Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Just as You Are

                Do you remember where you were in your life when you came to Jesus for the first time? I do, it is a place I will never forget, and a place I never want to go back to. I was living in sin, I was a drug addict, an alcoholic and in desperate need of a Savior. I came to Jesus, just as I was, and He accepted me. I did nothing, I just came. This was not always the case, in the book of Leviticus, God laid specific requirements down for those who would come into His presence. I thank God, for Jesus Christ. 
                Aaron was appointed by God to be the high priest for the children of Israel. It was his job to offer sacrifices according to the directions God gave Moses. From Aaron on down the generations, this lineage of people was to be priests to God. Aaron was a man, just like you and me- the only difference between him and the people of Israel, was that God gave him permission to enter the Most Holy Place; he was allowed to come before God. But, Aaron had to do a lot to himself before he could even enter the presence of God. When I say a lot, I mean, a lot! (Read Leviticus 16)
                “and the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.’” Leviticus 16:2. God told Moses to tell Aaron, don’t just go walking into the presence of God, because if you do, you will die. There was a set order of things for Aaron to do to prepare his body, soul and mind before he could even perform the responsibilities that God had ordained him to do.
                As I read these words, I began to thank God that I can just come as I am. I do not have to clean myself up; I do not have to do anything except come before Him, as His child, as His royal daughter. Aaron however, was not so lucky. Why? Because Christ had not yet come, and Aaron was a man who needed forgiveness from his sins, just as the people of Israel did.
                Aaron had a whole list of things that needed to be performed before he could even walk into the Most Holy Place. He had to come with the blood of a young bull for his sins, a ram as a burnt offering, and then he had to wash himself with water and put on the specific clothing that God required all His priest to wear. He had to do all this before he could even get through the door of the tabernacle.
                I am so thankful that we do not have to do any of this. We have open access to God now. Before Christ came, there was a separation between God and man. God dwelt in the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle, and between He and the people there was a veil. This veil kept the sinful people away from the Holiest of Holies, their God. But on the day that Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. God broke down the separation because the blood of Jesus Christ satisfied the requirements of the law that Aaron had to perform. There was no more separation; all are free to come to God the Father, just as we are.
                Sometimes, we think we have to straighten out this part of our lives before we can come to Jesus, or we want to try to clean ourselves up before we come. But Jesus cries out to us, “Come as you are.” Never once did He turn away from anyone who came to Him. He sat with prostitutes and sinners, crooks and murderers. He never asked them to do anything other than to believe He was who He said He was.
                Hebrews tells us that “there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:23-25) We have a God in heaven who wants us to come to Him just as we are. He does not require anything from us. He does not ask us to do anything except come. From one end of the earth to the other, no matter what you have done or will do, Christ has fulfilled the requirements so that all you have to do now is come.
                When we have people entering our church that may seem a little less desirable than we think they should, what are we telling them? We are telling them to go and clean themselves up before they come back. But that should not be the case. We are to be showing them that they can come to Jesus just as they are. There was no need for us to do anything special, to put on specific clothing or dress a certain way before we came, so why do we put that burden on others?
                James warned against this kind of partiality and judging of others in chapter 2 of his epistle. He warned that when we look down upon someone because they do not meet the requirements we have set; we have fallen into judgment and sin. We have determined that “works” are more important than faith. If someone walked into your church this Sunday with dirty hair, smelly clothes, maybe they reeked of alcohol, what would your reaction be? Would you be able to go up to that person in the spirit of love and peace and give them a hug, thanking them for coming to Jesus? Unfortunately, I think most of us would probably look the other way and then discuss the state of that person in our cars on the way home from church.
                What if that was Jesus? The bible tells us to entertain strangers, because some have been angels. (Hebrews 13:2) What if that person that just walked into your church was Jesus? Jesus was not some beautiful, glowing, halo over His head being when He was on the earth. The Bible tells us that there was nothing special about Him. In fact, He would have been termed by us as “ugly”. What if a prostitute came walking into your church? What would you say, what would you do? Would you welcome her, just as she is, or would you turn away and turn your nose up? We need to take account of our hearts, and remember that Jesus calls us to come just as we are.
Aaron had all these requirements placed upon him before he could come into the presence of God, but we have been given free access to come to God the Father just as we are. Whether we are broken, hurt, dirty, smelly or just come from a night of sin, Jesus never turned a single one away- so why do we?
                No matter who you are, where you are, no matter what sins you have committed in your life, no matter what sin you are living in now, you can come to Jesus Christ just as you are. If you find that “Christians” are looking down on you, then may I suggest you find a different church? Who are we to say who is allowed to come through the doors of our churches? Isn’t that God’s job? If He calls someone to come, then who are we to tell them to go and get cleaned up first, and then come back?
                I pray that we who call ourselves Christians would no longer look upon those who need the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ in their lives with disdain or partiality. This, my fellow brothers and sisters should not be named among us at all. But all who want to come to Jesus should feel free to come, because we have been given free access to God the Father through Jesus Christ. Open our hearts, children of God, to those who need to see the love and grace that has been freely given to all those who come to Jesus, just as they are.