WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO "ACCEPT CHRIST"?
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
We Christians often use the expression “accept Christ.” The phrase is not found in any Bible I have. This is remarkable, given the frequency with which the term is used by us. I wonder if this expression is conveying a concept that is not altogether scriptural.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “ACCEPT CHRIST”?
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37)
We often speak of accepting Christ. We want everyone to accept Christ. This is a worthy desire.
But since our favorite expression is not found in the Scriptures, it may be in order to think about what we mean by “accept Christ.” When we are preaching a phrase not found in the Bible, we may want to consider exactly what we mean by it.
Today we present four steps of salvation. We say to the individual: all of us have sinned; the soul that sins shall die; we cannot appease God concerning our sins by doing righteous works; Christ died to make an atonement for our sins. All this is absolutely true. This formula has been the basis for a multitude of genuine conversions to Christ.
But have we really come to Christ? Or have we merely been oriented to a correct theological position?
The answer to this question is found in terms of what we do after having assumed the correct theological position.
In our day, the new convert often is told that since he has been saved by grace there is no more he is to do except maintain his correct theological position. His salvation was accomplished by a sovereign work of God and there is nothing else to do except hold fast to his doctrinal belief.
Sometimes it is taught that even if he does not hold fast to his doctrinal belief he still will go to Heaven when he dies, because once he is “saved” he never can be lost.
A verse used to support the idea of doing nothing but accept God’s sovereign salvation is as follows:
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)
The above often is interpreted to mean if we will make a profession of belief in Christ we will live forever and never be judged. All of our judgment was accomplished on the cross. Our main task now is to keep on believing and, if possible, persuade others to believe.
I saw a sign outside a church, as I was driving by a week ago. It said: “Come inside and find out how to get a free trip to Heaven.”
We are to confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead.
Also, the Bible promises us He will keep that which has been committed to Him; so there is no need to worry about ever losing our salvation.
Recently a friend of mine told me of an incident that occurred at a church luncheon. Let me describe it to you exactly as it came by email:
“An elderly lady came to our table and for some reason that lady asked me a question!
“She asked: ‘How many commandments do we have in the Bible?’
“I said, ‘hundreds.’
“She said, ‘Very good my boy. May I say to you there are much more than that. Did you know we must observe all of the commandments the Lord gave us, in order to get accepted by the Lord?’
“I said, ‘yes, that is very true.’
“Just before she was about to leave, a younger lady, about fifty-ish, at our table spoke up.
“The younger lady said, ‘No, no, we are all saved by grace, and the Lord sees me through His blood, and I have the righteousness of Christ in me and no matter what, we are accepted by what the Lord has already done and not by what we have done. It’s all by grace, and grace alone.’”
Do you know, I just about get calmed down and then I receive this email. Well, at least I realize I am not beating a dead horse with my multitude of books, booklets, and tracts on the subject of what it means to be a Christian.
The fifty-ish lady no doubt has “accepted Christ.”
But let me ask you a question: Has she ever really come to Christ? Has she any idea of what it means to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus?
Does she realize we have been warned that it is possible for someone to take our crown?
Has she ever been put in a prison of circumstances by the Lord over a long period of time, during which every nerve in her body is screaming “I thirst! I thirst”?
Has she ever read what the Apostle Paul said about our response to suffering being the proof of whether or not we are worthy of the Kingdom of God? Is she familiar with the several verses in the New Testament that tell us we must behave in a manner worthy of the Kingdom?
Does she realize the Lord Jesus Christ told us our love for Him is shown only as we keep His commandments?
Is she aware if she does not present her body at all times a living sacrifice she never will know the will of God for her life; the work that she has been assigned to do?
Does she understand if she does not employ the resources God has given her, her gifts will be given to another and she herself will be thrown into the outer darkness?
Has she been warned that if she does not remain filled with the Spirit of God the door will be shut in her face when the Lord comes?
Has she been taught that she must come out of the world if Christ is to receive her; that she must cleanse herself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God; that how she is behaving today is shaping what she will experience in the Day of Resurrection; that if she lives according to her sinful nature she will die spiritually and receive corruption in the Day of Christ?
Does she stand ready to obey her Lord’s slightest desire, being willing to work according to His will at boring tasks, year after year, without complaint?
Does she understand the road that leads to life is compressed and difficult, and few find it?
Is she terrified, like the Apostle Paul, at the thought that at the Judgment Seat of Christ she shall be revealed and receive the good and the bad she has done in her body?
Is she seeking to be crucified with Christ so it is Christ who is living and not she herself?
