Just As I Am

Most people are familiar with the song of that title that was written by Charlotte Elliott and William Bradbury. It’s one of my favorite songs, and its message tells us to come to Christ no matter what state we’re in. We don’t have to clean up our lives before we come to him. Christ is the cure, so trying to get well without him doesn’t make a lot of sense.

But sometimes people take this approach of “just as I am” a little differently. When they use it, they mean coming to Christ just as they are, and then staying that way. They think that being a “Christian” is nothing more than claiming to be one – that no outward sign of their conversion is necessary.

However, I’ve never been able to find any passages that back that up.

Instead, we have the examples of the Israelites under the Old Law who were punished when they didn’t follow God’s commands. We have passages (1 John 5:2-3; Galatians 2:20; Romans 12:1-2; and many others) that encourage us to turn away from our own desires, and live the way Christ longs for us to.

A sick person doesn’t go to a doctor with the intention of remaining sick. How can we expect to come to the “Great Physician,” but continue to live our lives the way we always have? Christ is totally committed to us – as he proved by offering himself on the cross for our sins. Doesn’t it make sense that we, therefore, should be totally committed to him? As Paul said in Romans 6, “how shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”

For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. – Luke 6:44

What kind of fruit do you bear? And when people see it, who would they think you serve?

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13 thoughts on “Just As I Am”

  1. I agree with you that a true conversion does produce a change in behavior, a more God-centered lifestyle and motivation for living. When I get the opportunity to sing Just As I Am after several years of going through the sharpening that the Lord lets his children endure, I am not only thinking back to when he did accept me as a new convert, knowing and understanding very little about Him, but also reveling in His accepting me even now with so many shortcomings and mistakes. As we grow we are being refined but we should also be more aware of just how insignificant and incapable we are without God’s help the whole way. I love that we have a God that not only draws us to Him, but empowers and enables us to become more like Jesus all the time too.

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  2. Fantastic thoughts Nate, very well stated.
    I whole heartedly agree with you. I would even go further and state that the essence of being Christian resolves around change. Leaving behind the “old man” and becoming the “new creation.”

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  3. “When they use it, they mean coming to Christ just as they are, and then staying that way.”

    So true. It is like so many of us walk up to the starting line, but when the gun goes off, only a few take off at full speed, some more begin at a gentle jog, but a surprising number seem to stand still.

    However, I must ask. Do you think these folks are saved? I would argue that they are saved, but their rewards in heaven will be small (if any).

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  4. TotalT, that’s a great question, but probably one that only God can really answer. But of course, I’m happy to supply my opinion 🙂

    I think, as TheEpiphany said, that when we are first saved, we typically know very little. But I believe that God’s grace covers our imperfections and continues to do so throughout our lives. However, we are also told to grow (Hebrews 5:12-14), and I believe that if we don’t do that sufficiently, then we are in danger of losing our salvation.

    I believe the Bible teaches pretty clearly that as we grow and learn, then more and more is required of us. I think the parable of the talents helps show that. When we learn about things that we should or should not be doing, then we become responsible for them. They may be some of the very things that God’s grace would have covered for us before, but now that we know, we’re responsible.

    Basically, I believe that God requires us to do our best all the time. Early in life, and early in our walks as Christians, we won’t be capable of a lot. But we’re required to grow. And as we do, we become responsible for more and more.

    So for the people who (as you so aptly put it) just stand there after the gun’s gone off, I don’t think they stay in a saved relationship for long. In the parable of the sower, I think they would be like those who heard the word, received it, but then let it wither away. Christ said we can’t serve God and mammon. I take that to mean that we can’t ride the fence. If we aren’t growing, then we’re dying.

    Thanks for the comments; I look forward to hearing back from you on it. And keep up the “total transformation!”

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  5. I guess that I break very far in the direction of salvation by grace alone. I view the criteria to be as simple as Paul states in Romans

    “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9.

    Beyond that it is a matter of treasures (what they are I don’t know) stored up in heavenly store rooms.

    “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.

    I think they will be saved, but since they built on the foundation of Christ with straw and hay, such will burn up leaving only their gift of eternal life. They will indeed be as one who suffers loss but yet escapes through the flames with his own life.

    I guess I would rather be a pauper in heaven than the alternative. But then again, whatever those heavenly treasure might be that Christ and Paul talk about, I would much rather store those up than see what I do burn up in the testing fire.

    BTW I am guessing the treasures that Christ and Paul both discuss have something to do with our relative closeness to God once we arrive in the afterlife- but this is sheer speculation. Imagine sitting at the wedding feast of Christ once he has taken his bride (the church), would you rather be seated at his right hand, or all the way at the end of the table where the food is cold before it even gets to you. 😉

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  6. Yeah, that passage in 1 Corinthians 3 was difficult for me for awhile, because I couldn’t quite figure out what it was talking about. There was a time when I thought it could mean what you’ve laid out, but we aren’t given a lot other passages that refer to that idea. Plus, so many other passages warn us about losing salvation if we turn away from God.

