I asked this question in a message a week ago, “Does God accept us the way we are?” As someone reminded me, everyone around them said “yes” and then I said the right answer is “no”. So it opens the door to what did I mean that God does not accept us the way we are?
My answer has a more “big picture” perspective of it than what most people were probably thinking. It is correct that Christ does meet us where we are as people who are in need of a savior. Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6), sinners (5:8), and enemies of God (5:10). Jesus explains it is not those who are well that need a physician, but those who are sick (Luke 5:31). When Zacchaeus embraced him, Jesus explained that the Son of Man came to seek and save that which is lost (Luke 19:10; Romans 3:23). So the idea here, from a divine perspective, is that all humanity is separated from God, unhealthy, spiritual dead, and sick. God cannot accept us into His presence and welcome us as family because of this condition, mode of existence, of being sinners, ungodly, and His enemies. So my statement that “God does not accept us the way we are” relates to the condition of humanity before God as we are – unless we are born again and the Spirit of God regenerates us and changes our spiritual condition from death to life, God cannot accept us the way we are. The whole point of Christ’s death is because we are all (on our own) unacceptable to God and fall under His wrath and judgment.
Once we accept Christ as Savior, and He adopts us into the family of God as His child, then His unconditional love accepts us as His child. Further, His desire is that He keeps on changing us so that we become conformed to the image of His Son (2 Cor. 3:17-18). God completely accepts us as His children without any threat of being cast out of the family, but God desires to keep on changing our character and nature. This way we become less like the person we were saved from and more like the image of His Son. So there are two sides of the same coin: “He who did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” I believe in eternal security, in that, He accepts us in Christ as His children and, in that sense, He will never love us any less or any more than He does the moment we become a child of God. At the same time He wants all of us to continue to change, grow and become more like His Son as we follow Him. Consequently, He gives to us His Spirit to help us keep changing so we are “filled up with all the fullness of His presence” to become complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-5). I think many people treat salvation as a ticket to heaven and then think they can act any way they want because they are “eternally accepted” or “secure” in Christ. That attitude misses the heart of the gospel completely and shows a profound lack of understanding to the ongoing change and transformation that God calls us to become in Christ, by the power of His Spirit.
I suspect that most Christians would say God accepts them the way they are … which is half true in my mind. He does fully accept us as His children. The temptation or danger with that “perspective” that God “accepts me the way I am” can result in apathy and indifference toward becoming more like Christ. We have to be careful to not use God’s acceptance to justify indifference. It is easy for us to take on the attitude that I don’t have to keep on changing and become more like His Son, Jesus, because God accepts me.