“Go as a sinner”: Bonar on humbly approaching Christ
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13) were the words that brought me to saving faith in the Fall of 1999. To this day, those simple words and others like them (i.e. “Just as I am”) are so profound that I simply don’t fully grasp the depth of God’s mercy that He would invite me to come to Him, honestly, with all my sin. I naturally seek to please God through self-improvement and compare myself to other worse sinners. I naturally want to appease Him by being good and doing good. This is Cross-neglecting legalism!
God wants us to press close to Him in the honest truth – I am a sinner, empty of righteousness and undeserving of everything but hell forever and that I don’t typically feel like it.
We need to impress our friends, our hearers, our congregations to come to Jesus. Be honest, sincere and open. Even if you cannot feel your sin, take that honesty to Him. And even there, in the honesty of ignorance and in spiritual numbness, you may find truth and rest for your souls in the everlasting righteousness of Christ!
O, that we would stop trying to appease ‘seekers’ with scientific proofs and stop trying to appease legalists with more duties. Let us press everyone we know to go to Jesus honestly, just as they are, in the soiled garments of sin and ignorance. Let sinners come in their tattered rags!
On this topic, yet another gem from Horatius Bonar (1808-1889):
Faith may seem a slight thing to some; and they may wonder how salvation can flow from believing. Hence they try to magnify it, to adorn it, to add to it, in order that it may appear some great thing, something worthy of having salvation as its reward. In so doing, they are actually transforming faith into a work, and introducing salvation by works, under the name of faith. They show that they understand neither the nature nor the office of faith. It saves, simply by handing us over to the Saviour. It saves, not on account of the good works which flow from it, not on account of the love which it kindles, not on account of the repentance which it produces, but solely because it connects us with the Saving One. Its saving efficacy does not lie in its connection with righteousness and holiness, but entirely in its connection with the Righteous and Holy One …
The blood of the cross is that which has ‘made peace;’ and to share this peace God freely calls us. This blood of the cross is that by which we are justified; and to this justification we are invited. This blood of the cross is that by which we are brought nigh to God; and to this blessed nearness we are invited. This blood of the cross is that by which we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace; and this redemption, this forgiveness, is freely set before us. It is by this blood that we have liberty of entrance into the holiest; and God’s voice to each sinner is, ‘Enter in.’ It is by this blood that we are cleansed and washed; and this fountain is free, free as any of earth’s flowing streams, free as the mighty ocean itself, in which all may wash and be clean.
These are good news concerning the blood, — news which should make every sinner feel that it is just what he stands in need of. Nothing less than this; yet nothing more.
And these good news of the blood are no less good news of Him whose blood is shed. For it is by this blood-shedding that He is the Saviour. Without this He could not have been a Redeemer; but, with it, He is altogether such a Redeemer as suits the sinner’s case. In Him there is salvation, — salvation without a price, — salvation for the most totally and thoroughly lost that this fallen earth contains. Go and receive it.
Do you ask, How am I to find salvation, and how am I to go to that God, on the blood of whose Son I have trampled so long? I answer, Go to Him in your proper and present character — that of a sinner. Go with no lie upon your lips, professing to be what you are not, or to feel what you do not. Tell Him honestly what you are, and what you feel, and what you do not feel. ‘Take with you words;’ but let them be honest words, not the words of hypocrisy and deceit. Tell Him that your sin is piercing you; or tell Him that you have no sense of sin, no repentance, no relish for divine things, no right knowledge of your own worthlessness and guilt. Present yourself before Him just as you are, and not as you wish to be, or think you ought to be, or suppose He desires you to be …
Appear before Him, taking for granted just that you are what you are, a sinner; and that Christ is what He is, a Saviour; deal honestly with God, and be assured that it is most thoroughly impossible that you can miss your errand. ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found;’ and you will see that He is found of you. ‘Call upon Him while He is near;’ and you will find how near He is.
–Horatius Bonar, The Christian Treasury in The Life and Works of Horatius Bonar (CD-Rom, Lux Publications) pp. 584-585. (Posted with permission from publisher.)