Monday, August 11, 2008

Is Accept and Believe Enough?

Since when is “Accept and Believe” not enough? Those were the words posed to me over one month ago and the statement shocked me. When we talk about the Gospel, the saving message of the Gospel, by saying these two words, is it enough?

When we speak to others about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, how are we telling them? I will admit that it is easy to simply say “Accept Jesus” or “Believe in Jesus”. Unfortunately I see these words thrown around a lot, especially in ministries involving the youth. What is left out is the hard part of the Gospel. A half Gospel is no Gospel at all.

Actually, when the statement was told to me, I should not have been shocked. Controversy has been around for several decades on the issue of preaching on the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The two differing theologies are known as the Lordship Theology and the Free Grace Theology.

The problem is immense because there is only one truth. There are not two Gospels. Either “Accept and Believe” is enough or it takes something else.

We never see Jesus say to “Accept and Believe” him. I can accept Jesus all day long but he must accept me. Think about going to Washington D.C. and you somehow find yourself at the front door of the White House. You tell the Secret Service that you have accepted the President and you want in the door. Guess what? You will not get in. But if you find yourself at the front door and the President tells the Secret Service that he accepts you and invites you in, you will get in.

You see, Jesus did not say “Accept me” or “Invite me in your heart” and you will get into my Kingdom. He said to serve Him, to follow Him, to be willing to die to oneself (John 12:24-26). Take a look at the powerful statements that Jesus tells us in Luke Chapter 14:

“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, “saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.

Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? “And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

Those are statements you may not hear in an alter call. If you aren’t ready to give everything up for Christ, even your own family and life, you cannot be his disciple. Yes it sounds impossible but these were indeed the words of our Savior Jesus Christ as he turned to a crowd that wanted to follow him.

You see, Jesus wanted them to know the cost. He wanted them to “count the cost.” He wanted to be their Lord.

The cost is a sacrifice that unfortunately too many are not willing to make. So what is this sacrifice and if “Accept and Believe” is not enough, then what does it take? What does it take for Christ to accept us and give us eternal life. Once again, we have to look no further than the words of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ said that if we do not repent, we will perish (Luke 13:3). In his opening message to his ministry he said to “Repent and Believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). That set the tone for his three year earthly ministry and he closed his ministry in Luke 24:47 with the command to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations.

It was clear in the early Church what to preach. The Apostles preached that men should repent (Mark 6:12) and in Peter’s first sermon he preached repentance (Acts 2:38). The preaching of repentance almost got Paul killed in the temple. It has never been a popular message. Die to self, give up everything, sacrifice, and turn from your sin will not exactly get you invited to many churches today but those words follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

This is the main difference in the so called free grace theology. This theology does not affirm that repentance is part of salvation. Repentance is a request after salvation and not necessarily a requirement of salvation.

Indeed, any talk of repentance as a requirement of salvation is seen as “works” and not biblical. Of course repentance is not works. The truth is that the only people eligible for salvation are those that realize they are sinners and willing to repent. Only those willing to realize their wretched state and willing to be transformed into a new being will be saved. Others may believe in Jesus, they may accept him in their heart but without a true sense of their sinful nature and a willingness to turn from that sin they will be judged.

True repentance happens at the same time with faith in Jesus Christ. They are equal and and we must preach them together, as Jesus did.

Charles Spurgeon said, "So then, dear friends, those people who have faith which allows them to think lightly of past sin, have the faith of devils and not the faith of God's elect."

Repentance and belief will continue in the true believer. How do we know that we repented and believed? Because we continue to do so today.
We are not saved by works but works are the only way we know our faith is real (James 2:17). If someone is a Disciple of Jesus Christ, their life will show it.

While it is easy to think that all we have to do is “Accept and Believe”, that is not the truth. Satan would love for you to believe it is easy. He would love for you to believe that simply saying a prayer is enough. He would love for you to believe that it is not a sacrifice. He would love to masquerade the true Gospel as a false doctrine of “works”.

Ultimately it comes down to this. Jesus Christ said “Repent and Believe.” We must as well.

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