Jesus accepts me just the way I am. He did not say he would accept me if I cleaned up my act first. He did not force me to change before he loved me. The Bible did say I needed to “trust him”, “repent of my sins (turn around)” and “follow him.” Is that a contradiction?
If Jesus accepts me as I am, why do I need to trust, turn around and follow? When Jesus found me the second time, I was entangled in self-centeredness but I was almost totally unaware of it. I knew I was in pain – emotional pain, spiritual pain, relational pain – but I didn’t know what was causing it. I was trying to get my God-given needs met the only way I knew how, and that wasn’t God’s way. And I didn’t feel that that was wrong. I honestly didn’t trust any other way. But let’s go back to the first time Jesus found me.
Ten years earlier, in my late teens, I thought I was a Christian because I liked Jesus’ philosophy and I believed I was a good person. I told Jesus that I didn’t want to be like the Christians I knew, I wanted to be like the Christians in the Bible. Then Jesus invaded my world. He told me I was “a sinner.” I knew I had some minor faults but Jesus was saying I was totally, totally evil. You’ve got to be kidding, I thought. I never killed anyone and I followed the rules. I told him, “No, I’m not.” He said I was “a sinner” again. I recoiled in horror again at the thought that he was telling me that I was the complete opposite of what I thought I was. I told him again, “No, I’m not.” Then he said he would humble me (what I interpreted at the time was that he meant he was going to drag my “good name” through the mud) for 5 years. I said, “What?!!! Five years?!!!” He said, “Ok, ten.” At that point I became very, very paranoid. And mental illness drove me for the next ten years.
Jesus stripped away some of the lies I told myself about how good I was. I found myself doing things I thought I would never do, because I didn’t trust God to do it and I didn’t know any other way to get my God-given needs met. For the next ten years I found out that I was indeed totally, totally evil; just as Jesus said I was. I searched for God and tried to “get saved” several times, but I could not. About ten years later, having learned little, I was openly disrespectful and sarcastically said to God, “Well, it’s been almost ten years, you better hurry up and save me if your prophecy is going to come true.”
And Jesus graciously came to me again. I was still totally depraved, but Jesus still loved me. He still humbly sacrificed himself in my best interest and offered me forever with him. I would like to say that I got on my knees and gratefully accepted his offer. I did not. I grudgingly accepted his offer because I thought I had nothing left to lose. I told Him I was sorry for the wrongs I had done and asked Him to accept me. And with that little bit of trust I showed Him, He adopted me into His family.
I did not change overnight. I repeatedly struggled between doing what God said and doing what satan said. But sometimes when Jesus pointed out a sin in my life (sometimes for the hundredth time) I trusted Him enough to obey him. And the more I obeyed Him and the more I still continue to obey Him, the more I experience His mercy and favor, and the more grateful I am to Him for the loving kindness He shows me and the more I want to follow him.
Following Jesus is hard. The world, your friends, your spouse may not applaud you. In fact, they may leave you. But the intimate love that Jesus and you share is so satisfying, and the love He gives you to give your spouse, your friends and the world works so powerfully for their good, that you are compelled to sacrifice all for them… and Him. Because that is what He did for you.