Salvation – what is it? We had a wonderful experience in Bible Study last night where a man came and “accepted” Christ. But . . . . well, no buts, I’m thrilled. However . . . . . I have a high view of salvation. It’s not simply praying a prayer or signing a card. It’s entering into a deep relationship with the Creator of the universe. One of my favorite writers, A.W. Tozer, preached a sermon on it back in the 50’s. I think it’s still timely and worth a read:
“Now my relation to Jesus Christ is one of those few matters of life or death. To the average one of us who listen now 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.
You see, to tell a man to ‘accept Christ’, while it is relatively right, it yet, if not carefully explained, makes Christ to stand hat in hand waiting on my pleasure; neatly awaiting my verdict on Him. It makes Him apply to me, instead of my applying to Him. It permits me to accept Christ by an impulse of my mind or my emotions and accept Him painlessly and at no cost and no inconvenience.
Somebody suggested that the cross of Christ should not inconvenience people. Well, it is the most inconvenient thing in the world, this cross of Christ! It took a man by the name of Jesus in the height of his healthy human life and took Him out on a hillside and killed Him there – now, that’s an inconvenient thing for Him! And any cross is inconvenient; it’s a most inconvenient thing, this accepting Christ, if we know what we mean by it. But the accepting Christ of popular theology has no inconvenience attached to it.”