    Finally, after really studying through it and talking with some other Christians, I came to realize that what Paul was talking about was our work in teaching the lost. At the beginning of that chapter, Paul talks about how different teachers like he and Apollos have worked in the church at Corinth, but that they aren’t important, since it’s God who saves.

    But in verses 9 and 10 he goes on to say, “9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.” He says that the foundation of the church is Christ, but those Christians there make up the building. He then warns them to watch how they build on it. In other words, that some people they may bring to Christ will be sincere and will last as Christians (these are the gold, precious stones, etc), while others may not be sincere or might fall away (these are the wood, hay, etc that get “burned up”).

    In other words, I think this passage fits very closely with the parable of the sower. All kinds of people will hear God’s word. Some will follow it and bear fruit, while others will turn away from it for various reasons. The same is true in the church. There are those who become members of the church that might one day fall away. Or those who come, but don’t really live their lives as Christians. I’m sure you’ve seen examples of that yourself.

    So I think that this passage tells us that as we work to further God’s kingdom, we will sometimes bring in people who will become strong Christians and true assets to the church. When that happens, God will reward us for our part in that. But sometimes we will bring in people who won’t stick with it. In those instances, we will still be saved ourselves, even though the fruits we tried to bear didn’t last.

    That’s kind of the impression I currently have of this passage, but even if it’s talking about a different kind of “works,” the important thing is that they are still working. Just like in the parable of the talents, one man was able to handle 5, another 2, another 1. But each one was judged according to what he was able to do.

    So I think that when people don’t work, then they shouldn’t expect any reward, even heaven.

    I’ve actually got a couple of other posts that deal with this kind of subject. Some of the more recent ones are titled “…Not of Works…,” “Hebrews 6:4-6,” and “Salvation and Baptism… Are They Related?” I definitely think that the Bible teaches we are saved by grace, but to receive that grace, there are things we must do.

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  7. “There was a time when I thought it could mean what you’ve laid out, but we aren’t given a lot other passages that refer to that idea. Plus, so many other passages warn us about losing salvation if we turn away from God.”

    The passage seems to fit quite nicely with the discussion of treasures in heaven presented by Christ and by Paul. Paul goes further to discuss crowns awarded to believers who stood firm in their beliefs despite persecution.

    With regards to losing salvation, I am not a once-saved-always-saved proponent. But I don’t think we lose salvation because we fail to pursue a path of progressive sanctification. I think we lose it because we make a deliberate choice to give up the grace offered us by God. A conscious decision to reject Christ’s offer- not simple backsliding or failure to grow.

    Regardless I have no doubt that God wants for us to grow, he wants for us to grow in Christ (and Christ-likeness). As for my own path I know that I want to build with gold and silver (good doctrine and hard work), but I am not so sure that those who accept Christ without any further action are classified among the “unsaved.”

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  8. I think that’s a good point, and one I will study on some more.

    I will add one more thing, though. I think that in many ways, a failure to grow and backsliding are making a deliberate choice to give up on God. If we don’t work to keep him first in our lives, then we really aren’t doing what he’s asked us to.

    Luckily, God is the perfect judge, so whatever decision he makes in regard to someone in that situation is the correct one. But of course, all we can do is try to live the best we can. We’ll make mistakes from time to time, but as long as we correct them when we realize what we’ve done, I don’t think we have anything to worry about.

    I am glad to hear that you don’t profess “once saved always saved.” It’s definitely something you run into a lot in the religious world today.

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  9. totaltransformation, Welcome to the conversation. As Nate suggested I would point you towards several of the great topics here on Salvation, lots of good discussion going on that topic. There are some other criteria for salvation that is talked about just as plainly as confession and belief. The passages in 1st corth. Seems to make more sense to me when compared to the building of Christ’s church as Nate explained, but a lot of people do hold your thoughts on the closeness to Jesus in heaven thing.

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  10. A couple of commentors have recently alluded to the idea of different “levels” of heaven, or a difference in Christians’ rewards at the end of time. Nate, I wouldn’t mind seeing a post on what exactly will happen after judgement and a description of heaven. I know that may be a tall order, but just thought I’d offer a suggestion… 🙂

    I have always believed that all those who are found faithful at the end of time will receive the same reward: heaven. One reason I believe this is because of the parable of the vinedressers in Matt. 20:1-16. I don’t have time to really dissect that parable right now, nor am I able to look up additional passages at the moment, but hopefully I’ll be able to comment further later on….

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