Anyone who has watched a Billy Graham crusade is probably familiar with the Protestant hymn Just As I Am. The idea is that you come to God in whatever state you are, from wherever you are, and you “give your heart to the Lord”. What some might mean by this and what some might infer about it, however, aren’t necessarily the same things.
You know, in a way I don’t like “change”. I am resistant to certain changes. In a sense, a lot of us are in that boat.
There are those who assume they do not have to change. “It’s the way God made me,” they will say. That has been used to excuse all sorts of bad behavior, but it seems particularly prevalent amongst those who would pardon sexual sins. Is that really what the Bible says, though, or is it that you just do not want to change?
However, none of us resist all changes. If we did, we would not graduate from school, move away and go to college, get married, change jobs, change careers or get promoted. There are some changes that are very welcome.
No, it is the unexpected or unwanted change that we dread. Going into a school that was only 2nd or 3rd on our list, getting a divorce, getting laid off or fired, having your job outsourced, the death of a loved one and ultimately our own demise are all things we want to resist, put off or avoid.
It is difficult to give up something you enjoy. That’s why diets are so difficult. If it was easy, virtually no one would be overweight. However, sometimes the knowledge that something isn’t good for you just isn’t enough. We want satisfaction, and we want it now!
Sins can be pleasurable. Our different temperaments and physiologies will make some things more pleasurable than others. Perhaps you are attracted to eating too much, drinking too much or someone you aren’t married to. Taken to extremes, we can become addicted to bad behavior. I should know. Everyone should know. We all have our weaknesses.
Yet, does God want us to show up “just as we are” in our sins? I think not.
Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
~ Isa 59:1-2
It does not sound like we are supposed to approach the Throne of Grace without a repentant attitude. In fact, repentance is part of the Gospel message!
Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
~ Mk 1:14-15
“Repent” comes from Strong’s G3340 “metanoeo”. It means “to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins”. Notice this note on Blue Letter Bible (emphasis mine):
"Repentance (metanoia, ‘change of mind’) involves a turning with contrition from sin to God; the repentant sinner is in the proper condition to accept the divine forgiveness." (F. F. Bruce. The Acts of the Apostles [Greek Text Commentary], London: Tyndale, 1952, p. 97.)
A “turning”, as in turning around from sin to go 180 degrees in the other direction!
Does not sound like coming “just as I am” to me!
I'm reminded of the story I heard from the 1930's, of Herbert Armstrong allowing a smoker to attend church. Better for him to attend and kick the habit, the story went, than to sit at home and wait for it to happen.
One minister on TV or radio has put it this way: "God accepts you just as you are — but He loves you too much to keep you there." That's where the action of repentance comes in.
@Richard: That's actually pretty interesting, considering I'd bet most COG organizations today would insist you quit first.
Don't get me wrong, though. Perfection takes a lifetime, and if we wait to be perfect before baptism, then it ain't gonna happen.
No, but I do see people quoting others and even writing on their blogs, "Well, that's just how God made me," when "that" is a blatant sin. At some point, repentance has to occur.
Now, God may work with people a long time (he certainly didn't give up on me). How long did he work with Jacob before his real conversion on his return from Padan Aram? When you remember that he was chosen before he was even born, it was a lot more than the 20 years he spent away. However, the point remains that he did change.