Has she been made aware if she is living a nominal, lukewarm Christian life she will be vomited from the Lord’s mouth?
Is it true that for her to live is Christ and to die is gain? Has she set aside everything that Christ may be magnified in her, whether by her life or by her death?
Probably not, from the statement she made at the table where my friend was sitting.
Now, here is the question. Why hasn’t she been told these things, when each one of them is found in one or more passages of the New Testament? Why has she been advised “we are all saved by grace, and the Lord sees me through His blood, and I have the righteousness of Christ in me and no matter what, we are accepted by what the Lord has already done and not by what we have done. It’s all by grace, and grace alone.” Who told her that this was the Gospel of the Kingdom of God?
Whoever is telling people that such is the way of salvation is deluded and is deluding others. Such instruction is false and destructive. It accounts for the abysmal state of Christianity in America, in England, in Scandinavia, and in other countries.
So the phrase “accepting Christ” not only is not scriptural, it implies that all we have to do is make a statement of belief, and now we are “saved.”
But what do we mean by “saved”? The concept of salvation, in the New Testament, is that of redemption. From what are we being redeemed? We are being redeemed from the power of Satan.
What does it mean to be redeemed from the power of Satan? It means to be delivered from worldliness, lust, and self-will.
God has given us the testimony of the Apostles, water baptism, the body and blood of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the born-again experience, and numerous sufferings, denials, and frustrations that we might be delivered from our sinful nature and made a new creation in the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what salvation is.
It appears to me we must abandon unscriptural phrases, such as “accepting Christ,” and begin to talk Bible talk.
We need to understand we have not chosen Christ, He has chosen us. We do not accept Him, He accepts us. God has chosen us in Christ, and Christ has accepted us. When we change our terminology we may begin to perceive what the Christian salvation is all about.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15:16)
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:4-6)
Let’s look now at a verse in the Gospel of John that implies all we need do is believe.
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)
Doesn’t it sound like all one has to do is believe? This is how error is created—by selecting a few favorite verses, using them as axioms, and deducing theology from them.
But the question is: believe what? The answer is, believe in the living Jesus.
But when we use the term today we are referring to believing theological truth. We are not believing in the living Jesus and coming to Him, or “accepting” Him if you will, we are accepting a theological position.
Thus we have multitudes of believer who interpret “the just shall live by faith” to mean the righteous steadfastly maintain their theological stance, such as “Christ is my Lord, He died for my sins, and He is coming again to take me to Heaven.”
This is not what is meant by belief, or faith. Belief and faith refer to daily interaction with the living Jesus. We come to the Man, not to statements concerning the man.
How many of today’s Christians are living in continual interaction with Jesus? Or are they holding fast to their doctrinal beliefs, thinking this adherence to their theological position is salvation and eternal life?
If I am hearing correctly from the Lord, difficult times are facing us Americans. If all we have is belief in the facts of the atonement and the second coming we are not going to survive spiritually in the days to come, and we are going to be of little help to those who know nothing about the Gospel.
We must learn to walk with the living Jesus. We must permit the written Word to bring us to the living Word.
If we will proceed in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John we will see what the Lord meant when He said: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
We can understand from the above that the Lord is not referring to theological belief about His atoning death or triumphant resurrection. It is a case of coming to Him as a Person.
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37)
The above verse is important if we would examine the limited application of the term “accepting Christ.” Actually, no one can come to Christ unless God the Father gives that individual to Christ.
All aspects of redemption are initiated by the Lord. God spoke in time past to the prophets, and today speaks to us. God takes the initiative. Our task is to respond in obedience. It is a case of Christ choosing, or accepting us; not simply a matter of our choosing or accepting Christ.
No individual can come to Christ except God draw him. We think we have decided to choose Christ. The truth is, God moves in us to do His own will. Our part is to obey the prompting of the Spirit.
What we do from then on determines our destiny. If we seek the Lord each day, God continues to put a desire in us to pursue righteousness. However, if we choose to obey the promptings of our sinful nature, then God does not exert His will in us any longer. We are left to the cravings of our soul and body, and to the deceptions of Satan and his demons. Finally we have a mind incapable of sound judgment.
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:28)
God spoke to Noah. God spoke to Abraham. God spoke to the Prophets of Israel. God spoke to Cyrus the Great. God spoke to John the Baptist. God spoke to Mary, the mother of Jesus. God spoke to Barnabas and Saul. The necessary role of those to whom God speaks is to patiently trust and obey until God’s purpose has been fully accomplished.
The Lord Jesus is standing at the door and knocking. This is His part. Jesus is asking for entrance today to the members of the self-centered, self-seeking (Laodicean) church.
