I’ve been thinking about something recently that is common in American evangelical churches today and I want to talk about it a bit. Actually, I want to go off a bit a bit about it. I have to be honest, the more I pay attention to what many “evangelical” so-called pastors and churches preach, the more concerned I become about the state of the church in America. Yet, even as I grow concerned, I am hopeful.
I am hopeful because I believe there is an undercurrent of real biblical Christianity growing in this country and I am ecstatic to see it. There are so many people that are tired of the falseness of unbiblical modern day American evangecalism and I’m glad they’re tired of it!
Recently I was driving home from work and I saw a sign on the street next to a church building. The sign was clearly marked that it belonged to this local Baptist church. Now before my Baptist friends get all huffy, I’m not criticizing Baptists, merely stating the fact that this was a Baptist church. Anyways, the sign read this:
Come as you are! God loves you as you are!
Now, let me be clear. In one sense I agree with this statement. But only insofar as we come as we are physically. I don’t think there should be a dress code for coming to a place of worship. However, there is a subtle lie that is being perpetuated here.
If we’re not careful, we read this sign and we believe it in a spiritual sense. We think we can come to God as we are spiritually. Nothing could be further from the truth. We cannot come to God as we are.
Let’s look at what the Bible actually has to say about this. I want to take two specific examples from the OT to illustrate my point.
Turn in your Bible to Exodus chapter 3 and read it, specifically for our purposes the first six verses. Many of us are familiar with this story but I think we kinda blow right by it in one sense. We think the point of this story is some miraculous bush burning and the calling of Moses. Yes, that’s cool and all that a bush would burn without burning up and makes for some cool artwork and yes, in this story, Moses receives his great calling to be God’s representative. But the real focus in this text is God and His holiness.
As Moses approaches this burning bush, God speaks to Moses. And what does God say? He warns Moses that He must not approach as he is but to debase and humble himself because he is in God’s presence, literally standing on holy ground. It’s not that the ground was holy but that it was holy because that’s where God Spirit was at that moment. Don’t miss this in light of what we’re talking about.
God may not be approached as we are.
He is holy and to be in His presence means that we must recognize that and behave accordingly.
Later, when God gives His covenant to the people of Israel and delivers the law, He repeatedly says “I am the LORD your God,” a declaration of His holiness. The people of Israel recognized God’s holiness in Exodus 20 even saying to Moses, ‘We’re not going anywhere near Him or we’ll die.’ When God gives directions on how to build the tent He will visit among His people, He gives instructions on how to separate the people from Himself and sets up the sacrificial system.
Is that because God was mean and just wanted animals to die bloody deaths? No, it’s because He is absolute holiness and no one who is an unclean sinner may approach Him. In the sacrificial system, He says to His people that blood must be spilled in order to make anyone worthy of coming before Him (see Exodus 24 and many other OT passages).
God’s covenant people were prohibited from approaching Him until they were cleansed by blood.
Another powerful example we see of this in the OT is Isaiah 6. I invite you to read it now before proceeding. Isaiah recognizes his own inadequacy to come before God. Why? Because he is unclean. He must be cleansed before he can come before God’s throne and, in God’s mercy, He does cleanse Isaiah (see verses 6-7). What’s my point?
Cleansing must occur. We cannot come to God as we are. We must dispel this Pelagian notion that we can somehow save ourselves either before we come to Christ or can keep ourselves in His grace by our efforts. This is works based salvation and antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The sacrificial system that God put in place in the OT as part of His covenant with His people to be a God to them and their children has never been rescinded. Never has God said we don’t have to do that anymore. Here’s the good news…
God Himself has taken care of that sacrifice that cleanses us. He has done this in Christ! Don’t believe me? Read pretty much the entire book of Hebrews in the NT.
Christ has spilled His blood so that we may be cleansed! Hallelujah!
The shedding of blood is still necessary to forgive sin. But now, God’s own blood has been shed on our behalf in the person of Jesus so that we may approach His throne!
Think deeply on this, my friends. Drink deeply from the well of grace that flows from the throne of God. We can now approach God’s throne and call Him Father because Christ has shed His own blood for our souls!
In the words of Augustus Toplady from the beautiful hymn “Rock of Ages”:
Not the labors of my hands can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress; helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the Fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.
Soli Deo Gloria!!