JESUS DID NOT SAY THAT WE MUST ACCEPT HIM AS OUR PERSONAL SAVIOUR
I suppose that the most common expression that is used today of someone becoming a Christian (and even that idea is not Biblical), is that he has “accepted Jesus as his personal Saviour”. I’m sure you’ve heard that one as well! But I have yet to find any place where it is used in Scripture.
Is it wrong, and if so, why? I understand that people use it to describe what happened to them and what changes it made in their lives, but it does not fit the reality of what the Bible has to say about this experience.
The Bible presents life as a journey, symbolised by Israel’s migration from Egypt to the Promised Land. Their’s was an unknown way through the wilderness where there were dangers all around them and where it was easy to get lost and perish in the desert if they did not stay on the path and follow the landmarks. There are many references in Scripture to a path or way which will take us to our appointed destination. For the Israelites it was the Promised Land, symbolised by the city of God – Jerusalem, which was often called “Zion” – the highest point in the city and the place where God had established His name.
God gave them His torah, His directions for the journey, i.e. His “law” which was summarised in the Ten Commandments. If they followed His way, it would light their path and show them the way to their destination. The “landmarks” they were to follow were the opportunities to treat their fellow Israelites and the strangers among them with kindness and generosity, prescribed in God’s Torah or teachings. If they followed His way, they would become like Him, i.e. they would move towards “Zion” where He had placed His name – His character.
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path. (Psa. 119: 105)
Sin, or going their own way, caused them to leave God’s way and take a way that would lead them to destruction. There was no food or protection for the journey away from God’s path. Those who went their own way were lost and in danger of perishing. He continually called them, through the prophets, to repent, shuv, change their minds and return to God’s way.
Jesus came to restore the wayward hearts of His people that were bent on going their own way in spite of God’s warnings and the judgment that fell on them because of their disobedience. Through His death and resurrection He dealt with and removed the barrier of sin which animal sacrifices only symbolised and could not do. He calls His wayward sons and daughters to shuv, to return to the path we were on before Adam chose to go his own way and took the human race with him.
John the Baptist’s message to Israel was “Repent (shuv) – return to God’s way, for the kingdom of God is near.” Jesus echoed John’s words with the invitation, “Repent (shuv), for the kingdom of God is here.” He came to restore God’s rule of torah, teaching His way of doing life by being merciful, compassionate and generous to all people, in the hearts of those who would follow Him. It was never His intention to do away with the “law” – His directions for following His “landmarks”, but to show us how to fulfil what God required, not by observing rules, but by loving God and people from the heart according to the greatest commandment.
If we have only “accepted Jesus as our personal Saviour”, we have completely missed the point. Jesus did not call His disciples to “accept” Him but to follow Him. That means embracing His yoke – His way of believing and doing life, which was the correct understanding of God’s intention in His word. Life is about unselfishly serving others and sharing our resources with them because God has been merciful and generous towards us, most clearly revealed to us by the cross.
“Becoming a Christian” is much more than accepting Jesus as our personal Saviour, as though we now have a free pass to heaven. It is a commitment to follow Jesus because He is the way to the Father. It is His intention to teach and empower us through the same Spirit that empowered Him, to be true sons and daughters of the Father so that we can bring heaven to earth by becoming replicas of Jesus, our rabbi.
He promised that, through His true followers who live by His yoke, He will transform ever the most wicked and debased people into His church – the visible representation of the kingdom of God on earth.
Jesus did not call us to respond to an altar call or to sign a decision card. He called us to follow Him. It is a step-by-step, day-by-day, decision-by decision to walk with Him in submission and obedience, learning from Him how to “wear” His yoke and how to be sons and daughters of God. He is both our model and our mentor on this journey through His “Other Self”, the Holy Spirit.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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