At seven years of age, I learned a hard truth about life.
It all started the day I found an advertisement for a super spy periscope on a box of Froot Loops. The ad promised that for only sixty cents and couple of box tops, I could be the proud owner of a Batman periscope that would empower me to see around corners and over walls. The advertisement promised in no uncertain terms to turn me into a super spy.
I pestered my poor Mother into purchasing the necessary boxes of cereal, saved my money religiously and sent away for the device that was guaranteed to transform me into a super spy.
Six weeks later I learned that people tell lies on the back of cereal boxes.
The periscope was small, only about four inches high, and built out of cheap blue plastic. The people I spied on could easily see my hand as I peered around corners. The “spy glass” was clear plastic that was impossible to see through without straining my eyes. The third time I used it, the plastic pieces literally fell apart in my hand, and the “glass” shattered on the sidewalk. I was devastated.
My career as a super spy was over before it began.
I have since learned that people lie about all sorts of things. Some lies are innocuous and even amusing—like the time my then-two-year-old daughter told her Dad that her brother was the one that made the smelly mess in her diaper.
Sadly, the vast majority of lies are less humorous and far more damaging. Political lies are destructive because they mislead the public and pave the way for politicians to create laws and policies that lead us down a path of economic and social destruction.
The lies we tell ourselves are amongst the most damaging because they keep us from seeing the truth about ourselves and keep us stuck in harmful patterns of behavior. The damage caused by self-deception is enormous, but its destruction pales in comparison to the devastation created by spiritual lies.
Spiritual lies are becoming increasingly more common. Christians and non-Christians buy into them in equal numbers. Some of the most pernicious spiritual lies of our time include…
God has loosened up His standards of right and wrong since the New Testament was written.
Asking for forgiveness and repenting are the same thing.
Running away from hurt and pain is holier than dealing with it.
God just wants me to be happy.
By far the biggest, ugliest, most malevolent, fresh-from-the-pit-of-hell spiritual lie of our time is…. (Drumroll please)
God accepts people just the way they are.
Every spiritual lie is uniquely harmful and all lies produce their own brand of spiritual chaos. But I believe the “God accepts people just the way they are” lie is exceptionally dangerous—partly because it brushes right up against the truth and then bypasses it entirely and partly because it keeps us stuck in destructive patterns of behavior that will eventually ruin us.
The message that God accepts people as they are is one that has been circulating for decades. It started with good intentions: Christians wanted people to understand they didn’t have to be perfect to get right with God. So with the best of intentions we changed our message from…
“You are a sinner and you need to change. Get your life right with God so that you will have the power to change.”
“You are awesome just the way you are. However, you would be even better if you had God in your life.”
The message was well intentioned, but because there is a subtle deception embedded within, it has produced a sad and lifeless shadow of saving faith.
The truth is that God loves people just the way they are. Loving and accepting are not the same thing. When my kids were born I loved them. I was over the moon with love and affection for my kids. I loved each of them so much that I would have gladly taken a bullet for any one of them. That said, I would not have accepted their remaining infants indefinitely. They were normal, healthy newborns and I fully expected them to mature into more productive people.
God loves all people—regardless of past choices—with such a passion that He did take a bullet for the entire human race (metaphorically speaking). But God knows us all well enough to recognize that we are not awesome just the way we are.
We see this demonstrated in Jesus’ attitude toward the woman caught in adultery in John chapter eight. Jesus loved the woman enough to rescue her from a perilous situation (she was about to be killed). He loved her enough to forgive her for her sinful lifestyle (she was cheating on her husband). However, Jesus loved her too much to leave her the way she was. His parting words to her were a powerful call to transformation and life change:
Go now and leave your life of sin~ John 8:11 NIV
The call to transformation is not just for new believers and people caught up in sinful lifestyles; it’s for all of us. Christianity is more than a religion, and it’s more than a just a relationship.
Christianity is a journey of transformation.
It is a priceless opportunity to be molded into the image of the Maker of the universe. In order for this to happen, we have to stop fearing what we will lose through obedience. We must accept the fact that God wants something better for each and every one of us, no matter where we are in the journey.