Have you ever heard someone say: "Just accept Jesus as your Savior"? This is a Scriptural idea, but how do we do that? Most people who encourage you to accept Jesus as your personal Savior do not explain what you are to do to accept Him as such. Quite often they mean just decide in your heart to accept Him or pray to Him for forgiveness. Friends, I have yet to hear a televangelist or radio preacher explain Biblically what one does in accepting Jesus as Savior, but we will endeavor to do such in this lesson.
Let us begin by noting that accepting Jesus as Savior must mean more than just a mental assent to His existence and a verbal plea for salvation. We know this because of what Jesus Himself declared - "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matt. 7:21-23). And James makes it clear that just having faith alone is not enough:
"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?...Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead...But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (James 2:14,17,20-24).
Faith alone was not enough then, and it is not enough now. The Bible plainly says that "faith only" will not suffice.
Well, what about praying to Jesus for forgiveness? Certainly praying is good, but is this how those outside the body of Christ can accept Jesus as their Savior? If so, we ought to be able to find some Bible example of this or divine instruction. There are many examples in the New Testament of Christians praying to God. However, when we study the book of conversions (i.e., Acts), we do not find any lost person being told to pray for salvation. They were told what to do to be saved, and then prayer followed.
So, what does it mean to accept Jesus as your Savior? Let us notice, from the inspired word of God, what some of those things are.
(1) ACCEPT HIS TEACHING--BY FAITH
Jesus made it plain when He gave the Great Commission to the apostles - "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15,16). To accept Jesus means to accept what He said, to believe it. Consider these verses on the importance of accepting the teaching of God's word (i.e., faith): "Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21). "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Rom. 1:16).
But how much of His teaching must we believe? Jesus gives the answer in Matthew 4:4 - "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Jesus gathered the twelve apostles to Him and told them that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide them "into all truth" (John 16:13). Furthermore, He told them - "He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me" (Luke 10:16). To accept Jesus, then, means to accept what He said.
We will continue this study in our next lesson.