Come as You Are, But Don’t Stay as You Are
You know the saying, “come as you are?” I think it’s a great idea — perhaps even beautiful, as it portrays the truth of a loving and compassionate God who welcomes the broken, the poor, the hurt, the lost, and the desperate. Christianity is not for those who have it all together, it is for those who know how terribly they need a Savior. And I believe the phrase, “come as you are,” portrays this well, because you don’t have to fix yourself prior to coming to Jesus.
But I want to clarify what that saying does not mean. To say, “come as you are” does not translate to “stay as you are.” And that is the crucial distinction that needs to be addressed, especially in a time where people seem to think cherry-picking Scripture to mend it around their preferences is okay. Let me be clear: It is not.
Progressive Christianity is a great example of people who think they can come and stay as they are. But this is not an example of what it looks like to truly follow Christ, because following Him will change you. Coming to the table as sinful, yet boldly remaining in sin could not be further from what the Bible teaches. Rather, the Bible teaches to come as you are, but don’t stay as you are.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). He came to save sinners, and we are all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 3:23). You can have a history with homosexuality and still come to Jesus. Maybe you’ve had an abortion, various addictions, or a past of substance abuse. Maybe you’ve been to jail, betrayed friends or family, cheated in school or in a relationship. You could think you’re the most terrible person in the world and still come to Jesus.
Paul, formerly known as Saul, was a persecutor of the church. You could even describe him as a terrorist. And yet, God chose him to be a part of His kingdom as both a faithful follower of Christ as well as an inspired writer of a large portion of the New Testament. Paul is one of the best examples of someone who seems “too far gone,” just for the Lord to prove in His grace and mercy that he was not. But Paul is also a perfect example of someone who was radically changed by Christ. Imagine thinking Paul could come to Christ as a persecutor of the church and then stay that way. That wouldn’t make any sense!
The same is true for us, that we cannot come as sinners who rebel against God and His word and stay that way. Paul said in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Although not many of us (hopefully none of us) were terrorists, this is the kind of change that takes place in every person who is born again. And Jesus said in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” For the Christian, to be born again is to be brought from sinful death to spiritual life. It is inherently transformative. There’s no way around it — not if it’s genuine.
Christ is inviting us to come with a past of homosexual practices, but don’t stay in them. Come after having an abortion, but never have another one. Come with a history of addictions, but get accountability to become clean from them. Come as a criminal, betrayer, or a cheater, but do not stay as those sinful things. Colossians 3 says, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature,” and put on the “new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
Not only does Scripture repeatedly remind us that we can’t stay as we are, but the very nature of God makes it abundantly clear why we cannot stay as we are. Pastor and theologian R.C. Sproul said, “Only once in sacred Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree. Only once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession,” it is not “that God is ‘love, love, love’ or that He is ‘wrath, wrath, wrath,’ but that He is ‘holy, holy, holy.’” This is crucial to understand, because a holy God cannot face unholiness, and this is why we cannot stay as we are in the flesh. His holiness is why Jesus had to die on the cross to atone for our sins.
Because Jesus paid the debt we never could, we are able to come as broken, messed up people, because we are coming born again, covered in the blood of Jesus Christ that has redeemed us. Although we still wrestle with sin in this fallen world, God now sees His Son through us. Once you come to faith, you begin your journey of dying to self, putting on the armor of God, and walking along the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. You are no longer like the world, and you never will be again, because you are not who you were before.
But my prayer for believers, and the point behind all of this, is that it eventually becomes undeniably clear what our faith is all about: that we must decrease and He must increase (John 3:30). Christ is our hope in life and death. He is everything we need and more, and it truly is a great comfort to walk with the Lord. But it isn’t about us. How do I know this? Because Christianity calls us to deny ourselves, and faith requires obedience in the things contrary to our sinful nature.
The point of following Jesus is to strive to become more like Him. Christians are to submit in obedience to Christ, forgoing the desires of the flesh, to live a life worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1). But ultimately, being a Christian is often uncomfortable, and it is hard.
But rest assured that following Christ will change you in the best possible way. It is for our good and for His glory that we are changed in the ways of righteousness. And once you’re changed, once you experience the goodness of God, you’ll never want to go back. His goodness, even just a sliver of it, is worth surrendering all that you have in the flesh, because nothing compares. Truly, nothing.
So, yes. Come as you are. But by His grace and mercy, you will not stay as you are because you are no longer a slave to sin, but a child of God — forgiven and free.
Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.