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19 September, 2007 / theexpositor

Steve Cornell-Does God accept us as we are?

from Christian Worldview Network 

Religious clichés are common. “God helps those who help themselves.” “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” “Money is the root of all evil.” None of these is biblical but many use them as statements from God. Other religious clichés are used to excuse poor behavior. “Christians aren’t perfect just forgiven” we’re reminded. “We’re all sinners” offers more relief from a guilty conscience.

The use of religious clichés is not new.  Scripture records and corrects a number of them. For example, Corinthians justified sexual immorality with the phrase, “food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.” They argued that the body was not of eternal and spiritual significance, therefore, immorality was acceptable. This misguided rationalization (based on Greek mythology) occasioned a corrective response from the Apostle Paul (cf. I Corin. 6:12-20).

A more contemporary cliché that could be misleading is the statement: “God accepts us as we are.”  Is this true? According to Jesus, it depends on what you think you are. Jesus told a parable about certain people who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt” (Luke 18). Jesus referred to two men going up to the temple to pray — the one a Pharisee, the other a tax-gatherer ( a despised person in first century Judaism). The Pharisee began by thanking God that he was not like the sinners of society and then went on to recite his own notable virtues. The tax-gatherer stood at a distance with downcast eyes, pleading for God’s mercy and identifying himself as a sinner. The conclusion?  The admitted sinner was accepted before God and the self-righteous Pharisee found no approval with God.

This parable reminds us that only those who see themselves as sinners in need of God’s mercy will be accepted by God. The best of human achievements cannot grant us favor with God. Only those who humbly acknowledge their unworthiness are granted acceptance with God. Put another way, “what we are” is the problem. All people have fallen short of God’s glory and are in need of His merciful salvation.

The Bible says; “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5-6).  The proud person rejects God’s authority over his life and defiantly declares his independence of the Creator. This person could be self-sufficiently religious (as the Pharisee) or totally irreligious. The issue is far deeper then external activities. 

The broken and contrite heart God will not despise (Ps. 51:17).  Through the prophet Isaiah, God said: “To this person will I look (with favor,) to him who is humble and contrite of spirit and who trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2). Does God accept us as we are? It depends on what you think you are? 

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2 Comments

  1. Nath @ Reformed Geek / Sep 19 2007 21 35

    That’s a great article by Cornell. There are so many clichés out there that I believe are causing a lot of damage, even if they were begun with good intentions.

    I shared my thoughts on the “Personal Relationship With Jesus” phrase when Trevix Wax brought it up recently. Others that I see are an issue include “Accepting Jesus” and “Asking Jesus Into Your Heart”.

    I can’t help but cringe when someone is trying to quickly summarise the gospel in a conversation and they don’t say something like someone”Repented & Believed” but instead they say that someone “Accepted Jesus Into Their Heart”.

    The issue is that the gospel itself is lacking in the church, so all these phrases have taken upon new (and unbiblical) meanings…one of the comments in response to Cornel’s article suggested that everything Cornell said was obvious and that his article was unnecessary and was just causing unneeded controversy. It really shows that some people don’t understand the state of the church.

  2. brett / Oct 1 2007 18 10

    Flannery O’Conner’s View:
    Letter from “Habit of Being”…

    I have a much less romantic view of how the Holy Spirit operates than you. The sins of pride and selfishness and reluctance to wrestle with the Spirit are certainly mine but I have been working at them a long time and will be still doing it when I am on my deathbed. I believe that God’s love for us is so great that He does not wait until we are purified to such a great extent before He allows us to receive Him.

    Grace, to the Catholic way of thinking, can and does use as its medium the imperfect, purely human, and even hypocritical. Cutting yourself off from Grace is a very decided matter, requiring a real choice, act of will, and affecting the very ground of the soul…In the Protestant view, I think Grace and nature don’t have much to do with each other. The old lady [the one who would’ve been a good woman if she’d been shot every moment of her life], because of her hypocrisy and humanness and banality couldn’t be a medium for Grace. In the sense I see things the other way, I’m a Catholic writer.

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