By: A.W. Tozer
NOTE: This has been edited for brevity.
It's taken for granted that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners: I take that for granted; I assume that, I know that's true, I don't in any wise question it. And then it's further taken for granted - and properly -- that we are saved by Christ alone without works. That, I also take for granted because it's declared there, I don't question it; I don't ask that somebody come and explain it: it's so! He did die for our sins according to the Scriptures, He did rise again. The Scripture does say that we are saved by Christ alone without works.
But now the big question is -- and right here is a hole in the bridge where millions fall through -- how do I come into saving relation to Christ? He alone saves without human merit or works - but he doesn't save everybody! Therefore there must be some connection made or some relation sustained; somehow or another I come into a relationship to Christ that saves me. Now, what is that? And that is a matter of life or death. You dare not assume anything. You must know. Not to be sure isn't to gamble with your soul. Not to be sure is to be dead! Just as you dare not cross the mighty ocean without a compass; to do so would be to die. So you dare not assume that you have the relationship unless you have; it's got to be there before you dare accept it as being there: to be wrong on this is to be lost!
Now if you were to ask the average man, the average preacher or the average person - the average Christian anywhere - "How do I come into saving relation to Jesus Christ?" the answer would be one of three. People would either tell you "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved" -- that's Acts 16:31 or, they would say "Receive Christ as your Savior" -- that's John 1:12, or else they would give you this other answer. (And of course, those first two answers are true; they're true!) Or else they would give you this third answer, "Accept Christ as your personal Savior."
Now the word 'accept Christ' to the astonishment of a good many people does not occur in the Bible - it's not there. It's this 'accept Christ' doctrine that I want to talk a little bit about tonight. What is it to 'accept Christ'?
Now, I do not reflect on the words 'accept Christ' even though they're not in the Bible. It's possible to teach truth and yet not use words that are in the Bible always, because if what you say is the sum of what the Bible teaches on a subject then you're teaching truth provided the people know that that's the sum of the Bible teaching. So when you were told to accept Christ to bring us into saving relation to Him what the teacher was attempting to do is to say 'believe and receive' and 'believe' and 'receive' are Bible words though 'accept' is not a Bible word.
But accepting Christ has become the panacea all over the evangelical world and it has become fatal to millions! A whole attitude of accepting; the passive acceptance of Christ. This easy acceptance! A man will preach a tremendous sermon and then say "Now, what should you do? Accept Christ. Have you accepted Christ?" Or we go to the bedside of a dying man: "Have you accepted Christ?" And if he says he has, why, we pat his head and the next day or two we preach that he's in heaven twanging a harp. Well, now I'm awfully afraid that there are millions of people who are perishing because they are being told to accept Christ and they don't know what's meant by it.
For the Christ of God is not begging business men; neither is He camping at the dirty door of some half-converted sex-dancer and begging her to come and putting up with anything and making any kind of an excuse for her if she'll only come! He simply says, "Come, if you want to. Come, if you will. Anybody that will, let him come. Come, come to me!" But He doesn't beg and He doesn't coax and He doesn't compromise and He doesn't in anywise change His terms. He makes the terms and you accept them.
Now what is to accept Christ? Well, let me define it for you a little more closely. Acceptance of Christ is to form an attachment to the person of Christ; to the person of Jesus Christ. It's not to fall in love with a tender-faced Jesus. It is to realize that this tender-faced Jesus is also Lord and God! That God has made Him Lord over all things and Head of the Church and that He has the keys of death and hell and that He will sit upon the throne judging all mankind and that God has given all power into His hand - this mighty Lord Jesus! It's to form an attachment to Him that is revolutionary, reversing and transforming the life. If your Christian conversion did not reverse the direction of your life; if it did not transform it then you're not converted at all, you are simply a victim of the 'accept Jesus' heresy!
And then, what is it to accept Jesus? It is to form an attachment to the person of Christ that is not only revolutionary but it is complete. That is, you can't compartmentalize your life. A lot of us try to compartmentalize our life and we say, "Jesus, you can have the front room and the living room and the den and the upstairs bedroom but the bedrooms at the back and the bedrooms at the front and the den you can't have. You can't go to the basement; you only can stay in certain parts of my life." Well, now, that kind of horrible, base dealing with the Lord Jesus Christ cannot but cause us to be lost at last! For me to accept Christ means that I am to accept Him in every part of my being and that I am to form an attachment to Him, an emotional, an intellectual, a volitional attachment which is complete, leaving no part of the life unaffected. If He cannot control you, He cannot save you. And if He cannot control all of you, He cannot control any of you!
The Christian who truly is born anew and has accepted Christ rightly has accepted Him exclusively so that He is to you what the sun is to the earth: he is that which you revolve around. He is the central sun and you are an orbit moving round Him held by the bonds of His love and lightened by the light of His face. And while you do have other interests, they are minor and they're secondary and they take their place down the scale: Christ is first! The Lord Jesus Christ is first! And for Him, I surrender everything; to Him I give all to Jesus Christ my Lord and my Savior. He can command me! He's the head of my wife, He's the head of my children, He's the head of my ambitions, He is first and everything else is last! Anything else is not New Testament Christianity, brother and sister; anything else is a compromise and it leaves people half-saved, confused, frustrated, bewildered and in the dark!