Christianity, Devotionals

Accepting Christ…or Receiving Christ–What’s the Difference?

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We all have prayed that our friends and family members will make a sincere profession of faith in Christ, that they will “accept Jesus” as their Savior and Lord. Occasionally I hear about someone’s having prayed to “accept Christ” and later learn that the person fell away. I’m quite sure, according to Scripture, such a person was not authentically saved to begin with, and I think that we Christians may be contributing to that sad fact without realizing it. I believe the Lord is challenging me to examine some Christianese we speak in the light of Scripture. Do we really mean what we are saying, or have the words we use become a habit or a formula that may be misleading?

For example, we often use the phrase “accept Jesus Christ.” I researched the words “accept,” “accepting,” and “accepted” in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, and nowhere does the Bible use the word “accept” in that way– accepting Christ. On the contrary, the word is almost exclusively used in the Old Testament to describe what God did when a Jew brought an offering to the LORD. If it was an animal without spot or blemish, the Scriptures say the offering would be accepted by the LORD. If the animal were imperfect in any way, God would not accept the person’s offering. I’m no Greek or Hebrew scholar, but nowhere in the entire English King James Version is there a single verse that says that we are to accept Jesus

God is the “acceptor.” We have no standing to accept Him. God doesn’t need us to accept Him. We need Him to accept us. Problem is–we’re unacceptable as we are.

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Oh, you may be thinking, You’re just quibbling over words. What difference does it make? Well, words are containers of thought. If we use the wrong words to talk about a thing long enough, it will make us think wrong thoughts. It could make a huge difference in the way we present the gospel to the lost, and whether they truly understand salvation.

Under the New Testament we no longer bring animal sacrifices, but we still must be acceptable to God to be saved. Before our salvation we were lost sinners –spotted and blemished lambs, totally unsuitable as an offering to Him. Only the offering of Jesus, the perfect Lamb, was acceptable to God the Father. We were hopelessly helpless to be acceptable to Him outside of Christ. That is why Christ is the ONLY WAY. That is why a person’s being hid “in Christ” is  his only hope of being acceptable or accepted. We believers should know that. However, that’s not the way salvation is often presented in mainstream evangelical Christianity. I don’t think the unsaved are led to really grasp the perilous nature of their situation.

For example, you may have seen the illustration of how a person can accept Jesus as his Savior where a preacher takes some object, usually a pen, from his pocket and extends it toward a person as a gift. The preacher says that in order to receive the gift of God, all you must do is reach out and accept the gift. There’s the word again. It’s free and easy. Piece of cake. I have used that illustration myself. Now I think it is so misleading.

We American are always suspicious of a free gift…

” …and that’s not all. If you call within the next ten minutes, you will receive a second slicer-dicer absolutely FREE. You only have to pay a separate fee.”

Twenty-first century Americans are cynical. They don’t want a slicer/dicer. They don’t want a ball-point pen. When we present the Gospel that way, it seems cheap, like a cheesy commercial. Lost folks will not appreciate or understand their desperate position and the gravity of their future without God’s intervention. That sort of shallow presentation probably will not produce a heart change at all. And unless God changes their hearts, they will be swallowed up by the evil world, and forever lost. We must not short-circuit God’s process.

So, how can changing one single word help produce a heart change? Please consider the following:

  •     “Accept” gives the illusion of salvation’s being something totally within our power, our choice to do. Nothing supernatural required.
  •    “Receive” says we acknowledge and surrender to God’s Power and His grace  for it to happen. Totally supernatural.

Jesus told us “Ask, that ye may receive.”  We are in a submissive position when we “ask.” God is the authority, we are not. We are never told to accept Him. We have no authority to “accept Jesus.” Why, the very thought becomes ludicrous, the epitome of arrogance.

We approach Jesus with a humble, penitent heart, asking Him to forgive us and to please come into our hearts, save our souls. He will know if our prayer is honest, and He has promised to respond to such an honest prayer. He will come in, and we will gratefully “receive” Him when He does.

