How often have you heard the phrase: “give your life to Jesus?” If you’re a person that attends church on a somewhat normal basis odds are you have heard a Sunday school teacher say it, or the preacher speak it. Perhaps you are one of those individuals that has been merely on the receiving end of such a statement. A person you know is concerned about your eternal welfare and they say to you, “Come on, why don’t you give Jesus a chance? He died on the cross for your sins, he loves you and he wants what is best for you. Why, don’t you just give your life to Jesus and I promise that your life will be better for it.” In fact, a very popular mega-church pastor once said in an interview, “Give him [Jesus] a trial. See if he’ll change your life. I dare you to try trusting Jesus for 90 days. Or your money guaranteed back.”[i] In short, just let Jesus in, give your life to him and I promise you will not be disappointed.
I’d be a liar if I had not said something similar when I was a youth leader speaking to teens, or early in my preaching ministry. I was raised in a theological tradition that taught that very thing. Much of the evangelical world today is saturated with that type of mentality. If you listen to Christian radio, odds are you’ll hear it at the end of the program. The idea that we just need to give our lives to Jesus. That we just need to let him in to our lives, and then things will be all better. Then we will be saved and have life eternally.
Thankfully, the Lord opened my eyes to the truth. Through His Word my assumptions were corrected, and I came to realize an important truth that continues to allude many well-meaning Christians: our lives are not our own.
Look again at the statement—just give your life to Jesus or just let him in—and ask yourself, “What does this phrase imply?” Take a moment and contemplate the true meaning behind the words.
The statement implies that you own your life. That your life is yours to keep or to give. That you have authority to either give it to God or to keep Him out of it. The claim, however, is a false view of reality. The truth is you do not own your life. Your life is not yours to give. I realize that may be a startling revelation to many of you, it was to me at one time. Nonetheless, the truth is the truth whether you want to accept it as such or not.
All of Scripture testifies to this fact:[ii]
- Genesis 1:26-27 explains, “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.’ God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.”[iii]
- Isaiah 64:8 reads, “Yet, LORD, you are our father. We are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the product of your labor.”
- Psalm 100:3 declares, “Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us and we belong to him; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”
- And Jesus said in Mark 10:6, “But from the beginning of creation he [God] made them male and female.” (emphasis in original).
So, if we are already God’s handiwork, then how should one properly explain the “gospel” and salvation of men? What is the correct way to say it, and why is it important? The gospel is essentially the good-news of God, but only to those whom embrace it. To those who reject the message, it is the worst sort of news. As Paul explains in 2Corinthians the gospel is a “sweet aroma…to life” for those who believe, and a “stench…to death” for those who do not.
In order to properly respond to the Gospel, we must first admit that we are God’s creatures, that this life that we have is not our own, but a gift from our Creator. Secondly, we need to face the facts: we are all sinners, not one of us is righteous or good, and without His aid we only have the promise of wrath resting on our heads (cf. Eccl 7.20; Rom 3.23, 10; 1.18 respectively). Thirdly, we confess that we are not worthy, we do not deserve life and therefore, throw ourselves at the mercy of a just and holy God (cf. Job 22.29). As the writer in Proverbs explains, “Surely [God] mocks the mockers, but he gives grace to the humble” (Prov 3.34).
This is the type of man, woman, or child that pleases God. Such individuals receive the gift of life. They do not merely “let Jesus in.” They do not “give their life to Jesus.” They beat upon their chest crying out to a Holy God saying “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18.13). Those are the ones that Jesus says go home “justified…[for] everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18.14).
We cannot give what is not ours to give. Unless we admit this. Unless we acknowledge this truth, then we are without hope. The only one who had authority to give his life and take it up again is Jesus Christ (cf. John 10.17-18). He died for His sheep (John 10.14-15). His sheep hear His voice (John 103-5). And His sheep, and only His sheep willingly respond in the way that I just described (John 10.26-27). All else are to hardened and proud to do so, and their reward will be just.
This is the truth that Christians should teach when speaking to lost sinners. Any other version of the truth is not the truth at all. You cannot give what you do not own, but you can receive what you do not have. This by admitting your are powerless to do so; such is the stuff of true humility.
[i]Rick Warren Interview Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes, “Hannity and Colmes: Pastor Rick Warren Details New Book,” 2008 Fox News, December 04, 2008, accessed September 15, 2016. http://foxnews.com/story/2008/12/04/pastor-rick-warren-details-new-book.html.
[ii] This sampling of biblical texts is taken from the historical accounts (Genesis), the wisdom writings (Psalms), the prophets (Isaiah), and the New Testament (gospels). All areas of Scripture declare this truth consistently and without equivocation.
[iii] All Scripture unless otherwise noted will be from the New English Translation (NET). Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://www.bible.org All rights reserved.Used by Permission. All rights reserved.