1. Come as You Are
Four words: “Come as you are.”
Now it may not always be easy to “Come as you are,” but that is how we are expected to come to Jesus.
For example, when Jesus saw Peter and Andrew casting their fishing net into the lake, he called to them to follow him. And that’s exactly what the two brothers did. They stopped what they were doing, and immediately followed Jesus. (Matthew 4:18). Furthermore, when Zacchaeus the tax collector was hiding in the tree, Jesus called him down, and invited himself to his house for tea (Luke 19:5). And those are just two illustrations of where Jesus called people to “Come as you are.”
Of course, not all instances of Jesus calling people to “Come as you are” ended happily.
For example, there was a man who wanted to bury his father first before he came to Jesus. However, if his father was truly sick or dying, he wouldn’t have been talking with Jesus (Luke 9:59). And there was the man who wanted to go back and say goodbye to his family (Luke 9:61-62). But in reality, both were looking for excuses not to “Come as you are.”
In the New Testament, then, there are many examples where Jesus called people to “Come as you are.” And perhaps this is best illustrated by the example of the towns he denounced in which he had performed most of his miracles. Nevertheless, even though they hadn’t responded in the way he had hoped, he continued by saying, “Come to me, all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will refresh you” (or words to that effect) (Matthew 11:28).
And so today, as in Jesus’s day, we are to come exactly as we are, and we are to leave all our cares with Jesus. We don’t need to disguise things, cover things up, or put a gloss on things. We don’t need special clothing or disguises to protect us. However we are—whatever we’re going through—we are to “Come as you are” to Jesus.
2. Life Changing Results
And, of course, that’s not always as easy as it sounds—as I have already illustrated. After all, it takes courage to drop everything and present ourselves to our God, warts and all. It takes courage to face up to who we really are. And it takes courage to bare ourselves to show who we really are to those around us. But if we do, the results can be life changing.
After all, we all need to “Come as we are” to Jesus in order to receive salvation. That is why Jesus came, that is why he died, that is why he was resurrected from the dead, and that is why Jesus calls us all to come as we are. But having done that, we also need to “Come as we are” in the context of an ongoing relationship with him too.
B. PAUL’S TEACHING
And I’d like to expand on the issues of an ongoing relationship, particularly with chapter twelve of Paul’s letter to the Romans in mind.
Because in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he had for the first eleven chapters concentrated on the basics of the Christian faith. He had told them what they needed to know in terms of the theory: how to be saved (justification); how to grow and become more Christ-like (sanctification); and the reward that awaits them in the future (glorification). And then in chapter twelve it’s like Paul’s said, “Enough of the theory, we now need to put it all into practice.”
So instead of more teaching, he challenged the people in the church—people he didn’t know— to live the Christian life. And his exhortation covered three basic areas.
2. The Need to be Transformed by the Renewing of the Mind (1-2)
And the first is that he challenged those who “Come as you are” to be transformed. In other words the first step in any Christian’s journey is to put away the past, to put away previous thinking, to put away worldly ideals, and to allow God to transform our thinking. To start thinking in a godly manner.
After all, it isn’t good enough to simply to accept Christ as our Lord and saviour, and then do nothing about it as though nothing’s happened. Our commitment to Christ has to be whole-hearted. And nothing short of committing our whole lives to him—with no area of our lives untouched—is what he demands.
We are to commit ourselves and our bodies as a sacrifice to God. A total sacrifice. So that only God, and doing what he wants us to do, is the focus of our lives.
3. The Unity of the Body despite the Diversity of Gifts (3-8)
Having said that, however, that doesn’t mean that we are all to become identical, so that we cannot tell the difference between one Christian and another. On the contrary, Paul’s second point is that in giving our all to God, God will respond by giving us different gifts and abilities.
God wants us to continue to “Come as you are” although now transformed. But he wants us to exercise our gifts and talents, including the new spiritual gifts that he has given us. He doesn’t want us to keep them hidden away.
a). Diversity is the Mark of God’s Handiwork
In other words, Paul suggested that our diversity—our differences—are actually the marks of God’s handiwork. So just as in nature we see different varieties even within the same breed, so it is in God’s grace too. And nowhere should that be more apparent than within the Christian community.
Now the church in Rome would have brought together men and women with the most diverse kinds of parentage, environment, temperament, and capabilities. And since they had become Christians they would also have been endowed by God with a great variety of spiritual gifts as well. Yet this diversity, Paul suggested, was a very healthy thing.
