I have heard it said that you don’t have to get your life right to come to God. While it is true that we do nothing in our flesh to earn or to deserve our own salvation, and that we can’t be saved of our own merit, or of our own good works, which are done in the flesh, it is not true that we don’t have to get our lives right to come to God. For, Jesus said:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:23-26 ESV).
Now, the difference here is that this is not speaking of us working to earn our salvation from our own flesh. This is talking about what it means to come to faith in Jesus Christ. It means we deny self, that we die with Christ to sin, not just once, but daily, and that we follow him in obedience.
We don’t come to faith in Jesus Christ and then maybe die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. Coming to faith in Jesus means we are crucified with him in death to sin so that we are no longer enslaved to sin but so we are now becoming slaves of God and of his righteousness.
Now we must walk (in practice, in conduct) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God and no longer according to our flesh. And this isn’t optional. For, if we continue living in slavery to sin, it will result in death, not in life everlasting. It doesn’t mean we are perfect, but that sin no longer has control over our lives. Sin is no longer our master.
For, if we think we are believing in Jesus Christ, but that change, although possible, is optional, and thus we continue in the same sinful practices as before we “believed” in Jesus, because we want to hold on to those sins, then we will lose our lives for eternity, not have eternal life with God.
But if, by faith in Jesus Christ, we willingly die with him to our old lives of living in sin and for self, then we have eternal life with God, provided we continue in that faith, firm and steadfast, not moved from the hope of the gospel, which is conditional upon us dying with Christ to sin and living to Christ in walks of obedience to him.
And this is not works-based salvation, because we aren’t the ones doing it in our flesh according to our choosing. But we are walking in fellowship with our Lord according to his instructions, and in his power and strength, for the glory and praise of God. So, we can take no credit.
I have also heard it said that God meets us where we are, but I see no biblical foundation for that statement. What I see is that we need to meet God where he is, on his terms, such as is described in the passage above. He has provided the way for our salvation, but we must come to him on his terms. He doesn’t meet us where we are, or halfway, either.
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV).
This is the way we should have learned Christ, if we were taught the truth in Christ that we must put off our old self, be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and we must put on (apply to our lives, put it into practice) the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
We must no longer live the way we did before we “believed” in Jesus. We are to no longer walk (in conduct) in the ways of the ungodly. We are not to give ourselves up to any kind of impurity, sensuality, wickedness, and immorality. But we are to live according to the will of God for our lives.
So, this is not God meeting us where we are. This is us conforming to him and to his ways as part of believing faith. This is us denying self, dying with him daily to sin and to self, and us following him in obedience to his ways and to his truth and righteousness, in his power.
And it is getting our lives right with God to come to him, for coming to him means we are getting our lives right with God. But we do so through surrendering our lives to Jesus Christ, by submitting to him as Lord (owner-master), and by leaving our lives of sin behind us to follow him in obedience.
We don’t do this in the flesh because we can’t do this in the flesh. We can’t even come to faith in Jesus Christ unless God the Father draws us to Christ, i.e., unless he persuades us to leave our sins behind us to follow our Lord in obedience to his will for our lives. For, even the faith to believe in Jesus comes from God, therefore it submits to his will and purposes.
So, please know this. Jesus Christ died on that cross that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. He died, too, that we might no longer live for ourselves, but that we might live for him who gave his life up for us. And he shed his blood on that cross to buy us back for God (to redeem us) so we would now honor God with our bodies (our lives).
God doesn’t meet us where we are, but we meet him where he is, and coming to God (to Jesus Christ) means we get our life right with him from the onset of coming to him. If we don’t, we don’t know him. And being freed from slavery to sin happens at our salvation. It isn’t something we do later on if we decide to do it or not. We just have to walk in that freedom.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Tit 2:11-14; Col 1:21-23; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rom 12:1-8; 1 Co 12:1-31; Eph 4:1-16; Jn 6:44; Eph 2:8-10; Heb 12:1-2]
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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