I was driving along listening to the radio when a Billy Joel song came on. And my oddly functioning mind somehow conjured up Jesus picking the song and participating in karaoke at one of the many weddings that He attended. Perhaps He would have if only to further annoy the Pharisees. But past the weirdness of my thought process are a couple of things to ponder in the lyrics of the song "Just The Way You Are".
Don't go changing, to try and please me,
You never let me down before,
My personal belief is that one of the biggest and most damaging mistakes that the church makes with new believers is not teaching clearly and continually what happens when you put your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. It seems that we too often get young Christians immediately into studies and activities. We subtly (or in my own experience, not so subtly) program them to believe that growth is about doing more right things. That righteousness somehow requires busyness for Jesus. We imply that change can only happen when you are trying hard and being disciplined for God. The truth is that a complete change has already happened when you make that faith commitment to follow Jesus. Let's just hit the highlights. Scripture tells you that you now have a new identity. You are literally a new creation. You have imputed righteousness of Christ. That is a nice theological term that simply means that God sees you as righteous because of your relationship with Jesus. That's it. Nothing you have done or ever will do earns that righteousness. It is a gift of grace.
You are changed completely when you trust Christ. And I guess that is why I could imagine Jesus picking up the mike at the Cana Country Club and softly singing the words "don't go changing to try and please me". I see Jesus putting His arm around me and explaining that I have been changed. I see Him telling me that my sins are completely forgiven. I see Him explaining to me that all of those things that used to be true about me are no longer true. That no matter what the Accuser might say those things are dead and buried at the Cross. I see Jesus telling me that I have a Comforter and source of strength. That I don't have to grit my teeth and try harder to win favor and please Him. That sin does not have power over me anymore. That if I trust Him and let God love me I will please Him. My faith and trust is what pleases Him according to God's Word.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)
I see Jesus reminding me to simply live out of those truths and He can use me in amazing ways that He has already plotted from the beginning of time. Then He reminds me of the truth of the next lyric.
I would not leave you, in times of trouble,
We never could have come this far,
I took the good times, I'll take the bad times,
I'll take you just the way you are.
I am generally pretty good about remembering that God will not leave me in times of trouble. But I still have to stop and remember that Jesus will take me "just the way I am" no matter what that "way" is. I have to remind myself that I don't have to be hidden or defensive or weird. He loves me. Just the way I am. And I love the spiritual tie-in of the next lyric.
I don't want clever, conversation,
I never want to work that hard,
I just want someone, that I can talk to,
I want you just the way you are.
We just try too hard don't we? We come to Jesus with awkward formalities and attempts to sound righteous in our contrition. And Jesus is simply saying "talk to Me"! Let Me love you. Live out of what is true about you. You are forgiven. Righteous. Changed. Free. A new person. Believe it. Believe in Me.
What will it take till you believe in me,
The way that I believe in you?
I am beginning to see why Jesus picked this one for karaoke night. And the final lyric really confirms the choice.
I said I love you, and that's forever,
And this I promise from the heart,
I couldn't love you, any better,
I love you just the way you are.
So maybe my weird brain fantasy is a little silly. But I love the imagery. Of Jesus softly singing to me and a few saints in the room. I love you forever. That's a promise. Nothing you can do can make me love you any better. I love you just the way you are.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television
director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and
Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those
Wounded by the
Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.