Do you know that lovely old hymn, “just as I am, without one plea” – lovely and moving, it speaks of coming to God just as we are, not waiting to make ourselves perfect before he’ll accept us, not waiting till we’re good enough…
It’s true. Through Jesus, we’re offered free entry into God’s family just as we are, with all the mess that has stuck to us along the journey of life. But that’s not the end of the story, it’s just the beginning. We are each of us loved by God just as we are, but that doesn’t mean he wants to leave us as we are.
Entry is free to us, not because there is no price but because Jesus paid it, and the price was very very high. Which gives us some strong clues as to how seriously God regards sin. When we come to God through Jesus, we must come with a repentant heart, acknowledging that we are not ok just as we are – yes, we’re accepted and loved by God just as we are, because he knows we can’t fix it ourselves; we can come to him despite our condition, we can receive his love despite our condition, but being comfortable with our condition – no, that’s not on the menu with God. He wants to transform us, to make us better. A bit like a good and caring teacher will take on a struggling pupil with the aim of helping the child learn more and make progress; or a nurse will receive a patient into hospital and clean them up – caring for them as they are but not leaving them as they are.
Those are only analogies, and as such they aren’t perfect. But I’m trying to illustrate the principle, that there’s a difference between loving someone as they are, and being content to leave them as they are.
Jesus called people to repentance. That means recognising that I’m not okay just as I am – not by God’s standards, and they’re the standards that ultimately matter – and choosing to turn around, to leave behind the stuff that is contrary to God’s ways and to seek to live his way from now on. But you can’t make it happen just by wanting to – you need Jesus to give you new life and to change you from the inside.
So you come to God just as you are, but you come with a repentant heart, acknowledging your need for a Saviour. It’s not a glib kind of “just as I am” – it’s not that you can just say “hey, God loves me as I am so everything’s fine”. It’s a deeply grateful “just as I am”, like the prodigal son returning filthy from his journey and recognising that he doesn’t deserve his father’s love after all he’s done – but receiving the father’s love anyway!
Come to God, through Jesus, just as you are – and prepare to be transformed.