. When that well-loved child comes home for a visit and is greeted with hugs and kisses at the door and puts down their bags and comes back into the kitchen and sits down, what does he say next? “What’s for dinner?” And that is a fair question.

0:18:13.3: That’s a fair question for you to ask as you come into the kitchen on the first evening of Sonship Week. What are we going to do this week? What can I anticipate? We at Serge have been doing Sonship Week for a few decades. The gospel has not changed. Same old, same old gospel. But the culture has been changing, and we are trying to be alert to those changes, to think prayerfully about them because this generation of ministers of the gospel, and I mean that broadly to include all of you, this generation of ministers of the gospel is called to articulate the gospel, to apply the gospel, to live out the gospel in community in such a way that this generation can hear it. Not just with the ear, but with the heart. We want to articulate the gospel such that it scratches the itch that human hearts are feeling so that it ministers a balm to the ache of 21st century sinners in need of grace.

0:19:35.0: And one of the themes that we are tracking on is the large theme of identity. Who am I? Who gets to tell me who I am? What do I believe about who I am? Do I live my life in such a way that is consistent with who I would say I am? Or is there something that I actually believe more deeply about myself that is more powerful than the thing that I would say that I believe? Did you follow that? Is there a difference between my surface level formal theology and my deeper functional theology that drives the train? You all have a name tag, thank you for wearing those. I left mine at the hotel. You remember the ones that say, “Hello, my name is… ” And you pick up a sharpie pen, you write your name, and then you stick that on your shirt. What do you write?

0:20:54.4: So part of my story is that I grew up at New Life Church in suburban Philadelphia back in the day, and Dr. Jack Miller was my pastor as I was growing up. I don’t know what, if anything, you may have heard about our church back in the ’70s and ’80s, but there really was a movement of the Spirit of God going on, and it was also the ’70s. So, the movement of the Spirit expressed itself in a way that was very much of the time. It would have been in the early 1980s when I was a young teenager, that as the church grew, we were all encouraged to wear name tags every Sunday. And I remember vividly that there was one man, and this dear man wrote in large capital letters on his name tag that he wore every week, “Ron Taylor, Son of God.” Ron Taylor was exuberant in his worship. He not only lifted his hands to the Lord, but he would kind of punctuate his worship with his hands. They would kind of fly out from him in an emphatic aerobic full-body kind of worship. We, all of us junior high kids, with our hands deep in our pockets, right? Willing ourselves to disappear into the floor as people around us worship Jesus. Ron Taylor was free.

0:22:37.5: He didn’t care what anybody thought… I was the opposite. I cared desperately about what people thought. I was tortured, wanting actually very much to follow Jesus, but entirely unfree to live that out with abandon. I actually think that it matters what’s on the name tag, right? Ron Taylor’s freedom in life had something to do with what he believed about himself, that the Father in love had on the basis of the merit of the son, freely kindly adopted him, Ron Taylor, and had lavished on him, Ron Taylor, all the benefits of sonship forever. There’s this verse in 1 John Chapter 3, “how great is the love that the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are.”

0:24:00.4: That last bit. Don’t you love that? And that is what we are. Because my instinct is to hear the first sentence and immediately to undercut it, to call it metaphor or simile or something. Right? It’s a literary device. Right? My unbelieving English major heart can’t match those two things together here, and immediately translates it to say, “it’s almost as if we were children of God.” It’s really kind of you to say so.

0:24:46.2: I appreciate the sentiment. It’s an overstatement, of course, but it’s sweet of you to say that. And the Spirit of God comes back and he says, “Excuse me.” No, no. That is not a metaphor. That’s not a literary device. I mean it quite literally. That is what you are. The adoption papers have gone through. It is all legal, it is done, God has done it. This is real. What if we could come to terms with that? What if I could get comfortable in my own skin inside that identity every day, and that would not look like acting as if I had arrived. Right? In fact, the more I know that, the more I know that I am a sinner who needs the grace of God every day. It seems like I need more grace than ever. I’m still a weak man who needs strength from God every day, but in this identity, remarkably, also able to acknowledge about myself that I am someone who is in certain ways gifted.

0:26:39.4: I’m someone who, by God’s grace, has a little bit of wisdom. Right? Who has something to offer? There are many things I am not good at, right? And I know that, and that’s fine. I know that I need a community. I need help from others in many ways. Romans 12, which talks about spiritual gifts and things like this, calls us to think of ourselves with sober judgment.