I believe the world will become increasingly chaotic during the next few years. Only those who have permitted Christ to assume the throne of their life will be able to survive and help others. It is not just a case of “accepting Christ,” of accepting the correct doctrinal position, of acknowledging the truth of the Scriptures. We actually must step down from the throne of our life, of our will, and look to the Lord Jesus for every decision we make throughout the day and night.
It is interesting that Jesus did not say to the wicked, You never knew me. Rather He said, “I never knew you.” Salvation is not a case of our correct religious practices, it is our response to the overtures Christ makes to us. Christ leads in the dance. We are to follow Him. He does not and will not follow us.
Today one would think salvation is something we do. We Christians simply do not understand the sovereignty of God in the program of salvation.
When we do emphasize the sovereignty of God, we move too far in the other direction by concluding there is nothing we are to do. Thus we either try to do it by ourselves, or else we wait for God to perform the work by Himself.
Battles are won by the sword of the Lord and of Gideon. This is to say, there is a part God plays and a part we play. God always is to be the Initiator in every work of salvation and, and also in every aspect of Christian work. Our part is to keep ourselves in the place where we can hear God, and then obey God promptly.
Our tendency as Americans is either to rush off in some kind of Gospel work before we hear from God, or else to wait until God tells us what to do and in the meantime involve ourselves in the numerous opportunities of the American culture.
What we should do, as saints, is to involve ourselves as little as possible in the attractive American culture, and wait on the Lord each day as though we were some great apostle that God was using.
Wait, wait, wait on the Lord! But in the meantime do not go to sleep, and do not become deeply involved in the American culture. True discipleship is a way of the strictest discipline, and who knows how many will be able to live without rushing ahead of the Lord in spiritual matters, or else becoming too involved in the things of the world?
So we see that believing in Jesus is not simply a matter of making a doctrinal profession and then waiting to die to go to Heaven. Rather it is a case of responding every day to the promptings of the Lord for that day.
The Lord goes on to show the relationship between eating His flesh and drinking His blood, and the resurrection from the dead. It is not merely a matter of believing Christ is the Son of God, or that He died for our sins. If we are to experience the resurrection to immortality we must live each day by His body and blood.
In order to live by the body and blood of Christ we must look to Him for every decision we make. When we set aside our own will that we might do His will, we are fed in the spirit realm with the body and blood of Christ. These nourish the formation of Christ in us, and thus we go from glory to glory, being changed into the image of the Lord. Then, in the Day of Resurrection, we will be given a body like His.
But if, as is true of numerous adherents of the Christian religion in our day, we make a profession of doctrinal belief, and then proceed with our own life, we are not participating in the program of salvation. We are not being saved from our worldliness, our physical and soulish lusts, and our self will. To then claim we have been saved because we “accepted Christ” is to live in a delusion.
We have not accepted Christ; we have not lived by His body and blood. We have lived our own life. We will find in the Day of Resurrection that we are not given a body like the Lord. Why not? Because our inward nature has not been conformed to His image. It is as straightforward as this!
We will discover in that Day that we accepted doctrine, not Christ.
For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6:55-57)
To really and truly “accept Christ” is to live in His Presence each day, communing with Him continually, enjoying fellowship with Him and with the Father.
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (I John 1:3)
In the days that are ahead of us in America it is not going to be sufficient to make a profession of faith in Christ. This will not sustain us when our land become chaotic. We are going to have to know the Lord Himself. We are going to have to deny ourselves, take up our cross each day, and follow the Lord.
There is a spirit of false confidence resting on many Christians, just as is true of the lady who insisted that she did not have to keep Christ’s commandments because she is “saved by grace.” She “feels” like she is in the Lord’s will. But the New Testament maintains that she is not entering into the new covenant, into the writing of God’s eternal moral law on our mind and on our heart.
What does this tell us? It tells us that no matter how we feel, if we are not living according to the New Testament we are not without condemnation.
What does the New Testament command us to do? It commands us to present our body a living sacrifice.
What if we “accept Christ” and then claim we are “saved by grace,” but then we do not do what the New Testament commands. Are we or are we not saved and without condemnation?
Unless I am mistaken, the Christian people will be compelled to answer this question during the next few years.
The Lord Jesus told us in order to be His disciple (a Christian) we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. This is what the New Testament declares.
There are millions of members of the Christian religion in the United States. How many do you suppose are denying themselves, taking up their personal cross of denial, and following the Lord?
What about those who are not living in this manner? Yet, they have “accepted Christ.” Are they disciples or not? The New Testament refers to disciples as “Christians.” If someone is not denying himself and following the Lord, is he or is he not a Christian?
