BY JONATHAN KUO
The spiritual inadequacy complex. That’s what I’ve come to call the condition that seems to ail so many Christians I’ve encountered my freshman year. These Christians feel distant from God, envisioning Him drawing near to more prayerful and obedient Christians, while, metaphorically speaking, they’re stuck outside the door of intimacy. Feeling disqualified by their inadequacies and disobedience, they wait, hoping one day to enter. So what’s the problem? This is a total distortion of the gospel of grace! One of the greatest lies believers can buy into is that outward obedience is the means and method to greater intimacy with God.
If you’re one of these Christians, hear me out. First, I’m not denying that you suck. I suck too. I’m not here to patronize you and fluff our theology, so that we’ll abuse grace and sin without remorse. But the Bible is clear: once we’re saved, our inadequacy, or sin, which previously kept us from God, doesn’t factor into our privilege of approaching our heavenly Father. Jesus says that through the cross, His work of reconciliation is finished¹ and that the veil separating man from approaching the holiest of places, where God himself dwells, has been torn.² Now, all believers have equal access to God at His throne of grace.³
Consequently, God never removes His presence from us because of our sin. Sometimes, God feels far away. Most believers can testify of going through periods of spiritual dryness. But don’t mistake your emotions for our Father’s rejection: His actual presence never departs.⁴ Why would God fickly reject those He already reconciled through Jesus? Because of your sin? God already wanted to be near you while you were condemned and filthy.⁵ He already loved you enough to send His Son to die for you. And now, if you’ve placed your faith in Jesus, you’re cleansed by Jesus’ blood—clean and white as snow. God’s desire to be close to you isn’t conditional upon your deeds. Don’t flip the Gospel around—God doesn’t pursue you because you’re worthy. He pursues you because that’s who He is—love. God looks at people who should just be stamped “unworthy” and cast away, and says, “because of who I am, they’re worth it to Me.” In a world where we don’t have adequate analogies for this kind of love, it’s hard to grasp. Yet at the cross, it begins to make sense: it was never about our adequacy—only His.
Let me end with something immediately practical: sanctification (becoming more holy and Christ-like) is the fruit of intimacy with God.⁶ You become more like Jesus by spending time with Him and doing what pleases Him who loves you, not from trying to imitate His external behavior. The former leads towards loving obedience, but the latter leads to legalism.
Do we get it now? There’s no need to stand outside the door of intimacy anymore! Jesus bore the wrath and anger you deserved so you wouldn’t have to. That’s grace, and it’s the only thing that brings us near to God. Not obedience, not following rules—only grace.
But what about your sin? What about just yesterday when you stumbled? Doesn’t God hate sin? Yes, He does—sin is so bad that Jesus had to die for it, but He loves us so much He wanted to die!⁷ God’s plan to break sin’s chains is not to keep you at arm’s distance or to reject you if you don’t clean up your mess. It’s this: stop striving, and just come.⁸ God will clean you up in His presence. True repentance is not just turning away from sin but also running towards Him. Run to God when you sin, not away from Him. You shouldn’t make light of your disobedience, but repent and obey Jesus because you love Him, not because you’re trying to earn His love. God might be displeased with your behavior, but He will always want to be with you. So come.