So rather than squash the diversity and make everyone the same, people’s diversity should actually be encouraged and nurtured. And in that regard people should be encouraged to “Come as you are” and they should be encouraged to share their particular gifts and talents with the rest of the Christian community.
b). Unity as a Result of Diversity
Because what Paul also recognised was that if people used their gifts and talents, the end result would be something greater than the sum of the parts.
Our different gifts and talents have a purpose beyond ourselves. We are each different for a reason. And that is because if we come, and contribute whatever we’ve got, we can make the whole so much better.
If we were all the same, what could we offer God’s church? Where would God’s church be? But if we’re all different, and we pool our resources, think what difference it would make.
So whatever service we can provide needs to be rendered in the church. It needs to rendered heartily and faithfully. And no matter what our particular talents may be—whether it is prophesying, teaching, admonishing, administering, making material gifts, visiting the sick, or performing any other kind of ministry—the diversity should be encouraged, with the intention of building up the whole.
4. The Central Demand of Love (9-21)
However, whilst there is the potential of unity in diversity, this can only be achieved in the context of love. So Paul’s third point is that there is the imperative of Jesus to consider. There is a need to have a deep, unaffected, and practical love, reminiscent of Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
Yes, we might have our differences. And some people’s gifts might be more upfront than others while others work more behind the scenes. But fundamental to our unity in diversity—and binding those two things together—is the need for an attitude of mutual love, sympathy, and honour within the fellowship of believers. An attitude that should have a flow on effect to those outside of the fellowship, and to those who persecute us or wish us ill.
Unity in diversity, then, is very important, and one on which the health of God’s church depends. But it can only work on a foundation of love.
Now what Paul was advocating was simply that in addition to us “Coming as you are” to become a Christian, it is vitally important to “Come as you are” in regard to living the faith too.
Yes, the act of becoming a Christian involves transformation—a process that will be with us for the rest of our earthly lives. But we are also to come as we are bringing and using all the gifts and talents that God has given us too.
And lest we forget what we mean by the church, our unity in diversity should involve not only the congregations we belong to, but all the other churches within our denomination, all other denominations within our area, and the whole worldwide church too.
1. The Impossible Dream
But just how do we do that? After all, we’re such a diverse group of people from different backgrounds, and different cultures. And the way we think, and act, can be so different from one another.
After all, unity within diversity may be a great ideal. But is it an “impossible dream”?
2. High Ideals
Well in one sense if would be very easy to think that way. It would be very easy to give up before we have started. After all, it is an ideal that stands out distinctly from our experience of reality. Except for the fact that one of the things about the Christian faith is that it has many high ideals. It has the ideals on how to live a perfect life; it has ideals about how to have a perfect relationship with our creator; and it has ideals about how to live in harmony with one another.
And one of the things about the Christian faith is that despite acknowledging the huge gulf between ideal and reality, we are still encouraged, even commanded, to reach for these higher ideals too.
3. Getting Back to Basics
That means we have to find a way through all the “I can’t do that,” “I’ve tried it before,” “It doesn’t work,” and all the other well-worn expressions we know so well. We need to strive for a way to make a difference. And what better way is there, than to “Come as you are” to Jesus.
Because only Jesus can transform our thinking. Only Jesus can give us the gifts and talents to do the tasks required. Only Jesus can use our gifts to unite our church and actually make our church stronger. And only Jesus can help us do all those things in love.
4. The End Result
So if we come with an open mind, unencumbered by any prejudices, discriminations, dislikes, hatred, and whatever other feelings are within and between our churches, then we will begin to see the gulf getting smaller, the congregations to which we belong being transformed, and more diversity within the church as a whole. And all spilling out into the communities in which we live. And it all begins with Jesus, and us “Coming as you are” and being willing to be used by God as he chooses.
Just because some things look impossible, doesn’t mean that they are. Yes, something may seem impossible to us, but they’re not impossible to God. And God is very good at using people, people like us, to do the impossible. But we need to be willing to be used.
“Come as you are” that is the message.
But if we do come, how willing are we to being transformed? How willing are we to become more godlike in our thinking? And how willing are we to become more like God originally designed us to be?
After all, what gifts and talents has he given us to use in his church and beyond? And are we willing to use them, not just for ourselves, but to build up the whole? Are we willing to promote unity in diversity? And will we practice love—mutual love—within our fellowship of believers? A love that will spill out to those outside our fellowships, even to those who give us a hard time.
In today’s world we face many challenges. But perhaps none more so than to take our place in the life of God’s church and to be God’s chosen people.
“Come as you are.” But the question is, “Are we willing to do so?”
Posted: 3rd April 2021
© 2021, Brian A Curtis