Sounds good, right? You read it on church signs and hear it in sermons. But is that all there is to it? Certainly “accepting” Christ is necessary, even good, but it’s not the full picture. I’d like to suggest some bolder language, and here’s why:
1. It’s not a very clear message.
What are you accepting about Christ? That he is the Son of God? The demons accept that and tremble. Actually, the demons do more than “accept” Christ –they believe! That’s right, James says they “believe – and shudder” (James 2:19).
If the demons are so moved by Jesus, shouldn’t believers be even more so? “Acceptance” doesn’t seem to convey the weight of Christ’s glory in the cross.
We should long for conversions like the Corinthians’ who received Christ “with fear and trembling” (2 Cor. 7:15) and to see believers growing in Christ as they “work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
2. Acceptance is not the issue.
Focusing on “accepting Christ” can easily miss the crucial fact that Christ does not accept you, your sin, or your best attempts to please him. He accepts faith in Him alone. That’s why we need to be clearer by communicating as Christ did.
3. Jesus called people to salvation in robust terms:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
“Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).
Jesus used words like repent, deny, and follow. Those are terms of faith, turning away from sin and clinging desperately to Christ. Faith is active, not passive (unlike “accept”).
4. Churches are full of people who have “accepted Christ” but nothing more.
They aren’t transformed, they aren’t growing, and they have no desire to lift of up the name of Jesus. They may have served as deacons or Sunday school teachers, volunteered in the nursery or as an usher, and they may have perfect attendance in worship services; but one day Christ may say to them, “Depart from me, I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).
5. The Church isn’t weakening due to a weak Lord or a weak commission.
No, the church is weakening because she is full of weak Christians – many of whom are not Christians at all. As a result, the world refuses to take the church seriously. Perhaps they have a good reason. Weak Christianity is “UN-acceptable,” both by Christ, and by the world.
I’m not saying that a person can’t be saved in response to a call to “accept Christ.” Certainly, many have. But why risk confusing the message with weak, unclear language?
Should we accept Christ? Absolutely. But acceptance is just not the full picture.
May I propose we start using stronger language in sharing the gospel? I suggest we call upon people to repent of their sin and, by faith, to trust in Christ alone for salvation and follow Him as Lord.
That’s the kind of strong language I believe Jesus finds “acceptable.”
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