0:27:17.6: But part of that sober judgment is to say, “This is the reality that I inhabit.” Right? “This is the life I am leading, that I am, that I really am by God’s grace, someone who has been shown mercy, someone who has been personally sought out by the Savior, who has been specifically welcomed by the Father and has been efficiently adopted as a well-loved child forever. I am someone who has been given the Holy Spirit to live in me and to equip me for life in ministry. I am an heir with Christ of all things.” What does that even mean? That is sober judgment. Right? That is not puffing myself up; that is just allowing what God says over me to stand, to receive it, to sit under it. And if I can do that, that is a path to a life that is both way more humble than it has ever been before, but also more confident, more joyful. I am who He says I am, and this man… All right, this is off-script. He’s going off-script!

0:29:17.6: When I was a kid, every day, every morning when I left the house to go to school, every morning, my mother would say to me, “Look people in the eye when you talk to them.” And she said that to me because I didn’t. Right? She said it because I was down here. Knowing who I am as a well-loved child of God allows me to look people in the eye when I talk to them. I can succeed, I can fail, I can be praised, I can be criticized, I can suffer. Lots of things might happen, good or bad, but I am loved. My future is secure. My identity is secure forever. That’s what’s for dinner.

0:30:22.1: Let me just pray a moment. Father, thank You that these things are true. Lord, even as I do my best to tell these dear ones confidently that these things are true about them, it is still hard for me to completely believe it about myself. Holy Spirit, would You break down the barriers that exist that would prevent us from living the freedom of the gospel with the joy and liberty that You’ve called us to. And Lord, for each of us, we just know these things are sometimes raw, and these things are in process, we’re hearing things that are profound, and yet we have our worries at home, and we have just everything. And so we bring You kind of a messy ball of yarn, and we bring to You and say, Lord, would You hold this for us and would You give us grace, Father, as these folks have time in small group this evening, we pray that You would meet them and take it, another step. And we pray for sleep tonight and grace to do more tomorrow. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

0:32:08.6 Jim Lovelady: I know what I’m about to say is not fair.  But if you weren’t at the last Sonship Week, man, you missed it. And that was just the beginning of what was absolutely a life-transforming week for everybody who was in attendance. And I’ll probably share another talk from that Sonship Week on the podcast, and maybe you’re thinking, I’d love to attend one of these, but I can’t do that whole week right now, man, a week is a lot. Well, we also have something called Gospel-centered Life Weekend Retreats that offer a condensed version of Sonship Week, so go to serge.org/renewal for information about the date and location of the next GCL weekend. But I got to tell you the most life-transforming thing you can do is to sign up for the mentored Sonship course. This is where you meet one-on-one with a personal mentor over 16 sessions that guide you through gospel re-centering discipleship that will lead you back into the joy of your salvation. And I also wanna invite you to think about how gospel renewal always moves us out on mission, and the Lord may be calling you to take your heart for missions and actually go to a field.

If you feel the nudge from the Holy Spirit, keep listening to this podcast and keep praying, you never know what the Lord might do. But if you know that the Lord has called you to send folks to the field, I want you to know how you can give in ways that will help keep our missionaries on the field through the work of missionary care. Staying for any length of time on the field requires more than just stamina and willpower. It takes support and care, spiritual, emotional, physical, financial, logistical, and all-around care. It takes missionary care. Will you join me and give today to help care for a missionary? All the links for the Sonship resources and the missionary care opportunities can be found in the show notes and on our website, serge.org. And if you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend and be sure to leave a rating on iTunes and then go like this video and subscribe to Serge’s channel on YouTube. This is a big way to use the algorithms to advance the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Now, do you remember the first thing Marc wanted you to know? What did he say? “The Lord just loves you so much.”

And I want that to be the last thing that you think about. As I close this episode, the Lord loves you so much. So, now receive the Lord’s blessing as you go. His beloved sent one. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to smile down on you. May the Lord be gracious to you, turn His bright eyes to you, and give you His peace. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, life everlasting, Amen.

Marc Davis

Marc Davis serves as the Global Learning Program Leader on Serge's Renewal team. In the years prior to coming to Serge, he served twelve years as a pastor at New Life Presbyterian Church, Glenside, PA, taught church leaders in Northern India, and led a short-term team in support of Serge’s work in Southern Spain. God used those opportunities to call him into a broader service to His kingdom in many places.


Jim Lovelady

Jim Lovelady is a Texas-born pastor, musician, and liturgist, doing ministry in Philadelphia with his wife, Lori, and 3 kids, Lucia, Ephram, and Talitha. He is passionate about the ministry of liberating religious people from the anxieties of religion and liberating secular people from the anxieties of secularism through the story of the gospel.

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