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“You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9)

You and I are not integrated, unified, whole persons. Our hearts are deeply divided, more than we realize.

Our reality within is something like a board room. Big table. Leather chairs. Coffee. Bottled water. Whiteboard. A committee sits around the table. There is the social self, the private self, the work self, the sexual self, the recreational self, the religious self, the childhood memories self, and others. The committee is arguing and debating and voting. Constantly agitated. Divided. Upset. Rarely can the committee within come to a unanimous, wholehearted decision.

At some level, we feel the strain of our complicated selves. We feel stressed. We feel distracted, divided, pulled from one moment to the next by forces within we don’t even understand. We tell ourselves it’s because we are so busy, with so many responsibilities. But the truth is, we are just indecisive. We are held back, torn apart, by small thoughts of Jesus.

A person in this condition can “accept Jesus” in either of two ways. (By the way, I do not question the validity of “accepting Jesus.” I do not sneer at that concept, as some do. John 1:12 describes Christian conversion that way: “But to all who did receive him . . . .”) But one way we might falsely “accept Jesus” is just to invite him onto our committee. Give Jesus a seat at the table. Give him a vote too. Let him make his case, and then the rest of “us” will decide for or against. But, if this is how we accept Jesus, then he is just one influence among others, easily offset by the other voices, which yell and demand and threaten. This way of “inviting Jesus into your life” is common here in the Bible Belt, where I live. But it isn’t Christianity, as defined by the New Testament. It’s adding an element of religion, as a minor influence, into my already-complicated self.

The other way to “accept Jesus” is, struck by his glory in the gospel, to turn to him from the idols and say to him, “My life isn’t working. Please come in and fire my whole committee, every last one of them, and get them out of me. I hand myself over to you now. I want you to run my entire life. I want to serve the living and true God. Lead me into how that works.” Accepting Jesus this way is not complication; it is salvation.

Accepting Jesus is not just adding Jesus. It is also subtracting the idols.


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Ray Ortlund


Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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