I don’t think I’d thought of this before, but Bill Clem in his book Disciple suggests we shouldn’t so much invite people to accept Christ as Savior but instead, invite them to follow Him as Savior and Lord. I think in our own minds when we share the Gospel, we’re thinking that’s what we’re doing. To us, we understand that “accepting” includes “following.” But I wonder what our words are really saying and communicating.
Author and Pastor Clem writes, “Jesus invites his future disciples to follow Him, not to accept him.” He gives the examples of Matthew 4:18-20, Matthew 9:9, Matthew 16:24, and John 8:12, where Jesus invites people to follow him.
Then he continues, “The concept of following evokes rich imagery—journey, process, adventure, and dependence. Accepting sounds like Jesus is put on our scales, and we decide his fate, like he is campaigning for our vote as he runs for Messiah. To accept Jesus does not call one to live as a disciple; it merely calls one to make a decision. Following calls for a series of decisions being made by the minute, keeping Jesus the focal point, refusing to look to the right or the left, increasing in likeness to his character and in closeness to his person.”
Now I know that John 1:12-13 tells us, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” The word there is “received” or “accepted,” not “followed.” Author Clem doesn’t specifically address that. Regardless, his words do make me think.
Like thinking about when I speak and give an opportunity to “receive” Christ. What if I instead invited my audience to “follow” Jesus. I would explain that following Jesus means first acknowledging our sin, asking for His forgiveness, then walking close to Him and learning to obey Him.
I wonder what difference that would make. Would it help to prevent “still births” of those who “receive Christ” but never follow through in living a Christian life?
In my last post, I told you about my neighbor, Anna, from years ago, who received Christ and stayed faithful in following Him. But I’m also thinking of another neighbor from that same time period that “prayed to receive Christ” when she was going through a difficult time. We even went through a Bible study together but all along I sensed she wasn’t really being transformed. It was just a temporary addition to her religious beliefs. She never bore any spiritual fruit.
Could there have been a difference if I’d used different terminology? Of course, it’s not up to me or my wording to change a person so maybe it’s a mute point, or maybe we do need to change our perspective.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What do you think?