“Easy believism” has become the bane of today’s modern Christianity (see GotQuestions?org at this link for a definition on what is meant by the term “easy believism”). Another catch phrase used in evangelical circles is that a person needs to “Accept Christ.” But what exactly does it mean to accept Christ? Is it just something we do or a prayer we say at some point in time and then continue on our merry way through life doing whatever it is we want to do? More times than not, it seems that way in our culture today. We put on a good show by looking good and saying all the right words and maybe showing up for church on Sunday, but underneath it all there’s often not much depth if any at all, and our foundation crumbles when the bottom falls out of our lives. In other words, we never learned how to walk the talk. And there are too many Pied Pipers out there saying we don’t ever need to learn to do it, either.
Obviously, some clarification is needed on what it really means to accept Christ. One of the best explanations I’ve read was written by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963). The following essay is taken from “The Best of A.W. Tozer” (1978) compiled by Dr. Warren Wiersbe, Chapter 21, titled, “What Does It Mean To Accept Christ?” The book was republished in 2007 under the title, “The Best of A.W. Tozer, Book 1.” Here is Tozer’s response:
What Does It Mean To Accept Christ
by A.W. Tozer
A few things, fortunately only a few, are matters of life and death, such as a compass for a sea voyage or a guide for a journey across the desert. To ignore these vital things is not to gamble or take a chance; it is suicide. Here it is: either be right or be dead.
Our relation to Christ is such a matter of life or death, and on a much higher plane. The Bible-instructed man knows that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners and that men are saved by Christ alone altogether apart from any works of merit.
That much is true and known, but obviously the death and resurrection of Christ do not automatically save everyone. How does the individual man come into saving relation to Christ? That some do, we know, but that others do not is evident. How is the gulf bridged between redemption objectively provided and salvation subjectively received? How does that which Christ did for me become operative in me? To that question “What must I do to be saved?” we must learn the correct answer. To fail here is not to gamble with our souls: it is to guarantee eternal banishment from the face of God. Here we must be right or be finally lost.
To this anxious question evangelical Christians provide three answers, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” “Receive Christ as your personal Saviour,” and “Accept Christ.” Two of the answers are drawn almost verbatim from the Scriptures (Acts 16:31, John 1:12), while the third is a kind of paraphrase meant to sum up the other two. There are, therefore, not three but one.
Being spiritually lazy we naturally tend to gravitate toward the easiest way of settling our religious questions for ourselves and others; hence the formula “Accept Christ” has become a panacea of universal application, and I believe it has been fatal to many. Though undoubtedly an occasional serious-minded penitent may find in it all the instruction he needs to bring him into living contact with Christ, I fear too many seekers use it as a short cut to the Promised Land, only to find that it has led them instead to “a land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.”
The trouble is that the whole “Accept Christ” attitude is likely to be wrong. It shows Christ applying to us rather than us to Him. It makes Him stand hat-in-hand awaiting our verdict on Him, instead of our kneeling with troubled hearts awaiting His verdict on us. It may even permit us to accept Christ by an impulse of mind or emotions, painlessly, at no loss to our ego and no inconvenience to our usual way of life.
To accept Christ is to form an attachment to the Person of our Lord Jesus altogether unique in human experience. The attachment is intellectual, volitional (action of the will) and emotional. The believer is intellectually convinced that Jesus is both Lord and Christ; he has set his will to follow Him at any cost and soon his heart is enjoying the sweetness of His fellowship.
For this ineffectual manner of dealing with a vital matter we might imagine some parallels; as if, for instance, Israel in Egypt had “accepted” the blood of the Passover but continued to live in bondage, or the prodigal son has “accepted” his father’s forgiveness and stayed on among the swine in the far country. Is it not plain that if accepting Christ is to mean anything there must be moral action that accords it?
Allowing the expression “Accept Christ” to stand as an honest effort to say in short what could not be so well said any other way, let us see what we mean or should mean when we use it.
To accept Christ is to form an attachment to the Person of our Lord Jesus altogether unique in human experience. The attachment is intellectual, volitional and emotional. The believer is intellectually convinced that Jesus is both Lord and Christ; he has set his will to follow Him at any cost and soon his heart is enjoying the exquisite sweetness of His fellowship.
This attachment is all-inclusive in that it joyfully accepts Christ for all that He is. There is no craven division of offices whereby we may acknowledge His Saviourhood today and withhold decision on His Lordship until tomorrow. The true believer owns Christ as his All in All without reservation. He includes all of himself, leaving no part of his being unaffected by the revolutionary transaction.
Further, his attachment to Christ is all-exclusive. The Lord becomes to him not one of several rival interests, but one exclusive attraction forever. He orbits around Christ as the earth around the sun, held in thrall by the magnetism of His love, drawing all his life and light and warmth from Him. In this happy state he is given other interests, it is true, but these are all determined by his relation to his Lord.
That we accept Christ in this all-inclusive, all-exclusive way is a divine imperative. Here faith makes its leap into God through the Person and work of Christ, but it never divides the work from the Person. It believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole Christ without modification or reservation, and thus it receives and enjoys all that He did in His work of redemption, all that He is now doing in heaven for His own and all that He does in and through them.
To accept Christ is to know the meaning of the words “as he is, so are we in this world” (I John 4:17). We accept His friends as our friends, His enemies as our enemies, His ways as our ways, His rejection as our rejection, His cross as our cross, His life as our life and His future as our future.
If this is what we mean when we advise the seeker to accept Christ, we had better explain it to him. He may get into deep spiritual trouble unless we do.
I hope that Tozer’s explanation can lift the cloud that has hovered over the church for too long. There are a whole lot of folks who call themselves Christian but in reality have no idea what it means other than to parrot the beliefs of others. Their personal relationship with Jesus Christ is as dry as dust (and perhaps it never really existed) and it’s apparent by the way they live their lives and treat others they don’t like or don’t want to get to know, or are just different from them. And there are a lot of “church goers” who fall under that category. So many, in fact, that they can’t see the real problem that exists because their numbers are large and they all agree with each other. And Jesus has a lot to say about following the crowd and it’s not good.
There is no “cookie-cutter” pattern we can follow in our relationship with Jesus Christ. The pattern we are to follow is clearly spelled out in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament. It’s about a real and vital relationship with Jesus Christ, and if we are always looking for a front row seat for ourselves and what we hope to get from Him we will never “get it.”
It’s not about us and what we want . . .
It’s about Him . . . .
YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” by Phillips, Craig & Dean:
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