[in]complete: What does it mean to ‘Accept Jesus’?

You may have heard it before: an invitation from Evangelical Christians to “accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.” What on earth do we mean by that? (Or, since it sounds like religious jargon and we can be poor messengers: what should we mean when we say that?)

Ray Ortlund illustrates the modern idea of ‘accepting Jesus’ in two ways:

You and I are not integrated, unified, whole persons. Our hearts are multi-divided.

There is a board room in every heart. Big table. Leather chairs. Coffee. Bottled water. Whiteboard. A committee sits around the table. There is the social self, the private self, the work self, the sexual self, the recreational self, the religious self, and others. The committee is arguing and debating and voting. Constantly agitated and upset. Rarely can they come to a unanimous, wholehearted decision. We tell ourselves we’re this way because we’re so busy with so many responsibilities. The truth is, we’re just divided, unfocused, hesitant, unfree.

That kind of person can “accept Jesus” in either of two ways. One way is to invite him onto the committee. Give him a vote too. But then he becomes just one more complication.

The other way to “accept Jesus” is to say to him, “My life isn’t working. Please come in and fire my committee, every last one of them. I hand myself over to you. Please run my whole life for me.” That is not complication; that is salvation.

“Accepting Jesus” is not just adding Jesus. It is also subtracting the idols.

—Ray Ortlund, Jr., Christ is Deeper Still (emphasis mine)

We shall not merely invite Jesus into our lives. Our lives are a mess! Rather, Jesus invites us into His life. Through what He has done on the cross — in defeating sin, Satan, and removing all the obstacles we have before a holy God — after all that: God accepts us. And then cleans out our heart idols. They were terrible leaders anyway.

“You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
1 Thessalonians 1:9

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My 7 Daily Sins (& yours too).

“Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” —Mark 7:15

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Seven Deadly Sins:

  1. Lust
  2. Pride
  3. Greed
  4. Gluttony
  5. Envy
  6. Sloth
  7. Wrath

These are seven categories of sin; ways we creatively disobey God. But they don’t just reside “out there” in the world. They live in us.

The seven deadly sins aren’t just things we do—they’re who we are every day. Author Jared C. Wilson’s study Seven Daily Sins examines the good news that Christ offers a way to deal with these sins once and for all.

The bad news is we carry around sin inside of us every day.

The good news is, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can not only identify our daily sins … but kill them.

Let’s stop managing our sin and start experiencing freedom in Christ.

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” —Romans 7:24-25

God With Us: the end of fear. [a reflection on the good news of Christmas]

Willamette lights by Jordan Chesbrough

Have you ever felt afraid? Even in the happiest of times, fear can haunt our hearts, nagging, keeping us from experiencing true joy and peace.

What if I lose my job? Did I get the present I hoped for? Why was my friend acting mean to me? Why wasn’t I invited to the party? Will I make the team? Will I get accepted? Will he always love me? Will we have enough? Will I be healed?

As you read the Christmas story in Luke 1 and 2, you’ll find angels appearing three times, messengers from God sent from heaven to give the world wonderful news about the Savior Jesus Christ. The angels appeared to a man named Zechariah, a girl named Mary, and a group of shepherds in Bethlehem. Each was occasion for celebration, for the angels brought the greatest news the world would ever hear. But do you know what happened each time the good news came?

Those who heard were afraid.

Zechariah was afraid (1:12). Mary was afraid (1:19). The shepherds were afraid (2:9).

And all three times the angels spoke these words:

“Do not be afraid.”

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” —Luke 2:8-12 (NLT)

These heavenly messengers were the first to declare the Message of Christmas — that God so loved us that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will never die but will have eternal life.

Christ is the end of fear for all who believe. Why? Because Christ conquered the source of fear. He triumphed over sin and death, trampling Satan once and for all, delivering us from evil and delivering us into the God’s glorious Kingdom. But sometimes—just like Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds—we can actually be afraid of the message of Christ. We can be afraid of really trusting Him. What will He make me do? we wonder. But Christianity isn’t primarily about what God asks us to do but what God has already done.

What has God done? He has loved us.

“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him…. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear…” —1 John 4:9, 18 (NIV)

As you welcome Christ in your hearts and home this Christmas His perfect love will cast out all fear. (You know who wasn’t afraid in the story? The angels. Perfect love does cast our fear.)

Look to Him and hear His words, “Do not fear, only believe.” No need to fear; God is with us.

Merry Christmas.

For a Child is born to us, a Son is given to us.
The government will rest on His shoulders.
And He will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

—Isaiah 9:6-7 (NLT)

Reflection questions for discussion:

  • When were you afraid this year? How did you respond when overcome with fear?
  • What are you afraid of today?
  • Is there any aspect of that coming year that makes you feel afraid?
  • How does Christ’s presence remove that fear?

How are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard?

In the Christian (reached) world there are 2,100 full-time Gospel workers for every one million people.

In the unreached world there are six foreign missionaries for every one million people.

This video from the Beautiful Feet Project:

Beautiful Feet Project from AsiaLink HistoryMaker on Vimeo.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
—Romans 10:14-17

Focus.

“Things like radical generosity and audacious faith are not produced when we focus on them, but when we focus on the gospel. Focusing on what we ought to do for God creates only frustration and exhaustion; focusing on what Jesus has done for us produces abundant fruit. Resting in what Jesus has done for us releases the revolutionary power of the gospel.”

—J.D. Greear, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary

Everything good.

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
—Hebrews 13:20-21

If Jesus had not given up His soul to die for our sins, and rose again from the dead, He would have zero claim over our lives. But since He has done all of that and more — by the blood of the eternal covenant — He has ultimate authority over us, His flock. As the “great shepherd of the sheep” He protects, cultivates, and leads His sheep.

Notice how what Jesus did for us, now becomes what He does in us. He works “in us that which is pleasing in His sight.” And through us: equipping us to do everything good, so we may do His will. God’s fame is the goal.

Everything good happens this way. [for » in » through]

Everything good is enacted and enabled by grace.