I have a confession to make. That last post I wrote? About not letting the busy-ness of work, friends, and church distract me from the one important thing of knowing Jesus Christ and making Him known? Well, I basically lost focus and got distracted from day one of the school year.
And I wish I could say I was just busy with school and lesson plans and worn out with my body adjusting to the new routine. Both statements are true, but somehow I found plenty of time for Facebook, YouTube, and daydreaming. No, I have repeatedly succumbed to the lie that “chill time” will benefit me more than time with God. I know it’s a lie. I often think as I’m opening my Facebook app, “Hey, don’t you need to have your prayer time first?” But I always come up with some excuse (or sometimes just flat out ignore the Holy Spirit’s voice), and I push God off until it’s too late and I fall asleep after a couple minutes of routine prayer.
And I do this constantly. Every day. I pray for help to do better, then I consciously fall prey to the same temptations that got me yesterday. I fritter away my evenings until I’m too tired to read my Bible, drift off as I begin to pray, and wake up kicking myself.
Discouraging? Extremely. Humbling? Very. Incurable? If I continue trying to change myself by resolving to just “do better,” yes.
But as I was reminded in church this morning, God asks me to come to Him as I am so He can make me into who He wants me to be. Standing in the pew singing joyous songs of praise with the family of God, I knew deep inside that I was not worthy to talk about how good and glorious and holy the Lord is. I’ve rejected Him
almost every day this week. I knew God was reaching out, wanting to pull me close to Him. Yet as I started to reach out for my God, my confidence was shattered by the shame of my hypocrisy, and I stopped and pulled away. “What have I to do with You?” I felt like whispering (Luke 8:28). “I don’t deserve intimacy with You.”
But the song service continued, with words it seemed God had hand-picked for me. “Just as I am, I would be lost / But mercy and grace my freedom bought / And now to glory in Your cross / Oh Lamb of God I come, I come // I come broken to be mended / I come wounded to be healed…I come guilty to be pardoned / By the blood of Christ the Lamb / And I’m welcomed with open arms / Praise God, just as I am” (Williams, Deniece/Holland, Cyril Loris Neil/Bradbury, William B./Elliot, Charlotte).
“I come guilty to be pardoned.” I can’t clean myself up before I come to God, because He is the only One Who can clean me. I’m saved through faith in His grace: it’s nothing I can do (Ephesians 2:8-10). And I don’t come to Him “as I am” to stay that way–I come to Him as I am so He can then make me reflect Who He is. “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him Who died for them and rose again…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:15, 17)
“Welcomed with open arms.” It’s not that my sin doesn’t matter. It’s not that Christ is a minister of sin (Galatians 2:17). It’s that “when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). It’s that I have a God Who so vehemently hates sin and so passionately loves His people that He Himself accepted my shame, the death I deserved, the law I couldn’t keep, “and [took] it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). He endured the shame, won the victory, and offers it to me.
“And now to glory in Your cross.” The cross on which Jesus Christ became my sin so I could become His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). The cross on which I have been crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:6-7), dying to the pleasures, temptations, and distractions of this world. The cross on which the world has died to me (Galatians 6:14) as I now live with the perspective of one whose citizenship is in another world, God’s perfect Heaven.
As the songs ended and we bowed our heads together to pray, I approached the throne of the holy, almighty God with confident boldness. I asked for forgiveness because of Jesus’ death on the cross. I asked for help to make the right choices. And as I “obtain[ed] mercy and [found] grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16), I thanked my Father for His unconditional love.
To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed….Good and upright is the LORD, therefore He teaches sinners in the way. The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way….For Your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my iniquity, for it is great….The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant. My eyes are ever toward the LORD, For He shall pluck my feet out of the net….Keep my soul, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You….I wait for You.”
Psalm 25:1-2, 8-9, 11, 14-15, 20-21