What happens next will be the subject of my next post.

I challenge us to listen for those two words–“accept” and “receive”–in our daily conversations and to pray for discernment as to which word is relevant.

 

Alaska, Devotionals

THE FINAL DAYS OF AN ALASKAN SUMMER – PART ONE

Alaska worked wonders again this summer. We go there to decompress …

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to escape the world …

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to stretch wide in the vastness of the land …

…. and to work with our hands.

 

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DECOMPRESSING:

The World is too much with us in the Florida city where we live for eight months. We go to Alaska four months to decompress. The damp air is pure and deliciously fragrant with spruce, moss, and wildflowers. Merely walking around the property is restorative, refreshing the soul. Every wildflower declares the glory of  my Creator who is intimately aware of my every step, every thought, every breath. He created this blossom for me to enjoy today. 

Consider the lilies of the field. They toil not, neither do they spin. Yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”       JESUS

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Now the days are shorter, the mornings noticeably cooler, and the birch trees dance against the cobalt sky. Winds toss these tall branches with a distinctive rustling sound, reminding me of Jesus’ words–

The wind bloweth where it willeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but can’st not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth. So is every one who is born of the Spirit.”

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Do you experience the God you cannot see, but you can hear, and feel?

 

This Alaska Summer, Lord,

You provided yet again …

unfettered Time…

on Your vast Land … 

rejoicing in Your Presence…

 knowing Your Spirit like the wind …

  invisible but palpable …

   moving as You send…

 

Lord, I’m so grateful!

Amen

 

Devotionals

Free Indeed

When Jesus saved me, soon He began revealing an amazing truth to me: I do not have to sin any more. I am free from sin. That is not to say that I am free of sin, because sometimes I forget this amazing truth. I can still get distracted by my old nature, defend my personal rights, let myself become offended and hurt. Occasionally I still get angry. I still can sin, but now I am free from its dominion.

Before salvation I did not have a choice. I was a sinner! I often became angry when I thought someone had trampled on my personal rights, didn’t give me the respect I thought deserved, maybe ruined my possessions, stole from me, lied to me, were unfaithful to me, spread hurtful rumors about me, cut me off in traffic… yeah, pretty much anything. I would react with anger and I feel, “I have a right to get angry when people do these things! It’s just not fair! What did I do to deserve this?

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However, at salvation, when Jesus’ Spirit entered my soul, He began to talk to me. He non-verbally said something like, “Well, are you enjoying your little angry fit — your little pity party?”

I responded, “No, but did you see what they did to me, how they hurt me? It was so unfair!

Jesus’ still, small voice said, “Yes, I saw it all, and I completely understand. Do you remember what they did to me? How they hurt me? It was so unfair!”

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“Oh, yes, Jesus. That was truly unfair what they did to you!”

“So, do you enjoy being so angry?”

“No, of course not. I don’t enjoy it at all, but I can’t stop!”

“No, that’s no longer true. Now you can stop. Now nobody can make you become angry. Now, nobody has the power to steal your peace — if you remember where you are and whose you are.

“Whose I am?”

“Yes. Now you are Mine. You surrendered all to me. Remember that day? It was July 28th, 1974. You gave me your life, your body, your possessions, everything! That day you asked Me to come in, and I received you. I took you in, placed your soul securely in Me in Christ. So now “where you are” is in Me! Now, everything — even every unfair thing — that comes your way must pass through me to get to you. Now I am your Abba Father. You no longer have to protect yourself, retaliate, be hurt and angry. I already know all things coming in your future. I will intercept them and transform them, especially the hurtful things, working them together for your good, gradually conforming you into My image. Don’t be afraid. You don’t have to be in control any more. You are not alone. I will never leave you.

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Hold My hand, and I’ll walk with you from here on. There will be battles, but I will walk with you through every one. When you feel afraid, hold on tighter to me. I’ve got this.

“Yes, Lord.”

