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.
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.