The Lord Jesus informed us that if we do not bear fruit in our life we will be cut from the Vine, which is Christ. The fruit God is looking for is the image of Christ grown in us.
Now, can a Christian be removed from Christ if he or she does not bear fruit?
Some today are stating this warning of the Lord cannot possibly be referring to Christians because Christians are saved by grace, not by bearing fruit. They claim the passage is referring to people who did not “accept Christ.” They did not bear fruit means they did not accept Christ. These teachers are mistaken. They need to turn from their traditions and reread the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of John.
The Lord is speaking of branches in Himself who are not bearing fruit. How then can He be referring to non-Christians who have not borne fruit by the fact of not “accepting Christ”?
This is so preposterous it scarcely warrants being discussed. Yet, believe it or not, the error in Gospel preaching concerning “accepting Christ” is so deeply rooted that Christian teachers are maintaining that the Lord does not mean if a Christian does not bear fruit He will be removed from the Vine.
We of today are in need of a reformation of Christian thinking.
The expression “accept Christ” is not found in the Scriptures, as I stated previously. But conceivably this saying could be appropriate. That is, it could be referring to a New Testament concept even though the expression itself is not found in the New Testament.
I am saying the expression “accept Christ” not only is not scriptural, it is implying a destructive concept. It is suggesting that if we take the correct doctrinal stance we will go to Heaven when we die.
The truth is, no person can come to Christ unless God draws him or her. We do not choose Christ, He chooses us. In this sense we do not accept Christ. The Father gives us to Him and He always accepts us.
Christ accepts us with all our worldliness, all our lusts and passions, and all our stubborn self-will. But what does He do after that? Enter a schizophrenic state in which He sees us as perfect “by grace”?
Not on your life! The Lamb has no intention of being remaining married to a bride who is perfect by imputation. The Lamb is not schizophrenic, He is very well acquainted with reality. His Bride is going to be a perfect complement to Himself, a helper entirely suited to Him.
So after “He accepts us” in our sinful state He goes to work on our personality. Day by day, night by night, moment by moment, year by year, the program of redemption operates in our life. We keep pressing forward. He keeps stepping up to a new level of perfection. We have to reach up in order to abide in Him.
There is no letup. Whether we are at home, at work, or on a vacation, the testing and refining of our personality continues. This is the true salvation and eternal life. This is how we enter the Kingdom of God. This is how we become the unblemished Bride of the Lamb.
We understand, therefore, that the modern idea of “accepting Christ” leaves a false impression of the Divine salvation. Accepting Christ is a sort of ticket that permits us to enter Heaven when we die. In actual fact, the Divine salvation is a continual re-creating of our personality until all the old passes away and all becomes new, and all is of God.
I know the Christian church world of today is being taught grace-rapture-Heaven. I know this is false, destructive doctrine. It is because of such preaching that the historic centers of Christianity, such as Europe and the United States, have been fashioned by the moral filth that originates in Hollywood, California. And because of our acceptance of the moral filth, God is going to bring severe judgment on America, England, and on Israel also. Or so I think I have heard from the Lord. The next few years will either validate or invalidate what I am predicting.
But whether my prediction is true or not is not the issue. The issue is that false doctrine is being promoted throughout the Christian populations. Any unbiased scholar can review what I have written here and note whether or not it is scripturally sound.
If indeed my exhortation is based on the New Testament, then we are in sore need worldwide of a reformation of Christian thinking.
In any case, you and I can do our part by following the Lord Jesus Christ every moment of every day, being aware of His slightest desire. Then we are to obey His will whether our obedience causes much pain or much rejoicing. After all, the desired goal is that Christ is magnified, whether by our life or by our death.
I believe in several years time a significant part of the Christian world will turn away from the unscriptural “state of grace” concept and will return to the original Gospel of the Kingdom, the Gospel presented by John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Apostles of the Lamb.
May God lift the deluding veil that conceals the words of the New Testament and permit His scholars and leader to see the abundance of errors in contemporary preaching until, through their efforts, righteousness and praise spring forth in the Christian churches: not imputed righteousness or imputed praise, but actual righteousness and actual praise.
Then will the nations worship God and turn the weapons of war into the tools of agriculture.
The problem of today is not originating among the unsaved or the Muslims or the Hindus. The fault lies at the door of the Christian churches that are preaching “grace” rather than righteousness.
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I Peter 2:12)
“See your good deeds and glorify God”!
Let the godly judge if what I have stated is scriptural.
(“What Does It Mean to “Accept Christ”?”, 3615-1)