Sometimes I miss the pentecostal tradition. I miss the fire and enthusiasm. But most importantly I miss the theology that God changes us. I miss the belief and practice that when we encounter the Holy Trinity through the power of the Holy Spirit we are not the same person we were when we walked in the door. I miss the testimonies of lives being radically changed. I miss worshipping and celebrating the God who heals.
I say this because I’m finding myself growing frustrated with the theology I am seeing in North American Christianity. It’s the “Just As I Am” theology. Yes it is true that we can come to God just as we are, but “Just As I Am” theology goes a step farther and advocates that we stay just the way we are.
This theology makes us dictate what God can and can’t do.
It makes us the boss over God. “Here I am God, just as I am, I like it, you can’t change me, you just have to accept me as I am, because I am fine the way I am, and You love me just the way I am.”
We not only tell the Church (pastors, elders, official church teaching) that they can’t tell us that we’re wrong, that we’re broken, (who are you to judge? we tell them), but we also tell God that He can’t tell us we’re wrong, we’re broken.
Where does this come from? Does it come from our doctrine of making a decision for Christ? Do you believe? Say this prayer, say these words. Now you’re in. That’s all that matters. It’s a head thing, and an emotional heart thing. But it’s not a life-changing thing.
Does it come from an overemphasis on justification by faith? We are justified by faith, Jesus’ blood covers over us but doesn’t change us, because what matters is that his blood just covers. We are sinners, we always will be sinners, now we’re just justified sinners.
Where is our doctrine of sanctification? Where are our celebrations of how God has changed us, how he is still changing us, and how he will change us? Where is our proclamation that the Holy Spirit indwells us, that the new is come, the old has passed away? Where is our robust doctrine of baptism, that proclaims that through the waters of baptism we have died to our old selves, died to sin, and are raised to new life through Christ?
What happens when we say to God, come in and do what you need to do? Will it hurt? Probably. Will it be a struggle? Sure. But by not opening ourselves to God’s cleansing fire we’re also missing out on the incredible blessing, the incredible intimacy that comes from the Holy Spirit washing us through and through.
I remember who I was and what I was like before Jesus got a hold of my life. I don’t want that. If I had said “Just as I am and you can’t change me” to him 16 years ago, two things are certain: One, I’d be a very different person today. And two, I probably wouldn’t have stayed in the Church, I wouldn’t have stayed a Christian. I am a Christian because I am a new creation. I am a Christian because the God of the Universe loved me so much to not leave me “just as I am.” And he continues to love me and not leave me “just as I am.” God heals. God transforms. God renews.
I don’t want to be just as I am.