When you come to believe in Jesus—when you’re born again—you just want everybody to be born again, you want everyone to believe in Jesus! Because your sins are forgiven, God is your Father and you have eternal life. Naturally, you want everyone else to have that same blessing. And if you haven’t felt that desire for other people to have that same blessing, that’s probably an indication that you really don’t have it yourself yet.
As we endeavor to try to tell people the Good News of Jesus Christ, should we attempt to persuade them to “accept Jesus” as their personal Savior? I ask that because that’s a very, very common expression that we find within the evangelical world.
What the Apostles Preached
I would answer that question to say, “Well, that’s better than nothing, but it could be very misleading because it’s really not a biblical phrase.” If you read through the Book of Acts, for example, as the apostles preached the gospel, they didn’t ever use that terminology, “accepting Jesus as your personal Savior”. Their goal was obviously to persuade people to believe in a Person—the Lord Jesus Christ—who was the Messiah, the One who was resurrected from the dead, the Lord, the One that they will stand before one day and before whom they will give an account.
They called people to repent because that would be the natural thing to do if you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the One before whom everyone will stand and to give an account one day. When you tell people that they just need to “accept Jesus,” that’s a far cry from repenting and believing that he is the Lord, the Son of God, the Messiah, the One resurrected from the dead. Right?
Jesus Isn’t Looking for People’s Acceptance
The reality of it is that Jesus isn’t looking for people’s acceptance. That’s not what He wants. He wants people’s obedience and love. And to put Him in that kind of “acceptance” category is really demeaning to Him.
Where did the whole idea of “accepting Jesus as my personal Savior” come from in the first place? Well, it is a product of what many of us refer to as kind of a hyper-grace theology.
We know that salvation is by grace, we’re all sinners and we can’t save ourselves by our good works. And trying to emphasize that, I’m just afraid that the pendulum swung and has swung way, way, way too far to the grace side. To where now people think that grace is like a license to sin, that there is no requirement to repent, that there is no requirement to submit ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
This is a very cheap grace to borrow a phrase from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German martyr for Christ, who wrote a great book called the “The Cost of Discipleship”.
Trying to emphasize the grace of God, and that salvation is not of our works, this phrase, “accepting” Jesus as your personal Savior, was coined.
Some will throw in “Lord”. Accept Him as your personal Lord and Savior. That’s a little improvement, but again, this is not biblical at all. We want people to receive the Lord. Now that’s a biblical phrase (see John 1:12). Or believe in the Lord.
Believing in a Person
This is another problem: we think that we’re supposed to tell people the plan of salvation, and once they understand that Jesus died for their sins on the cross—once they acknowledge: “Okay, that’s great. I accept that, yeah, I’ll go along with that. Jesus is just alright with me,” to borrow a song title from the Doobie Brothers—we think they’re saved.
But it’s not believing a doctrine about Jesus that saves you. It’s believing in a Person. That Person is a unique person. Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. – John 3:16
So you’re believing in a person—a unique person—of historyJ: God, the Son of God, God in the flesh, resurrected from the dead after they crucified Him.
The Only Right Response to Jesus
It’s so interesting to think about the fact (and you can research this out for yourself) that in the Book of Acts, when you read the sermons where the apostles were preaching the gospel or teaching the gospel to unsaved audiences, they never once said that Jesus died for their sins. They didn’t tell them that. Getting people to understand what happened when Jesus died on the cross wasn’t their goal.
They were trying to get people to see that Jesus is like no other Person, that He is the Son of God. If that’s the case, well, then you just can’t have a casual relationship with Him like you would have with anybody else. It’s unique.
The only right response to that is to say, “Oh my goodness! How does God, how does the Son of God, look at my life? Am I doing what He says?”
What James, Jude and Paul Taught
This is why James wrote faith without works is dead. It’s useless. It can’t save you.
This is why Jude warned, “There’s a heresy that’s cropped up. Some of these guys are turning the grace of God into licentiousness.” What does that mean? That means that they’re preaching a false grace, a grace that says “Do what you want, live the way you want, because God is just going to overlook it. Or God is just going to forgive it. Or God doesn’t really care about that.” That is in the category of heresy. It’s so unbiblical from the beginning to the end of the Bible.
Paul warned about certain grievous sins, saying that if you’re practicing these things, don’t be deceived: fornicators, adulterers, thieves, the covetous… these people will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Obviously, Paul believed that there was a component of works. If you truly believe in Jesus, well, then it’s going to show up in your life.
Who Do You Believe Jesus Is?
Let’s not be trying to persuade people to accept Jesus as their personal Savior. Let’s be encouraging them to consider, “Who do you believe that Jesus is?”
If you believe He is who He claims to be, then it’s going to show up in your life. It radically transforms your life because of what you now believe. Okay?
This is a Little Lesson. There’s much more to say about this. I wrote a whole book called “The Great Gospel Deception“. It is kind of on this theme. You can read it for free on our website here. Thanks for joining me! God bless.