Like many people, I grew up listening to music. Much of what I listened to was classical because I liked it and I played it in the school orchestra. But I also listened to popular music with friends. One of the songs we listened to was by Billy Joel. It was written in 1977 and the song is called, ”Just the way you are”. It starts with this line... 'Don't go changing to try and please me.... I'll take you just the way you are.’ Often in relationships we get caught trying to change or fix someone. We like them or maybe even love them, but it would be even better if we could just change this one thing, or maybe even two things.
When we talk about matters of faith and our relationship with Jesus... He loves us just the way we are. After all we were created in His image. BUT, even though He loves us just the way we are, He does not want us to stay like we are. Jesus wants us to become more and more like Him. In theological terms this is called sanctification. Sanctification comes from two Latin words, Sanctus which means holy and ficare which means make. So, to sanctify means to make holy. And to be holy is to be set apart. Sanctification means the human in us begins to disappear and we begin to become more like Jesus. We begin to act like Jesus. We begin to treat others as Jesus would treat them. We begin to talk like Jesus. And people will notice the change. That becomes an opportunity for us to share Jesus with others.
Not only does Jesus want us to become more like Him but He wants others to join in. Jesus has overwhelmed us with His grace. But it is not ours to keep for ourselves. Who do we need to show the grace of Jesus to today? Jesus has lavished His love on us. But again, it is not all ours to keep. Who do we need to lavish love on today? Jesus didn't just love. He was kind. Who in your life needs to feel kindness like Jesus would give, from you? 1 Thessalonians 4:3 tells us that sanctification is God's will for us. In other words, God wants us to be like Jesus.
Yes, Jesus loves us just the way we are. But He will not leave us there. He wants us to draw close to Him. He wants us to walk with Him. He wants others to see Him in us. We see this in Matthew 5:16,” Let your light so shine before others that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” In other words, let Jesus shine in and through you. Sometimes becoming more like Jesus means we experience challenges that draw us closer to Him. Sometimes we grow to be more like Jesus when He stretches us or takes us to the end of ourselves. Other times we move to be more like Him when we read His Word and are convicted of something we are doing wrong. However it happens, growing to be more like Jesus it should bring us great joy. It does Him!
The phrase "I love you just the way you are" works in our lives as we encounter others who need to be closer to Jesus. We accept them as they are. We do not judge. We do not disparage them. Instead, we help them move forward at their own pace. Paul talks about new or returning believers as needing milk first and then solid food. The same is true of those well or at all. We help them to learn the basics first and then as they learn, we help them to go deeper into God's Word. For me, there are few things more satisfying than watching people grow in their life and faith in Jesus Christ. And as they grow, they are becoming set apart. Those of us who believe are set apart. We are called to live in this world but to not let the world live in us. We are called to be different than the world, which is the home of the prince of darkness...the great teller of lies...the master of doubt and deception. Listen to Paul's words in 12:2, ”Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The only thing we are to be conformed to is a life lived as Jesus calls to live. So, you can be the way you are, and Jesus will still love you. But He has plans for you and they are way more than you already are. In fact, they are way more than you can even begin to imagine.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W