Just As I Am
God's way or our way: It's our choice.
by Elaine Hardt
“Just as I am is pretty good.”
“Take me or leave me.”
“I’m not changing for you or for anybody.”
Good self-esteem means self-acceptance, doesn’t it?
Like precocious two-year-olds, many of us have designated ourselves as head cheerleaders and CEOs of our own fan clubs. Isn’t it great to accept yourself?
Well, take a look at both sides of the situation.
If we don’t appreciate ourselves and take care of ourselves, who will? On the other hand, if we don’t need anybody, then we don’t need God either, do we?
How does this work?
The satisfied person makes his own rules. Don’t want that marriage certificate? Live together with whomever for however long it “works out.” Don’t want the responsibility of raising a child? Let daycare, school, and sitters do the frustrating work of child-rearing. What about church? Find a congregation where no demands are made on you, where everything is explained away as merely pleasant myths to draw from.
It seems like the “just as I am” person has a lot of psychological plusses in his favor. Too much restraint makes him uptight and disagreeable.
The Bible tells a different story. We see our Maker and Creator of the universe setting down, in no uncertain terms, the “rules” for living. We read about men and women who lived God’s way, contrasted with men and women who did as they pleased. There were consequences for disregarding God’s way.
Why should this be? Doesn’t God want us to be happy and fulfilled individuals? Surely He’s not so inflexible and stern. Doesn’t the Bible say “God is love”?
The Devil’s foothold
In the first book of the Bible (Genesis), we read about a man who chafed at God’s regulations. It says that the Lord didn’t look with favor on Cain and his offering. Cain sensed rejection, and he became angry. God spoke to him, acknowledging Cain’s feelings: “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?” (4:6).
Then God spoke these plain and simple words to Cain — and to us: “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (v. 7).
The Bible teaches that one little, inconsequential, ordinary sin can open the door to the Enemy of our soul. We find that the Devil wants to ruin our lives and destroy our future.
When we yield to the temptations of life, we are making it easier to fall again. Each time we make the wrong decision we are opening the door to more and more trouble.
Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?
But you don’t plan on going that far, you say? Your actions and attitudes are not that serious. You don’t actually want to aggravate God and invite in the Devil.
Let’s remember one thing here. Each misdeed has a consequence. Like a wise father, God allows us to receive the natural results of our choices so we will make the sensible choice of turning away from even small sins.
Why is God so hard on us? Because according to the Bible, eternity is at stake. To choose to receive God and obey Him now means He will bring us to the eternal kingdom. It’s a challenge: Do we have faith without seeing Him, or not? To deliberately or carelessly turn against God and His ways is to choose eternal destruction. When you look at the big picture, it’s awesome.
We have this tremendous decision. Often labeled “free will,” it means every individual is in charge of his or her own eternal destination.
Cain could have said, “O, God. I have done a selfish, stupid thing. Please forgive me. I want to do things Your way.”
We can say, “O, God. I’ve made a lot of poor choices. When I was esteeming myself so highly, I was actually rejecting You. Please forgive me. I want to do things Your way.”
“Hold on,” you say. “I’ve heard things about that Bible. It is a demanding book about a strict and demanding life. I don’t think I can do everything right.”
Very good. You’re coming to an important understanding. God is God, and we are not. Now you are in the position to appreciate and receive Jesus as savior. He was the only one who could ever live a perfect life. He died to be the perfect sacrifice for sin. We must consciously invite Jesus to forgive our sins. Then God’s personal presence will control our lives.
God never means for us to live life our own way, by our own energy, cleverness, imagination, or determination. His personal presence comes to teach us, remind us, and empower us to do what pleases Him.
All those tough-sounding rules are for a good purpose: first, to show us that God is holy and perfect; second, to show us we must yield to God because only He can make us holy and acceptable. God demonstrates His love by making it possible for us to have a personal relationship with Him, starting now and going on into eternity.
When we own up to our bad attitudes and wrong actions and when we receive Jesus as our savior, God gives us His personal presence. This empowers us to do what pleases Him.
Sad to say, not every Christian you meet is living in this exciting new dimension of loving and trusting and obeying God. Some are trying to be “good.” Some are eager to make up extra rules for you. Some will put you down.
When you accept God’s way, you are not agreeing with these false or immature people. Let God deal with them.
Know the Bible
The Bible is unique among all of the books claiming to be “holy.” We can trust the message God conveys to us through it. If He was capable of designing and making the entire universe, then He is certainly capable of giving us His Word and of completing His plan. Of course, there are counterfeits; that’s part of the Devil’s scheme to destroy people. Don’t open the door to that deception.
Sin of any kind, any “size,” opens a very real spiritual door to the Devil. We can eliminate and prevent all kinds of trouble for ourselves when we agree with what God tells us in the Bible. Each problem is a means of spiritual instruction, if we will take notice.
Name any controversy; compare the world’s belief systems with the Bible. It all boils down to pride. Our own standards, our cherished traditions, our own logic vs. submission to God.
Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength . . . Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30, 31).
Loving God means obeying Him. Receiving Him doesn’t mean “getting religion”; what He offers you is a personal relationship of love and trust.
Any other questions?
Life is not for living “just as I am” so I’ll do my own thing. Each of us can do it our way, or we can do it God’s way. We’re either going to have faith in ourselves or faith in God.
Life is for giving yourself to God. He takes you just as you are and by His grace gives you a new, born-again spirit to love, worship, and serve Him. In exchange for your self-sufficiency He gives you peace, joy, spiritual wisdom, and eternal life.
Close the door on a “do-it-yourself” religion; it will never work. Take God’s Word for it, not mine.
When God shows you changes needed in your life, He will faithfully point them out and give you the grace and power to change. He loves you just as you are right now, but He loves you too much to allow you to remain in disobedience. Life is an ongoing adventure of faith and obedience.
Scripture quotations were taken from the New International Version.