FREE INDEED

Devotionals

April 3, 2018 “Count It All Joy!”

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”  James 1:1-4 KJV

 

Let all the earth rejoice!
Let all the earth rejoice!

 

I have heard people say, “Never pray for patience, or God will send you trials.”

Perhaps people say such things as just a joke, or maybe they have believed a false doctrine that God works that way. Trials come because you and I live in a fallen world with sin, sickness, war, and ignorance, a world under temporary dominion of the prince of this world, Satan. The earth itself is groaning, awaiting our full redemption.

So, just why does James encourage me to “count it all joy?” I believe it’s because the trials that the devil sends for evil, God works together for my good, having predestined me to be conformed to the image of His  dear Son. I can “count it all joy” because I am given the amazing opportunity to demonstrate that in Christ I am already counted victorious over any trials the world, the flesh or the devil can throw at me.

But… if  I’m not firmly grounded in God’s Word and I’m walking in the flesh, I can sometimes forget that, and listen to Satan’s lies and temptations — “You don’t deserve these trials. It’s just not fair. You should be terribly afraid of what’s happening. You should complain a lot about the pain you are having to endure.”

When I listen to Satan, I murmur and complain like the children of Israel did in the wilderness, and I miss the blessing of following God’s path to victory.

Conversely, joy comes when I recognize the lies of Satan and declare, “You are wrong, Satan! I deserve so much more than these trials. I deserve hell. So, Satan, I no longer fear the trials you send because my greatest fear has been removed by Jesus. Because I’m forgiven of my sin, hell and death hold no torment for me. Satan, I am so consumed with gratitude for what Christ has done for me, I refuse to let you steal my joy today.”

My pastor Jeff says, “Once you have an answer for death, anything else becomes bearable.” I think he’s right. All other trials provide an opportunity to praise God for his mercy and his grace.

This morning the sun came up again, and it was beautiful. Mockingbirds sang in the trees, and I watched a baby dove learn to fly.

God is good all the time, and today I rejoice that all is well with my soul.

Maranatha!

 

 

Devotionals

March 20, 2018 –Redeeming the time…

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Ephesians 5: 15-17 says, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil. Wherefore, be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” KJV

I have used “redeeming the time” as my focus line because, as I become older, I realize how very important time is. Benjamin Franklin said, “Time is money,” but truthfully, time is much more valuable than money. Our time is our life, and our lifetime is absolutely limited. I have already passed my three score and ten. I’m already on borrowed time!

God’s Word tells us we are to “redeem the time,” to change the way we spend it from doing something wasteful to doing something wise — which is … “understanding what the will of the Lord is.”

How do we do this? Verse 14 of the above passage tells us, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” So, we wake up in the morning, arise from our bed, and expose ourselves to the light of Christ in His Word. There is no other way of “understanding what the will of the Lord is” than to redeem the time by reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Word.

All time spent in God’s Word is time redeemed. This is a goal for myself and my prayer for you.

Devotionals

Monday, March 19, 2018 -Meditation on Oak Leaves and Grace

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On Saturday I raked Live Oak leaves. I had postponed this onerous task far too long. I blew piles of leaves with my blower and scooped them with a dustpan into black bags, over and over … 12 bags full. As I scooped, I meditated on God’s amazing design for Live Oak trees.

These trees are not deciduous, dropping all their leaves in the fall. Live Oak trees retain their leaves all year — hence the name. Then in the spring, when the sap rises, the new leaves actually push off  the old, dry, tattered leaves, so they become fresh and green.

God is transforming me in a similar way. Before salvation I had no power to get rid of my sinful ways, and even after salvation I did not quickly shed all my old, tattered sinful “leaves.” However, in God’s time, as His Holy Spirit rises in me, like sap in a Live Oak tree, God pushes off my old hurts, habits and hangups and  He re-grows better things in their place. It’s not a thing I can consciously do.  It’s all God’s amazing grace. Hallelujah!