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...
...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.
-A.W. Tozer, from his sermon, What It Means to Accept Christ
Monday, January 25, 2010
Last year a classmate and I began meeting regularly with some kids whom we had met in a tutoring program through the medical school. These kids come from a pretty rough neighborhood in San Bernardino and are not Christians so it has been a great opportunity and privilege to become friends with them and to share the gospel with them. For the last year and a half we have done almost weekly Bible studies with them.
After a time living in Tijuana these kids returned recently and we met with them again for the first time in months. To our most recent Bible study one of the kids brought a friend whom we had never met. After we discussed the stoning of Stephen and the conversion of Saul we began talking about what it meant for Jesus to die on the cross. When we said that Jesus had taken upon Himself our sin and had suffered the wrath that we deserved this boy was excited to hear something he had never heard before. We were excited that one of these kids was showing such interest in what we were teaching. We talked some more about the cross and this boy seemed amazed by the idea that Jesus took upon Himself our sin and that it was because of this that he suffered and died. He said that he could never understand what was so important about Jesus dying on a cross as opposed to every other person who has been executed in various ways throughout history.
After the discussion we were walking back to the car and the boy who had been amazed by this "new teaching" said that he had been in a lot of churches with his family and that he had "accepted Christ" again and again but he was obviously unsatisfied and unconvinced that he had really "accepted" anything. We told him that he should think about what we said about Christ taking upon Himself our sin and suffering the wrath we deserved. We also shared 2nd Corinthians 5:21, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God," with him and tried to discuss that. He said he would come study the Bible with us again and I look forward to future conversations and, Lord willing, discipleship with this kid.
But the lack of satisfaction in this boy and the amazement he showed at the idea that Christ bore our sin reminded me of how concealed and forgotten the gospel is in most churches. This boy had been going up during alter calls and saying the "magic words" but he knew that nothing had happened. I think without an understanding of the atonement and a clear, scriptural teaching of it, the idea of "accepting Christ," the reality of conversion itself, is reduced to some "magic words." Perhaps this boy suffered some real conviction of sin - I believe he has - but no answer has ever been given him about what must be done about this sin - about what has already been done with his sin if he is to believe. This boy knew the "magic words," but he did not know what Christ had actually done. The words had no real content except that somehow he was maybe arbitrarily better off with God if he went up and "accepted Christ." But when "accepting Christ" is emptied of all theological content in regards to who Jesus is and what He has done then it is useless.
Here's what the great preacher A.W. Tozer had to say: