As I scrolled through my Facebook Feed today, I stumbled upon the words of a fellow Christian blogger:
“God wants to love on you. No need for clean up before approaching him.”
This attitude of “God loves you, so come as you are” is one that is incredibly prevalent these days. While the intentions behind it are likely good, there are problems with the message being conveyed, problems that I want to address. My purpose isn’t to pick on the writer of that quote or anyone embracing it, but rather to point out the two main issues with this message.
1. The gospel is about more than God’s love
It would be wrong of me to say that this quote and the message behind it are over-inflating God’s love. God’s love for his children is great, far beyond anything we could imagine! And yes, he created and saved us out of that great love.
But that’s not all there is to the story. You see, when we simplify it down to just “God loves us”, we make it about us when, truthfully, it wasn’t about us in the first place. As a young child, I was taught from the Westminster Catechism that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Simply put, we exist to bring glory to God.
Indeed, the Bible affirms this idea. Ephesians chapters one and two combine to make a gospel-saturated, rich portrayal of our identity as Christians. God is shown to be merciful, kind, and full of grace. Yet the apostle Paul doesn’t just say “God saved us because he loved us.” No, he makes it very clear that the goal of our salvation is that God would be praised.
“He predestined us… to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have obtained an inheritance… so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also… were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:5-6, 11-14)
We must understand that while God’s love is unimaginable, it is not God’s sole motivation. God saved us out of love. He loved us by saving us. And he did it that he might be praised.
2. God is forgiving, but God expects holiness
This is the root issue of the “come as you are” philosophy: it ignores the holiness of God and neglects his expectations for his followers.
Yes, God forgives our sins. He even knows that we as human beings cannot attain perfection in this life. But by no means does he give us a free pass for sin. Instead, God gives us the firm command: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16), and we cannot make light of this command.
We as Christians are called to live a life of holiness. Ephesians 1:3-4 tells us, “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
Holiness is something that we are called to. Holiness ought to be our destiny. Holiness must be our goal.
God does accept us despite our imperfection (assuming we have trusted in Christ and thus had our sins atoned for by his work on the cross) and he certainly does love us. Yet we must not get so focused on the grace of God that we overlook his holiness and our responsibility. We aren’t perfect and we won’t be perfect, but we must strive to put sin to death and live in a way that pleases our holy God. For if we have been saved by the grace of God, why would we want to do that which displeases him?
So then, my exhortation to you is this: Embrace the love of Christ, but acknowledge his holiness. Bask in his grace, but strive for righteousness. Don’t take advantage of God’s goodness, but rather let it propel you to do that which pleases him. Remember the purpose for which you were saved: to glorify your Savior.