Since starting this blog, several years ago, many references have been made to "receiving Jesus Christ." But that expression, which sounds so simple, is puzzling to a lot of people, just as it was once puzzling to me. Let's talk about it.
The term itself comes from the first chapter of John's Gospel. Referring to Jesus Christ: He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:10-13). So, that's where we get the expression, "receiving Christ." But what does it mean?
In the first place, it means that Jesus Christ is God: not merely a "great prophet" or "great teacher," but God in the flesh, walking around on earth in a specific time and place. He created the universe, and everything outside the universe. And, although He was and is the Messiah of the nation of Israel, He's not merely "the Jewish Messiah;" He's the Saviour of all men, Jew and Gentile alike .... if they "receive" Him. Which brings us back to our question.
What does it mean to "receive Christ?" Why is it such a big deal? How is it any different from a "religious conversion" to Islam or Catholicism or Buddhism or Protestantism?
Because it's not a matter of "religion." "Religion" is what causes self-righteousness and small-mindedness and wars. This is a matter of your individual, very personal relationship with your Creator. And make no mistake: you have such a relationship already, whether you want it or not. Whether you're at odds with Him, or apathetic toward Him, or you're reconciled to Him and in fellowship with Him, there's a relationship - - - even if you're an agnostic or atheist. You may not acknowledge the relationship, but it's there.
And, like every man or woman ever born on this earth, you're a sinful creature. It doesn't matter whether your sins are "big," like murder or theft or sexual immorality, or "small," like envy or gossip or selfishness. If you deny it, you're only fooling yourself - - - although most people don't deny it, at least in their heart of hearts. As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one, the Bible says (Romans 3:10); for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). And sinful people need a Saviour: from their sins, from themselves, and from an eternity in Hell. That's why Jesus said, speaking of Himself, He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil (John 3:18, 19). Now, I didn't say that. Rick Warren or Billy Graham didn't say that. Jesus Christ said that: and if you doubt it, your quarrel is with Him, and nobody else.
What does it mean to "believe on him?" Does it mean to believe that He existed, or that He was a nice guy, the way you "believe in" one of your friends, or some celebrity you've never met? No; it means to receive Him.
(This is described much more fully in the section of this blog entitled "Hey, dummy!" If you don't consider yourself a dummy [and some dummies have very high I.Q.s], you might not have read that section.)
"Receiving Christ" is very simple. Making the decision to do it might not be easy, but the process is simple. You simply go to God, directly (you don't need a priest or a preacher or a "counsellor"), and accept Him, on His own terms, and give yourself to Him. (Believe me, you'll be getting the better end of that deal!) You don't recite an ancient chant while counting some beads, and you don't need an eloquent prayer that some great preacher wrote a hundred years ago. You talk to Him directly. You might say something like "God, I know that I'm a sinner, and that I can't fix myself or save myself. I know that I deserve Hell, and that's where I'm headed, if You don't save me. But God, as much as I understand of myself, I'm giving to as much as I understand of You. Please save me, for Jesus' sake!"
That's just a suggestion, of course. You can put it in your own words, just as you'd talk to anyone else. But you must acknowledge your true condition - - - that you're lost and clueless and without hope - - - and ask God to save you. If you do that honestly, without crossing your fingers or playing any games, He'll save you - - - and you will have received Christ.
Now, you can do a lot of things that are "religious," and still be unsaved. You can repent of your sins, and confess them, and still go to Hell: that's what Judas did. Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-5).
You can believe in Jesus, with your intellect, and be baptized, and still go to Hell: that's another thing that Judas did, and so did Simon the sorcerer. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done ... And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. (Acts 8, selected verses).
You can ask the godliest people you know, or even "Mary and the saints," to pray for you, and still go to Hell: that's what Pharaoh did. And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. Intreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer (Exodus 9:27, 28).
But you cannot receive Jesus Christ, personally, and go to Hell: But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12,13). "Sons of God" don't go to Hell!
Did you get that last part? About being born of God? That's why Jesus says, Ye must be born again (John 3:3-7). When you receive Christ, you're born again, and although you're still you, and haven't lost your individuality, you're now a new creature. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
And that's just the start of your new life; it will never end. You will have begun an eternity in fellowship and reconciliation with your Creator. Not because of anything "good" or "religious" that you've done .... but because of what Jesus did, on Calvary, and what He's willing to do today.
If you haven't received Christ, why not do it now? It's very simple: Do it on His terms, and if you take Him, He'll take you.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!